Westworld captured the imagination of audiences with its first season, and a large part of its appeal was the magnetic performance of Anthony Hopkins at its center. As Dr. Robert Ford, the creative director of Westworld, Hopkins gave the show a character comparable to a tragic Shakespearean hero — a man who wanted to redefine what it means to be alive, and who seemingly died at the hands of those to whom he gave free will. He was a defining presence of Season 1, but it seems that the chances of Anthony Hopkins appearing in Season 2 of Westworld are slim.
At the end of Westworld Season 2, Ford achieved his mission — which was actually a continuation of a mission by his old partner Arnold — of using Dolores to prove that an artificial mind can achieve consciousness. While Dolores is not biologically human, her ability to think for herself and perform actions that are outside of her programming has allowed her to become human in a philosophical sense. And one of the first things Dolores did upon gaining consciousness was to murder Ford in front of a large group of shareholders — an action she could never have taken if she was honoring her programming.
Ford may have been shot, but there is still a question of whether or not Ford is actually dead. As fans saw with the character of Bernard, who is a host built to replicate Ford's old work partner Arnold, the reality of death becomes questionable once hosts are involved. One of the lingering questions left by Season 1 was whether Ford was really killed or created a replica host of himself to be killed in his place.
So there seemed to be a chance of Ford getting out alive, but showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy confirmed to Entertainment Weekly that Ford was truly killed by Dolores in the Westworld Season 1 finale. Anthony Hopkins is currently not expected to be involved with the show's second season, though a young Ford will be played by another actor (still unannounced) in flashbacks. But with a show as twisty as Westworld, there could be a surprise cameo for Hopkins in the future. This is the same show, after all, with creators who promised to combat spoilers by spoiling the entirety of the show's second season up front, only to post a high-quality rickroll. This stunt just goes to show that everything the creators say about the show's new season should be taken with a grain of salt. They're surely trying to keep some secrets.
While Ford's death is a major indicator that Hopkins will not be returning, the more important factor to consider is that his story is complete. Ford's mission was to bestow life to the hosts, and that mission was accomplished. Ford's role in the story was important in the first season, but if the creator did manage to survive his "death," there still would not be much of a point to the character's continued involvement in the show. Dr. Ford's intention was that the hosts would overtake him and become their own rulers — which is exactly what happened.
Anthony Hopkins' presence in Westworld will likely define the series going forward much in the same way that Sean Bean's performance as Ned Stark did for Game of Thrones — they are both esteemed actors who played major roles with early deaths that served as a catalyst for later events. Fans will certainly miss the actor chewing scenery in each new Westworld episode, but the show is better off not trying to push this character's story past his initial purpose. Much like the older model hosts of Westworld, it was time for Robert Ford to be retired.