Have you seen Westworld episode 7 (opens in new tab) yet? It’s the one called Tromp L’Oeil. You know the one? It’s a pretty pedestrian instalment of the HBO series - bit of shooting, some amazing acting by Anthony Hopkins, and OH MY GOD A MASSIVE TWIST AT THE END? Yeah, that’s the one. If you’ve gotten this far and you haven’t seen the episode, for the love of god, stop reading now because spoilers with big, pointy teeth lie ahead. Still here? Good. Let’s talk about Bernard, who we finally discover is a Host.
The fact that he isn’t human was one of the hottest theories buzzing around a show festooned in hot theories (opens in new tab). And guess what? He isn’t. It’s a shocking scene at the end of the episode, where the creeping realisation that our Head of Programming is programmed himself quickly escalates to murder and the confirmation that, yes, Ford is officially evil. But you should really have known this was coming, long before Bernard mumbles “What door?” when exploring the Ford family home with Theresa.
The evidence was there from the start. Ford, during one of his fantastic speeches in episode 1 (opens in new tab), proudly proclaims that: “We can cure any disease. Keep even the weakest of us alive.” This immediately raises suspicions when we discover that Bernard lost his son, Charlie, to an unnamed illness. While many saw the memory of his loss, and the sombre video call with his wife/ex-wife as evidence that Bernard is human, this was actually the core idea from which Bernard built and controlled his existence. In the same way Maeve and Dolores start to have dreams, which allow them to break out of their loops and think independently (without ‘crashing’ their programming), so Bernard has the implanted memory of his son to allow him to be more independent than other Hosts. Remember what Elsie says back in episode 3 (opens in new tab)? “Backstories do more than amuse the guests. They anchor the Host. The rest of their identity is built around it, layer by layer.” Sounds very, very familiar doesn’t it?
Yet none of it is real (as far as we know), and Bernard exists purely to serve Ford. We see it all the time in the way Ford communicates with Bernard, using phrases and language that he employs on other Hosts. He often finishes interactions with Bernard by adding a subtle command phrase. “You will keep me up to date on X, won’t you Bernard?” While this can easily pass for a figure of speech in previous episodes, you start to see the full extent of Ford’s manipulation when you rewatch scenes knowing that Bernard is a Host.
Similarly, there are cleverly disguised examples of Bernard’s Host behaviours hidden in different places. In episode 3, where he’s looking at a photo of Ford and a character we’re told is ‘Arnold’, Bernard very likely observes a false image. The photo also seems to be missing a subject, which could well be Bernard himself - Hosts are only meant to see what they’re supposed to see. Look closely and you’ll notice that young Ford and the other character are squeezed into the left of the frame, leaving room for a third person on the right.
All the above could purely be coincidence, but why would Bernard not have even heard of Arnold after working with Ford for so many years? And working so closely with him? It should have been obvious that something wasn’t quite right. Bernard’s puzzled lack of recognition after seeing the photo mirrors the expression of other Hosts who are asked to look at pictures. They all respond with “Doesn’t look like anything to me”, although that isn’t Bernard’s retort in this case.
We also see Bernard getting into a spot of bother when he discovers Ford’s family home in episode 6 (opens in new tab). Upon entering, he fails to control the Host who tries to violently eject him from the house until Ford intervenes. The explanation given is that these Hosts only respond to commands from Ford himself, but again suspicions were raised by the fact Bernard appeared to have no power over them.
And then there are the tell-tale bits of dialogue dotted throughout the previous episodes. When chatting to Bernard about his concerns in episode 3, Ford asks: “Is there something bothering you, Bernard? I know how that head of yours works”. Yes, very literally. When we first discover Theresa and Bernard are having an affair, he tells her that the Hosts deviate from their loops to practice improvisation behaviours, to which she replies “Is that what you’re doing? Practicing?” It’s meant to be a joke about him taking a break from work to enjoy some human contact, but that funny one-liner quickly darkens when you consider Bernard kills her at the end of episode 7.
Ford drops hints at Theresa that she really should have picked up on, but her ambition to impress the board and further her own ends blinds her to the severity of the warnings. When they meet in the restaurant towards the end of episode 3 Ford warns her subtly about Bernard. Watch the absolutely first-class video below, which breaks down Hopkins’ acting in this scene.
At 6.33, he starts talking about Bernard. Notice the pause just before he says his name, and the strange emphasis he places on it - he’s enjoying the fact that Bernard is his servant, and he’s been playing Theresa for some time. “He has a… sensitive disposition,” he continues, showing a sentimentality reserved only for the Hosts that Ford has adopted or built as his own.
So, the clues were very much present in the six previous episodes of Westworld, and smart viewers did indeed surmise that Bernard is a Host. But what does it all mean? Well, theories abound that Bernard is actually Arnold - or a Host version of him created by Ford. That’s still very possible. What I’m interested in is how Dolores fits into this curious triangle the three characters have? Ford has clearly stated that he and Dolores are ‘not friends at all’, which is presumably why Bernard has been engaged in secret meetings with her as Ford’s surrogate. It’s worth noting that Dolores is a first-generation Host, just like the family stashed away in Ford’s secret cabin. Is she part of that family? And if Bernard is a Host version of Arnold, how is he linked with Dolores? So. Many. Questions.
Still, now that you’ve had chance to calm down after the shock (or vindication) of episode 7’s big reveal, it’s clear that you should have seen this one coming, even if the clues didn’t really look like anything to you…