What You Need to Remember About 'Westworld' Before the Season 3 Premiere
Who's alive, who's dead, who's a host? Here are the plot points you might have forgotten.
It's been about two years since the second season of Westworld, which was inspired by Michael Crichton's 1973 film, aired on HBO. Now that Season 3, starring Aaron Paul as a mysterious new character, is right around the corner, scrutiny has once again returned to the high-concept series.
The program, co-created by married couple Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, is a reboot (and kind of a sequel) to Crichton's screenplay, which posits the notion of a future where the elite can blow loads of cash, and blow off loads of steam, at an amusement park filled with robot cowboys and prostitutes who are designed to service all sorts of desires. As one would expect, chaos eventually ensued.
As the story began, a glitch appeared in the hosts' software, leading to the sentience of a few robot characters. This set off a chain of events that led to a reckoning in Season 1 and an all-out bloodbath in Season 2. Inserted into the various plot lines were concepts of free will and morality. Did these robots have a right to life? And, if they look real, but aren't actually living, does that make it morally acceptable for the park's guests to inflict all types of torture and murder upon them? As the series aptly quoted William Shakespeare in its first season: "These violent delights have violent ends."
Honestly, things can get a bit confusing when talking about Westworld. The mystery box series sort of evolved into episodic homework leading many to ask, what the heck happened in Westworld? That's where we come in. Thrillist is here to revisit the program's most noteworthy events (just the broad strokes, you guys) to get us all caught up and ready to head back to the park for Season 3 of HBO's sci-fi hit.
Awooga, Westworld spoilers ahead! Proceed at your own risk.
Dolores wakes up, everybody dies.
At its core, Westworld is the story of innocent farm girl, Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood). The duration of the first season finds the unassuming host struggling with visions and flashbacks of her previous lives in the park, while not fully understanding the grander scheme of things. Her quest for answers sends her on a journey to a small town, with a small church, called Escalante.
Her memory fragments lead Dolores to finally, completely wake up. In the Season 1 finale, she comes to understand why she keeps dreaming of this place: three years prior, she caused a massacre there. It turns out that theme park co-creator, and Dr. Robert Ford's (Anthony Hopkins) partner, Arnold Weber (Jeffrey Wright) discovered early on that Westworld's robots were prone to sentience. Concerned of how they'd interact with the human guests, Arnold gave Dolores a villainous failsafe persona named Wyatt who was coded to destroy everything if things went south. And things totally went south.
History repeated itself in Westworld, though. Even after he warned Ford, the park creator continued playing god and brought Dolores back. Here she was, back in Escalante. This time, though, she was fully conscious and independent from the algorithmic shackles that previously bound her. So, she shot Ford right in the head, which kicked on his secret plan: to spark a robot uprising and take down Delos -- the corporation behind the high-tech theme park.
Bernard discovers he's more human than human.
From the get-go, Bernard Lowe was different. As the head programmer in the park, Bernard assisted Dr. Ford in the creation of the hosts, and he was also a close friend and confidant. It wasn't until halfway through the first season that one of the biggest reveals transpired, leading to the collective realization that Bernard was a host himself.
Following the death of Arnold, Ford's former partner, Bernard was created in his likeness. As it turns out, the name "Bernard Lowe" is actually an anagram of Arnold Weber. After Bernard is forced to commit murder, an uncharacteristically violent act that he had no control over, he discovered his truth and eventually confronts Ford. Feeling betrayed, Bernard sided with Dolores and helped release the park's host from Ford's control. However, his quest for the truth has led to an ongoing identity crisis that's left the host mentally conflicted, and a shell of his former self.
The Man in Black is William.
The introduction to William (Jimmi Simpson) and his friend and future brother-in-law Logan Delos (Ben Barnes) in Westworld's series premiere acted as our human entry point into the story. This is where we are given the rules of the park through black hat or white hat morality play that offers a guest the choice of experiencing a heroic adventure or a villainous escapade.
During his white hat adventure, William eventually met Dolores and a romance quickly blossomed. The deeper she got on her mission of self-discovery, the deeper William fell. In a key scene, Logan reminds William that he's engaged to be married to a real human woman, and not this robot lady -- who he happily dissects in front of William, to get his point across. This triggers a darkness in him, leading the inevitable conclusion that young William grows up into the sinister gunslinger, known simply as the Man in Black (Ed Harris).
Westworld played with timelines again, here. For the duration of the season, we watched as the Man in Black murder his way through the robot cowboys as he searched the park for a mythical maze. Alas, it turned out that this maze wasn't a physical space, at all, but the embodiment of a theory that was first posited by Arnold that each of the park's hosts were unable to achieve complete consciousness while sticking to a linear path.
Maeve goes from saloon Madame to vengeful mother.
Another key host in the Westworld narrative is Maeve (Thandie Newton). We're first introduced to the Madame of Sweetwater as she wrangled her girls to service the various guests that walked into her establishment. But she, too, experiences a wake-up call and begins to remember snippets of an earlier narrative.
She wasn't always a brothel owner, it seems. In an earlier storyline, her host body existed in a narrative that found her living a simple life in the countryside with her daughter. In this recurring nightmare, Maeve relived watching the murder of her child at the hand of the Man in Black. The depression this caused in Maeve inspired Ford to reprogram her for a completely different role in the park.
Some things run deeper than computer code, though, and her memories persisted. These mental clips led Maeve to discover a bigger world outside of Sweetwater. When a host is killed, Delos techs arrive to usher the bodies to a lab where the damaged robot is fixed and revived, only to be thrown back into the park. During one of her many deaths, Maeve discovered this new reality, only to coerce Felix (Leonardo Lam), one of the techs in question, to assist her on her quest for power.
The result was a super-intelligent Maeve who could control the minds of the other hosts in the park. With these new abilities at her disposal and a clear path that'd allow her to escape the confines of Westworld, Maeve decides to stay behind and continue her search for her long lost daughter.
Goodbye Dolores, hello Wyatt.
Dolores continued her journey of destruction in Season 2 as Wyatt completely took over. With Bernard and her trusty boyfriend, Teddy (James Marsden) -- who eventually fought back against his programming and shot himself in the head -- by her side, she led a robot army to the Valley Beyond, which is basically heaven for hosts; a place where robot consciousnesses could frolic together in freedom.
Once she arrived there, Dolores pillaged "The Forge," the park's supercomputer, which housed an epic amount of data that was secretly stolen from every guest who entered the park. What was Delos going to do with this data? The plan, as it was discovered, was to create hosts that'd look like, and think like, each and every human guest.
Dolores destroyed the Forge, but not before taking a handful of data pearls for her own interest. Her reign of terror caused a flood that killed a bunch of hosts, leaving an evac team to come in and clean up the mess. In the process, she killed interim Delos boss, Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson), uploaded her consciousness into a host that looked exactly like Charlotte, and walked right out of the park.
The last steps in her escape mission found Dolores/Charlotte stealing a host-making machine where she created another Dolores and a brand new Bernard -- as Lowe died in the attack -- and re-uploaded her own consciousness into her new body, leaving the Charlotte robot to head back to work.
Bernard's losing his robot mind.
After realizing he's really a host, Bernard continued to unravel throughout Season 2. It got so bad that he began having regular visions of Dr. Ford. Was he losing it? Kind of. There were inaccuracies in his code, sure. And there was the fear that Ford implanted his consciousness in Bernard to persevere. But that wasn't the case at all.
Ford's interaction with Bernard coincided with his ongoing bouts of conscience. He may have pledged allegiance to Dolores and was complicit in waking all the hosts up, but the result was a whole load of destruction he wasn't able to deal with. The appearance of Ford ended up being the visual embodiment of Bernard's own struggle -- with identity, with his code, and his enduring empathy towards humans.
He's now out of the park going into Season 3. But something tells us that, as much as he's driven to kindness and understanding, his programming will draw him back to the place he was born.
Maeve becomes good at everything.
Maeve continued her journey to superhero in Season 2 as her code continued getting upgrade after upgrade with the help of the Delos techs. After mastering the software, Maeve's mind control abilities hit a new level as she was now able to guide hosts wherever she wanted. So, she freed herself from the underground lab where all the dead robots go, and enlisted Hector's (Rodrigo Santoro) gang and Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman), Westworld's Head of Narrative, and headed back into the park to continue looking for her daughter.
Throughout her adventure, we watched as Maeve battled a whole assortment of threats, including her trip into Samurai World. As hopeful as her story arc became, Maeve's journey ended in tragedy. As Dolores and Bernard got to the Valley Beyond, Maeve was stuck in the middle of a battle between the Ghost Nation (the Native American hosts) and the Delos security team. While she does set eyes on her daughter, walking with sentient Ghost Nation member Akecheta (Zahn McLarnon), she gets gunned down and fails to reunite with the girl.
The Man in Black is also losing it.
So, William was pretty cool, but the Man in Black isn't a good guy, at all. After his first adventure in the park, he marries Logan's sister, therefore making him a member of the Delos family. As we watched Logan struggle with drug addiction, eventually dying of an overdose, Season 2 shows that William basically seizes the power that Logan squandered. He becomes a key investor in Delos, and returns to the park often.
Going black hat and pursuing every sort of violent delight eventually spilled into his real life and when his wife discovered just how much of a monster William is, she killed herself. This further sent William down the proverbial spiral, fracturing any relationship he had with his daughter. When he went back to Westworld, with the goal of destroying the whole park, he is visited by his daughter. She tried to reconnect with him, but the Man in Black was too swallowed up in the game of the park and killed her, believing she was a host put there to screw with him.
Things get a bit confusing from there. William tries to kill Dolores and fails. He does get to the Forge, but we're not exactly sure what happens after that. He was apparently rescued by the Delos guards during Dolores's big escape, but the details behind this part of the story were omitted from the series. What makes matters worse is the post-credits scene that follows the Season 2 finale, which shows William, in the far-off future, hanging out with his daughter and being tested for "fidelity," insinuating that in this stage of his life that he's a host.
As Westworld plunges further into the real world in Season 3, we'll have to see how all of these open questions from two seasons of in-park drama play out.
Need help finding something to watch? Sign up here for our weekly Streamail newsletter to get streaming recommendations delivered straight to your inbox.