“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 4, “The Riddle of the Sphinx.”
We sphinx you better sit down for this, “Westworld” fans, because holy moly here comes the Man in Black.
Viewers have been wondering whether there was a secret value to the Westworld and Westworld-adjacent parks since Season 1, and Sunday night’s episode, “The Riddle of the Sphinx,” finally gave us some answers.
It turns out William/the Man in Black (Jimmi Simpson/Ed Harris) and his company Delos have been developing a way to extend human life, and their test subject is none other than the late founder, James Delos (Peter Mullan).
The research on putting human consciousness into robots apparently started soon after the Delos company took over the park. In a scene from Season 2, Episode 2, that takes place in the past, William tells a sick and retiring James Delos vaguely that “things are progressing” but that James needs to have more patience.
Now, in present time, Android James, who has the consciousness of the long-dead human James in his brain capsule, is holed up in an underground facility. It’s a similar one to ― if not the same one as ― the facility that Delos executive director Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) showed Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) in the Season 2 premiere.
Over the last 30 years or so, James’ son-in-law William, along with a team of Delos engineers, have been monitoring Android James while he’s in captivity. Each day, Android James completes the same mundane tasks ― exercising, showering, preparing his coffee. But throughout Episode 4, we watch as iteration after iteration of this robot malfunctions for various reasons, forcing the team to reconstruct the droid again and again. William, who ages from Jimmi Simpson to Ed Harris during this trial period, visits sporadically, “testing” whether Android James is ready for the outside world. He never is.
“It goes right in line with human error kind of snowballing into a catastrophe,” Simpson told HuffPost. “It’s clearly what was not set out to be done, but that’s what ended up happening. It could be considered a selling point at one point and it ends up torturing the idea of this man’s soul for his entire life. So yeah, it doesn’t surprise me that things went bad and got confusing.”
Of course, if and when the new technology is successful, Charlotte and company will have cheated death, giving (very rich) people the chance to live forever. This is perhaps why the company wanted to get the android Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum) safely out of the park: He might contain the DNA or consciousness of the real James Delos. (Read all about that here.)
But wait, there’s more. Bernard, an android who’s dealing with his own mental deficiencies in the present timeline, comes to realize he’d previously been working in the same lab where Android James Delos has been. But Bernard was working on another human-android ― whose identity is still a mystery.
Other revelations from the episode included the return of Elsie (Shannon Woodward). Bernard, under the control of the park’s co-creator Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), had apparently attacked her and kept her prisoner in a cave this whole time.
Oh, and Grace (Katja Herbers), whom we met in Season 2, Episode 3, when she escapes a robot tiger sometime in the period after the park’s android hosts revolted, is actually the Man in Black’s daughter. Actor Clifton Collins Jr., who plays the host Lawrence, told HuffPost that this particular reveal signified one of the more relatable moments on the show.
“I think we’ve all had that friend where we’re like, ‘Oh, I just found out I had a kid.’ I think it’s one of those moments,” Collins said with a laugh. “I have my own daughter too, don’t forget, so there’s the heaviness of that too. So it’s the beautiful balance of comedy and tragedy. Whether it’s on the surface or deep below the line or previous scenes leading up to it, the table’s certainly set for that kind of stuff.”
On whether we’ll see more of William’s relationship with his daughter, Simpson stayed mum but teased, “There’s more information coming, definitely.”
As wild as this episode was, even bigger reveals appear to be on the way.
In Season 2, Episode 2, the Man in Black told Lawrence, “Dead isn’t what it used to be.” It’s a line that’s had fans speculating about the characters we thought were dead (Ford, for example) or the hosts we saw floating in a mysterious body of water in Season 2, Episode 1 (e.g., Teddy).
“For the show, obviously, [that line] is talking about the endless options we now have to extend life, whether it’s biological or artificial,” Simpson said, with Collins calling the phrase “a juicy one.”
“My mind goes to so many different places. I guess you’re going to have to wait and see, pal. … It’ll be probably more than likely Episode 8.”
With all this in mind, here are some questions we expect to be answered in future episodes:
Are the supposedly dead hosts coming back to life?
Robots don’t stay “dead” for long in Westworld. So, the fact that we see Teddy (James Marsden) and an army of droids floating in what appears to be a lake in the Season 2 premiere means little if anything in the grand scheme of things. This moment comes around two weeks after the hosts initially revolted, and much of the season so far appears to be leading us to discover how this happened.
It seems possible that these bots will wake up and take down the rest of Delos’ team, with the help of lead schemer Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), of course.
“They could be in a pool of stasis with ‘Cocoon’-like energy-giving gel running through it. Maybe Wilford Brimley [who stars in the 1985 sci-fi movie ‘Cocoon’] is one of those people and he’s about to come out and kick ass,” Simpson joked. “Each thing they [creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy] reveal you know there’s something to the reason why they were doing it, you just don’t know why yet. You feel the importance.”
Is anyone who we think they are?
The answer to this question is, meh, probably not.
You can never be too sure about someone’s identity on “Westworld,” but after the scenes featuring Android James Delos, it’s clear brain capsules can be transplanted into any robot body you want.
One theory suggests that the Bernard we saw on the beach in the Season 2 premiere is actually Teddy in a Bernard body.
We saw multiple Bernard robots in the trailer; Bernard’s scar where he shot himself in Season 1 seems to vanish and reappear at various times; and in the “Westworld” Rickroll video from the creators, we got a glimpse of Bernard riding on the train, much like Teddy would.
Are Ford or Arnold alive?
We know another humanoid robot is likely making an appearance, so who could it be?
Viewers watched Ford die in the Season 1 finale, but rumor has it that’s not the last we’ll see of him. It’s possible the new human-android that Bernard is working on is a robot Anthony Hopkins.
Let’s face it, given all the messages Ford seems to get through to William via hosts, it already seems like he’s alive in some capacity. Why can’t he come back as robot Ford?
Arnold Weber, the human inspiration for Bernard, is another option.
In the trailer for Season 2, we saw multiple Bernard robots, which could be multiple Arnolds if you think about it. Maybe it’s Arnold who’s set to come back to life using this new brain capsule development.
“We’ll give you the answers and you’ll go, ‘Oh my God it’s even better than I thought!’” Simpson said.
Dead isn’t what it used to be after all.
Want more? Read all of HuffPost’s “Westworld” coverage.