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What’s going on with Bernard and his button in Westworld’s season 3 premiere

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Episode 1 reintroduces the most cryptic character

Bald Bernard (and Arnold) in Westworld season 3 Photo: John P. Johnson/HBO

Few characters in Westworld have been through more twists and turns than Bernard. From the revelation that he was a host and a re-creation of Arnold, Dr. Ford’s inventor partner, to his laundry list of scrambled memories in season 2, nothing’s ever really as it seems when it comes to Bernard. So it’s no surprise that in season 3, there’s a whole new mystery to solve when it comes to everyone’s favorite semi-reincarnated genius.

As one of the murkiest plotlines, let’s take a look at where Bernard’s at in the first episode of Westworld season 3. Because ... that button.

[Ed. note: this post contains spoilers for Westworld season 3 episode 1.]

When we first see Bernard in season 3, it seems he’s gone into hiding, several months after Dolores brought him back outside the confines of the Delos parks. We see him reading a news story that says that there’s a global manhunt going on for him, and that Chinese authorities blame him for the massacre at Delos Parks. Bernard’s chosen hiding spot appears to be an animal farm/butchery and he seems very reticent to kill the animals that need to be killed. We’ll let you unpack those metaphors on your own.

The real mystery of Bernard in this episode came from the little button he kept by his side, which seemingly changed him between two different people with each press. So what exactly does it do?

bernard program screen on westworld season 3 Image: HBO

Bernard has two distinct sides to his personality and brain at this point, that much is clear. We also know for sure that he switches between those sides by pressing a button. But that still leaves a lot of information we don’t know. We get a few clues into what those two sides actually are.

For starters, let’s consider Bernard’s personalities as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The side of Bernard that’s in control most of the time, the one that just wants to watch animals and live in peace, is Dr. Jekyll. The one that beats large intimidating men to a pulp and would do anything not to be discovered, is Mr. Hyde.

To some extent this break makes a lot of sense coming off of last season. In season 2, Bernard also kind of had two personalities rattling around in his host head: his and Ford’s. Of course, we find out near the end of the season that Ford’s consciousness had only been a projection that Bernard himself created — at least at the end. This means Bernard committed more murders at the end of the season when he seemed to kill off the minds of the humans in the Forge, and replacing them with the hosts instead. More importantly, he revived Dolores who he definitely knew was going to try to kill all the humans in the real world, so he’s got that future-blood on his hands as well. And it wasn’t Ford’s code that led him to the decision, it was Bernard the whole time.

With that in mind, it would certainly stand to reason that once he escaped into isolation, Bernard would want to cordon off the side of his brain that thought mass killings were neat. And it appears that’s exactly what he did. But before we go any further about what this means, let’s talk about how he seems to have done it.

bernard wiring up his arm and clicking his button in westworld season 3 Image: HBO

Hosts already have two modes: Character Mode and Analysis Mode. In the park, Analysis Mode was used to ensure that their memories were erased and that things were generally running smoothly. Of course, the first two seasons showed us that things were not, in fact, running smoothly. It seems that Bernard has tapped into this idea in order to give himself two separate — or somewhat separate — personalities.

Co-showrunner and co-creator of Westworld, Lisa Joy has said in the past that Analysis Mode is similar to a person’s unconscious mind, and it seems like that’s somewhat true for Bernard as well when he slips into his Mr. Hyde state.

Early on in the episode, we see him using the button and programming the various standard host responses to questions of memory and consciousness. This would seem to suggest that Bernard isn’t fully conscious when Mr. Hyde takes over, because his responses still have to be programmed in, he can’t just fake it because he’ll lose at least some amount of control. He’s also preparing to be found out as a host. While his goal seems to be to not get captured, this part of his second personality seems designed to let him slip through the Analysis Mode traps designed to catch hosts developing memories and consciousness.

So if Bernard has sectioned off his brain into two separate, but connected, personalities what exactly does it mean? It seems that the Mr. Hyde version of Bernard is mostly devoted to survival, to keeping himself safe and keeping his own conscious mind secure. That means he likely programmed Mr. Hyde to include the side of him with his most violent impulses. In other words his second personality, without the checks of the Dr. Jekyll side, could have an incredible and terrifying capacity for violence. And it’s all controlled by the push of a button — not exactly the most impressive security system.

We also know that Bernard should be capable of slipping through the Analysis Mode checks that govern most Delos hosts, which is sure to be an invaluable skill now that he’s making his way back to Westworld. Although, that still leaves open the question of how he won’t be recognized. He certainly isn’t doing a great job of disguising himself at the butchery/farm, so he’s probably going to stand out as Bernard, no matter how many personalities he has.

One thing that we’ll have to wait until later in the season to discover is how Bernard plans to stop Dolores, or what purpose his more violent side may serve in the greater conflict between humans and hosts that’s coming.