WARNING: Spoilers Ahead
Last Sunday, internet fan theory thread lurkers everywhere had their nine week long theory obsessions gratified, when the penultimate episode of Westworld aired on HBO. The episode, entitled 'The Well-Tempered Clavier', answered many questions that had been plaguing fans of the series all season.
Among the more pressing and controversial answers we got were these: Bernard is, in fact, a Host. Furthermore Bernard is a Host that Ford designed to imitate his late partner, Arnold. Bernard is Arnold, 'Bernarnold', if you will. Secondly, there are two timelines unfolding as we watch the show. This was the big one. The one people went into waging internet war for.
I admit, I was not the biggest fan of this theory in the first few episodes. The way theorists across the internet presented it, it seemed clunky and altogether too easy. Thankfully, the writers and creators of Westworld have a much lighter hand when it comes to crafting narratives than mobs of angry fans do. The ultimate buildup and reveal were handled with a lot of intrigue and grace.
The hints they dropped before the reveal were subtle almost to the point of being unnoticeable. When William first comes to Westworld, you see him in front of the old-style Westworld logo, perhaps the cue that set the internet racing to conclusions in the first place. The only other time this logo is featured is when one of the main cast members ventures down in to the ‘cold storage’ vaults full of decommissioned Hosts standing about like living corpses. William and The Man in Black wore the same grey, pleated shirt under their attire. As Vogue Magazine pointed out, actors are never dressed in the same shirt. It confuses the audience and makes them think the same person is on stage. Of course, lastly, in episode eight you had The Man in Black encountering the same Host who greeted William when his journey began. The Man in Black sees her and his eyes widen as he says, “it’s you.”
The actual reveal is given to us not with a bang, but a whisper. It’s folded within several other reveals. The reveal that Bernard is Arnold came directly beforehand, and as we discovered there are two timelines, we also discover that Dolores is the Host that killed Arnold. It does away with the age-old need for the antagonist to turn to the camera and say “it was me, all along!” and instead lets the audience know exactly who was going to walk through that door in the church before it happens.
The reveal that I liked most of all was one that didn’t’ get a lot of attention by the fan theorists. It wasn’t as dramatic a reveal as two timelines or Bernarnold. Through the run of the show thus far, I was stuck on why Ford seemed to hate Dolores so much. Why Ford seemed to hold a level of animosity for the Hosts alongside his love for them. The revelations that his closest friend and confidant was murdered by Arnold’s pet creation, Dolores, gives a new piece to the puzzle that is the park’s mysterious creator.
So now that the season finale looms, it leaves us all to wonder where it goes from here.
The title of the episode is inspired a collection of Preludes and Fugues by Johann Sebastian Bach. The Well-Tempered Clavier comes with a description penned by Bach stating that the pieces are "for the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning, and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study.” Clavier, in Bach’s time, referred to more or less any instrument with a keyboard. A piano, harpsichord or organ all fell under this umbrella. Contemporarily, the work has been picked up by many an accordion player, as well. In Westworld, a focal point has been a piano. Ford keeps one in his office, and of course most dramatic scenes are kicked off by the player piano in the saloon. For the purposes of the episode, though, I wonder if The Well-Tempered Clavier is referring to the Hosts’ brains and sense of self-awareness.
So the question then becomes, who is the student? For whose benefit is this study being done? The board seems to value the Hosts’ core code more than the park itself. Which makes sense. In the show and additional material, the ratio of Hosts to park guests is 20:1. There are 2,000 Hosts in the park which means there can only be 100 guests in the park at one time, maximum. At $40,000 a day per visitor, the park can only make 4 million dollars a day. That is not enough money to keep this very expensive theme park operating. The park is one giant experiment, masquerading as the ultimate leisure trip.
I look forward to having these questions answered and coming to the conclusion of our first Westworld journey. I do not look forward to the long wait for the second season, but I guess a lull in my favorite programing is what led to my interest in Westworld to begin with. Happy viewing, my friends. Stay hungry.