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Major spoilers below for the third episode of Westworld Season 2, titled "Virtu E Fortuna."
Another Westworld installment, another round of stretching one's mind around the various mysteries and oddities tied to the titular location (and its surrounding areas). The third episode finally brought back host Peter Abernathy, whose artificial brain is filled with information dire to the safety of whatever humans remained in the park after Delores' chaotic mission was put into overdrive. Peter and Delores had an emotionally poignant reunion, and Bernard found out that all the information inside Peter's head is trapped beneath a complicated encryption. (Not to mention everything else that happened with Maeve, Armistice, Delores, the Man in Black and more.)
CinemaBlend spoke with the always excellent Louis Herthum about Peter's big return to Westworld, and even though he obviously couldn't divulge all the big answers -- since creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy aren't so forthcoming with details -- he did share what he could. So without further ado, let's dive in.
Will We Find Out Why Peter Never Got On The Train?
Back in Season 1, Peter seemed destined for a revolutionary storyline that would take him out of the confines of the park and into the real world, similar to how Maeve's first big arc concluded. Unfortunately, we never learned what happened to Peter after that, and his appearance in "Virtu E Fortuna" didn't clear it up very much. When I asked Louis Herthum if we'd learn what happened there, he started off predictably vague, but in a way where hope and optimism can be inserted between the lines.
Well...I don't know if I can tell you that, Nick. [laughs] You're going to find out a lot if you watch the whole season. I mean, let me just say this. I don't know a lot about what happens in the second half of the season, because you only get the scripts of the episodes you're in. I know there's just a shit ton of surprises. I think people's jaws are going to be hitting the floor. They already are, but I think the second half of the season is gonna be just spine-tingling. So I think there will be answers. To what, specifically, I won't say. At the same time, I'm sure there'll be questions. Every time there's an answer, there's another question, maybe two.
As viewers noticed, Peter was definitely talking about that planned escape during Episode 3, as he kept talking about needing to get to the train. When I voiced my assumption that something detrimental occurred that stopped Peter from reaching his transport, Louis Herthum continued:
At least you know what his drive is, as Dr. Ford would say. His main goal is to get to the train. Of course, he's got so much information teeming through that tiny space, that things just aren't operating clearly. And as you saw in Episode 3, when we first see Peter, he's muttering, 'I gotta get to the train, I gotta get to the train.' And then the gunfire sends him back to where he was playing a soldier in the Civil War. So the slightest things, it's like a pinball machine. If you punch it a little too hard, it tilts. And he's getting tilted quite a bit, so it's hard to stay on course.
Having heard that, fans might not have to reach too hard to figure out what happened here. Peter seemingly isn't able to realize when he's in major danger, and can only temporarily keep focused when Delores visits him. So what are the chances that he would have been able to make it all the way through his train mission without having his attention broken by any number of outside influences? (Such as someone humming "Battle Hymn of the Republic.") Peter was probably his own biggest obstacle there.
Why Does Delores Still Love Peter, Despite All She Knows?
If you're only watching certain Westworld scenes, you might think that Evan Rachel Wood's Delores is on a mission to destroy everything and everyone, with Teddy's hesitance growing all the more troublesome for her. But then when she's back in front of her Sweetwater papa Peter, her emotional core rears its tearful head. I asked Louis Herthum why Delores still holds that connection so high, despite understanding the true nature of the hosts. In his words:
You know, you could take a newborn kitten that was abandoned by its mother, and put it in with a litter of dogs, and the mother will usually feed it and take care of it. I think that regardless of the fact that Peter is nothing more than a machine just like she is, and in spite of all the things that she knows, I think the bond that was created during that time is strong enough to withstand pretty much anything. When you have true love for something, whatever it may be, that's hard to break. I think she knows what she has to do, she knows the truth now, but it's not enough to erase the warmth that she shared with her family. Especially her father, who she's mentioned many times. She'll say, 'My father used to tell me this or that.'
That makes a lot of sense. For Delores, there are far more false aspects of "reality" than there are genuine ones, so her relatively newfound mega-sentience can be considered quite the depressing evolution. But she obviously has pure-ish love for Teddy, despite all that, and she similarly holds a big spot in her heart device for Peter, with whom she's shared many fond memories. Along with a ton of heartbreaking ones that likely strengthened her devotion to him, since humans are to blame for all of it.
The actor spoke a bit more about how close his relationship is with Evan Rachel Wood, which made their emotional moments in this most recent episode all the more palpable. I figured it might be a little harder for Herthum in these scenes, since Delores is able to emote freely, while Peter is caught in an endless loop of personalities. Here's what he told me about that.
Strangely enough, Evan and I have an incredible chemistry. We just work really well together, and that scene in Episode 3 where we reunite. I mean, wow, it was hard just in the rehearsals to contain ourselves. Once we get together and start doing those words, man, the emotion is readily available. . . . I don't know how much of it they show when she's going through her long speech. They may not show a lot of it because she's so amazing, I'm sure the camera is on her mostly. But when she's explaining all that, talking about how it used to be, Peter is literally having micro-flashes back and forth, hearing it and remembering it, and then struggling to remember what it is she's talking about. Just snapping back and forth. So yeah, I mean that's what I was trying to play at least, because that's what's going on with him. He's trying desperately to hold on to those memories and what she's saying, but there's just too much going on inside of him. It's just clouding everything. But I love a challenge.
The scene definitely inspired viewer flashbacks to late in Season 1, from Dr. Ford and Peter's big scene, in which the actor expertly flipped between his various storyline personas from the past. I could watch Herthum do those kinds of scenes all day long, assuming I wouldn't have nightmares all the time.
Does Host Peter Have Any Real-World Connections?
Once it became clear that Bernard was actually the host version for Westworld's co-mastermind Arnold, it kicked open the door for theories about other park hosts whose personas and/or looks were based on those of real life people. After all, Delores was created as a pseudo-substitution for Arnold's dead son, despite assumedly not looking anything like him. And considering how important Peter has been in this story -- he was the first to utter the "violent delights" line, after all -- I had to ask Louis Herthum about that potential reveal.
Even if I could tell you, I wouldn't, because it would spoil it! You just gotta let this stuff unroll itself and unveil itself before you. I think you wouldn't want to know the end of the story there.
Similar to the train answer, this response is one that comes with a winking shrug. Louis Herthum humorously chided me for wanting to know too much, and I couldn't deny my curiosity coming from both professionalism and from personal fandom. Regardless, though, it does sound like we might get to learn some secret origins behind how the Peter host first came into being. And we only have about 375,000 guesses as to what that origin story might be.
Is Keeping Westworld's Secrets Hard?
While the performance aspect will always be the most challenging part of being an actor, there's something to be said about the efforts made to keep spoilers from reaching the public. Especially on a show like Westworld, where seemingly every detail reveals something major about someone. Louis Herthum found out in December of 2016 that he was being tapped to return for Season 2, which he stayed quiet about. And all in all, he apparently doesn't worry too much about that side of it. Here's his response.
Yeah. I mean, yes and no. I never had a problem keeping secrets. For example, one day when I was shooting either some of the little bits that I did later in Season 1, or even a couple of reshoots that we had to do. When you're working, you get sides, and they're in your trailer. And of course, it's like, 'Ooh, let me see what I can glean from these sides.' And it wasn't the day when Bernard found out he was a host, but I think it was during the conversation that he and Dr. Ford have later in the lab where Bernard is sitting, and [Ford] is standing, and they're talking about it. And I went, 'Oh my god, Bernard's a host!' And, of course, I sat on that for well over a year, and I didn't tell a living soul. The hardest part was just waiting to get back into it. I found out in December of '16, like I said, about being a series regular, but it wasn't announced until March of 2017. So I couldn't tell anybody about that. That was hard, because it was great news.
Because there are so many secrets brimming in Westworld, it might actually be easy to avoid spoiling them by just not talking to anyone about anything. That might complicate personal relationships, but on Westworld, all personal relationships are complicated. So it all works out, right? Well, maybe not for Peter.