This post contains spoilers for the most recent episode of Westworld.
For its first seven episodes, Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) was the closest thing to an audience surrogate on Westworld—a troubled conscience stalking around in the lower decks of the vast virtual theme park he helps maintain. The head of Westworld’s programming department and the designer of the artificial consciousness that powers its android “hosts,” Bernard was the character who seemed most interested in exploring the blurry line between reality and fantasy within the show. So it’s hardly surprising that he turned out to be a robot himself—one entirely under the sway of the park’s increasingly terrifying creator Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) who’s been programmed to murder on command.
Many hardcore fans had guessed that Bernard could be a fake—a “host” unaware of his own artificiality—simply because the premise of the show demanded it. In a world where people and androids are functionally indistinguishable, what better twist than seeing how deep that rabbit hole can go? Beyond that, though, the idea that Bernard is as programmed as the Western characters he creates added a further layer to the show’s meta-text. If this is a show about the sameness of entertainment—the grim violence, and the sexual exploitation that so often seems to come hand-in-hand with it—then surely its creators should be part of the formula as well. To Westworld’s inhabitants, Bernard is like a god—but to the park’s real god, Robert Ford, Bernard is just another plaything following a script. Going forward, much of the show’s narrative tension will lie in whether Bernard can break free.