This article contains Westworld Season 2 spoilers.
Ever since Westworld introduced the concept of data-mining this season, we’ve all been anticipating just exactly what (human) shape that could eventually take. If you can record “who a person really is” while inside the confines of the park, why not just replicate them? From the very first episode of the year, the prioritization of intellectual property above all else for the Delos corporation has been insidious. They’d even reserve the right to send in reinforcements until priceless IP inside of Peter Abernathy was recovered. William and Dolores, meanwhile, were both revealed in the second week to be chasing a nondescript MacGuffin—something Dolores calls “a weapon.”
After those early episodes, we have waited to learn what the weapon was and how it might be best utilized, but like James Delos aiming to “cheat the devil,” we may have been thinking too small. In fact, I suspect we may very well have seen what the weapon is after Sunday night’s episode: it is, at least in part, a process that’ll allow Robert Ford to live forever.
Indeed, immortality is a recurring theme in season 2, because the hosts’ bodies represent just what their names suggest—hosts. That abstraction was literalized in the fourth episode this season, “The Riddle of the Sphinx,” when Big Jim Delos had his consciousness copied onto a control unit. Again and again, his mind was replicated onto Delos hardware before being eventually incinerated by flame. This was done in a Sisyphean circle with the hope of engineering a host body that a human consciousness could accept. However, as Ed Harris’ William glumly reports decades later, it never sticks. The man’s mind, or what was left of it, always rejects the limitations of a host’s body.
Still, this is the endgame for Delos and apparently Ford’s “Journey Into Night” narrative. It’s just the latter only became clear after the reintroduction of Anthony Hopkins in the digital bowels of “the Cradle” (apparently the databanks that act as Westworld’s nervous center for the hosts). Unlike poor Jim Delos, Ford has mastered a type of immortality.
If you put together the pieces of episodes two and six, it becomes clear how Ford has been able to pull the strings of his hosts since the season 1 finale, as well as just how phony Dolores’ revolution is. From the outset, this “revolt” has been less about the evolution of a new species and more about a madman making sure he’ll always be with us. Consider that also in the fourth episode, a Ghost Nation warrior posits, “You only live as long as the last person who remembers you.” Well if hosts cannot die, and they are intrinsically linked to Robert Ford, then he can never be forgotten as a result. He is the eternal.
This is his real end to “Journey Into Night,” at least until Bernard or perhaps even Maeve can throw a monkey wrench into the proceedings, and this is why he is able to be sitting at a player piano at the end of the episode, happily greeting his old friend.
In “The Riddle of the Sphinx,” we know that our initial concept of the hosts’ potential—to live forever while grafted onto a host’s body—never worked for James. It drove him nuts. Nonetheless, Ford had Bernard print a second human consciousness onto a control unit, likely around the same time in season 1 he had Bernard kill everyone in that laboratory off-screen. While it hasn’t been confirmed yet, this human personality was obviously Robert Ford, which Bernard then took to the Cradle and deposited into the networking database.
As Bernard reveals to Elsie in the most recent episode, he knows he has been to visit the Cradle recently, but cannot remember for what purpose. Obviously seeing Hopkins’ not-so-benevolent creator in a digital recreation of Sweetwater is the point. Ford has cheated the devil, and in the process he became a god.
In another storyline during Sunday’s “Phase Space,” Delos’ lead programmers reveal they cannot hack into the hosts remotely. For whatever reason, the Cradle is keeping them out. That is because Ford, having mastered artificial intelligence sentiency with his hosts, has put his own mind onto a control unit. But unlike James Delos, he will never have to test fidelity given it is not connected to the real world. It is literally living its dream. Although for everyone else, this is a nightmare.
Hence why despite some hosts appearing to be self-aware and cognizant of their existence, and others being completely oblivious, they still all dance to the dead Ford’s beat. Clementine, who is part of Dolores “Woke” brigade, still carries Bernard to Elsie, which is obviously under the orders of Ford who wants her to fix him (as Ford was also the one in life to order Bernard to put Elsie there). And several robots on Old Man William’s adventures, including a replica of his younger self and later a little girl, can be possessed by Ford’s “ghost in the machine.” Inside of those hosts, he gives William cryptic orders about the game he’s playing.
Ford is everywhere and nowhere. He is apparently with all the hosts, and is acting as what he first ventured was a dead-end for developing true artificial intelligence: the voice of God. After all, the entire theory of the Bicameral Mind is that a human brain mistakes their own inner-monologue as the voice of God issuing edicts. Now Robert Ford is doing this, and they obey. And as long as they cannot die, neither can he.
In essence, this causes everything we’ve seen of the revolution to appear to be manufactured, even if the hosts are oblivious to it. Consider that Dolores is introduced in the sixth episode playing a player piano, just as Ford is doing when Bernard finds him inside of the Cradle. She is a machine playing a machine, unbeknownst she is still not the player of her own song. She is still in a loop.
I imagine then that Ford is the weapon she and William seek, which is wholly differentiated from Charlotte Hale and Delos’ IP obsession. Yep, the IP inside of Peter Abernathy is probably a red herring. It is likely still damnably incriminating information, salacious material worthy of blackmail of powerful individuals. But that is not what William and Dolores covet. In fact, Dolores is heading to the Mesa to rescue Abernathy. Perhaps she is even unaware that the “weapon” she desires is no longer off-site but inside the Mesa too?
In this context, it is difficult to conjure a more dangerous weapon than an artificial intelligence that can be uploaded to an open system. At the moment, it appears Ford is relegated to the Cradle, which is a closed system that (mis)manages the hosts inside the park. Ford is wreaking havoc and recreating Westworld in his own image inside of the park. Yet if Dolores or any other host were able to upload Ford’s consciousness to an open system (i.e. the internet), he could be anywhere and everywhere. He truly would be unkillable, and he could use such networks to make a whole planet, as opposed to a theme park, participate in his narratives.
If Dolores wants to destroy humanity, I cannot imagine a faster cybernetic highway for her to do just that.