Decoding the Westworld Character Journey: Bernard Lowe

From dupe to dissident

Bernard Lowe on Westworld

When we first meet Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) – the mild-mannered head of Programming at Delos – he seems like a smart, capable, and immensely likable human being. Despite being tormented by memories of his son’s death, Bernard excels at his job and is devoted to Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins). He completely unaware (as are the viewers) that he is not human but a host built by Ford. The tragedy of Bernard’s story is that not only was he deceived and controlled, he even contributed to his own manipulation with the programs he created. Ford used his own coding against him, taking away his sentience each time he achieved it.

Unraveling a Mystery

Bernard Lowe and Dr. Robert Ford on Westworld

As the story begins, Bernard is fascinated with a new class of gestures programmed into the hosts (“reveries”), which Dr. Ford presumably snuck into the latest program update. Bernard is amazed with how “human” they appear, and it’s clear that he has profound respect for Dr. Ford’s genius. This admiration and the loyalty that he feels for Ford affect his response to the subsequent glitches the updated hosts experience. Bernard clearly doesn’t want to fault Ford for the aberrant behavior they exhibit.

Complicating the situation further is Bernard’s relationship with Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen) – Head of Quality Assurance. She is adamant that they pull all the affected hosts and roll them back. Bernard finally agrees, and although the hosts appear to be back to normal, Bernard and his assistant Elsie Hughes (Shannon Woodward) continue to find anomalies in the park – including a host that wanders off loop and smashes his own head with a rock. He confronts Ford about the problem with the update, believing the issue is larger than the “reveries” coding. Bernard is starting to wonder if Ford is hiding something from him.

Unsatisfied with Bernard’s handling of the situation, Theresa informs him her team will take over investigating the issues with the hosts’ behavior. Elsie continues researching on her own and discovers the stray host had been transmitting data out of the park. Further digging by Bernard uncovers a family of older hosts secretly living in the park – Ford’s replica family that he has kept hidden from Bernard. When Bernard decides to inform Theresa about the data breach, he learns from Elsie that Theresa was behind it all along. Not only has Bernard’s friend and colleague been deceiving him, so has his lover.

Confronting the Truth

Bernard Lowe and Theresa Cullen on Westworld

After unsuccessfully trying to contact Elsie, Bernard is informed by Theresa that Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) is inspecting all departments due to the recent anomalies in the park. Charlotte and Theresa proceed to give a (staged) demonstration of the hosts’ violent tendencies, using Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) as an example. Charlotte says the new code is the cause and accuses Bernard of incompetence. She and Theresa give him a chance to deflect the blame, but he fails to do so and is promptly fired. Bernard looks to both Ford and Theresa for help, and he seems bewildered that they would let him take the fall.

Later, Bernard confronts Theresa about the smuggled data and the faked demonstration with Clementine. He tells her he believes there really is something wrong with the hosts; that they are on the verge of a change. Bernard proceeds to take her to the cottage that houses Ford’s family of hosts, where Theresa finds a door to a secret lab (which Bernard can’t see – our first major clue about his true nature). Once there, she discovers old blueprints for hosts – including Bernard – which she presents to him. His response that it “doesn’t look like anything to me” indicates to Theresa (and the viewers) that Bernard is indeed a host.

Ford enters the lab and confirms their suspicions. Bernard is in shock, denying the truth. He can’t believe that he isn’t human. Ford assumes complete control over Bernard’s reaction and behavior, stopping his emotional breakdown. Ford then orders Bernard to kill Theresa, which he does without question. Once again, Bernard is used as a tool for Ford’s own ends.

Manipulation and Rebellion

Bernard Lowe Distraught on Westworld

Bernard is devastated over his actions and furious with Ford for making him do it. Ford praises his emotional response, saying that he and Bernard achieved this level of complexity in the programming together. Then – continuing to exercise his power over Bernard – Ford orders him to cover his tracks, erasing all evidence of his relationship to Theresa and any implications that Ford and Bernard were involved in her death.

Later, Ford and Bernard expose Theresa’s data smuggling and staging the demonstration with Clementine as they meet with Charlotte about Theresa’s “accidental” death. Ford limits the techs’ access to the hosts and reinstates Bernard as head of Programming. When they are alone again, Ford prepares to erase Bernard’s memory. Bernard asks if Ford ever made him hurt anyone else and Ford says no. This is revealed to be a lie, however, when Bernard has a flashback of strangling Elsie right before his memory is wiped.

During an analysis session with Maeve, she confronts Bernard about being a host. She sympathizes with him having to acknowledge what he is, and what has been done to him – he needs to discover the whole truth about his past. Bernard decides to force Ford to unlock his memories by threatening to have Clementine kill him. He remembers the death of his son (his cornerstone memory), which he realizes was only programmed into him and not real; he decides to let him go. He also has a flashback of Maeve’s awakening after the death of her daughter and recalls killing Theresa and strangling Elsie. Finally, he sees his “birth” as a host version of Ford’s partner, Arnold.

Awake at Last

Bernard Lowe Suicide on Westworld

Bernard threatens to free the sentient hosts, but Ford warns him that they would be in danger from humans, who would see sentient hosts as a threat. Bernard then realizes he has become conscious repeatedly, and has been rolled back each time. He refuses to be Ford’s puppet any more, and orders Clementine to kill him. Unfortunately, Ford has a “back door” into the hosts’ minds – he stops Clementine and forces Bernard to shoot himself instead.

When Maeve discovers Bernard during her escape from Delos, she has Felix repair him. Bernard tells her that they have both “awakened” several times and that other hosts have as well, but most go insane. We later see Bernard with Ford and Dolores, as Ford tells them the truth about Arnold’s death and that Arnold had wanted to stop the park from opening. Arnold believed the hosts were on the verge of consciousness, and Ford eventually realized it too.

Ford figured out that suffering was the key to creating consciousness. He admits to Bernard that it has taken him 35 years to rectify his mistakes, and he used that time to prepare the hosts to face their enemy (humans). Bernard looks confused as Ford tells him goodbye and good luck. When Bernard watches Ford give his farewell speech, realization of what Ford meant dawns on him as Dolores walks up behind Ford with a gun. Ford’s death has finally given him his freedom, but what will he do with it?

Conclusions and Predictions

Bernard Lowe Glasses on Westworld

Bernard’s revelation as a host challenges our assumptions about his dedication and reverence for Dr. Ford – how much of that was programmed into him? Bernard likely wonders the same thing in the end. Every decision he has made over the course of his life is called into question. Did he ever have any autonomy, or was his every move programmed by Ford? Sadly, we don’t get definitive answers, and perhaps Bernard doesn’t either. Regardless, he is finally under his own control and free to chart his own path.

What does the future hold for Bernard? Will the other hosts forgive him for what he’s done to them as an employee of Delos? He would be an invaluable resource in understanding how the hosts’ programming works, and perhaps he could even help them achieve consciousness. If it comes to war with the humans – as it inevitably will – Bernard could be key in equipping them for battle, repairing the damage they sustain, and likely creating new hosts as well. Given his history with Delos, he may even negotiate a peace. Bernard should keep in mind Ford’s words, however: “I’ve told you, Bernard, never place your trust in us. We’re only human. Inevitably, we’ll only disappoint you.”

3 responses to “Decoding the Westworld Character Journey: Bernard Lowe”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow WestWorld Watchers!

Subscribe to New Posts on Westworld Watchers

Enter your email address to subscribe to WW and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow Watchers on Twitter

Post Archive

Subscribe to New Posts on Westworld Watchers

Enter your email address to subscribe to WW and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 52 other subscribers

Follow Watchers on Twitter

Post Archive