‘Westworld’ Season 2 Theories: Clues from Episode 4, ‘The Riddle of the Sphinx’

Top Westworld Theories

HBO Top Westworld Theories

Season 2 Episode 4 of Westworld, called “The Riddle of the Sphinx,” has answered fans’ questions about what William was planning with James Delos. But in the process, we’ve been left with more new questions than the show actually answered. How was the plan for James related to Delos’ “secret” plan that Theresa and Charlotte have hinted about in previous episodes? How does this all pull together and is any of it related to that weapon Dolores has been talking about? Here are the latest theories that fans are discussing. Let us know in the comments below which you believe, or if we’re missing theories that you think explain what is happening. Of course, this post has spoilers for Season 2 Episode 4. 

Delos Was Trying to Create Immortality for James Delos

HBOJames Delos on Westworld

Now at least, we know some of the secrets behind what Delos was working on: immortality. That’s not a huge surprise, because having immortal hosts who look just like humans would create a desire for humans to figure out a way to live forever. But it looks like doing this isn’t as easy as you might think.

At first, I thought that James Delos’ fatal illness was somehow being transferred into his host body and that’s why he kept getting sick. But something far deeper is at play. It may simply be that humans’ minds are incompatible with the brains that Delos created for the hosts.

William told James that it was a “cognitive plateau.” His mind is stable and then falls apart. He said that at first he thought it was his mind rejecting the new body, but eventually realized it was his mind rejecting reality itself.

No matter what they do, James Delos eventually breaks down. At one point, it turns out that he’s just fine until he meets William and is confronted with the true nature of who he is. It may simply be the case that humans go “crazy” and break down internally when they realize they are now hosts. However, maybe that’s just a problem with James Delos himself. Or maybe it’s a problem with humans and hosts alike.

This brings up a fascinating theory. Is it possible that the phrase “that doesn’t look like anything to me” is some kind of failsafe designed because of the problems observed in James DelosThis is questions viewers are asking, and it really depends on how early on they realized that James’ mind was rejecting reality itself. At the end, it seemed to happen every time he realized that he was a host. And it’s really similar to what happened to Peter Abernathy, in some ways, when reverie memories start competing with present-day memories and back stories don’t match up.

What do you think? Did the James Delos experiment inspire the failsafe?

How Has James Delos’ Consciousness Been Stored All This Time? How Do They Make the Transfer?


From the outside, the skull of a host looks just like a human brain. But digging into the brain reveals something else entirely. The hosts’ minds and programming do not work via a biological brain at all. Instead, a contraption of sorts powers the host and holds its memories and programming. And this “mechanical brain” is encased in a cortical shield. (That’s how Bernard’s brain survived being shot in the head.)

This mechanical brain can be plugged into a tablet, so you can read the hosts’ memories even after they’ve “died.” After the Season 1 finale, we had a hint that this type of information would be revealed in Season 2. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, showrunner Jonathan Nolan said that how the hosts are powered will be an important element in Season 2.

That brain you see in the picture above — that’s a host’s brain. Meanwhile, James Delos’ “living” brain is a red mechanical contraption. As Bernard and Elsie discussed: the red brains have a different OS, a different code entirely. It’s more of a language within them rather than a code.

What we don’t know is how they are transferring consciousness into that mechanical brain. It appears that Jim Delos’ consciousness can be kept around pretty much forever, and a transfer can be attempted over and over and over. The way Elsie talked about it, it didn’t seem that difficult to achieve.

So is the consciousness being stored on a file somewhere? Is it large enough to be Peter Abernathy’s file?

But if James’ consciousness is just on a file somewhere, how did William know James’ problem was limited to the host transfer and that James’ consciousness file itself hadn’t been corrupted when it was “transferred” from his brain initially?

Is the James Delos Experiment Connected to Peter Abernathy’s File or Is This a Red Herring?


Here’s the thing. Westworld is not above throwing out red herrings to try to distract us from what’s really going on. So it’s very possible that although we would immediately think the James Delos experiment is what’s hidden inside Peter Abernathy, we might be completely wrong. It could be a red herring.

The current leading theories about what is in Peter’s file are:

  • Someone’s consciousness. Maybe James Delos. Maybe Ford. Maybe Arnold.
  • The key to transferring human consciousness into a digital file of some sort.
  • They key to turning hosts sentient (perhaps Arnold’s bicameral mind program.)
  • All the data collected on visitors all these years. (Remember: Bernard asked Charlotte why they were collecting DNA and other data on visitors’ experiences at the park.)
  • The data on creating hosts that Argos first created (which then became Delos when Logan invested in the company.) This way if Ford destroyed the hosts after he was kicked out, they would still know how to create the hosts.

When Bernard unlocked the code to Peter’s file, he seemed shocked. Some fans think that Bernard uploaded Peter’s file into himself at that point. Do you agree with this theory?

The Symbol on Abernathy’s File Matches the Symbol on Grace’s (Emily’s) Map in Raj World

We do know that Peter Abernathy’s file had an symbol on it that matched the symbol on Grace’s map when she was in Raj World:

HBORaj World Map

We also know that whatever is on that file is 35 years’ worth of a date. In a later episode in Season 1 called “Trace Decay,” Charlotte Hale brings Lee Sizemore (the head of the Narrative Department who is now accompanying Maeve in Season 2) to Cold Storage. There they find Abernathy. Charlotte says that she is uploading 35 years of data into Abernathy. She tells Lee that he must give Abernathy just enough of a personality to let him get on the train at the Monorail Terminal in the Mesa Hub and leave.

Now Lee is traveling with Maeve. His knowledge of this file might be important later this season.

When Peter Saw the Photo of William’s Wife, He Started Talking About the Same ‘Valley’ That Dolores Thinks Is a Weapon (And Is Likely Where Bernard Said He Killed All Those Hosts)

HBOPhoto of William’s wife

We also know that when Peter Abernathy saw the photo of William’s wife in Season 1, he began talking mysteriously about having a question he’s not supposed to ask, which gave him an answer he wasn’t supposed to know. Alert fans will realize that this is directly parallel to what William told Dolores in a flashback in Season 2. He told her that he had found the answer to a question that no human dreamed of asking. Then he took her to where he was digging out something new. This is the same location that Dolores then spoke about visiting at the end of the episode, when she referred to taking those who were worthy to the Valley Beyond, where they would find a weapon.

This is likely also the same location where Bernard and Delos found all the dead hosts, and Bernard said “I killed them all.”

(By the way, it looks like that same photo was in James’ laboratory room. We saw it when Elsie and Bernard were there.)

Whose Control Unit Did Bernard Take?

Here’s a pretty significant question: Whose control unit did Bernard steal? He was programmed (it seemed) to kill everyone in that lab. He even had the ability to control those drone hosts (just like Maeve and Ford can control hosts.) Viewers have all sorts of theories about whose control unit Ford have, but most of them are settling on either Arnold or Ford himself. Which is interesting, because some people are thinking the same thing about Peter’s file. If Peter is carrying around a living consciousness too, then it means that the white mechanical brains can hold the code for red mechanical brains.

Could Dolores’ Weapon – And the Valley Everyone Is Seeking — Be a Secret Park?

One of the commenters to a previous theory story on Heavy gave an interesting theory. Josh Rivera suggested that the valley where everyone is heading (and which Dolores referred to as a “weapon”) might be where all the parks meet. He also suggested that this very valley — which is now flooded, and where all the hosts died — could be a secret park itself. Perhaps it is one of the six parks, or it is a seventh park that no one knows about except William and a chosen few.

Just to refresh your memory, here’s what we know so far about that “weapon” aka valley.

Everyone is heading to the same location, but this location has many names. Some call it “The Valley Beyond.” Dolores has been gathering her army of people, trying to get to “Glory.” As Dolores described it: “An old friend was foolish enough to show me. It’s not a place; it’s a weapon. And I’m going to use it to destroy them.”

She was talking about the valley that young William showed to her. At that time, William told her that it was an “answer to a question that no one dreamed to ask.” But now that William is older, he refers to it as a “Place of Judgment” and his greatest mistake, which he built. When he tried to put together an army in Episode 2, Robert told him through another host that he would see William in the Valley Beyond. So it seems that at least part of Robert’s game is aimed at forcing William to go there.

Here are photos of the Valley, as it looked when William showed it to Dolores when he was younger:



This is likely the same area that we saw where all the hosts were found dead. That western valley and its sea was not on any survey of the park, the Delos employees noted. “It shouldn’t be there.” There’s no way Ford made it without anyone knowing, the Delos employees said when they found the valley last week.  “So where did it come from?” Here are those photos:





So now I’m wondering if this valley/weapon is actually a secret park. Why is it so important?

Does Bernard Have a Secret File Inside Him Too?


We learned something absolutely crazy about Bernard tonight while he and Elsie were exploring the the Section 12 in Sector 22 lab. He murdered everyone in that lab. He killed them all in order to get a secret control unit. Maybe it was the innards of James Delos’ red brain, but it was more than likely someone else’s consciousness.

Some fans now think that the lab wasn’t just creating James Delos’ consciousness, but they were copying many visitors’ consciousnesses. But the idea that people in the real world have been replaced by hosts doesn’t really fly, since James Delos’ glitches were never fixed.

However, there’s another theory circulating, and it’s the idea that from the moment we saw Bernard on the shore when Delos found him, his host mind was actually inhabited by the control unit he picked up in the lab, and not by “Bernard.” Maybe he now holds Arnold’s consciousness, and Ford achieved what William could not.

Other fans think that Bernard uploaded Peter’s file into his brain last week, and now he has that consciousness in him.

What do you think? And were Bernard’s actions in the lab directed by Ford for his special new narrative?  Whatever made Bernard kill all those hosts, it’s likely also what made Bernard kill all those people in the lab. This isn’t looking good for Elsie. :(

There Are Many Contenders in Ford’s Game

One thing you might have missed was an offhand comment that William made near the beginning of the episode. He observed that Ford’s game has many contenders, and he’s not the only one. (We also learned that in order to win this game, William has to look back, not forward. So Ford’s game must be rooted in something that happened in his and William’s past.)

Who else do you think is a contender in this game? I’m betting William, Dolores, Maeve, and Bernard. Maybe also Williams’ daughter.

Maeve’s Power Doesn’t Work on Everyone


Sadly, Maeve wasn’t in this episode. But we still need to remember something interesting we learned about her last week. When Maeve couldn’t get the Ghost Nation to do her bidding, this was an unexpected twist. Up until now, it seemed as if Maeve’s power was equal to Ford’s: with just a word, she could get anyone to do whatever she wanted. But her power didn’t work in today’s scenario, and it’s unclear why not.

Last season, we were left with some interesting questions about Maeve that we’re still trying to uncover. When it comes to Maeve (and even Dolores), just how much is self-awareness and sentience (a la Arnold’s bicameral mind program), and how much is Ford’s narrative (a new game for William.) Is Maeve self aware and autonomous, or just being programmed by Ford? Bernard said last season that someone named Arnold had infiltrated her code and uploaded an escape narrative. And the clues all pointed to that being Ford. Can Maeve only control the hosts that Ford allows her to control in his code?

To at least some degree, Maeve’s uprising was really part of Ford’s narrative. She wanted to activate all the hosts in cold storage, and she did. But the code loaded by “Arnold” was an escape narrative. Maeve refused to believe that she was following a narrative in Season 1, and wanted to believe that she had free will. Her tablet that Bernard was holding had a mention that she was going to “infiltrate mainland.” But it’s unclear what that meant. When Maeve didn’t end up leaving the park after all, was that a free choice or part of her script? Her run-in tonight hasn’t really cleared any of this up yet.

Grace Is William’s Daughter

HBOKatja Herbers on Westworld

I absolutely love how the episode ended. Grace is actually William’s daughter. That’s why she knew so much about the parks. But why is she here? Last we heard from William, she believed the parks were responsible for her mom’s suicide. (And now we learned that Logan OD’d himself eventually.) Perhaps Grace is looking for the same answers that William is looking for (hence her map), but her search is an attempt to save her father from himself.

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