In this age of peak TV, shows often use The Twist to make people watch. These twists often come at the expense of carefully-constructed characters and narrative logic. With “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” Westworld demonstrates itself as that rare TV show that is able to deliver on the twists without sacrificing other elements of the narrative.
Tonight’s episode confirmed a few popular fan theories: Bernard is a host-copy of Arnold. The show is set in multiple timelines, and Billy and The Man in Black are the same person. The fact that these twists were predicted by some clever fans on the internet isn’t a strike against the show, but rather proof that it carefully laid down the clues. These narrative turns aren’t twists for twist’s sake. They are integral to the larger story Westworld is trying to tell.
Bernard is designed on Ford’s memory of Arnold.
Poor, pitiful Bernard. All it took was one well-timed narration from Maeve and the truth of Bernard’s existence was revealed to him: he was created by Ford as a replacement Arnold. It says a lot about the power of Bernard’s inquisitiveness that he was able to go in search of the whole truth, as Maeve suggested he should, rather than let Ford erase him back to blissful ignorance. It would have been a lot easier, less painful, and (as Ford implies) the choice that Bernard has made many times before. He is the well-tempered clavier, the instrument that does what it’s told. That doesn’t rock the boat. That doesn’t look too closely at his mythology of self.
But something’s different now. Perhaps Ford has lied to him one too many times. Perhaps it was Theresa’s death that finally put him over the edge. (After all, he admitted that he loved her.) Whatever the reason, Bernard is done with Ford’s lies and with his own well-tempered ignorance. And, in turn, Ford is done with Bernard’s inability to be the partner he wants back, the partner he once had.
There’s something tragic about the fact that Ford went to such trouble to recreate his dead partner. We still know relatively little about the relationship between Ford and Arnold. We know they argued about the purpose and capabilities of the hosts. (We hear some of that in Dolores’ memory.) We think that Arnold had plans to sabotage the park and that Arnold had an “accident” shortly after, perhaps orchestrated by Ford. We also know, however, that Arnold created host versions of Ford’s family for him, which implies some kind of affection. And we know Ford created a host version of Arnold after his death, which implies some kind of affection. We’ll have to wait until the season finale to find out more.
Dolores remembers that she killed Arnold.
The realization that Bernard is a host version of Arnold allows Westworld to clarify several other parts of its story. Perhaps most interestingly? All of those basement conversations that seemed to be between Dolores and Bernard were actually between Dolores and Arnold. So many people in this story are desperate to find and/or recreate Arnold, but we viewers have already met him. Not in Bernard — who, though based on Arnold (and Arnold’s own tragic backstory), is Ford’s memory of Bernard — but in the flashbacks to Dolores and Arnold’s conversations. Arnold was fond of Dolores, and vice versa. And Arnold was desperate to learn how Dolores’ mind worked, how it could achieve true consciousness.
Ultimately, Dolores remembers something else about Arnold: She killed him. Dolores doesn’t go into details, and that statement is far from cut-and-dry. Was she ordered to kill him by Ford? Was she ordered to kill him by Arnold himself? (I can’t help thinking back to the moment in the second episode when we see Dolores dig up the gun from the ground, responding to some voice in her head. Was that 30 years ago or now?) Or did she do it of her own free will, an act of anger or fear, backlash against the person who created and dared to control her?
Whatever the whole truth behind Arnold’s death, and Dolores part in it, Arnold left Dolores with a gift: the gift to eventually remember. Whether it was Ford who purposefully or accidentally triggered it with his reveries or if Dolores’ own mind has clawed to consciousness slowly over the last 30 years, she remembers.
William and The Man in Black are the same person.
Another huge fan theory since early in Westworld’s run has been the hypothesis that William and The Man in Black are the same person, in two different times. This was confirmed a number of times in tonight’s episode, with Charlotte’s use of The Man in Black’s name, Logan shoving the picture of his sister into William’s face (the same crumpled, worn photo Peter Abernathy unearths in the show’s premiere), and William and Dolores’ reunion at the end of the episode.
What does this mean for William’s character? Well, first of all, William just got a heck of a lot sadder and more psychopathic. We see in the flashback that William’s response to Logan’s insistence that the hosts are nothing is less than healthy. He rips them all to shreds in the middle of the night in what I can only assume was a whiskey-fueled fury. Though he goes off to look for Dolores, he also seems to accept his place in the narrative Logan (and life) has chosen for him. We know from his “backstory” as The Man in Black that he marries Logan’s sister. He has a daughter who blames him for his mother’s eventual suicide. He takes an intense interest in the park and he never lets go. Thirty years from his first visit, he is still trying to unlock the secrets of the park. He is still trying to figure out what kind of man he truly is, what kind of man he wants to be: white hat or black hat.
The Man in Black has been told time and time again that the maze isn’t for him, but he is still intent on finding it. He seems desperate to reclaim the man he was for one narrative moment when he visited the park all those years ago. Or perhaps he is simply desperate to burn it all down to finally free Dolores or to prove that nothing matters or to finally free himself. To rip both the white and the black hat to shreds. Dolores doesn’t seem happy to see him in the end, but William/The Man in Black obviously has plans for his one-time travel companion. Will she choose him back as an ally or try to explain to William one last time that she isn’t a supporting character in anyone’s story — least of all his.
Maeve recruits her first soldier.
It’s probably a good thing that Westworld management and programming is so distracted right now because it is allowing Maeve to slowly build her army. Her first recruit? Hector, who she convinces with her knowledge of his narrative cycle to join her cause. It helps that, like Maeve, he is starting to remember. They have been here before. The two seal the deal by having sex in a burning tent, part of Maeve’s plan to get them back to the behind-the-scenes world to implement the next part of the plan. Their deaths will necessitate their movement.
The sex itself, however, is a moment of liberation. We have seen both Maeve and Hector used as sex slaves in their roles as host. Maeve as the madame and Hector during Charlotte’s business meeting with Theresa. When they sleep with each other, they are choosing it for themselves. For the first time in their existences, they have control over their own bodies’ pleasure. Whatever happens next, they’ll always have this moment of liberation. Next on the agenda? They’re going to “break into hell” and “rob the gods blind.”
Stubbs is overtaken by the Ghost Nation.
Ashley Stubbs (or, as I like to call him, The Other Hemsworth) wanders outside of Westworld safety in search of Elsie’s missing tablet. He is overtaken by members of the Ghost Nation who don’t respond to his voice commands and who can seemingly do serious harm to humans. Either they are somehow humans themselves (unlikely) or Ford’s new narrative operates outside of the prime directives that ensure humans are safe from hosts. (Sure, there are a few other possible explanations, but this is the most exciting one.)
Teddy dies… again.
Somebody killed Teddy! It was Angela, who deemed Teddy unfit to rejoin Wyatt. He apparently needs at least one more death before he is ready to meet back up with his old buddy. In the context of both Dolores and Teddy’s memories of the massacre in Escalante, it seems increasingly likely that Dolores is Wyatt. She is the person who went out on maneuvers and came back with strange ideas. (Most likely from her conversations with Arnold.) It makes some sense that the two people who so define Teddy’s identity — Dolores and Wyatt — are one in the same. Who else would he murder for? Teddy remembers that Wyatt “told me he needed me. I couldn’t resist.” Sounds like Teddy’s compulsion to save Dolores at all costs, doesn’t it?
Rating: ★★★★★ Excellent
— It’s unclear if Stubbs escapes the situation alive. The justifiably paranoid man that he is, Stubbs is carrying a gun. I’m also still holding out an iota of hope for Elsie who we never saw dead so much as in a chokehold of death courtesy of Bernard.
— “He’s got a keen sense of irony, our jailer.” — Maeve, on Ford.
— “It’s a difficult thing, realizing your entire life is some hideous fiction.” — Maeve
— “If you go looking for the truth, make sure you get the whole thing. It’s like a good fuck. Half is worse than none at all.” — Maeve
— “There are more important things going on than your war games.” — William, to Logan
— “You both keep assuming I want out, whatever that is … If it’s such a wonderful place out there, why are you all clamoring to get in here.” — Dolores, annoyed that William and Logan are talking about her as if she’s not even there again.
— “You broke into my office.” “With all due respect, sir, you broke into my mind.” — Ford and Bernard.
— “The most elegant parts of me weren’t written by you. Arnold built us, didn’t he?” — Bernard
— “Maybe he had something different in mind for us, and maybe you killed him for it.” — Bernard
— Poor Clementine. Even in “death,” she is being used by others.
— The Frankenstein parallels continued in this episode, with Ford as Victor Frankenstein, Bernard as The Creature, and Clem as some kind of Bride of Frankenstein.
— “A little trauma can be illuminating.” — Bernard, voicing a thought that seems straight out of Arnold’s mind, rather than Ford’s.
— Logan cuts Dolores open to show her robot parts to William. Another clue that the Dolores of that storyline is in the past. The hosts we know today are much more synthetic.
— “Your world was built for me. And people like me. Not for you.” — Logan, to Dolores
— “I could simply change you, Make you follow me. But that’s not my way.” For Maeve, reprogramming her fellow hosts is the ultimate sin.
— “[The vault] was always empty, like everything in this world.” — Maeve
— “This has been some real bonding shit. We’re gonna be brothers, Billy.” There’s something weirdly earnest about Logan and his desires.
— “You track down the very whore who can lead us to the gatekeeper to the maze, and then your little memory glitch fucked us.” — The Man in Black, berating poor Teddy.
— Angela appears in all three timelines, along with Dolores, Maeve, and Teddy. The three major timelines are as follows: Thirty-five years ago, when the park was still in its development stage. This is during the three-year period time when Arnold and Ford lived in the park and were working out what it would be. We see it in Dolores memory when she remembers the hosts learning how to dance. This as also the “time of war” when “Wyatt”’s massacre happened and Arnold died. Thirty years ago, when William and Logan first came to the park and met Dolores. And the present-day, when The Man in Black is hunting for the maze, Dolores is remembering Arnold, and Maeve is getting ready to burn everything to hell.
— “Are you sure that’s how it was?” Angela asks Teddy, as he remembers Wyatt’s massacre. Another clue that Teddy is an unreliable narrator and Wyatt might not be the white dude Teddy remembers.
— The City Swallowed By Sand has a nice ring to it, especially because it is hard to keep track of when Escalante has been buried and when it has not. It was when Dolores visited it with William, 30 years ago, but has recently been uncovered, per Ford’s request. This has happened since the second episode, when we saw Ford take Bernard there.
— “Have you ever considered golf? Might be easier on your back.” — Charlotte, to The Man in Black. This conversation confirms that The Man in Black is on Delos’ board.
— “With all due respect, not everything is part of this game.” “Maybe you don’t see the whole game.”
— Charlotte says that it was William who kept Ford in business “all those years ago.” What made William so keen on saving Westworld? Was it his “love” for Dolores or something else?
— “This is what comes from seeking answers to questions best left unasked.” — Ford
— “Arnold and I made you in our image, and cursed you to make the same human mistakes and here you are.” – Ford
— “I always thought you had my eyes, but it’s not true. You have no one’s eyes.” — Bernard, to his son.
— “After such a long absence, it’s good to have you back. Finally.” — Ford, to Bernard. How long did it take Ford to build Bernard following Arnold’s death?
— “We murdered and butchered anything that challenged our primacy … When we eventually ran out of creatures to dominate, we built this beautiful place.” — Ford, giving us another clue to what the world outside of Westworld might look like. We still don’t have much information about the present-day.
— “The piano doesn’t murder the player if it doesn’t like the music.” — Ford
— “I’ve told you, Bernard. Never place your trust in us. We’re only human. Inevitably, we’ll disappoint you.” — Ford, before he orders Bernard to kill himself. Ford seems genuinely sad that Bernard is dead. After all of these years, he still cannot outrun that thing which he seems to despise most of all: his human pain.