Everything we know about the mysterious founders of Westworld

Warning: Spoilers ahead for “Westworld.”

The INSIDER Summary:

• “Westworld” is centered around a theme park built by Dr. Ford and Arnold.
• But little is known about both their history and intentions.
• We analysed scenes and dialogue to gather everything we know about the enigmatic duo.

“Westworld” continues to raise more mind-bending questions with each episode, but we are finally beginning to get some answers when it comes to the two park co-founders: Dr. Robert Ford and the mysterious Arnold.

We wanted to take a closer look at everything we know so far about these two important figures who seem to be at the center of all the goings-on in Westworld.

Dr. Robert Ford

Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Robert Ford WestworldJohn P. Johsnon/HBODr. Ford is a powerful figure in ‘Westworld.’

Ford (played by Anthony Hopkins) currently serves as Park Director. His role gives him full control over nearly everything in the park, from managing new narrative storylines to sitting in on behavioural analysis sessions.

Westworld press photoCourtesy of HBOFord was the one who ‘interviewed’ Peter Abernathy after he went rogue.

Based on the scenes we have of him so far, Ford appears to prefer the company of hosts (robots) to that of humans. In the pilot he was shown talking with an old host named Bill who was down in “cold storage.”

Then in the second episode, Ford went for a walk in an undeveloped area of the park. He encountered a young boy there, who appeared to be a host version of Ford as a child.

Dr. Robert Ford and Child host Westworld

Based on their conversation, we’re pretty sure Ford built a young version of himself.

Ford has an enormous amount of control over the hosts

Though other employees need touchscreens or voice commands to make the hosts shut down or perform another action, Ford can control all of the hosts in the park — even animal robots — with a mere flick of his finger.

This was demonstrated when he encountered a rattlesnake during his walk with Young Ford.

Dr. Ford and young boy host with rattlesnake WestworldHBO‘Everything in this park is magic,’ Ford said. ‘Except to the magician.’

Ford was able to halt, and dismiss, the rattlesnake with nothing but his index finger.

We saw this again when he had lunch with Theresa Cullen (Head of Quality Assurance) in the fourth episode. He froze a host as it was pouring wine, and paused all the hosts in the vicinity at the same time.

Again, note Ford’s index finger:

Dr. Robert Ford controlling hosts WestworldHBOFord used his power to intimidate Theresa Cullen.

“Westworld” showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy explained how this worked during an interview with Entertainment Weekly.

“His mechanisms of control are subtle,” Nolan told EW. “We thought a little bit of a conductor with an orchestra, where the entire orchestra at any moment is so hyper aware of what the conductor is doing that the tiniest gesture can ripple through the orchestra — not just those who are actively watching, but it all becomes one large organism. He’s had 30-plus years to gain his level of control.”

Ford has a “black hat” mentality

A possibly significant aspect of Ford’s character is his hat. Ford wears a black hat when he enters a park — a probable symbol of his darker intentions.

Dr. Robert Ford church bells scene WestworldHBOFord summoned the sound of ‘church bells’ with his fingers, too.

We saw a bit of Ford’s sinister qualities during the restaurant scene with Theresa. He quietly asked her not to interfere with his plans, after displaying his power with the hosts. We don’t know exactly what Ford is planning, but it’s clear that he is not a person you want to underestimate.

The Mysterious Arnold

Photo of Arnold and Dr. Ford WestworldHBOA photo of Ford (left) and Arnold.

Arnold is much more of an unknown than Ford. We first heard about him during a conversation between Ford and Bernard Lowe, the Head of Behaviour and Programming.

Arnold was Ford’s partner and co-founder of the park. “For three years we lived here in the park, refining the hosts before a single guest set foot inside,” Ford explained. “Myself, a team of engineers, and my partner. “

Dr. Robert Ford in office WestworldHBOFord seems willing to discuss Arnold when he’s mentioned.

Arnold’s approach to building the robots

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.”

Dr. Robert Ford and Bernard office talk WestworldHBOFord drew Arnold’s pyramid theory on the chalkboard.

Ford says that Arnold had imagined the development of consciousness as a pyramid (visualized above).

Memory on the bottom, then improvisation followed by 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.”

Bernard and Dr. Ford talking WestworldHBOBernard is concerned about Arnold’s code resurfacing.

Apparently, 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.”

Very few people know about Arnold

Bernard expressed surprise to hear that Ford had a partner, which means Arnold’s existence was not public knowledge — even for employees of the park.

“My business partners were more than happy to scrub him from the records, and I suppose I didn’t discourage them,” Ford said.

But one important character does know about Arnold: The Man in Black. He discusses Arnold while explaining his quest to find the maze to Armistice in episode four.

The Man in Black surprised Ed Harris WestworldHBOHow does the Man in Black know about Arnold? Another mystery.

“You ever heard of a man named Arnold?” The Man in Black asks. “You could say he was the originally 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, its still just a game.”

The Man in Black not only knows about Arnold, but 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.”

The Man in Black thinks Arnold crafted the maze, and he’s on a mission to find it.

How Arnold died

When Bernard asks what happened to Arnold, Ford replies with a mysterious answer that matches with the Man in Black’s version of events.

Dr. Robert Ford discusses Arnold WestworldHBOFord has a pragmatic approach to Arnold’s death.

“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.”

That last line can be interpreted in several ways.

Either Ford believes Arnold’s death involved foul play — perhaps a host gone rogue or another human with murderous intents came after him.

Or Ford could be implying that Arnold committed suicide somehow while in the park. He prefaces the story by saying that Arnold’s life involved tragedy, and he had isolated himself from people. Perhaps Arnold was depressed, or manic, and killed himself in Westworld as a final escape from the real world.

Why Arnold matters now

Though they gave up on the Bicameral Mind line of thinking, Arnold’s code is still inside the hosts. The voice commands employees use to control them are pieces of his code.

Dolores in session with Bernard Westworld HBOIs Arnold speaking to Dolores from beyond the grave using code?

We know Ford updated some hosts with a line of code he calls “reveries.” This was meant to make it so the hosts could recall certain thoughts or feelings, making them more lifelike. But what if the “reveries” are calling back to other — more dangerous — parts of Arnold’s original code?

Several times in the first half of the season, we’ve seen Dolores Abernathy react to a voice — a voice that seems to be speaking to her from inside her own head.

Is this Arnold talking? Is his code somehow directing Dolores to reach beyond her programming and achieve consciousness?

Dolores Abernathy WestworldHBOA voice told Dolores to ‘remember’ right before she had flashes of ‘memory.’

Perhaps the “maze” is designed to release the hosts’ programming and help them achieve true consciousness. We know Bernard knows about the maze, since he told Dolores to try and find it. The Man in Black definitely knows about the maze, and believes Arnold created it.

Each of the main characters — Ford, Dolores, the Man in Black, Bernard — seem to have a connection to Arnold. Though most of his work and presence in the current storyline is still a mystery, we’re betting he will continue to play a big role in the series’ coming episodes.

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