If it isn’t already apparent, Westworld is my favorite new television show. Before the season began I was anxious to see if the years of delays and reshoots and stops and starts would make this show horrible, like some expensive, beautiful catastrophe, thankfully that wasn’t the case and we have a beautiful, expensive wonder of a TV show. Westworld truly is fantastic, even if, as Vulture recently addressed, not the best at character studies. But for me, the show has become something special, and I have watched every episode at least twice. This is truly great entertainment asking important questions about identity, consciousness, what it means to be human, and the exploration of true self and desires.
The show is rarely exploitative or gratuitous. It is one that takes itself seriously and doesn’t glamorize the circumstances of its characters and hosts. The violence on the show is exciting at times, but only when it’s for the entertainment of the characters. When it shows violent acts against characters that are malevolent or “against script” in the sense that the acts aren’t built into the park’s storylines, the violence is disturbing and hard to watch. The show balances the entertainment and excitement generated by violence and danger and the sense of fear and disturbance that is caused by violent actions. It is a delicate balance that works often on some shows (Game of Thrones) and often fails to be disturbing and often gratuitous (24).
So when violent acts caused by characters like Bernard or Maeve are seen, it is scary. Maeve, my favorite protagonist, casually slits Sylvester’s throat or when Bernard murders Theresa by Ford’s command, it is disturbing. These are characters that I enjoy watching. I want Bernard to stay sentient (though hopefully after his suicide Jeffrey Wright has not left the show for good and that he will return often as both Arnold and Bernard). I want Maeve to lead a robot rebellion against her human overlords (specifically Ford). But I don’t want to see them kill and slaughter and break down to base instincts and impulses. I don’t want these characters to break bad.
Bernard’s suicide troubled me. The way Ford casually let him experience his life and suppressed memories while Ford was in complete control was great and wonderful (even though it only existed to reveal twists and plot reveals). Then instead of just wiping his memory once more, Ford had Bernard end his own existence. His repeated sentience became an inconvenience for Ford. This show has proven itself adept at creating and revealing plot twists, even if they were predicted weeks prior by those of Reddit and the countless Westworld podcasts, so I have faith that Bernard’s suicide isn’t just a twist for twist’s sake, that it will have an important impact on the plot and characters.
I have yet to watch the preview for the season finale because I don’t want to have any hints of what those impacts may be. Bernard’s shocking “death” was disturbing and did not feel gratuitous. It was a Game of Thrones episode 9 style big moment that worked. I expected Ford to be in control, but I did not expect him to just end Bernard, especially after how he allowed Bernard to be reinstated as the head of programming in Episode 8 after Theresa’s death. He said he needed Bernard and even admitted in Episode 9 that Bernard, an artificial being, taught Ford some things about programming and hosts. Bernard serves a purpose for his human creator. So to have him die cannot be a simple twist just to shock viewers. It can’t be, right?