This review contains spoilers for Westworld Season 2, episode 4, “The Riddle of the Sphinx.” To refresh your memory of where we left off, check out our review of Season 2, episode 3, and our explainer on what the ending of episode 1 could mean.
Westworld Season 2 has been in no great hurry to reveal its hand, but episode 4 is the closest we’ve come to getting answers so far, which made for the strongest episode of the season – and arguably the series – so far. Let’s dive in to the biggest reveals:
The mystery woman introduced in episode 3 is the Man in Black’s daughter, Emily, as some fans correctly deduced last week – and it’s clear the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree; she’s probably grown up in the park (or at least has enough familiarity with it to be an unflappable, gun-toting pro like her old man) and that makes her interest in Delos’ inner workings even more intriguing. Is she seeking out one of the hidden labs to try and undermine her father’s business interests? It’s obvious from what little William has said about her that the two have a strained relationship – especially since Emily’s mother committed suicide – and given her father’s obsession with the park, it makes sense that Emily might want to destroy the thing that has consumed her father’s life for so many years, just out of spite.
In other news: Elsie is alive! Or at least she was at some point between the host uprising and when Bernard was found on the beach, since episode 4 also establishes that Bernard is unable to keep track of time, his memories floating in an uncategorized haze that make him not just an unreliable narrator, but a downright misleading one. We know that somewhere in those eleven days, Bernard and Elsie discovered another secret lab (it’s worth noting that this one is number 12, while the one that Bernard visited with Charlotte Hale in the season premiere was lab 14), which not only stored a host version of poor glitchy Jim Delos, but is also the site of a massacre, with both lab techs and drone hosts lying dead when Bernard and Elsie discover it.
Bernard believes that Robert Ford sent him to this particular lab sometime in the past to print a control unit for another human’s brain, similar to what the company was attempting to do with Jim Delos – and judging by those violent memories, he was then ordered to kill all the witnesses. We have a theory that this discovery may be the key to a major resurrection this season – check out our Westworld Diagnostics video at the top of the page to take a deeper look at why we think the show is signaling the return of Ford.
“The Riddle of the Sphinx” reveals that Jim Delos, William’s father-in-law, may have been the company’s first attempt at achieving immortality. We find out that Delos spent decades (or at least long enough for Jimmi Simpson to turn into Ed Harris) trying to port a human mind into a host, theoretically meaning that a person could live forever in an artificial body. Unfortunately for Jim, the company seemingly never cracked the code to stop a human’s consciousness from rejecting its new reality – but we have good reason to believe that dearly departed Westworld co-creator Ford did. Maybe the key to eternal life is the stolen data that Charlotte Hale is so desperate to smuggle out of the park inside of Dolores’ father, Peter Abernathy – something that Delos would probably love to monetize, but that Ford was perhaps unwilling to share with his corporate partners.
Cloning humans is something that the franchise has already explored in Futureworld, the sequel to the original Westworld movie. While the wealthy would undoubtedly like to live forever, there are other practical applications too – if the parks receive important visitors like politicians, billionaires and celebrities, it would be easy to steal their DNA, kill the real people and replace them with malleable hosts who could represent Delos’ interests around the world. You couldn’t blame Ford (or Emily, if she’s aware of Delos and her father’s long-term plans) for wanting to sabotage such a nefarious scheme, if the show is following the trajectory of the movies.
But let’s get back to Ford: As we’ve seen this season, some version of Ford has been speaking through various hosts to taunt the Man in Black and offer cryptic clues about his ultimate game. But what if this isn’t just some snarky program, but Ford’s literal consciousness, jumping from host to host as he sees fit?
In the season premiere, Bernard introduced the idea of a mesh network that allows the hosts to communicate between each other, so what if Ford somehow managed to upload himself into all the hosts with his last update, and is now living on through his machines? That would explain why he didn’t seem too bothered about Dolores killing him last season – maybe he’s a literal deus ex machina, getting revenge on the corporation that tried to pervert his life’s work.
While we know Anthony Hopkins isn’t a regular this season, showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have confirmed that we haven’t seen the last of Ford – we already saw him briefly in CGI form at the beginning of episode 2, back when he and Arnold were preparing a demonstration of the hosts for Logan Delos. But what if the showrunners weren’t just hinting at flashback appearances, but a literal resurrection for the park creator, who is clearly enjoying the chaos his rogue hosts are creating – let alone the chance to troll William from beyond the grave?
Maybe the CPU Bernard printed will allow Ford to take over Dolores, or he might have a special host stashed away for himself – it would be a fun twist if he had printed a body that looked exactly like William’s younger self, just to further twist the knife about the Man in Black’s past failures (plus it would be a great excuse to keep Jimmi Simpson around). It’s also possible that Ford somehow had a copy of Arnold’s mind on file and tasked Bernard with resurrecting the man he’s based on, which might explain – or further complicate – some of the Bernard timeline wonkiness we’ve already experienced this season, but given that Arnold killed himself to try and derail the park’s opening, that would be a particularly cruel twist, even for Ford.
The episode’s titular “Riddle of the Sphinx” refers to the mythological creature that guarded the entrance to the Greek city of Thebes, and would kill anyone who failed to solve its question. Since the showrunners love to hide clues in episode titles, it’s no surprise that this one relates to the aging process – the riddle was supposedly, “What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three in the evening?” The answer is man, because he walks on all fours as a baby, on two legs as an adult and with a walking stick when he’s old. But perhaps Ford found a way to stump the Sphinx once and for all, by helping man evolve and allowing him to walk on two legs forever.
Ford might even be trying to hint at his own resurrection in his final words to William in episode 4: “You still don’t understand the real game we’re playing here – if you’re looking forward, you’re looking in the wrong direction.” This isn’t about winning, it’s about reckoning with the past, and in that case, Ford’s game is only just beginning.