If season 2 of Westworld has been making you scratch your head, don’t worry, we are right there with you. Between Shogun World and the symbolism behind Bernard’s red pearl, we are trying to make sense of this confounding show. And with the introduction to the Cradle, we have another evil technological system to contend with.
What is the Cradle, exactly? It’s easy to liken it to the Matrix in the Matrix trilogy; our own Anne Cohen also considered such homages in how Maeve’s character appears to be The One, a powerful being within the system that is able to manipulate its rules. But that’s not quite right. The Cradle seems to be an accessible database, whereas the Matrix was a living simulation with decisions being made by its puppermasters in real time.
The Cradle, in essence, is a server that stores memories and consciousness for retrieval. Like a file cabinet, the hosts’ “data” is copied and contained within the server, and can be accessed to run theoretical or training simulations on the robots. The main function of the Cradle, though, is to act as a backup for each of the intricately-crafted hosts; a way for Delos to preserve the work that went into detailing their appearances, their preferences, their mannerisms, the very things that make them so human. Think of it as the Cloud that stores your phone pics.
In yesterday’s episode “Phase Space,” Bernard and Elsie find the Cradle room, which, in a behind-the-scenes video, we discover is cooled with water, giving the entire room an eerie red glow. Those pearls, it turns out, are the container for the hosts’ consciousnesses. But the Cradle itself send commands to the parks, not unlike the way the Matrix papers over glitches with deja vu. And the implications of this functionality go way beyond just data storage. It means that the Cradle itself can run simulations or disrupt the flow of time —if it has a programmer (the host) to program a server farm (the Cradle), illustrated by Bernard getting off the train at exactly the spot he needed to be. The Cradle doesn’t appear to create simulations without a host’s consciousness to guide it.
Do we have a host in the Cradle? We sure do, and because Bernard just uploaded his brain pearl-thing into the Cradle, it could mean that everything we’ve seen in season 2 thus far — the multiple timelines, the weird ways that the characters are interacting with him — are just a simulation. This totally mind-bending but plausible theory was put forth by YouTuber HaxDogma, and in a 10-minute video he makes the case that Bernard has hacked his way into the Cradle, and everything is running from his point of view. In other words, it’s as though we’re viewing everything like Neo did at the end of the first Matrix: as a source code that can be manipulated.
Or (and this is even more sinister), perhaps Robert Ford has been in the Cradle all along, pulling the strings, and driving wedges between Dolores and Maeve with her new powers. Does your brain hurt yet? In the video below, Westworld co-creator Jonathan Nolan says there is more to the Cradle, and that we’ll “come to discover” it. Nurse that confusion, because it’s only to get weirder from here.