Warning: This post contains spoilers for the events that occurred in the third episode of Westworld.
One of the earliest concepts that was introduced to us in the first couple episodes of Westworld was the idea that Dr. Ford and his team had full control over what happened in the theme park and the AI hosts that inhabited it. In the third episode, the cracks have begun to appear. The minor glitches that Ford was so focused on fixing are beginning to become a more regular occurrence and the issue of control is being raised.
This isn't much of a surprise, considering the direction Ford wants to take the park. We see, in secret conversations Bernard has with Dolores, for example, his struggle to make the robots seem as human as possible. In many ways Bernard views the robots — especially Dolores — as his children, and as a father, wants to see them grow but doesn’t want them to question him or his motives.
It’s pretty obvious that Dolores is a surrogate daughter of sorts for Bernard, who we know lost his son and is trying to force that kind of bond again through his most prized robot. She’s a form of therapy for the designer, and their moments together are cherished, but when she begins to ask questions about what happened to his son, he gets standoffish and berates her for the line of questioning.
Bernard wants to be able to have a connection with Dolores, but only if he can be the one in control. At the same time, through the enhancements being made to the robots, Dolores is looking to take more control over her own life and what’s happening in Westworld. We can see through the glitches she suffers from that she’s beginning to remember things that have happened to her in the past and the inner turmoil she’s wading through trying to figure out what it all means. Dolores is beginning to learn, which is what Bernard wanted to a certain extent, and part of that education is understanding that she doesn’t have control over most of the interactions or events in her "life."
We actually see this play out in one of Dolores’ conversations with Teddy. As usual, Teddy promises Dolores that one day they’ll ride out into the brilliant sunset together, just the two of them, and they’ll live happily ever after. But this isn’t the same Dolores as the one that Teddy’s used to and, quite frankly, she’s had enough of his empty promises. Finally, Dolores is trying to take control over what’s happening in her life and begins to ask Teddy why they have to wait when they can just take off that very second? He informs her that he’s got "some reckoning" left to do in Westworld, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Dolores is tired of being handled — by Teddy or by Bernard — and is becoming a little more hostile and resentful.
Dolores isn’t the only example of hosts in Westworld trying to enact some kind of control over their lives. Remember the hosts that the rogue bandit killed in the first episode? Elsie, the tech programmer who doesn’t get nearly enough credit for being a fantastic character, learns that they had killed the bandit previously and he was seeking out revenge in the new story line. He needed to have control over the situation and had developed enough of his own human personality traits that he was seeking out revenge.
How far he can push that ideology before the bots fight for control over their own lives?
This isn’t the only bot with a sense of purpose that Elsie has to worry about, either. One of the hosts has gone missing, wandering around the park, and while that could just be a malfunction, there’s reason to believe that it took off for a specific reason. The bots, which were designed to cater to the human audience and, you know, not question anything, are beginning to do just that. The more strays that wander off, the more concerning it’s going to be to Elsie, Ford and the rest of the designers. They need to have total control over what’s happening in Westworld, but their dedication to making the hosts as human-like as possible is beginning to throw a wrench in their original design plans. You can program a robot to do what you want, but it’s nearly impossible to have complete control over a human being. Ford is just starting to figure this out.
This is quickly becoming one of the major battles we’ll see play out in the series. Being human means having the ability to make decisions, and part of that means having the ability to control various aspects of your life. Ford wants to make the hosts as human-like as he possibly can without having to relinquish control over to them, and the question remains how far he can push that ideology before the bots fight for control over their own lives?
Westworld airs Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.
Correction: The article previously misidentified Bernard as Ford. Changes have been made throughout the article to reflect the correction.