The 'Westworld' Mystery That Started It All Might Finally Be Solved

Actor Louis Herthum fan-droids out over some of the show's biggest secrets.

“Doesn’t Look Like Anything To Leigh ... And Bill” is HuffPost’s weekly “Westworld” recap in which we break down the craziest thing you might have missed. This week: Season 2, Episode 3, “Virtù e Fortuna.”

For Pete’s sake, there’s a lot to take in in the latest episode of “Westworld,” and it mostly concerns Peter Abernathy.

A theory about the character recently popped up on Reddit, attempting to explain a mystery that dates back to Season 1 of the HBO hit.

In the series premiere, the robot revolution really kicks off after Peter, an android played by Louis Herthum, spots a picture of a woman posing in Times Square on the ground near his home. As a robot in the Western-themed park, his programming is supposed to prevent him from seeing the image. But Peter does see it, leading him to short-circuit and deliver a trigger phrase to his daughter, Dolores ― “These violent delights have violent ends” ― which allows her to break out of her own programming.

So how was Peter able to see the photo in the first place?

Louis Herthum as Peter Abernathy and Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores Abernathy in "Westworld."
Louis Herthum as Peter Abernathy and Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores Abernathy in "Westworld."

The woman in the photo, we later learn, is Juliet Delos (Claire Unabia), the daughter of James Delos (Peter Mullan), whose company controls Westworld. With the revelation in Season 2, Episode 2, that Delos’ company ― itself called Delos ― is collecting personal information and possibly DNA from its guests, an idea has sprung up positing that the DNA or consciousness of James Delos was at some point loaded into Peter.

Essentially, if Peter had James Delos’ consciousness somewhere in him, that would explain why he was able to see the woman in the photo ― Delos’ real daughter.

Redditor Aludiana adds:

Abernathy’s cornerstone is his daughter. The problem is that they eventually made it so Dolores is his daughter, but his true cornerstone is accidentally attached [to] his ACTUAL daughter in the photo. Part of his old memories that the reveries were able to let him access make him remember her enough to create a spark. This is why he is able to see her in the image, and why it breaks his mechanical brain and makes him ask “the question you’re not supposed to ask” ― probably “Am I real?” (a question for guests to ask, not hosts).

The actor who plays Peter Abernathy is into the idea, too.

“Maybe that’s why he glitched, because maybe he saw his daughter in the photograph. It’s pretty fascinating. People are putting pictures of them side by side, saying look how much they look alike, and all this kind of stuff,” Herthum told HuffPost. He says he likes the theory of a Peter-James Delos link but doesn’t know for sure.

“I only know what I know. I don’t know past what I need to know. It is kind of like the CIA. It’s need-to-know,” he said, referring to the show’s production.

The idea isn’t perfect. Herthum noted that when his character shows Dolores the picture in the pilot episode, he asks her if she’s ever seen a place like where the woman is standing ― not if she knows who the woman is.

Still, it would make sense that James Delos’ relationship with Juliet is the reason Peter can see the photo. The actor admits the possible tie to James Delos is the theory he’s most into this season.

“The only one that I’ve really allowed myself to ‘go there’ [with] is the Delos and Peter Abernathy connection.”

Besides possibly having the consciousness of Delos’ owner, Peter is also the subject of another mystery on the show. The robot was decommissioned over a freakout in Season 1 and put in storage, only to be brought out again by Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson), the executive director of Delos Destinations. He was loaded with 35 years of data from the park in the hopes of smuggling it out of Westworld.

Peter never made it out of the park though and shows up in the latest episode, finally reuniting with Dolores. He’s still glitching when Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) examines him and discovers there’s some mysterious, massive file in Peter’s programming. And from Bernard’s shocked reaction, it doesn’t look like it’s just the AI code.

Herthum speculated with us about the data, various fan theories and why we need to prepare for a robot takeover.

Jeffrey Wright as Bernard and Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores.
Jeffrey Wright as Bernard and Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores.

So what’s in the data?

I can only guess. That’s all. I have no idea what it is, and my guess comes after seeing [Season 2, Episode 2]. This data mining that they’ve been doing from all the guests, my guess is that’s in there. Because that’s the valuable stuff, right? That’s the real value that William [Jimmi Simpson] tells James Delos in the last episode.

Yeah, for sure.

Oh, and here’s another thing. ... After that, Delos says, “No man alive would say that to me,” and that’s the same thing that William says in the first season. I can’t remember who he says it to, it might be Lawrence [Clifton Collins Jr.], but he says that exact thing.

But there’s gems all through this thing, so I think that it’s all that data harvesting is in there as well as all the technology for the hosts. Just imagine: Their eyes are cameras, their hard drives are downloading everything, so there’s so much information. Again, that’s a guess.

Dolores has been out there killing a bunch of people. How does Peter feel about his daughter? Is he proud?

Yeah, I mean, I don’t think Peter is cognizant of it enough to be aware of it at that point, but I was looking at your theory, and you were theorizing about the [hosts eventually having babies] and stuff, and how Maeve [Thandie Newton] is dead set on finding her daughter. And then you have the image [of a mother and baby in the new titles], and I don’t know what it means, I really don’t. I was just listening to your report on that. ... If you go back to that pilot, you have Peter and he’s completely devoted to Dolores when he’s talking to Ford [Anthony Hopkins], who asks, “What are your drives?” He said to take care of my cattle, take care of my wife, and to protect Dolores, so that’s another thing that goes to kind of what you were saying. And Peter is the first host to show that undying love for his child.

Yeah, I’m into that theory. I’m sure there’s going to be robot babies.

Oh, and by the way, I gotta give props to you and your cohort Leigh, who said “Bernarmy.” That was hysterical.

Hey, thanks. There are so many Bernards in the trailer.

Yeah, I love that, because I had to go back and stop the trailer and say, “Was that a bunch of Bernards there? Damn, it was a bunch of Bernards.” I wish they had a bunch of Peters.

[Laughs] Definitely. And with all those Bernards, who knows if the Bernard we’re seeing is actually Bernard or some other character in disguise as Bernard?

Man, I have no clue. I have no clue, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that he has to be, because you saw Peter in that Season 1 scene with Tony Hopkins. You saw him be Peter, and you saw him be The Professor. It’s unlikely that Bernard was ever programmed to be anything but Bernard, but you never know what Ford was up to and why he likes making so many of them.

What was it like working with Anthony Hopkins in Season 1?

The first time I met Tony―

Oh, so Anthony Hopkins likes to be called Tony? Because my colleague recently did an interview and wondered if Robert De Niro liked to be called Bob.

So does Robert Redford. He likes to be called Bob. I haven’t worked with him, but I have friends that have that call him Bob.

And Anthony introduces himself as Tony?

I got the part on a Friday, and on Monday I was sitting at a table with Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Wright, Jonah Nolan and in walks J.J. Abrams, so it was quite a day.

When I first walked in, I walked up to Jonah Nolan, and I had never met Jonathan, and we did it at one of the buildings on the Western set. Jonah comes walking out, and he introduces himself. “So glad to have you on board.” I said, “So glad to be on board.” And there’s Anthony Hopkins and Jeffrey. I can’t remember how he introduced him, whether it was Anthony or Sir Anthony, but first thing out of his mouth was, “Call me Tony.”

Wow, how was it being in that room?

I’ll be honest with you, Bill. I was more intimidated in that rehearsal by the time J.J. walked in than I was doing the scene with Anthony.

So words are important in this show.

Every word. Every word. There are no mistakes.

There’s a word that both Dolores and Peter seem to repeat a lot, and that’s “splendor.”

As soon as Dolores said, “Have you ever seen anything with so much splendor?” And I thought immediately, you know Papa Peter, I was like, “Yeah, baby. That’s my girl.”

I loved that. That was very exciting to me. I hang on every word everyone says anyway, because I’m kind of a nutty fan like everybody else, but it’s always kind of gratifying when you get a piece of inside information like that. I think it’s just a word she’s been programmed to know.

For sure. It seems like there’s always something more happening, though.

The biggest mystery to me, quite frankly ― and it’s because I was part of it ― is why did Peter have the trigger [“These violent delights ...”] first of all? Because Dolores didn’t have it until I gave it to her. Well, it had to come from Arnold.

Also, was that picture that set him off planted there?

Well, I guess that’s the other part. I kind of question that. OK, it fell out [of William’s pocket]. It took 30 years to find, but it kind of lasted?

I’m totally with you. Something’s going on there.

Yeah, something’s going on.

I just interviewed the woman in the photo.

Oh, did you? I’m dying to see that.

Yeah, and I said, “You know, you really messed up Peter Abernathy’s life.” She’s into meeting up and reconciling. Would you be up for that?

[Laughs] I would love to. I would love to.

So are you on the Reddit boards looking at theories?

I’ll be honest with you, I was not going to look at any theories this year. I was like, forget it, because I’m a fan just like everybody else. I’m fascinated by this show, the depth of their brilliance Jonathan Nolan [aka Jonah] and Lisa Joy is quite staggering, quite frankly to the point I can assure you they shot those scenes where William is talking to James Delos about data farming long before the Facebook thing came up.

Yeah, after Episode 2, there were a lot of comparisons between Westworld and Facebook.

My jaw was dropping. I was watching with friends, and I was like, “Guys, that was shot last year.” All the shooting ended in January, and I’m not sure when that stuff [about Cambridge Analytica] came out, but it was only about two months ago if I’m not mistaken. But it was certainly done a long time before, because I remember when they were shooting [those scenes] in that location. But it just further supports my feeling that Jonah and Lisa are not only brilliant in their creation of entertainment, life imitating art to a pretty staggering degree and a scary degree, Westworld is a cautionary tale. And it’s happening right before our eyes with AI.

What’s it like for you being on a show with all these themes about technology taking over?

I’ve been experiencing AI rearing its possibly ugly head as of late. The first episode I had friends over, I took a snap, put it on Instagram, and [my friends] said tag us on Facebook. I went to my computer. I opened it up. It hadn’t been 20 seconds. Put my mouse over their faces, and it started naming them. That was the first time I realized there was facial recognition on Facebook.

Oh yeah. It does that.

I didn’t realize that, so that was kind of stunning. I said, “Wow, guys, it recognized your faces.”

What I’m worried about is, I feel like my iPhone is listening to everything I say.

Listen, I don’t doubt that a bit.

Yeah, I’ll talk about something and then end up seeing an ad for it on Instagram.

There’s no question that these devices are not only a microphone, but a camera into your everyday life. People can access it. Your camera doesn’t have to be on and your phone is a microphone. There’s no question that that capability exists. If they find out advertisers are doing that there will be quite a row, but I don’t doubt that that’s happening.

What’s advice for someone like me who’s paranoid about technology taking over. Should I be nice to my household appliances?

Someone told me a story about someone being very courteous to their computer or their appliances. That was funny. It’s probably not a bad idea to get on their good side. My advice to you would be don’t take advice from me.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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