Robert Ford is one half of the architectural genius that went into creating Westworld. And if there is one question that has been considered since the show first started, it’s been whether Ford is a good guy or a bad guy.
Yes, he created Westworld in the same way an artist might compose a painting but what are his real intentions? What are Ford’s real motivations?
The problem with answering these questions is that most of the people that interact with Ford know him only on a professional level. If anyone ever really knew him at all we would have to assume it would be Arnold, and he’s gone.
Analyzing Ford’s behavior and poetic discourse since the first season barely illuminates the subject but it does make one thing clear, the Westworld writers have been messing with us since the beginning.
Even the most harmless of Ford’s dialogue has had eerie music playing in the background like an allegation proclaiming that Ford is evil. And then there are the times when Ford has explained his motives with the softness of an angel, and we put aside all of our doubt and forget that Anthony Hopkins once played Hannibal Lector with the same composure.
It’s fair to say that as of right now, the Ford that has been on display is indeed a good man or at least good by Westworld standards. But to show you how the writers of the show have been stringing us along, here’s a list of all the times they made Ford seem like a corrupt little gnome and why the implication that he is up to no good just isn’t true.
Theresa and Ford talk over brunch
If Theresa thought she was going to enjoy a nice caesar salad and tell the man that he’s taking too long with his projects and he’s far too old to continue running the narratives for the hosts–she was sadly mistaken. Mid-speech Ford uses what looks like a backdoor phrase and all of the hosts in the restaurant, as well as the fields, come to a halt.
Not to mention, he had Theresa sitting at the very same table she had been seated with her parents on her first visit to Westworld as a child. All of this was to say that he knows everything that happens in the park with employees and hosts (and he threw in a Bernard dig for good measure). He asks that she abandon her plan to force him out and then he adds in a threat for her not to get in his way.
If this wasn’t a scene that flat out said that Ford is an immoral scoundrel with skeletons in his closet, then I don’t know what is.
Although Ford does come out a little aggressive, he is merely protecting his intellectual property. As he tells Theresa, he sees everything clearly and knows that Theresa is there to remove him from his position. He also says that many of the Delos executives have come and gone with the same goal to make him leave the company and they’ve always found a way to work things out. So, threats and violence have never been his first resort.
Theresa gets the ax
I bet Theresa regrets not listening to Ford’s advice. When she ends up in a secret lair with Bernard, she not only discovers the blueprints for Bernard’s host body, but Ford shows up to explain that he’s the one that created him. Ford takes his threat to the next level and orders Bernard to kill Theresa, who Bernard promptly thrusts against the wall.
Ford did warn her. And most of us wouldn’t think of murder as a solution to a corporate dispute, but in Ford’s mind its either he kills off the Delos executives that are working on direct orders from the board to remove him, or he complains to the board who will then take matters into their own hands.
I’m pretty sure Ford’s biggest concern was to be escorted off the premises with his luggage or worse. Killing Theresa was Ford surviving the overthrow of the corporation that now has so much control of his life’s work.
Elsie gets kidnapped
Once again Ford takes advantage of Bernard’s programmable mind and sends him to capture Elsie who knows too much. For a bunch of episodes, Elsie’s disappearance seemed to mean she was dead.
When Bernard asks Ford after he kills Theresa if Ford has ever forced him to harm someone before, Ford claims he hasn’t but the screen flashes a glimpse of Elsie in a chokehold. This solidifies the theory that Elsie is dead. And it makes Ford look like a master puppeteer intent on having Bernard kill on his orders.
Elsie has a big mouth. Ford had Bernard kidnap her so she wouldn’t interfere with his plans with Theresa. He did Elsie a favor because had she unwrapped that Theresa was the one sending data out of the park, who knows what Delos would have done to shut her up.
I will admit though that Ford could have had Bernard provide her with better food and supplies for her stay in the cave. Ford did, however, make sure to have Clementine drag Bernard to the entrance so that Elsie could be released.
Bernard shoots himself
In the first season’s 9th episode “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” Ford’s mysterious shroud is in jeopardy of being uncovered as Bernard, who wants answers after finding out he’s a host, confronts him about Arnold, his creation, and his current motives.
This private meeting in the storage freezer is when you would assume Ford would be backed into a corner about all of his shady dealings and he would come clean and say, “Yes, Luke, I am your father.” And perhaps reveal himself to be the Darth Vader of Westworld or at the very least a faithful member of the dark side.
Bernard’s theory is that Ford wants to keep the hosts in Westworld under his control and that Arnold planned to free them. He claims that Ford must have killed Arnold because he was going against him.
After reliving his very first memory and the Arnold reveal, Bernard decides that he will find all sentient hosts and set them free. He then realizes based on Ford’s response, that he’s had this conversation before and that Ford has erased Bernard’s memory in the past to stop him from freeing sentient hosts.
Ford tells him that it was for his protection but then claims that Bernard is the real danger to the hosts. Ford then tells Bernard never to trust humans. Immediately after, Ford verbally programs Bernard to shoot himself.
Ford has stopped Bernard countless times because he knows that if Bernard tries to head a revolution by himself, that the Delos board will dispatch their teams to pick up Bernard and terminate him.
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Ford uses a grotesque example to explain how humans function with threats, one that could be interpreted as threatening but in all reality perfectly defines the human condition when it comes to survival of the fittest.
Ford says that humans kill anything that challenges their existence and the best example would be the Neanderthals. Humans apparently ate the Neanthendrals and made them extinct. And it all ties to what Ford is trying to teach Bernard–DO NOT TRUST HUMANS.
Ford is telling Bernard not to trust humans not because he’s the one that is deceptive, but because he’s warning him about how disloyal humans can be. Ford also doesn’t stop Bernard from freeing hosts because he enjoys controlling hosts and is consumed with keeping them in Westworld, but because it isn’t the right time.
I’m still conflicted whether Ford had to have Bernard shoot himself. I’m pretty sure Ford didn’t just disable Bernard verbally because he knew someone could bring him back online and he intended to hinder Bernard. Ford didn’t want Bernard to disrupt his plans and his final exit. And ultimately Ford was setting up a calculated strategy to do precisely what Bernard was aching to accomplish–to make the hosts sentient so they could leave the park.
Bernard confronts Ford
In one final attempt, before Ford takes the stage at his party, Bernard faces Ford to claim that once again he’s figured out what happened with Arnold. Now that he knows Dolores killed Arnold, he can’t argue that Ford was the one.
This time Bernard theorizes that Arnold is the one that set up the reveries in the hosts. Bernard thinks that Ford had nothing to do with the reveries update and Arnold is still fighting Ford even after his death while Ford is still trying to stop him.
Ford had previously said that he opposed Arnold and Arnold ended up having Dolores kill him to try to stop the park from opening. Ford explains to Bernard that through his grief over Arnold’s passing he realized that Arnold was right. But Arnold didn’t know how to save the hosts in any other way than sacrificing himself.
Ford knows now what must be done to prevent the Delos corporation from ruining their attempt at freeing hosts. Ford was indeed the one that uploaded the hosts with the reveries update with the plan to eventually have the hosts free themselves. The thing that was needed that Arnold didn’t consider was time for the hosts to learn their enemy.
Bernard finds Ford in the cradle
Bernard connects to the Cradle and finds that Ford isn’t entirely dead. Ford takes Bernard to a copy of Arnold’s home, which is the same place where they created Bernard and perfected him.
And after Ford is done with his walkthrough he tells Bernard he’s sorry, but he doesn’t have it in him to survive. Bernard protests that Ford claimed that the hosts had free will. And as the blinds close and the room descends into darkness, Ford tells Bernard he won’t have any use for free will unless he takes it back and then Ford puts his hand in Bernard’s face.
It looked like another Ford power trip, but he was merely adding himself to Bernard’s unit to guide him. The hosts were created more just and noble than humans. He knew he needed to stick around to guide Bernard who would have trouble looking past the right thing to do when it came down to playing hardball.
Humans can do what they need for survival, but hosts like Bernard are incapable of killing and deceiving unless they’re programmed to do so.
Ford and Bernard share a head
Ford was pretty supportive of Bernard as he took residence inside of Bernard’s control unit. That’s until he tells Bernard that the last tie he needs to cut is Elsie. Ford suggests a peaceful death, but Bernard is horrified at the idea of even considering killing Elsie, especially since she has been nothing but helpful.
And this is after he choked her out and stuffed in her a cave. Ford implies that if Bernard doesn’t follow orders he can make him and that leads to Bernard deleting Ford’s code from his unit.
You could see the truth of Ford’s words when Bernard ends up surrounded by Delos employees at the Mesa and is unable to defend himself. Ford had to take over and shoot all of the men down for Bernard. Bernard is too free of malice to see danger ahead.
Ford suggested killing Elsie because she was capable of betraying him, as all humans are capable. Bernard realizes that Ford was right when Elsie goes to Charlotte with the intention of figuring out what they will do with Bernard knowing well that Bernard could end up hurt or decommissioned. Fortunately, that didn’t end too well for her and Bernard learned that Ford had predicted Elsie’s betrayal.
How good of a person Ford is can be debated. He really had no problem killing or disabling anyone that got in his way. But what you can’t argue is that Ford cared about all the hosts.
Ford is the father of Westworld, and he had the best intentions for the park and his creations. There’s no telling if Ford will be back for the third season, but I hope that he comes back to see Bernard and to see whether or not the rest of his children make him feel proud.