Warning: Spoilers ahead for “Westworld,” including speculation of future events.
The INSIDER Summary:
• Fans are theorizing that Bernard Lowe is actually a robot.
• If true, that would mean Dr. Ford created him and put him in charge of coding.
• We break down the evidence spotted in the first three episodes.
“Westworld” is a new — and extremely complex — show from HBO, which means early fans are already theorizing where the series is headed. One guess fans have now is that a character presented as a human might actually be a robotic host.
One of the first surprises in store for the audience was a clever reveal showing Teddy Flood was a host, and not human as we were first led to believe. This set an interesting precedent: Viewers at home cannot tell the difference between humans and hosts. At least, not by simply looking at them. By making this clear to the audience, “Westworld” set up the possibility for more robot reveals later down the line.
But if there was a character we assume is human, only to find out otherwise later, who would it be?
Fans believe the answer is Bernard Lowe — the head of programming and right-hand man to Dr. Robert Ford.
Read through most of the discussion threads on the new “Westworld” subreddit, or do a brief Twitter search, and you’ll see that this is something fans have put on the table since the pilot. But let’s go through each piece of evidence we’ve spotted.
What we know about Bernard
Bernard Lowe is the head of the behaviour department and a programming specialist for Westworld. Based on his conversations with Dr. Ford about the hosts, we’re pretty sure he’s been working there for at least ten years.
In the third episode, “The Stray,” we also learned that Bernard had a young son named Charlie. In flashbacks during an emotional video call with his wife (ex-wife?) we see Bernard distraught in a hospital.
Bernard doesn’t appear much younger in this flashback, so we believe Charlie’s death was probably only a couple of years prior to the show’s timeline, if that. Right before this scene, Dr. Ford — in a moment of what felt like callousness — tells Bernard that he knows the death of his son still weighs heavily on him.
This signals to the audience that the death isn’t brand new, but it’s also fresh enough to possibly distract Bernard.
Suspicious dialogue between Bernard and other characters
Most fans who are inclined to believe Bernard is a host point to moments of conversation that could have double layers of meaning. In the second episode, it’s revealed that Theresa Cullen (head of Quality Assurance) and Bernard are having an affair. During a visit to his apartment, Bernard asks her to stay and talk.
Theresa jokes about how Bernard usually loves silences, even though “his creations never stop talking,” even when they’re not near actual people.
“They’re always trying to error correct, make themselves more human,” he explains. “When they talk to each other, it’s a way of practicing.”
“Is that what you’re doing now?” she asks. “Practicing?”
Though it’s meant as a joke, this line could be speaking to a larger truth. Bernard also seems slightly troubled by the question. He frowns slightly as she lays her head down on his chest.
At the end of the pilot, Bernard had to decommission two of the hosts due to aberrant behaviour. In episode two, he has a conversation with Dr. Ford about what the bigger issue might be. Ford senses something wrong.
“Is there something else bothering you, Bernard?” Ford asks. “I know how that head of yours works.”
Does Ford know how Bernard’s head works because he, Ford, actually created and scripted it?
Why Ford would have created Bernard as a host
If Bernard is a host, the best explanation would be that Dr. Ford created him in order to have full “control” over the programming and design of the hosts.
A robot in charge of making other robots might sound like a dangerous (and dumb) idea, but this is something humans are already experimenting with today. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, especially since “Westworld” is set at an undetermined point in the future.
Ford and Bernard — host or otherwise — have a strangely intimate relationship. Ford often calls Bernard by his first name, while referring to the other department heads as Ms. Cullen or Mr. Sizemore.
Twice now we’ve seen Bernard and Ford talking in what looks like the manufacturing department, away from the other areas of the Delos complex and with no other humans around. This echoes the way in which Bernard chats with Dolores in an area of the building away from everything else. Is Ford somehow arranging these conversations with Bernard through programming?
Ford is clearly a person who prefers the company of robots — not humans. We know he goes on walks through the park (we saw him meet up with a child host, who might have even been a younger version of himself).
It follows that Ford would create a host who could act as his subordinate and confidant, allowing him to converse with a life form that contained a similar level of intelligence to himself. That way he wouldn’t need to establish a close relationship with another human in order to have control over the programming process.
So then what’s up with Charlie?
By now you’re wondering how Bernard could possibly be a host if he had a wife and kid back home. If this theory winds up being true, it would mean Ford created Charlie and the wife as an elaborate backstory for Bernard. Charlie never existed, and for all we know the woman on the end of those video chats is another host (or simply a simulation).
The evidence for this might lie in Charlie’s death itself. In the pilot, Ford implied that mankind had reached a point where death by illness was no longer an issue humans faced.
“We’ve managed to slip evolution’s leash, haven’t we?” Ford says to Bernard. “We can cure any disease, keep even the weakest of us alive, and one fine day perhaps we shall even resurrect the dead.”
If that’s true, how did Charlie manage to recently die in a hospital? Maybe … he didn’t?
Charlie being a mere programmed figment of Bernard’s imagination would also explain the insensitive way that Ford brought up the death.
If Ford was the one who wrote and uploaded that memory into Bernard’s code, he would need someway of triggering or reminding Bernard to think about it — just like he did with Teddy in the same episode when he wrote the Wyatt narrative.
How Bernard being a host would influence Westworld
We know Bernard has been secretly meeting with Dolores, and probing her into questioning the nature of her reality. These conversations have major consequences regardless of Bernard’s host or human status, but each scenario presents different possible motives.
If Bernard is another host, his curiosity with Dolores’ cognition might be the result of his own existential crisis. Perhaps he was beginning to wonder whether or not he himself was a robot, and wanted to explore the possibility by talking with Dolores.
Bernard is aware that what he is doing with Dolores might be dangerous, and put the entire park at risk, but that’s a chance he’s willing to take. This recklessness makes sense if he’s seeking to “liberate” other hosts that are just like himself.
But you could argue that, if Bernard is human, his behaviour is even more compelling. We know Bernard is a highly intelligent person, and yet he’s foolishly risking his life’s work based on a fascination with the concept of consciousness.
He knows what is at stake, but he’s making the mistake of following an emotional instinct versus an intellectual logic. This human error might be more compelling to viewers, rather than watching as a robot helps other robots “free” themselves.
For now, we’re not fully convinced either way, but Bernard is an important character you should keep a close eye on either way. “Westworld” has many layers of potential meaning, and we have a feeling showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy are just getting started.
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