Three episodes into HBO’s Westworld, the show has inspired an array of theories ranging from the possibility of different timelines to the notion that William or, somehow, Robert Ford might be the Man in Black. Some have suggested that Arnold — the park’s co-founder — is alive and waiting at the end of the park’s maze. There are even theories that Stephen King’s The Dark Tower is influencing the storylines.
However, one of the more popular theories — and the one I’m most intrigued by — is the idea that Bernard is a host.
While some have isolated some evidence to suggest why he might be a host — the fact that his glasses are always decoratively perched on his nose, or his arguably robotic way of speaking — no one has really explained why making Bernard a host would be a good decision from a storytelling standpoint. Thematically speaking, how does it serve the story Jonathan and Lisa Joy Nolan are trying to tell?
I have some ideas.
“There’s a path for everyone,” Dolores tells Teddy in the pilot episode. The “path,” to which she refers are the park’s storylines, storylines that are full of repetition. The hosts in Westworld are ants marching, following the same paths day after day. As Dolores notes before she begins to get a twinge of sentience, there’s “beauty in the order.”
The flip side, according to Dolores, is the ugliness of “disarray.” But it’s the ugliness of disarray that sets humans apart from the androids. The hosts repeat their loops, but humans strive for something more. Androids follow their programming. Humans are motivated by a greater purpose.
The hosts, however, have no greater purpose beyond repeating their loops. That changes when the hosts are given backstories. These backstories define their motivations. The backstories give them a greater purpose. “Backstories do more than amuse guests,” Elsie tells Stubbs in episode three. “They anchor the host. It’s their cornerstone. The rest of their identity is built around it layer by layer.”
However, that which gives them purpose can also drive them mad. Whatever was in The Stray’s backstory — the bear, the turtle, the Orion constellation — forced him off of his loop and beckoned him to the mountaintop, where he fell into a crevice. Unable to fulfill the purpose defined by his backstory, the Stray went mad and ended his own life, bashing himself into the head with a boulder.