If you’re like me and obsessing over every detail and clue in just the first episode of season two of Westworld, you’re in the right place. I keep coming back to the idea that the young Ford host, what I call Ford 2.0 (who may be Ford now), said: everything here is code.
With that in mind, it is definitely worth noting some changes in the opening credits. One item is a charging buffalo host breaking through glass. While Maeve and Lee do later see one buffalo behind glass, we see a bloody trail indicating another one got loose and took many people down with it. This may be symbolic of the hosts breaking free and running wild. Also noteworthy is an image of cells multiplying in a petri dish. This may be part of the actual, scientific process of building and rebuilding hosts, that they are much like Arnold’s Terminator: actual living tissue over a more robotic frame. It may also symbolize rampant, unchecked growth of the host population.
Speaking of growth of the population, perhaps the most striking and meaningful image is of a mother host cradling a baby host. On one hand, this may simply be evocative of Maeve’s quest for and obsession over her daughter. In the bigger picture, I think this is hinting that whether through traditional procreation or a lab assisted method, the hosts will begin to replicate, to genuinely grow and create new individuals free from narratives or digital restraints. As Ford himself stated, his new masterpiece narrative deals with “the birth of a new people”.
Finally, we do also see a host in a ring under water. This position and structure was used when building hosts in the lab previously. Again, it may hint at the construction, reconstruction, or breeding of hosts.
The underwater element leads us to another cryptic and mysterious element: Bernard. I believe that the description of a dream hints at something much bigger. Again, as I stated before, I am inclined to believe that the opening scene is not Arnold and Dolores, but rather Bernard and Dolores. He describes his dream of being on an ocean. Dolores and the others (hosts) are on a distant shore. The waters were rising around him, and they’d left him behind. This can be taken in the literal, physical sense which we see paralleled later; Bernard washes up on a shore, while the hosts are left elsewhere. It can also be a metaphor for host evolution. Bernard may be incapable of growing while the other hosts are becoming something entirely new.
Part of Bernard’s handicap may come from his injury at the end of season one. I didn’t really put two and two together until revisiting the scene in the barn where he tries to save a stable hand host and gets pushed aside. At that point, he begins leaking some fluid from his ear. Basically, he previously shot himself in the head and was patched up to function, but some injury or degradation in his machinery remains. This may be combined with the psychological trauma of realizing that not only is he actually a host, but he is a copy of the man who created the hosts. Dolores later tells Bernard, “You don’t know who you are.” To me, this speaks to a kind of robotic schizophrenia by which Bernard is malfunctioning because he cannot hold the two disparate ideas of human and host, Arnold and Bernard, in his head at the same time. It’s like two voices trying to talk over one another, driving him mad.
Another curious point to consider is whether or not anyone knows Bernard is a host or not. One line makes me think that there is at least an inkling of that truth. Karl Strand, head of operations at Delos, states, “It seems our hosts are capable of many things we never thought possible,” as he glances at Bernard. Again, everything here is code. Isn’t it strange that they don’t more directly question Bernard soon after finding him? Even someone who has witnessed horrific events might still be able to put a few sentences together, but they keep waiting for things to jog Bernard’s memories. If Strand doesn’t know, he at least suspects Bernard’s true identity. On a side note, until I looked up the details online I had no idea that Gustaf Skarsgard was portraying Strand. He strikes an impressive figure sauntering through the park in a suit, a far cry from the unstable and lovable Floki character he played on “Vikings”.
A final line worth noting is uttered by the stable hand that the human board members kill. He asks them if they want to ride “for the green pastures of the valley beyond”. This idea of a valley beyond is the same one Dolores referenced when killing a Native host. These lines parallel the fact that the hosts seemed to congregate in what was supposed to be a valley, which was then flooded to create a sea. So, is the idea of an idyllic valley something Ford programmed as a narrative plot detail to bring the hosts together as a community? Is it host mythology about freedom or the afterlife? Or did many hosts die but were then reborn in an actual valley beyond, or even in an underwater base of some sort?
As usual, we have more questions than answers, and I am on pins and needles for episode two let alone the rest of the season!