Leaving the saga of Dolores and Teddy behind, as well as the whereabouts of Peter Abernathy for now, Westworld focused this week like a laser on the story of the Man in Black, a.k.a. William. If you think about it, even the Bernard/Elsie arc this week was designed as a subplot of William’s story, in that it wrapped back around to the saga of Jim Delos trying to live forever when they found the last host version of him.
“The Riddle of the Sphinx” deepened two of the key narratives of season two — the real purpose of Westworld and the fact that the Man in Black is really playing Ford’s new game. And then it intertwined them. After one of the best hours of television this season, we have a few questions.
Why no opening sequence?
For three weeks now, Westworld has blown our minds with pre-credits sequences, often revealing some of the biggest secrets of season two within those scenes, but not this week. They jumped right into the credits, and then, interestingly, showed us a scene that could have easily been an intro — the first one between young William and host Delos. Why put that after the credits?
When do the William/Delos scenes take place?
This might be one to try and incorporate into our timelines feature, because it’s difficult to wrap your head around when the three scenes between William and the host who looks like his father-in-law take place. In the first one, it’s clearly the early days of trying to implant a human consciousness into a host body. Delos is shaky, and William still looks relatively young. This is clearly after the retirement party in the real world we saw in “Reunion,” and well after the “William White Hat” action of season one. The second scene takes place seven years, “give or take,” after Delos’s death and Jimmi Simpson has a bit of makeup to make him look older, but not Ed Harris old. Of course, the third scene, in which William is played by Harris, is closer to the “present day,” but when exactly? Could it be just before William goes into the park to play the game one more time as the Man in the Black?
Have some of the hosts gone totally insane?
The Man in Black comes upon some railroad workers on their loop of continuing the track but with bodies instead of boards. Not only is this impractical, but it implies that the hosts who don’t have someone to lead them like Dolores/Wyatt may just be going through the motions, although in a much scarier, more sociopathic manner.
Why does Clementine drag Bernard to Elsie’s cave and leave him with a gun?
The strongest evidence so far this season that most of what we’re seeing has been scripted by Ford came when Clementine literally dragged Bernard to Elsie to essentially continue the story and force him to remember what happened there. Ford knows that Bernard will remember how to access the facility and remember the massacre he initiated there. Ford likely even knows that Bernard and Elsie will find Delos.
What exactly is happening to Bernard?
When he reaches Elsie, Bernard goes into something called Cognitive Lock, and he needs Elsie’s assistance to get back to something resembling normalcy. He has flashes of memories, uncertain of what’s happening when or where he really is chronologically. The show seems to cast off Bernard’s behavior as a defect or technical issue caused by the end of season one, but what if that’s not the case? What if these flashes and memories are a part of Ford’s narrative? Bernard seems to think he’s remembering and regaining control, but what if that’s all a scripted ruse?
Is this now?
Bernard himself asks one of the most series-defining questions of the show when he wakes up and sees Elsie. It’s a question that viewers should really ask themselves before every scene.
What/where is the “glory” that so many hosts speak of finding?
In the past, “seeking glory” has seemed like little more than old-fashioned Western dialogue, but William tells Major Craddock that he knows where he’s going. He seems to imply that he has knowledge about the hosts’ ultimate goal that has eluded even them.
Is Ford’s narrative designed to humanize William?
As Craddock goes psycho on poor villagers and Lawrence and his family, the Man in Black watches it all go down. If this is all a part of Ford’s narrative — the next chapter of the ultimate game — then what’s the purpose of this? To pull at William’s heartstrings? To convince him to act? If you believe that most of this is scripted, then the sequence is clearly designed to play on William’s memories, and it works. He has flashes of his wife’s suicide, running up the stairs to find bloody water. It feels like Westworld is manipulating William’s emotions in new ways. He has certainly seen hosts tortured before. He has even done the torturing. Why care now? And why would Ford want him to care now?
Have they now mastered the new hosts?
The final scene between William (in his Ed Harris form) and host Delos is important to listen to carefully. William tells Delos that the host bodies can’t sustain the human consciousnesses. They reach a cognitive plateau and then degrade. So the idea that there’s a host William out in the real world acting normally is unlikely. Or is it? William does say they’re working out the kinks and that this version of Delos is on day 35. He says, “Another year or two, they might crack it.” And consider the brief chat with the technician on the way out, who implies that this Delos was fine until William got there. He didn’t degrade so much as get destroyed by his son-in-law, if you really think about it.
When did William leave host Delos in his rage?
William tells the technician that they may want to observe this version of Delos degrade over the next few days. And then Elsie and Bernard find him. It is possible William goes from his meeting with Delos into his park to start the game to end all games, which means it hasn’t really been that long. Or could Jim have been there longer? Months? Years? But why wouldn’t he have been incinerated earlier if that was the case?
Who did Ford have Bernard print a control unit for?
Someone has a control unit for the hosts, and we don’t know who. Place your bets.
Is Bernard an android whisperer?
We learn in one of the final scenes that the carnage in the facility that Elsie and Bernard find was spurred by Mr. Lowe after he whispered something to one of the creepy white robots and they went crazy, killing all the scientists and themselves. Does Bernard still have this power? To make the creepy white hosts snap their own necks?
“If you’re looking forward then you’re looking in the wrong direction”?
WTF does that mean? The child who is clearly speaking for Ford says it to William, and it’s the second reference this season to going back to the beginning. But when exactly is that? The creation of the park? Or William’s past in the real world? And just then he comes upon Grace, who we learn is William’s daughter.
And how did THAT happen?
The real mindblower of the final scene isn’t really that Grace is William’s daughter (most of us saw that coming) but how on Earth it’s possible that she found him. She was in another world entirely, swam to Westworld, escaped capture by Ghost Nation, and happened to be riding across the right hill. And if we believe that William is playing Ford’s new game, then this must be part of it, right? How is that possible? How could he have foreseen all of those events? Or maybe he didn’t, and Grace is now going to throw off the script? Or maybe Grace is playing along with Ford’s game, aware of the new story he’s telling?