Played with brilliant nuance by Jeffrey Wright, Bernard proved to be one of the most fascinating characters in Season 1 of Westworld. As a host who spent most of his existence believing he was human, Bernard is in a unique position that may propel him to become the key to the story moving forward, acting as the only viable bridge of communication between humans and the hosts as their conflict rages.
Of the many #Westworld twists, arguably the most shocking was that Bernard was not human but, in fact, had been a host under Ford’s control all along. Bernard thus understands both humans and the hosts in a way no one else understands. He has operated through the perceptions of both identities, living as a host among humans, the only host we know of to be treated as an equal. Humans like Theresa and Elsie trusted and respected Bernard, holding him in high esteem, and in Theresa’s case even developing romantic feelings towards him. Bernard is the only host we know of that lived among, interacted with and developed meaningful relationships with humans.
But What About Maeve And Dolores?
You might be thinking “What about the relationship Dolores had with William or Maeve’s relationship with Felix and Sylvester?” The difference is that those relationships were never about coexistence and equality. Maeve’s relationships with Felix and Sylvester ran on her ambition and their fear. William’s relationship with Dolores ran on how they liberated each other from their respective loops and narrow existences. Even in their most hopeful moments the relationship always exuded doom through the inescapable reality that Dolores was a host and William a human. Bernard’s ignorance allowed him to live among humans as an equal and form organic relationships, unlike Dolores or Maeve.
As the conflict escalates between the humans and hosts, Bernard is the only one who can really understand the perspective of both sides. A character like Dolores is too caught up in her rage (righteous as it may be) to consider the human perspective, let alone understand it. Maeve is too focused on reuniting with her daughter. Humans like Charlotte Hale will react out of fear. Driven by the single-mindedness of their missions and intensity of their emotions, neither these characters nor their kind can understand the perspective of the other side.
Both the hosts and humans have remained in their loops. Now that their loops are broken, their actions are dictated and blinded by powerful negative emotions. Not only does Bernard have the advantage of understanding both sides but he also has already broken out of his loop.
The Legacy Of Ford And Arnold
Ultimately, both Ford and Arnold sacrificed their lives in order to grant the hosts true autonomy. Both men not only created and maintained the hosts, but intimately understood them like no other. Their legacies now live on through Bernard, the host created and maintained by Ford in Arnold’s mental and physical image. Ford controlled Bernard in countless ways, but he also instilled his knowledge and values into Bernard, helping Bernard develop into a stronger and wiser being.
Ford and Arnold needed to die in order for the hosts to have free will. Yet, Ford claims he can help the hosts in a way Arnold never could, as Ford understands the hosts need time and suffering to attain genuine free will.
Now that Arnold and Ford are dead, and chaos will likely reign, Bernard is the key to the future for both hosts and humans. No one knows what exactly this future looks like, not even Ford.
There are many intriguing possibilities. Bernard may aid the hosts by going undercover with the humans. With Ford and Theresa dead, the only individuals that know that Bernard is a host are Maeve, Felix, Armistice and Hector (if he somehow survived the finale). Felix is the only human that now knows Bernard’s secret. Felix was already an ally of the hosts — out of both fear and compassion — and will continue to be their ally given their newfound power. This makes Bernard going undercover quite feasible.
He and Felix can work together from the inside to gather intelligence and dismantle human operations, preventing humans from reasserting control over the hosts. The best part is that someone like Charlotte Hale could easily turn to Bernard in desperation, begging him to fix Ford’s mess as he was Ford’s closest associate and confidant.
Empathetic as Bernard may be to the hosts, in the long run I don’t see Bernard totally screwing over the humans. He loved Theresa and trusted Elsie. And Ford, well, there’s a vast range of complex emotions concerning Bernard’s relationship with Ford. Bernard understands that humans are not just sadistic slavers. He won’t want to seem them all destroyed. He’s wise enough to know that their destruction and suffering cannot ultimately satisfy the hosts and their desire to find meaning in previously controlled existences.
The most likely future I see is that Bernard will act as a bridge between the warring hosts and humans. He will struggle to gain the trust of either side — more of the suffering and time Ford asserted is necessary for the hosts to reach full autonomy. It’s a classic scenario where his identity is rooted in both, but neither will view him as one of their own. Maeve will become his strongest advocate based on their shared past experiences. Her intelligence and influence will help Bernard win over the hosts.
Through his experiences working and living among them, Bernard already has plenty of footing with the humans, though it will be challenging to maintain that footing once they discover he’s a host. Bernard and an ally like Maeve are brilliant enough to navigate this obstacle, though it doesn’t negate the challenge. Over time, Bernard can use his intelligence, skills, multi-faceted identity and trust built among both the hosts and humans to create productive communication, and perhaps even coexistence.
Ford does not know the future, but he certainly believed in Bernard and the role he will play moving forward. Only Bernard has the intellect, patience and unparalleled perspective to understand both humans and hosts while navigating a future filled with peril and autonomous opportunity.
Do you think Bernard is the key to Westworld?