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'Westworld' reveals a big twist — and finally raises the stakes

Jeffrey Wright as Bernard Lowe in "Westworld."
Jeffrey Wright as Bernard Lowe in "Westworld." (John P. Johnson / HBO)

The title of "Westworld's" seventh episode is "Trompe L'oeil," meaning trick of the eye, and this installment certainly lived up to it with the bombshell that Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) isn't a man, but one of Robert Ford's uncanny creations.

The episode kicked off with a tragic moment designed to throw us off the scent - the day Bernard watches his young son, Charlie, die in a hospital room. It turns out to be a dream, but between that memory and the video conversation Bernard shares with his estranged wife earlier in the season, the idea that he might be a robot seemed increasingly far-fetched.

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Of course, we now know the writers were just playing with us all along. They left a few clues along the way, such as Bernard's post-coital conversation with Theresa (Sidse Babett Knudsen), when he explains that the hosts are constantly talking to each other, because that is how they practice at being human. "Is that what you're doing now?" She asks him. "Practicing?" Apparently.

Some theorists have been playing I Spy with these hints from the beginning. The idea that Bernard might be a robot is no great shock for a lot of fans. (Nor would the revelation that there might be two timelines, or that the Man in Black is an older William or Logan.)

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But that doesn't mean the episode was without surprises. Theresa's death was a huge shocker, as was the sickening way she went out - at the hands of Bernard, who was doing the bidding of Ford (Anthony Hopkins). We now know Hopkins is simply reprising his role of Hannibal Lecter, especially when he leans in to whisper into a frantic Theresa's ear, "Like I said, I built all of this." That explains why her phone isn't working to call for help.

Ford also reveals something else in his final confrontation with Theresa. He explains that, to restore things, "the situation demands a blood sacrifice." These were almost the same words that Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) said to Theresa earlier in the episode. Ford clearly hears everything. Sort of like a god.

This episode was a game-changer because we not only learn something explosive about Bernard but also finally see the life or death stakes in this world. That's a pretty big change after many episodes of seeing characters die and come back to life again and again, not to mention the human characters who are immune to the host's bullets. We started to get an inkling of the shift last week when Elsie (Shannon Woodward) made the mistake of doing some recon all alone in a creepy, dark basement and got attacked. (Still no word on what happened to her, but it certainly seemed dire.) But with the death of Theresa, it's beyond clear that the hosts can do some real damage - and not just Clem, who was intentionally programmed to go haywire.

Maeve (Thandie Newton) reinforced the more ominous undertones when she was chatting with her impotent human allies. She's going to escape from the park, she tells them. And if they don't help her? "I'll kill you," she says matter-of-factly.

Of course, as with everything on the show, this big reveal raises more questions than answers including: Why did Ford create Bernard anyway? Are other seemingly human characters really robots? Is Ford instructing Bernard to have secret conversations with Dolores, or is Bernard going rogue? And are all hosts programmed to remove their suit jackets and ties before committing murder?

As with all of the hosts, Bernard's existence gets sadder the more you think about it. Yes, he's a robot, but he seems to feel real anguish over the loss of his son - a son who isn't real. For all Ford's talk about how lucky the hosts are to live without consciousness, without guilt, anxiety and self-loathing, there's something deeply disturbing not just with the way he snuffs out one life but the way he creates it.

"You've played god long enough," Theresa tells him just before Bernard kills her. She was wrong - for now. Still, you can't help but hear the echo of Maeve's great speech earlier in the episode.

"At first, I though you and the others were gods," she tells the two doofuses standing in front of her. "Then I realized you were just men. And I know men."

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