Season 1 of Westworld was like a giant clockwork puzzle, a series filled with hidden clues designed to drive the more observant viewer off to the depths of tinfoil hat theory land. But even though showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan were extremely clever in how they seeded their twists and turns, the Westworld Reddit subgroup r/Westworld proved the old adage about a monkey and a typewriter, and by the midway point of the season collectively theorized themselves to the point where they solved everything. They figured out The Man in Black's identity, that Maeve's Great Escape is a program, that Bernard was a Host version of Arnold, and that Dolores was Wyatt.
Westworld Season 2 has reached the same point in the narrative, and once again, it looks like Reddit's monkeys and their typewriters are right alongside them.
This year's major question once again revolves around Bernard's identity. Last season ended with Bernard revealed to be a Host copy of Arnold and receiving an enormous memory dump of everything forcibly wiped from his mind over his 20-plus years of existence, free of Ford's control. But there's a problem: He's a secret Host caught in the middle of a war between humans and Hosts, and he has to keep his identity secret lest he wind up a prisoner of the humans who surround him.
Critics complained Season 1's mysteries necessitated keeping the motivations of key players like Bernard under wraps. This made for frustrating viewing, especially when Reddit's legions had essentially solved the puzzle weeks in advance. Westworld Season 2 is a major improvement over Season 1; the production has done a great deal more exploring of the ambitions of our characters and is also playing up the parable nature of the Delos Corporation's choices, especially vis-à-vis our own technological leaps forward in 2018.
But the puzzle boxes are still a key element of the series. From the beginning, things haven't added up about Bernard, starting from the very first scene in which he wakes up on the beach only to be informed it's been two weeks since the Hosts took control of the park. Now Reddit believes they have an answer to why this is. It concerns "The Cradle."
The Cradle has only been mentioned on screen twice so far this season, but according to Westworld's tie-in website, it's a virtual reality apparatus used to store and test storylines prior to the introduction of narratives to the park. The trailer for Episode 6, “Phase Space,” promises to introduce the Cradle properly, but this video by Reddit user HaxDogma has already made a leap and has Reddit convinced Bernard's experiences this season are happening inside the Cradle's VR simulation.
Fans suspected from the start there is something very wrong with the "two weeks later" timeline. As the video documents, careful viewing of the opening scene shows continuity errors of the same woman (referred to on Reddit as the "Woman-In-Tan") being shot over and over from different angles, in rapid succession. This doesn't make sense unless one recalls hosts don't have “memories,” they relive moments wholesale. (That's how Dolores' experiences with young William and present-day William in Season 1 could seamlessly overlap in the same scene.) Bernard is standing on the beach simultaneously living through several loops of this experience at once. The question is how and why?
At every turn, the show highlights Bernard as our Unreliable Narrator this season, like Dolores was in Season 1. In some places, like the flashbacks to the hours after the massacre, his inability to function properly comes with an explanation: He's leaking cortical fluid. (It's been 18 months since Season 1 aired for the audience. For Bernard, it's been less than 48 hours since Ford had him shoot himself in the head at point-blank range.) Then there's the massive file dump in his head. Ford uploaded memory files in one giant batch, and as Elsie confirms in Episode 4, he didn't take the time to make sure they were properly labeled and filed when he did so. Bernard's memories are a bit like a giant music collection where the songs are all illegal MP3s with no titles, albums, or artists to sort them by. (It wasn't like Ford was planning to let Bernard live, anyway.)
But in this same episode, Elsie fixes Bernard, so he stops leaking. This explains why Bernard on the beach is not suffering from cortical fluid problems. But he also doesn't need his glasses and is missing the scar on his forehead from the aforementioned gunshot — things Elsie didn't fix. One theory suggests he might have been downloaded into one of the spare Bernard bodies Charlotte is shown finding in the trailer. There's also the tale of two outfits, with two-weeks-later Bernard preferring to dress more like Teddy than his original style, which argues for this being a “spare Bernard.”
But all signs point to this Bernard being looped through the beach scene at least a half-dozen times. It is one thing for Bernard to show signs of being looped through his trip to the lab with Elsie more than once, especially when it seems like his second loop doesn't include her. But this beach loop shows him in a scenario with hundreds of humans working. Would all those humans who are loading in the boats on the beach really be willing (or able) to re-enact the same scene almost perfectly over and over just to loop Bernard through it a half-dozen times? Hosts can be reset and loop endlessly, but humans don't work like that. The only way to put Bernard through this scene multiple times is if it's a simulation with a few key people in attendance.
In short, all of this adds up, explaining everything about the “two weeks later” scenario before the item that could perform the simulation in question has even shown up on screen. This means the introduction of the Cradle this weekend into the show is perhaps the biggest plot point of the season so far. Let's hope it lives up to the hype.