Before a breakthrough moment in last night’s episode of Westworld, Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) twitched through season 2 with a uniform expression of perplexity. He knew he was missing something — but what? At last, clarity arrived towards the end of “Riddle of the Sphinx,” when Bernard and Elsie (Shannon Woodward) visited an underground laboratory in Sector 12. Not only did Bernard finally orient himself towards a mission and a sense of purpose, he also clued us in on the existence of massive technological breakthrough, and the overarching implications it may have for Westworld and the world beyond. Seemingly, the Delos Corporation has perfected the ability to clone human consciousnesses, potentially blurring the lines between host and human even more significantly than they already are.
While in the secret lab with Elsie, Bernard unlocks a memory that occurred during the timeline of season 1. Bernard had been in a similar underground lab (clearly, there are multiple — Charlotte, played by Tessa Thompson, was in a different lab earlier this season). Abiding by Robert Ford’s (Anthony Hopkins) directives, Bernard uploaded someone’s consciousness into a small red orb, and took the orb from a 3D printer.. Then, Bernard and the drone-host killed all the human workers in the lab, leaving with the orb.
So, what is this speckled sphere? According Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson, the official name for the red orb is a “chestnut,” which might have a dual meaning. Yes, the orb is round and small like the chestnuts you roast over an open fire, with Jack Frost nipping at your nose. Another definition of the world “chestnut” is a song that has become stale from overuse, kind of like the looping nature of hosts’ minds ("Chestnut" also the name of an episode in season 1). Within the chestnut is a white ball — ”the pearl.” The technology used to store clones' minds is identical to hosts', only that hosts' "chestnuts" are white, and clones' are red.
But, you ask, didn’t William (Ed Harris) give up on his decades-long quest to clone his father-in-law, James Delos (Peter Mullan) after his wife, Juliet, killed herself? Didn’t he realize that the experiment wasn’t working? That James would continue to hit the “cognitive plateau” and glitch? Yes, that is true. But William also had made significant progress over the 149 times Delos was resurrected— leaving the door open for Robert, wily trickster, to perfect the technology under his nose. Then, he sent Bernard to clone someone. But who?
Well, isn’t that the question. Bernard tells Elsie he’s determined to find whose consciousness he cloned. It could be a number of people: Ford, William, or James Delos. The predominant fan theory, though, is that it’s Arnold Weber, Ford’s co-creator. We already know that Bernard is on two timelines. One Bernard has been wandering around the parks, disoriented and with a scar on his forehead. Another Bernard washed up on the beach without a scar, and is helping Delos Security (and Gustaf Skarsgard). Perhaps Beach Bernard is actually a clone of Arnold.
The cloning revelation also enhances our understanding of the Delos Corporations’ larger plan. We already knew Westworld and its five sister parks were massive data mines, collecting guests’ DNA and gathering potential pieces of blackmail. Westworld made a copy of who a person was at their core, when no one was watching. So the cloning revelation raises another explanation for the underground labs, beyond just gathering videos of CEOs doing devious things to hosts: Could the Delos Corporation be replicating guests’ consciousnesses and placing them in cloned bodies?
If the Delos Corporation is able to copy its guests, it's poised for world domination. Delos could replace all the CEOs, presidents, and powerful elites able to pay the $30,000-a-day fee with copies whose minds can be easily manipulated by a glorified iPad. Then, the world would be run by Delos operatives.
Alternatively, Delos could also offer immortality à la Altered Carbon to anyone willing to pay up (and risk potential cognitive plateaus). Either way, this "red orb" has expanded the implications of Westworld's technology to even more disturbing heights.