Westworld is back for season 2, and move over Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) — this time around we have a new unreliable narrator, and his name is Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright). Westworld’s sophomore year premiere, “Journey Into Night,” suggests the secret robot clone of Westworld co-creator Arnold will be our guide into the bloody robot rebellion that began in season 1 finale “The Bicameral Mind” and ended in the drowning of countless hosts. As we follow Bernard throughout the season opener, it becomes increasingly clear something is very, very wrong with him. In fact, as a late-in-the-episode diagnostic explained, the host is in “critical” condition.
After all the many plot twists, violent murders, and general mayhem of Westworld you would be excused for having absolutely no idea why Bernard is suffering from hand tremors, time slippage, and vague blindness, and possibly even worse symptoms at the start of season 2. But, two major scenes from season 1 can help explain the dire straits of our new narrator.
The first moment worth talking about arrives in episode 9, “The Well-Tempered Clavier.” You know, the episode where Bernard, who, up until this point, usually believed he was a human man and Delos programming head, comes to terms with all of his memories as a host and realizes he’s an Arnold robot. Bernard, reeling from the fact the traumatizing death of his “son” Charlie (Paul-Mikél Williams) is a false “cornerstone” memory, his creator Robot Ford (Anthony Hopkins) has manipulated him and his memories for decades, and, likely, the reminder Ford had him kill his lover Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen), decides it’s time to gain revenge on his maker.
During a tell-all tête-à-tête in the creepy back room where everything nefarious goes down in Delos headquarters, Bernard orders Clementine Pennyfeather (Angela Sarafyan), who’s standing there with a gun, to shoot the monstrous Ford. Ford all but laughs out loud when Clementine ignores Bernard, and he realizes his creator built a backdoor into the code, which gives Ford supremacy over Bernard when it comes to giving the hosts commands. Ford corrects him, explaining Bernard is the one who did it, under Ford’s orders, and the robot built the same pro-Ford fail-safe into himself.
After all, only seconds earlier, Ford explains to Bernard about controlling the hosts, “You’re really quite brilliant at it, truly. You even taught me a few things, which, I have, in turn, used on you.” The backdoor is clearly one of these tricks of the trade.
So, with Bernard officially staking his claim against Ford, as a call for murder will do — even one foiled by surprise coding — Ford decides it’s time to take out his most-beloved creation. Ford, ever the narrative obsessive, crafts a false story about Bernard’s so-called “grief” and ends the tale by ordering Bernard to shoot himself in the head the moment he leaves the room. Bernard, doomed by the backdoor coding he gave himself, does so, ending the episode by committing suicide. It is important to note Bernard held the gun directly to his temple, in the kind of way that would create lasting, catastrophic damage.
We find out just how bad Bernard’s injury is in “Bicameral,” when mid-rebellion Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton) has technician Lutz (Leonardo Nam) repair Bernard, effectively raising him from the dead. There are a few key signals Bernard isn’t fully patched up despite Lutz’s best efforts. First of all, the technician straight-out explains, “The bullet grazed his cortical shield. It’s not pretty, but, he should be functional.” That is not a shining endorsement of one’s mental and physical state.
But, there are far more subtle signs something is still very wrong with Bernard, even after Lutz uses the little magical torch device on the newly-outed robot. First, if you look at the diagnostic on Lutz’s iPad-like screen, it reads “Repair: partially complete.” The camera moves away from the screen before we see Bernard’s status switch to “fully complete.” Considering Lutz’s diagnosis, it’s possible such a change never actually occurred, even with Bernard awake and talking again.
Furthering this possibility is how Bernard behaves once he regains consciousness. If you look carefully, Bernard opens the eye on the side of the gunshot wound noticeably slower than the other one, immediately touches the spot where his gunshot wound would be, and then looks down at his hand, shocked to not see blood or any sign of trauma. Does that mean Bernard is feeling the trauma, even though we can’t see it?
The season 2 premiere hints the answer is yes. As we see in the beginning of the episode, the hosts’ cortical region is the most important part of their bodies. It’s covered by a full skeletal shield and fake brains. Once you fully remove the protective systems, as newly introduced Delos employee Antoine Costa (Fares Fares) does to a murdered Ghost Nation warrior in “Journey,” you find lots of clear liquid, apparently protecting the host's true “brain,” and the little mechanical “brain” itself. This “brain” is what holds every single memory the host has ever logged. If the bullet from “Well-Tempered Clavier” grazed Bernard’s cortical shield, as Lutz says, he is now suffering from full-on brain damage.
Although Bernard clearly had a problem by the time season 1 ends, it seems as though his “Journey Into Night” fall, and subsequent head injury, is what actually caused his “critical corruption.” When we first see Bernard in the season 2 premiere's flashback timeline, which reveals what happened after Dolores murdered Ford, Bernard isn’t glitching or behaving strangely. Then, he falls on the side of his gunshot wound and cortical fluid begins pouring out of his ear. That is when the corruption symptoms appear to begin in earnest, likely because Bernard’s latest injury ruins whatever patch-up work Lutz had done.
This explains why a diagnostic later tells Bernard he has “0.72 hours” before he suffers terminal malfunction, which sure sounds like, to quote another HBO series about nearly immortal beings, “the true death.”
Since Bernard can’t tell anyone he needs robot brain surgery — the robots are too busy murdering everyone, fellow hosts included, and the humans are rightly wary, and violent, when it comes to any host — it looks like he’s going to have to fix this problem alone. With a quickly deteriorating brain like this, can anyone blame Bernard for whatever horrors he may commit this season (yes, and that person is all-but-certainly robot vengeance goddess Dolores).
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