Warning: Spoilers ahead for “Westworld” episode nine.
“Westworld” shocked viewers in its penultimate episode when we learned that Bernard is not only a host, but a host created in the image of Ford’s dead partner Arnold. Though the hour ended with a heartbreaking scene of Bernard’s suicide, we believe Arnold remains “alive” through his programmed code.
In order to understand where Ford and Arnold’s fraught history is leading, we’ve gone back through earlier episodes and examined everything we know about Arnold. Keep reading to learn more about the relationship between Ford, Arnold, and the future of Westworld.
The Original Partnership
Robert Ford and Arnold Weber were partners and co-founders of Westworld.
“For three years we lived here in the park, refining the hosts before a single guest set foot inside,” Ford explained in episode three. “Myself, a team of engineers, and my partner.”
Together Arnold and Ford built every part of Westworld from the ground up. They must have had a close relationship, because Arnold built a group of hosts that was an exact replica of Ford’s family.
When Bernard found the host family in an unregistered area of the park, Ford told Bernard about how his family used to go on vacations to a cottage with his parents and brother.
“It was my only happy memory of my childhood,” Ford told Bernard, “Arnold built them as a gift. He said that great artists always hid themselves in their work.”
But eventually something severed their relationship.
“Arnold always held a somewhat dim view of people,” Ford said to Theresa in episode four. “He preferred the hosts. He begged me not to let you people in, the money men … Delos. But I told him we’d be fine, that you didn’t understand what you were paying for. It’s not a business venture, not a theme park, but an entire world. We designed every inch of it, every blade of grass. In here, we were gods. And you were merely our guests.”
Arnold came to feel differently about the hosts than Ford did, and the disagreement ended with Arnold’s death. According to Ford, Arnold had more grand ambitions for the hosts beyond just serving as pseudo-humans.
“He wasn’t interested in the appearance of intellect or wit,” Ford said. “He wanted the real thing. He wanted to create consciousness.”
Ford says that Arnold had imagined the development of consciousness as a pyramid (visualized below).
Memory was on the bottom, followed by improvisation, and self-interest. Ford says Arnold never made it to the “top” of the pyramid, “but he had a notion of what it might be.”
Arnold believes a theory of consciousness called the Bicameral Mind could serve as “a blueprint for building an artificial [human mind].”
Bernard sums up this theory, saying the Bicameral Mind is “the idea that primitive man believed his thoughts to be the voices of the gods.”
Arnold built a version of the robots’ cognition in which they heard their programming as an inner monologue. Ford says his hope was that “in time their own voice would take over.”
But from what we’ve seen so far, Arnold’s voice wound up being the one that took over — not the hosts’ own thoughts.
How Arnold died
The first story we heard about Arnold’s death was in episode three, when Bernard and Ford were talking in his office about Arnold.
“He died,” Ford says. “Here in the park. His personal life was marked by tragedy. He put all his hopes into his work … his search for consciousness consumed him totally. Barely spoke to anyone, except to the hosts. In his alienation he saw something in them. He saw something that wasn’t there. We called it an accident but I knew Arnold and he was very, very careful.”
At first we thought Ford’s choice of words implied suicide — if Arnold was so careful, then it surely couldn’t have been an accident.
However — episode nine turned this theory on its head. When it was revealed that Bernard was actually a host-version of Arnold, we flashed to a conversation between Arnold and Dolores.
Arnold: You came back. It’s very good to see you, Dolores.
Dolores: I’ve been looking for you. You told me to follow the maze. That it would bring me joy. But all I’ve found is pain and terror.
Arnold: I can’t help you.
Dolores: You have to. You’re the only one who can.
Arnold: I can’t help you. You know why.
Dolores: There’s nowhere that’s safe.
Arnold: Remember. I can’t help you. Why is that, Dolores?
Dolores: Because you’re dead. Because you’re just a memory. Because I killed you.
So Dolores killed Arnold, but under what circumstances?
We know Dolores was created by Arnold, and that she had a hand in his death. But what if Arnold ordered her to kill him?
In episode five, Ford has a conversation with Dolores about the past.
“Do you remember the man I used to be?” Ford asked.
Dolores replies that she doesn’t, and apologizes for being forgetful.
“Hardly your fault,” Ford said. “But I’m sure you remember him. Arnold. The person who created you.”
Ford suspects that Arnold has been somehow communicating with Dolores again, and asks her to enter analysis mode and tell him when she last logged an “encounter” with Arnold.
“34 years, 42 days, 7 hours ago,” Dolores said.
“Yes Dolores — the day Arnold died,” Ford said. He goes on to ask: “What was the last thing he said to you?”
Dolores said Arnold told her she was going to help him “to destroy this place.”
We never get an explanation of what “destroying” Westworld meant, but if Arnold came to Dolores for help perhaps that means his death was planned between the two of them. If Dolores killed Arnold and the public found out that a robot had “gone rogue,” it would surely put the park’s monetisation in jeopardy.
Arnold’s existence was not public knowledge — even for employees of the park. If he did die at the hands of Dolores, nobody knows except Ford. The few people who know about Arnold believe he killed himself.
“My business partners were more than happy to scrub him from the records, and I suppose I didn’t discourage them,” Ford said in episode three.
But at least two important characters do know about Arnold: The Man in Black and Logan.
Logan brings up Arnold in episode five. “Supposedly this place was all started by a partnership and then right before the park opened, one of the partners killed himself,” Logan tells William. “Sent the park into a free fall. I mean I don’t know any of the details — I don’t even know his name. He’s a complete mystery. Not even a picture.”
Though Logan doesn’t know his name is Arnold, he knows there was a co-founder and he believes he killed himself.
The Man in Black discussed Arnold while explaining his quest to find the maze to Armistice in episode four.
“You ever heard of a man named Arnold?” The Man in Black asks. “You could say he was the original settler of these parts. He created a world where you could do anything you want, except one thing. You can’t die. Which means no matter how real this world seems, it’s still just a game.”
The Man in Black knows Arnold’s name, and he also knows what happened to him (in a vague sense).
“But then Arnold went and broke his own rule,” The Man in Black says. “He died right here in the park. Except I believe he still had one story left to tell. A story with real stakes, real violence. You could say I’m here to honour his legacy.”
That brings us to the story Arnold might be telling today, using his programmed code to live on inside the hosts he built and the strange maze at the center of it all.
Ford vs. Arnold today
Knowing what we do about Ford and Arnold’s history, combined with some ominous signs, we think a conflict may play out between them in the finale. Episode nine ended with Ford compelling Bernard/Arnold to kill himself, but we know Arnold doesn’t need a physical host body to communicate with others like Dolores.
In episode six, Elsie seemed to confirm that Arnold was reprogramming hosts for an unknown end point.
“Theresa was using the old bicameral control system to reprogram the woodcutter, but she’s not the only one,” Elsie told Bernard over the phone. “Someone else has been using the system for weeks to re-task hosts. Several of them. It had to have been the older models — the newer ones don’t have receivers.”
Elsie specifically says that the changes included shifting narrative loops or breaking them altogether. When Bernard asks who was doing this, Elsie said: “I don’t know. Best I could tell … Arnold.”
Bernard pointed out that Arnold is dead.
“Yeah well he’s a pretty f—ing prolific coder for a dead guy,” Elsie said. “Whatever argument he was having with Ford it doesn’t seem like he was done making his point.”
So what was his point? Bernard/Arnold may have told us himself in episode nine.
“I’m going to finish the work Arnold began — find all the sentient hosts and set them free,” Bernard said.
Ford questioned the viability of this plan.
“Tell me, Bernard. If you were to proclaim your humanity to the world, what do you imagine would greet you? A ticker-tape parade, perhaps? We humans are alone in this world for a reason. We murdered and butchered anything that challenged our primacy. Do you know what happened to the Neanderthals, Bernard? We ate them. We destroyed and subjugated our world, and when we eventually ran out of creatures to dominate we built this beautiful place. You see, in this moment the real danger to the hosts is not me, but you.”
Ford believes he is protecting the hosts by keeping them in Westworld, and not allowing Bernard/Arnold (or the board members) to move the artificial intelligence technology into the “real world.”
We believe this is the conflict at the heart of Ford and Arnold’s story right now, and hosts like Maeve are close to achieving Arnold’s goal of both becoming fully sentient and “escaping” the confines of the park. Dolores has followed the maze, and is close to finding some truth.
The finale will likely address this showdown between Ford and Arnold, whether its through Maeve or Dolores or both confronting their maker. Tune in to the epic 90-minute finale on Sunday, December 4 and see if Arnold will truly have the final word.
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