Some people choose to see the ugliness in this world. The disarray. We choose to see the spoilers—through the first five episodes of Westworld season two—contained in this post. Is it order and purpose you’re looking for? Head here to explore Observer’s latest Westworld news, theories and analyses.
Why do people love Westworld? The layered plot? The detailed intricacies of the show’s composition? Oh no. It’s strictly to brag on Twitter about a twist or reveal they called way in advance.
That’s why we’re here: to compile all of Westworld‘s major season two theories in one convenient place. You can study them, tweak them and then pass them off as your own to your friends, we don’t mind. As the new season continues to unfurl, we’ll be updating each theory with relevant information that supports or debunks a given conspiracy and ranking its likeliness quotient.
Got it? Let’s boot up from least likely to most likely. Then be sure to check out our recap of the episode.
The Maeve Override Theory
The general consensus among fans is that Maeve’s true sentient breakthrough was when she decided to get off the train out of Westworld and go find her daughter in the season one finale. The showrunners have even confirmed this in previous conversations.
But what if they’re just messing with us?
In that quick shot of her code back in season one where Bernard reveals that her jailbreak was pre-programmed, fans have discovered a small bit of extra code that suggests other forces at play. It says “override func,” which could mean that her last-minute decision had been written for her long before.
What does this say about the host’s assumed free will?
Ford was an elite puppet master and he could have put a long con in play centered around Maeve. His goal is to push the hosts toward consciousness, and Maeve plays a greater role in that development than any of us have yet considered.
Given Maeve’s newfound abilities in ShogunWorld, perhaps we were jumping the gun a bit on her character still operating under the control of a greater power. Now that she’s able to command certain hosts without vocal directives, access the memories of other hosts and just generally outperform her programming, this theory seems all but dead.
Likeliness Quotient: 1 out of 5 (Last Week: 2.5)
The Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Me Theory
Remember all of those promo materials for season one that featured a fly walking over an offline Dolores? Remember when Dolores forcefully killed that fly at the end of the premiere episode, foreshadowing the violence to come from her as a result of looming self-realization?
Perhaps there are more to these flying annoyances than meets the eye. Though there are no specific predictions when it comes to the flies, there are hints that they could hold some significance.
Co-creator and showrunner Lisa Joy has teased the possible importance of these little critters, telling TVLine:
“In season two, now that the gloves are off, we’re going to see a lot of flies and they’re not necessarily going to be actual flies.”
Could these flies be robots created by Westworld engineers? If so, what purpose do they serve? Are they helping to gather DNA? Are they spying on guests? On a more metaphorical scale, what could they be foreshadowing or representing in season two?
We got a few answers on this theory in Sunday night’s “Akane no Mai,” as Dolores tells Teddy the story of how a plague spread by flied infected her herd of cattle. His solution was to shelter the weak and inefected cattle in the hopes that the plague would pass. Dolores’ father, Abernathy, took a different approach: burning the sickly cows to drive off the flies.
“You’re a kind man,” Dolores says to Teddy. “Daddy burned them. The weak, the infected, made a pyre that went on for days. But the flies hate smoke. The herd lived. I’ll think about what you said.”
Ultimately, this exchange encapsulates who Teddy is—a sympathetic man with a heart of compassion—and who Dolores thinks she needs him to be—a hardened killer—for her revolution to succeed. That’s why she alters his programming and, presumably, sets the stage for his death that we’ve already seen.
Likeliness Quotient: 2 out of 5 (Last Week: 1)
Bernard’s Loop Theory
This one’s a doozy.
As you probably noticed yourself, Bernard is all sorts of messed up when he awakens on the beach in the season two premiere. He’s disoriented, he’s experiencing motor function failure and is just generally out of it.
What if that is all by design?
What if Delos has placed Bernard in an artificial loop in order to get to the bottom of the massacre and experiment with host-control now that the humans are aware of robot sentience? This would mean that Delos had somehow discovered Bernard himself is a host, but there’s evidence to support this theory.
As this imgur thread shows, there are some slight inconsistencies with the characters seen in the background while Bernard walks along the beach in the episode. As the post suggests, this could imply we’re watching a composite shot of several different loops rolled into one. Another Redditor added further supporting evidence to this theory when they pointed out that the seeds of Bernard’s Loop, a term borrowed from astronomy, may have been planted in season one.
Could Bernard’s present timeline story be an elaborate ruse constructed to find out the truth about the Westworld massacre and research if free will is something Delos can control?
Digging a little deeper, you’ll notice odd behavior from the human characters that suggests this isn’t the first time Bernard has “woken up” on that beach. No one offers him water or the opportunity to see a doctor despite the fact that he’s been “missing” for two weeks. No one shows any concern for his well-being even though he’s a senior member of the Westworld executive staff. Instead, they repeatedly ask him what happened at the massacre and during the ensuing days.
I don’t know about you guys, but if I found my editor passed out on a beach after two weeks, I’d probably offer her a blanket or a candy bar or something.
“You look like hell. Here, have some Whoppers.”
Even more explicit: Bernard recalls a memory of the same hosts being executed on the beach as he passes by. As this imgur shot shows, it is the same scene just from a different angle. Clever quick-twitch editing is hard to catch in the moment, but thanks to the wonders of the internet, we can revisit these scenes repeatedly with excruciating detail.
Taking in the big picture, it’s more than possible that Delos has been running Bernard through repeated loops in order to squeeze him for information and research.
However, Bernard’s discovery of Elsie seems to contradict this, unless she is in on the plan (not out of the question given that he choked her out). When she ran a diagnostic test on Bernard, she remarked how his memories weren’t operating in a linear fashion, which the showrunners could further use to their advantage (and have) to tell a jumbled story aimed at misdirection. But the Delos Corporation seems to know about the whole immortality plot, so would they really run Bernard back this far to discover how the massacre unfolded?
Likeliness Quotient: 2 out of 5 (Last Week: 3 out of 5)
B = T Theory
A new Reddit theory posits that the Bernard we see when he wakes up on the beach is actually Teddy.
Crazy, I know, but it makes some of the most sense out of all these theories.
For starters, after Ford forced Bernard to shoot himself in the head in the penultimate episode of season one, it left a visible scar on his right temple that we can still see in the two weeks ago timeline of season two (i.e. the immediate aftermath of Dolores’ massacre). Take a look.
(Hat tip to The Ringer for pulling some of these comparison images.)
Boom, scar, right there. Jeez, Bernard, ever heard of plastic surgery?
When B-man wakes up on the beach super disoriented two weeks later, the scar is noticeably absent.
Continuity error? I think not. Westworld is far too detail-oriented to botch something as obvious and as simple as this. So it must mean something.
The theory suggests that Teddy’s consciousness has been implanted into Bernard’s body, helping to explain Bernard’s irregular behavior and general out-of-it-ness in the present day timeline.
When Bernard first wakes up, he’s dressed similarly to Teddy.
In the Rickroll video Jonathan Nolan put out ahead of the season two premiere, Bernard is sitting in the same exact seat Teddy plops down in on the train into Sweetwater during season one. Obviously, this video was meant to be a joke, but the similarities are striking.
Assuming this theory is accurate, it would also help to explain why Dolores has been so touchy-feely with Bernard in the season two trailers. If true, she is the most likely character to have initiated the consciousness swap, but why? We haven’t quite figured that one out yet, but having one of her own in the position of a powerful Westworld executive can’t hurt the cause.
Go back and re-watch the season two premiere, and you’ll notice key bits of dialogue matching up with shots of Bernard, such as when the Delos technician remarks that hosts “can’t just change their character profiles” after watching the video of Dolores killing a member of Ghost Nation. The camera stays on Bernard for an extra beat. While this could just be because the audience knows he’s a host in general, there are other clues as well.
Right after Bernard wakes up on the beach (and his glasses are swept away by the tide), a Delos security guard says, “Who is he,” to which the other guard responds, “Who the fuck knows?”
That’s exactly right: who knows who this is?
Then, there’s the climax of the episode in which Bernard stares out at all of the dead hosts in the secret sea and lands on none other than Teddy! Remember, Teddy has now helped Dolores in two separate massacres, which makes Bernard’s confession that he “killed them all” make a lot more sense. It also would be quite the head trip to stare at your own dead body.
This theory raises a whole bunch of questions, namely where the hell is the real Bernard, but also makes quite a bit of sense.
B = T is the new R + L = J.
However, after the events of “Akane no Mai,” it feels more like Dolores is setting Teddy up to be purge, a thinning of the herd that is necessary in her mind for the strong to survive. So perhaps there’s an even deeper mystery at play here that makes more sense…
Likeliness Quotient: 2 out of 5 (Last Week: 3.5)
The Bernarnold Theory
Bernard could be Teddy, though episode five’s events cast doubt on that. What if, when Bernard wakes up on the beach, he isn’t himself of Dolores’ booty call: what if he’s Arnold?
As we now know thanks to “The Riddle of the Sphinx,” Old William and the powers that be at Delos have been working towards a modified version of immortality: uploading human consciousness into host bodies. We know it didn’t quite work for James Delos, who had been “rebooted 149 times, but the Man in Black does mention that the company is getting closer (though he no longer believes this is the proper path for man).
What if during the missing time between the seasone one finale and the present timeline, someone uploaded Arnold’s consciousness into a Bernard Bot?
In the opening scene of the season two premiere, Arnold/Bernard (we’re not sure at this point) and Dolores are discussing the nature of real-ness.
“That which is irreplaceable,” Bernarnold says.
YouTuber Alt Shift X breaks down this theory in more detail at the 4:15 mark of this video if you want to explore this option more.
Likeliness Quotient: 3 out of 5
The Killer Bernard Theory
OK, let’s say Bernard really is Bernard and that he really did kill all of those hosts. How the hell could he have pulled that off?
Online speculation points to the mesh network that links all of the hosts together subconsciously and prevents them from wandering into one another’s loops. Assuming Bernard was in the mood for a little genocide of his own kind, he could have possibly created a sub-routine program that shut down all of the hosts in one fell swoop.
Why would he do this?
Remember, Bernard lived a good chunk of his artificial life believing he was human. He’s seen the good, or at least the not terrible, our species is capable of. Given Dolores’ stated goal of taking our world and her extreme brutality so far in season two, it isn’t out of the question that Bernard chose a side. In this instance, he decided to prevent the hosts from invading the real world and sparking their all-out robot revolution by executing a Force Quit of their programming.
More straightforward: as we saw in the flashback with Bernarn killing all those lab techs, he’s still susceptible to outside control. It’s more than possible that he killed all of the hosts during one of these black-out periods.
Likeliness Quotient: 3 out of 5 (Last Week: 3)
The Bottom of the Sea Theory
One eagle-eyed viewer spotted a strange symbol—a plus sign with four dots around it—in “The Reunion,” episode two of season two, and then went searching for it throughout all of the previous Westworld episodes.
As it turns out, this mysterious design pops up in a few different places within Westworld and the real world.
Thanks to fellow couch potatoes who similarly have way too much time on their hands, it was discovered that this symbol hails from ancient Greece. “A sign often found on Greek vases from around 700 B.C. It is used in certain types of cartography as a sign indicating stone bottom at the water’s edge,” the Redditor explained.
At first glance, nothing very relevant comes to mind until you remember the secret sea where Bernard and the Delos armed forces find all of the drowned hosts at the conclusion of the season two premiere. The working theory as of now suggests that the weapon Dolores speaks of and that William once showed her is a dam that could flood the entire park in the event that the hosts went rogue and rebelled against the humans.
However, as the showrunners have mentioned before, hosts don’t require oxygen, so would flooding the park really accomplish much aside from killing all of the human guests?
Likeliness Quotient: 4 out of 5 (Last Week: 4)
The Good Guy Man in Black Theory
We raised this possibility after the season premiere, but it looks very much like William’s arc is going to come full circle this season. He began as an idealistic white hat do-gooder who slowly calcified into a violent sociopath whose distant coldness contributed to his wife’s suicide (life, amirite?). Now, as he searches for The Door, it looks as if the icy heart of the Man in Black may just melt a bit.
In “The Riddle of the Sphinx,” old William and Lawrence arrive back in Lawrence’s home, where Major Craddock and the Confederados are holding the entire town hostage. Craddock’s sadistic moves mirrors those of William’s back in season one, where he toyed with Lawrence and his family for information before killing his wife.
This time around, William “saves the day” (after getting them into this mess) by eliminating the entire Confederado squad. Lawrence’s daughter, channeling her inner Ford, tells him, “If you’re looking forward, you’re looking in the wrong direction.”
In the season premiere, Young Ford instructs William that the quest to find the door “begins where you end, and ends where you began.”
It’s hard not to arrive at the conclusion that Williams needs to make peace with his controversial past, likely meaning Dolores. One way he could accomplish that is by helping her save her host papa Abernathy (which would also keep the valuable immortality data out of Delos’ hands). On a grander scale, the remainder of this season could revolve around William’s inward journey (a la the host’s Maze) to becoming a good man again. Or at least a not terrible man.
Why else bring his daughter into the fold if not for some good ol’ family healing?
Likeliness Quotient: 4 out of 5 (Last Week: 4)
The Door Theory
Last season, fans obsessed over the true meaning of The Maze and, in the end, it turned out to be a metaphor for a host’s internal journey to consciousness. (Side Note: We still believe that was the result of script changes made during Westworld‘s production hiatus and there was a different plan in place initially.)
It’s likely, maybe even probable that The Door is a similar McGuffin.
“In this game you must find the door… The game begins where you end and ends where you began,” young host Ford tells Old William.
Given the anticlimactic nature of season one’s maze reveal, perhaps season two’s door is a literal door out of Westworld, a way for the hosts to escape even. Or, maybe The Door is another metaphor for the broader concept of freedom and liberation.
If the showrunners really wanted to play with our heads, they’d use the fact that The Maze reveal was something of a letdown and go totally batshit crazy with whatever The Door really is.
Likeliness Quotient: 4.5 out of 5 (Last Week: 4.5)
The Replacement Theory
As we and just about everyone else speculated after the season two premiere, Delos Incorporated could be harvesting guest experiences and DNA in order to build host clones of powerful park patrons in order to replace them in the real world. In regard to amassing wealth and power and influencing world events, disposing of the world’s elite citizens and replacing them with identical android versions would put Delos in quite the advantageous position.
Can you say: New World Order?
This just so happens to be a major plot point in Futureworld, the sequel to Michael Crichton’s 1973 original Westworld. We know that Delos is working on uploading consciousness into host bodies. Why not take it one step further?
Adding credence to this wild conspiracy is the language of the Delos Terms of Service contracts that HBO released during season one:
By entering the Delos Destinations Port of Entry, you acknowledge that Delos, Inc. controls the rights to and remains the sole owner of, in perpetuity: all skin cells, bodily fluids, secretions, excretions, hair samples, saliva, sweat, blood, and any other bodily functions not listed here. Delos, Inc. reserves the right to use this property in any way, shape, or form in which the entity sees fit.
In this theory, the “weapon” is a massive transmitter that is used to control the hosts. As we saw in the season two premiere, the park’s circuit-infused inhabitants operate on a local wireless network that can be used to communicate robot-to-robot. Ford and Maeve have both exhibited an ability to tap into this network and control the creations of Westworld.
If Older William makes it to the weapon first, he could shut down all of the hosts and end the threat immediately. If Dolores makes it there first, she could activate the “sleeper” hosts already out in the world. Season two isn’t a maze, it’s a race.
Likeliness Quotient: 4.75 out of 5 (Last Week: 4.75)
The Immortality Theory
One theory that sprouted up a few weeks was confirmed in Sunday night’s “The Riddle of the Sphinx.” We now know that Delos Corporation has been working toward unlocking a modified version of immortality via uploading human consciousness into a host body, specifically for its deceased founder James Delos.
Taking this one step further, a clever Reddit user speculated weeks ago that James Delos, Logan’s father, who young William convinced to buy out Westworld, transferred his being into Peter Abernathy, Dolores’ host father. As we see in “The Reunion,” Delos was forced to retire in one of the past timelines due to failing health, opening the door for William to take over.
Thanks to last night’s episode, we know for a fact that Delos’ consciousness lives on, though his host clones kept running into a “cognitive plateau,” as older William called it. Simply put, their minds rejected reality. But William did admit that they had drawn closer to solving the core issue, however, his ideal of immortality seems to have waned over the years. Perhaps his comment about burning all of Westworld down earlier this season meant that he had realized how unnatural their pursuit really was.
That doesn’t mean the Delos board shares his newfound epiphany. As we’ve seen throughout this season, the corporation only cares about getting their hands on Peter Abernathy, who Charlotte uploaded with 30-plus years of data, including what very well may be Delos’ consciousness.
“Fuck that,” Elsie said in the episode. “They’re gonna get us all killed so some asshole can live forever?”
This raises the question of if Delos/Westworld have uploaded any other human consciousnesses into hosts. We see Bernard pocket one of those red balls, which we assume is human sentience in digital form. Could it possibly have been Ford’s? The last words he speaks as a living man are, “Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin never died. They simply became their music.”
Is this Ford’s version of becoming music?
Likeliness Quotient: 5 out of 5 (Last Week: 2 out of 5)