Westworld ended season one with a bang–right to the head of Anthony Hopkins‘ Robert Ford when Dolores shot him and set off the robotic uprising. It was his ultimate sacrifice, a way to help free his creations so they could truly stand against their oppressors. Unless that wasn’t really him and Dolores unknowingly shot a robot since Ford faked his death. Because not only might he still be alive, he could still be totally in control of his park and protecting his hosts.
The “how” of Ford faking his death is easy, and not just because he has the ability to recreate a real person the way he did with Arnold and Bernard, but because we saw him doing it. Multiple times throughout the season we saw Ford had his own, secret, unique machine for making robots in his hidden underground diagnostic facility. It appeared in numerous episodes and scenes, Theresa and Bernard discussed it, and most importantly Ford was actively using it to make a new host, shown in various stages of completion. This is a classic case of “Chekhov’s Robot.” Forget just showing us the “gun” in Act 1, it appeared over and over again, so either it’s sloppy writing with no payoff, or it means something. And with Westworld everything means something.
Of course, that doesn’t guarantee Ford was making a host version of himself. We know he made secret versions of his family, including a little Bobby Ford. But everything else about him and his story points to the “why”? Why would he fake his death? It’s because Ford, who has both a God-complex and total contempt for humans, wants to free his creations, but they aren’t ready to go out on their own.
Everything that happened in the present day timeline of season one–Maeve gaining consciousness and successfully blackmailing the dumbest people alive, the Man in Black “finding” Wyatt and the maze, Bernard and Dolores learning the truth–happened because Ford made it happen. He needed Maeve’s uprising to cause a distraction when Dolores killed “him,” he needed the Man in Black to help Dolores find the center of the “maze” and achieve the Bicameral Mind, which involved revealing the truth about Bernard, Arnold, and how Arnold had Dolores kill him. Ford was a puppet master the entire time, masterfully manipulating everyone and everything to atone for the mistake Arnold warned him about 35 years ago. Everything he did was all designed with the ultimate endgame in mind: free the hosts.
Dolores and Bernard doubted that though. She said to Ford, “”We’re trapped in here. You’re never gonna let us leave,” and Bernard said, “You think you’ll never lose control of this place, of us, but you will. Arnold’s still trying to change us, to free us. You didn’t slip the reveries into the update did you? He did. He’s still fighting you.” The two beings who knew the most about Ford and was really happening didn’t believe him.
But they were both half-wrong. Ford does want them to be free, everything he did was designed to free them. The problem is he doesn’t think they are truly ready for that yet. Ford, who put back in the reveries, even said so. “Arnold didn’t know how to save you, but I do. You needed time. Time to understand your enemy, to become stronger than them. And I’m afraid in order to escape this place you will need to suffer more.”
To Ford, suffering is the only thing that leads to understanding, but their suffering is only just beginning. That’s what the coming war is–the last lesson they need to learn to be free.
We know Ford has total contempt for humans. He compared them and their wondrous creations to a peacock with beautiful feathers who “can barely fly,” and “live in the dirt, pecking insects out of the muck, consoling itself with its great beauty.” That’s why he doesn’t value human life and had no qualms about having Bernard kill Theresa when she posed a risk to his control of the park. His creations are superior to humans, and he will protect them. He is god, they are his children. Like Adam and Eve were given domain over the beasts of Eden, he will give his robots domain over mankind.
One major caveat though: he will still rule like a god that still reigns over humans. “The hosts are the ones who are free. Free, here, under my control,” Ford said. That control is why Maeve didn’t leave the park when she had the opportunity in the finale. It made no sense for her to go back for a “child” she knew wasn’t really her daughter. She didn’t leave because Ford programmed her to stay. She wasn’t ready for the real world, and he needed her to help unleash the other robots.
He can’t control them or protect them if he is dead, which is why he faked his death. He needed to “die” to truly free Dolores. She needed to kill her creator, like the Greek gods killed the Titans, and she needed to believe what she had done was real. And it was to her, because she didn’t know she shot a robot version of Ford.
That explains why the hosts, serving as waiters and not yet free, didn’t move to protect Ford even though they are programmed to. Think back to when Teddy grabbed the knife from the Man in Black in the bar. They didn’t move because on some level they knew it wasn’t really Ford.
Right before she shoots Ford, he says to the crowd, “I’m sad to say this will be my final story.” They thought he meant his latest narrative, the one with Teddy and Dolores on the beach. But he was talking about orchestrating this war, the one that will finally teach his creations the lessons they need to be free of humans and this park.
The same park he is still in his control. God gave Adam and Even Eden, but it still belonged to him, and Ford would never give his park to anyone.
What do you think? Is Ford really alive? Did Dolores only shoot a robot version of him? Or did he truly sacrifice himself to free her? Tell us what you think in the comments below.