Major spoilers for the first six episodes of Westworld Season 2. Dr. Robert Ford was seemingly dead in Westworld, but he was never forgotten, as his influence was all over Dolores' rebellion. Yet, "Phase Space" proved exactly just how influential he still is. Ford's "pearl" of consciousness is living inside of the Cradle. With his return, theories about Ford in Season 2 of Westworld can be reexamined and new hypotheses about his endgame can be explored. Because while you might have expected Sir Anthony Hopkins to return to the HBO series at some point, fans know now just how close Ford has been this whole time.
"Phase Space" appeared to prove that before Ford orchestrated his own assassination, he had Bernard place a copy of his mind (the ball, which is known as a "pearl") into the Cradle and to override the system. Bernard doesn't seem to recall this, but when he extracts his own "pearl" and links up directly with the Cradle, he finds Ford existing in this space and controlling the park from the inside. In the behind-the-scenes video for "Phase Space," co-creator Jonathan Nolan wouldn't give any information about how Ford lives on through the Cradle. Instead, Nolan simply stated, "What else is in the Cradle is something we'll come to discover."
The preview for "Les Écorchés," the June 3 episode, shows that Ford will return again, which should result in Westworld revealing a little more information about his master plan. After all, it looks like Ford tells Bernard, "What is about to happen will not be your fault." But before "Les Écorchés" premieres and reveals its secrets, here are some theories about what Ford is doing inside the Cradle — and what he still has up his sleeve.
1. Ford Is Now The Ultimate Puppet Master
Reddit user deicide666ra noted that, as part of the Cradle, Ford may have complete autonomy over every aspect of all the parks. They suggested that Ford could be monitoring all the hosts at all times and changing their courses of action during the host uprising. So even in death, he's able to act like the God of Westworld and the other parks. As FanSided pointed out, this may explain how Ford has been able to continue communicating with the Man in Black through other hosts, like the boy version of himself and Lawrence's daughter.
2. Dolores Will Release Ford Upon The World
If Ford's consciousness can live on in the Cradle and control Westworld, is it possible he could live in — and control — another system? David Crow of Den of Geek theorized that could be the case. "If Dolores or any other host were able to upload Ford’s consciousness to an open system (i.e. the internet), he could be anywhere and everywhere," Crow wrote. Viewers don't know much about the real world outside of the parks, but Crow theorized that this could make Ford invincible and give him the ability to make the Earth's inhabitants follow his narratives. If Ford really hates humanity as much as it seems he does, then that's definitely one way to destroy it.
3. Ford Perfectly Planned The Host Uprising
Speaking of Ford hating humanity, he's completely responsible for the host uprising. And if you found Ford to be omniscient in Season 1, Reddit user HiImLate has a theory for you. They suggested that Ford used the Cradle to simulate host behavior and human behavior to ensure that his robot awakening plan would work. The Cradle stores the hosts' "minds" and Delos was collecting data on the humans. So maybe Ford had the necessary data to create simulated humans. He used these host and human simulations in different scenarios and that's how he was so confident that the hosts' rebellion would be successful even after his human body was gone — he had used the Cradle to predict the future.
4. Ford Programmed Dolores To Destroy The Cradle
Reddit user 10001110101abcd suggested that Ford has programmed Dolores to seek out the Cradle and destroy it. While Dolores believes she's headed to the Mesa command center to rescue her father, it's possible that Ford will lead her to the Cradle once she's there. Karl Strand's team has already discovered the ruined Cradle in a more future storyline during "Virtu e Fortuna" and "Akane No Mai." In "Akane No Mai," a tech tells Strand, "We put the fires out, but there's nothing we can recover from the Cradle. The hosts' backups have all been destroyed." Strand responds, "Well, that's quite a story he gave them and one hell of an ending." The "he" in this sentence is probably Ford. And since a dead Teddy is shown at this moment, perhaps the theory that Dolores' group destroyed the Cradle has already been confirmed.
5. Ford Will Be Reborn
Since the Cradle will be destroyed, Ford's consciousness would probably go with it — unless Ford's plan includes him getting a body upgrade. If you're into the theory that hosts can have children, then you might like this theory from Reddit user DownRedditHole. They wonder if Ford is waiting for two hosts to procreate (like Dolores and Teddy) and then Ford's consciousness pearl will be placed in that baby host's head so that he's reborn as a brand spanking new host.
6. Ford Will Take Over Bernard's Body
A stronger Ford reborn theory comes from LoadInSubduedLight, who proposed that Ford's pearl will be placed inside of Bernard's head — not a newborn host's head. ScreenRant's David Rodemerk also thinks it's possible that future Bernard is really Ford's mind in Bernard's body. Going back to that Stand scene in "Akane No Mai," the camera does show Bernard when Strand says, "Well, that's quite a story he gave them." While Strand probably doesn't know it, that could be a hint that Ford's consciousness is now operating out of Bernard. And what a treat it would be to see actor Jeffrey Wright take on that task.
7. Ford Is Using Dolores To Bring Back Arnold
Even if he doesn't take over Bernard's body, Ford obviously has an obsession with his dead partner Arnold. Reddit user Lammie1 considered that Ford is trying to create a true host form of Arnold. Sure, Bernard is pretty close, but he's not really Arnold. So maybe Ford just wants his buddy back in his most accurate form. Lammie1 wrote that this could be why Dolores performs a fidelity test on a version of Bernard at the beginning of "Phase Space." When Bernard mixes up Arnold's words, Dolores replies, "No, he didn't say that." So with Dolores' help, Ford could be making the ultimate Arnold host.
With Bernard's hazy memories and time jumps, the leading theory is that Ford will place his own pearl into Bernard's mind. But as the preview for "Les Écorchés" shows Charlotte Hale discovering that Bernard is a host, perhaps Ford's master plan won't work out as perfectly as he expects. Either way, it sure looks like Dolores' "free will" is not so free after all and that Ford has managed to manipulate her even after his death.