Some gaps in Bernard’s memory get revealed and we discover what William’s side project at Delos has been for the last 30-years in this week’s Westworld, “The Riddle of the Sphinx”.
Spoiler Alert: The following discusses plot points from Westworld episode “The Riddle of the Sphinx” written by Gina Atwater & Jonathan Nolan, directed by Lisa Joy.
The ailing James Delos (Peter Mullan) takes center stage as its revealed how his company’s investment in AI technology created a secret, side project that William ran for 30-years, and that contributed heavily to the ennui he has about the parks.
Bernard’s (Jeffrey Wright) connection to that lab (#12) is also revealed as he reconnects with Elsie (Shannon Woodward) and they suss out that he worked there in secret with the White Drones and other techs to create a hybrid AI. Specifically, they tried almost 150 different times to print James Delos’ human body and connect it to his stored memories for a viable 2.0 version of the man.
In the Confederales world, the MiB (Ed Harris) and Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) return to the Host’s town so that he can reunite with his wife and daughter. However, Major Craddock (Jonathan Tucker) has gone mad with power and is using his ability to permanently kill to terrorize Hosts, and the MiB. It leads to a final confrontation between Craddock and the MiB that illuminates the older man’s regrets in his real-world life.
Finding out that Lab 12 was a dedicated project to try to keep the company founder, James Delos, ‘alive’ after he succumbs to a terminal diagnosis makes a lot of sense, and connects a lot of threads. Of course, a man uninterested in investing in a AI company could be swayed by William with the promise of it buying the old man eternal life. And it’s even more satisfying to discover that with even all of Delos’ money, and the initial thrill of potentially beating death, isn’t ultimately enough to make it worth to resurrect an asshole. I think most of us have come to that conclusion a lot quicker than William did, but at least it was a lesson learned.
Having a better understanding of why Bernard is on the fritz is incredibly helpful in determining how these Hosts function. As I queried before, there’s got to be something keeping these creations functioning. So, the revelation that cortexical fluid is vital to their operations, and Bernard’s is failing, helped ground his flashes in something concrete. And in turn, helps us get a handle on how it might impact other alpha-Hosts like Dolores or Maeve.
Lisa Joy's direction overall is stylish and memorable. She brings some beautiful visuals to life, and her handling of the Delos/William storyline over the years is revealed in a compelling way.
At one hour and ten minutes, this episode was rather indulgent in its bloat. In particular, the Confederales storyline was a tedious exercise in excessive violence as Craddock tortured the bartender, then Lawrence’s wife, and I’m sure some Host puppies were kicked off-screen to boot. All of it could have been told in tighter sequences that got to the point much quicker than it did.
Things to Ponder ...
Anyone else get a very Lost/Dharma feeling from the staging of James Delos’ retro looking apartment? From the record player and its specific needle drops to the exercise bike, and the rinse/repeat of it all, I was half expecting Desmond Hume to walk out at some point and say, “Hello, brutha” to William.
The suicide of William’s wife was subtly played by director Lisa Joy’s direction and it adds another layer to the MiB’s overall disinterest with the real world. Arguably, as far as we’ve seen, the greatest emotional connection he’s had to anything in his life was Dolores in the park, and how he felt in the park after his first adventure. He’s been chasing meaning and stakes in Westworld for three decades with little to show for it. And the revelation in the last seconds of the episode that he’s raised an daughter with her own expertise of the park, and inherent dislike of the Hosts, is telling. Like father, like daughter.
Is Elsie the dumbest woman in all of Delos? How in the world is just the promise of a glitching AI (Bernard), who already physically harmed her, enough for her to keep him as a traveling buddy? I’m holding out that she doesn’t actually trust him a bit, but isn’t going to let him know that, and is strictly using him to escape in one piece.
Knowing that Bernard was the one who murdered the Lab 12 techs, and signaled for the White Drones to self-destruct, is an interesting twist. Was that always the plan and Ford just allowed Bernard to be used by William until the Delos project was stopped? Or, was Bernard’s actions a by-product of another directive? Was it the official start of Ford’s game that is playing out now? Did William need the moment of enlightenment in shuttling the James Delos resurrection to be ready for the next story Ford had in store for him?
And as Bernard pleads with Elsie to let him make his own decisions about who he wants to be for the first time in his existence begs the question of is that realistic? Or has Ford created Bernard to be a chess piece in his overall game that can never truly independent as Dolores now seems to be?
What was your standout moment this episode?