Westworld’s Season 2 premiere ends with what appears to be a host genocide: A bunch of the park’s robots are floating dead in a lake—including Teddy (James Marsden), because Teddy is never not dying. How did this happen? “I killed them. I killed them all,” Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) says right before the credits roll. WAIT, WHAT?! Now we’ve got a whole week to mull this over. What exactly happened to the hosts, and what’s going on with Bernard?
Honestly, Bernard might not even know the answer. “Is this now?” is what he asks himself at the beginning of the episode, as he’s battling post-traumatic stress and struggling to make sense of his memory (which used to be conveniently wiped out for him on a frequent basis by Robert Ford). He asks the temporal question just before he awakes on a beach, a full two weeks after Dolores triggered a robot rebellion by shooting Ford (Anthony Hopkins, now terrorizing Twitter timelines) in the head. And just before that awakening, his mind is flooded with a trippy sequence of visions.
Seen in the moment, the roughly 30 seconds of flashbacks (and potential flashforwards) don’t make much sense. They feel like the visions of a man who’s juggling multiple timelines in his head, tripping out, and failing to understand whether he’s living in the present. But in the context of Bernard’s admission that he’s responsible for the hundreds of bodies floating in that lake, the visions take on greater meaning. They’re clues to what happened in those two weeks, and for the rest of this season.
There is a lot to unpack in the deluge of imagery that preceded the rest of the premiere, so we’re going to break it down frame by frame and try to figure out what it all means.
Previously on Westworld …
No need to overthink the first chunk of Bernard’s visions—these are a rehash of the end of last season. In multiple instances, Bernard discovered that he was not human, but a host modeled after the park’s cocreator Arnold, and that his backstory—a separated wife and a son who died from a serious medical condition—was just that: a “backstory” for a host borrowed from Arnold’s tragic life. Understandably, these discoveries caused Bernard to have an existential crisis.
The sequence that follows these visions is from the finale, when Ford offered a final toast before Dolores shot him in the head.
Now, this is something we haven’t seen: Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) is no longer in cowgirl getup, but a sleek, modern black dress with Bernard in tow. Or is it Bernard?
Remember: Bernard looks exactly like Arnold, who we saw having conversations with Dolores in the past last season. So this could be a flashback to Arnold and Dolores doing something outside of the confines of the park from a few decades ago (at that point, they could have just wiped her memory if she saw anything too mind-blowing). Maybe Arnold was trying to test the limits of the hosts’ cognition? The dude was all about the bicameral-mind theory and bootstrapping the hosts’ consciousness. If that’s true, though—if this vision is Arnold and Dolores gallivanting in the real world—then there are some serious questions that need to be asked about Bernard. How exactly would he, a host created after Arnold’s death, have a vision of something Arnold did in his mind? Does he have access to Arnold’s memories? Do we not know the full truth about Bernard’s creation story? If Bernard does have access, he might be able to unlock more secrets about Arnold and Ford’s grand vision for the hosts, and the hosts themselves.
Alternatively, this specific vision could be from the two weeks between the uprising and Bernard awaking on the beach, a memory of Bernard helping Dolores and her robo-army escape from Westworld and enter the real world, where it’d make much more sense to wear clothes from the era. Either way, we’re going to be seeing Dolores outside the park. If Bernard’s vision isn’t enough confirmation of that, the trailer HBO released previewing the weeks to come is.
Peter Abernathy Is Back
You probably remember Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum), Dolores’s host “father,” for the epic monologue he delivered—while naked in a chair—to Ford in the pilot. He was put out of commission after that—perhaps at the behest of Anthony Hopkins, who didn’t like being threatened by naked Shakespeare experts.
But Abernathy serves a crucial function this season, because Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) turned him into a human-sized USB drive filled with data—Westworld’s intellectual property, as well as the personal information of the park’s guests—that Delos Incorporated finds valuable. The company won’t even send a rescue team to pick up Charlotte until she recovers Abernathy, which speaks to how savage Delos is and how important the data must be.
By the end of the Season 2 premiere, Charlotte’s search for Abernathy is on, with Bernard in tow. In Bernard’s vision, Abernathy twitches bizarrely while Bernard stands in the left corner (unless someone else is wearing his signature glasses). The suggestion is that, in the two weeks between the uprising and Bernard’s beachside awakening, Abernathy is found by someone. Whether it’s by a human group led by Charlotte or by Dolores’s host army remains to be seen.
“There Is Beauty in What We Are”
This line was highlighted in the final trailer for Season 2. It feels like it’s Dolores trying to convince Bernard to see things from her perspective and to recognize the truth of his own existence. (When she says “we,” it’s safe to assume she does so without any illusions and that she means “hosts.”) This might be what amounts to an allegiancy pitch: Is Bernard going to side with the other hosts and help them escape or be their undoing by helping the humans stop their rebellion?
It’s definitely unclear whose side Bernard is on, not only because the premiere ends with a ton of robot corpses floating in a lake, but because of the next set of Bernard’s visions, which are, to put it mildly, foreboding AF.
BERNARD, IS EVERYTHING OK?!
Holy shit. So, that’s Bernard firing one of Delos security’s futuristic guns, overseeing some security dudes getting massacred by hosts, and then putting his hands on his head in—what?—dismay, confusion, or a bit of both? (SAME.)
This is the Westworld control room, the same one that Maeve (Thandie Newton) and Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) enter in the premiere to find a ton of corpses sprawled across the room. Bernard might’ve already been there. But how long ago was he there, and when did Maeve and Sizemore enter that room? Bernard’s vision of the control room may be an explanation of what happened, but it also may just raise even more questions.
For now, all of this is speculative. All I really know is that this is just the beginning, and that by the end of Season 2 I may be just as lost as Bernard is right now.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.