Emmy and Tony winner Jeffrey Wright is looking to add another trophy to his mantel, courtesy of his layered performance as Bernard in HBO’s “Westworld.” He portrays the Head of Programming for the Westworld theme park, who discovers his whole life is a lie. He is actually one of the robot “hosts” designed to carry out his creator’s wishes. He is banking on the season’s penultimate episode, “The Well-Tempered Clavier” to net him a win in the Best Drama Supporting Actor category.
In the episode, Bernard questions Maeve (Thandie Newton) regarding her attack on Clementine from last episode. But Maeve realizes that Bernard is also a host, commanding him to “freeze all motor functions” before demanding re-entry to the park. Being outed as a robot leaves Bernard shaken, and he breaks into Ford’s (Anthony Hopkins) office to take a look at his core code.
Bernard later lures Ford to the cold storage facility and has Clementine hold the mad scientist at gunpoint. Ford is forced to send Bernard on a trip through all his past memories, where Bernard sees flashes of his dying son and murdered lover Theresa (Sidse Babett Knudsen). Knowing that Ford’s business partner Arnold built parts of him thanks to the office break in, Bernard demands to know the whole truth of his creation. “I told you, Arnold didn’t build you, I did,” says Ford, before sending Bernard back to his first memory. He is in a hospital and his son Charlie is about to die. Knowing the painful memory is what holds him back from discovering the truth, he hugs his son and tearfully says “you’re a lie.”
Finally he is able to travel to the first moment of his existence, where Ford is modeling his behavior on an actual person. Bernard demands to know who is he and Ford shows him a picture of the two of of them, looking much younger. “Oh my God,” mutters Bernard, realizing the truth: “I’m Arnold.” Can Wright win an Emmy for “The Well-Tempered Clavier”? See our pros and cons:
The episode serves as an origin story for Bernard which makes him feel central among the vast ensemble. As such, Wright has the chance to cycle through a wide variety of emotions, from rage to heartbreak.
Wright was directly involved with some of the biggest mysteries of the show. This episode’s Arnold moment, as well as the reveal of Bernard’s robotic identity and his murder of Theresa, were major watercooler moments that will keep Wright in Academy member’s minds.
Wright is a known Emmy quantity having previously won for his performance in “Angels in America.” Emmy voters frequently reward actors they already love with multiple wins.
SEE 2017 Emmy nominations list: All the nominees
Wright has pivotal scenes at the beginning and end of the episode but disappears for a huge section in the middle. Lack of screen time could hurt him.
Wright is admired and revered for his subtle and nuanced performances. But when it comes time to choose a winner, nuance often loses out to “bigger” scene chewing work. That’s something frontrunner John Lithgow (“The Crown”) has in spades.
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