Everything We Know About 'Westworld' Season 3

westworld season 3
'Westworld' | John P. Johnson/HBO
'Westworld' | John P. Johnson/HBO

Has there ever been a series as bafflingly beautiful, yet maddeningly nonsensical, as Westworld? HBO's sprawling sci-fi epic, the brainchild of married creatives Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, is as big and as bold as television gets. Set in the future, it tells the story of a technologically advanced theme park populated with humanoid "hosts," aka freakishly realistic androids. The show, entering its third season, is based on the 1973 Michael Crichton film of the same name, but is very different.

Westworld is also no Jurassic Park. Instead of leaning into spectacle, it plunges inward, questioning the nature of humanity, sentience, and the fabric of reality. The hosts aren't just life-like robots, but apperceptive beings programmed by a godlike creator: Anthony Hopkins' Robert Ford, who died at the end of Season 1 after lighting the fuse for a host revolution. (Ford inventively appeared in Season 2.) That robot revolt was the main plot of Season 2, which saw Ford's favorite creation -- the demure farm girl host Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) -- awakened to her intended purpose: Leading the hosts against their prescribed roles in the Delos corporation's theme parks, including Westworld, Shogun World, and The Raj, and infiltrating the real world. Her quest was a success, and Season 2 ends with a brave new world of storytelling possibilities.

But where will it go from here? Nolan and Joy are famously tight-lipped about the plot, but they have given us some appropriately confusing teases, and there are things we can piece together based on where Season 2 left off. Let's take a look at what we know about Season 3 and where things could be headed based on all of the clues at hand.

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When will Westworld Season 3 air?

In early 2020 HBO announced Season 3 will premiere on Sunday, March 15. It may feel like awhile since new episodes of have aired... which is because it has been. The show's fond of long breaks; Season 1 premiered in October 2016 and didn’t return for Season 2 until April 2018, but based on that production schedule, it looks like it’s going to come back even bigger than before. 

HBO shared the release date news with a teaser filling fans in on some of the Westworld universe's history (or maybe our future if the showrunners know something that we don't). The clip offers a timeline outlining "divergences" that began in 2019 including the June 2019 Hong Kong protests and the impeachment of Donald Trump, followed by future assassinations, civil wars, and examples of unrest that unfolded across the globe until a “system” was initiated in 2039. It also notes that the system itself had a divergence in 2058 -- or when Dolores and the other bots left the park and emerged into the human world. As a voice over says, "We are in the middle of a war. No one knows it's happened yet or that it's already been lost," it looks like the history of humankind has been leading up to this very eerie, revolutionary moment. 

How many episodes will there be?

The Wrap reported via sources familiar with the show's production that Season 3 will be shorter than both preceding seasons, clocking in at eight episodes as opposed to 10. However, HBO hasn't yet made any formal announcement regarding the episode count.

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Which characters will come back to Westworld in Season 3? 

Here's where things get tricky. Given the jumps in time, the swapping of bodies, and the general mindfuckery that is Westworld, it's hard to ascertain who, exactly, is in or out for Season 3. We know Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton will return -- both discussed in April 28 getting equal pay for Season 3 -- and it can be assumed that Ed Harris will be back as well. (He briefly pops up in the second trailer.) Because Season 2 saw Dolores escaping the park in the host body of Charlotte Hale, we know Tessa Thompson will be around, too. The second trailer also confirms that Jeffrey Wright will return as Arnold/Bernard; he's shown sporting a bushy beard and attacking some Delos employees in the clip. Rodrigo Santoro is also returning as Hector for Season 3, and from the looks of the second trailer, so is Luke Hemsworth as Ashley Stubbs. 

But what about the characters killed off last season? Human characters like Shannon Woodward's Elsie and Katja Herbers's Emily are definitely dead, although a host version of Herbers appeared in the finale's post-credits scene, meaning the actress could stick around in some capacity. Then there's the matter of hosts, like James Marsden's Teddy, who opted for digital death last season. Will we be seeing his likes again? As Nolan told Entertainment Weekly, "It's a large ensemble cast and sadly we're saying goodbye to some people at the end of this season." It's still anybody's guess who he's talking about here, but Teddy seems to be a likely candidate for the host chopping block, especially since his story never felt as vital as characters like Dolores and Maeve. Unsurprisingly, Teddy has not appeared in any of the early trailers. 

Are there any new cast members? 

In addition to the fan favorite characters who'll be back, Westworld continues to rake in exciting additions to its already impressive cast. The earliest announcement of a new star came in September 2018 when Deadline reported Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad, The Path) will join the show. Like most of the details regarding the show, Paul has been pretty quiet about who (or what) he'll be playing, but he did tell Entertainment Tonight that his character brings "excitement, danger, suspense, [and] honesty" to the story. Since then, DigitalSpy was able to pull a little bit more information out of him. "All I can say is it's par for the course… what is so great about Westworld is it's just so inventive and different and dangerous and gory, but this doesn't shy away from that, this particular new addition," Paul said. Later during a panel at Comic-Con, he revealed his character is named Caleb, and according to a write-up on i09 he's a "construction worker with a complicated past who is just trying to survive in the world." 

Another intriguing newcomer is Emmy-winning writer Lena Waithe (Master of None, Dear White People), an addition Entertainment Weekly shared in April 2019 -- but, of course, no official word on who exactly she'll be playing. From the looks of the trailers we've seen so far, former professional football star Marshawn Lynch is also joining the cast alongside Waithe -- in the trailers, we see them accompanying Aaron Paul's character. Shortly after the announcement of Waithe’s casting, Variety shared that French actor Vincent Cassel (Eastern ProvincesBlack Swan) will also appear. We got our first glimpse of his villain character, who looks like he probably works for Delos, in the second trailer. Also making an appearance in the second trailer is Tommy Flanagan (Sons of Anarchy), and Cynthia Erivo (Widows, Harriett) briefly shows up in the third. Plus, by the looks of the teaser trailer, Scott Mescudi, the rapper/actor best known by his stage name Kid Cudi, also seems to have joined the cast.

Where will Season 3 take place? 

Dolores's escape from the park at the end of Season 2 opens up a world of possibility when it comes to settings going forward. According to Nolan and Joy, we're about to see what our hosts look like outside of the boundaries of their faux-Western home. "It's been a long build-up to get outside the park," Nolan told Entertainment Weekly. "And we're incredibly excited about what that looks like and sounds like and what exactly our hosts discover out there."

Judging from the first couple of trailers, the world outside the park is about as futuristic as you'd expect. There are lots of giant buildings, cool-looking sci-fi vehicles, and some non-human-looking mech robots. Filming has been taking place in Los Angeles, which is where at least some of the upcoming season takes place, in addition to Singapore. "There is a poetic shape to the skyline of Singapore that no other city has," co-creator Lisa Joy told Channel News Asia. "There is a beautiful curvature to it that is really unique and interesting." 

During a panel at Comic-Con, Nolan revealed that the theme for the season is "The New World." (Season 1's theme was "The Maze" and Season 2's was "The Door.") He also said that he didn't want the future of Westworld to resemble Blade Runner's beloved city designs too much, saying, "The thing about dystopias is they can look really beautiful." 

In addition to the outside world, we'll also get a look at the different parks in the Delos Destinations system. We've already seen Westworld, the Raj, and Shogun World, but we know there are at least three other parks we haven't visited. When asked by The Hollywood Reporter if we'll visit them soon, Joy responded, "Absolutely."

man in black westworld

What will Season 3 be about?

According to Nolan, Season 3 is a "radical shift" in storytelling for Westworld. "What's compelling and appealing about these characters is that they're not human," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "As we said in the show, humans are bound by the same loops the hosts are, in some ways even smaller. You couldn't expect human characters to withstand and survive the kind of story that we're telling. The hosts have a different version of mortality, a different outlook. I think clearly with Dolores, as she's laid out, there is a longer view here, a larger set of goals. They're existential. They span eons. And that's a fascinating level of story to engage in."

Joy added to Nolan's comments that Season 3 is like "repiloting," meaning the show will almost start from scratch. With that in mind, we can expect the look and feel of Westworld to be very different going forward.

OK, but what will the plot actually be about?

We know that Dolores has entered the real world in the host body of Charlotte, but also re-created a copy of her original, Evan Rachel Wood form. Does this mean Dolores now exists in two bodies? "Ehhh, not really," Nolan told EW. "The question of who's who and what we're looking at is something we're excited to play with." We do know that whatever form she's in, she's at odds with Bernard, who's also out of the park at season's end. Where we find them and what their story looks like going forward is still a mystery, and one the showrunners aren't spilling just yet. But Joy did tease that Dolores has "come to understand that true freedom isn't something that arises from a lack of dissent, from a dictatorial or totalitarian rule of one set of ideologies. It's something that has to happen with a plurality of ideas, sometimes coming into conflict. Because she's learned her lesson, she's bringing Bernard back into this world to be a check on her own power, in some ways."

As for Charlotte, we can expect a big Season 3 for Tessa Thompson. "Tessa is such a fun, amazing and versatile actress," Joy told THR. "When you have someone like her, it just opens up limitless possibilities. So we always knew that we were going to do this reveal and let her expand into this new role. We have a very diabolical arc for her planned out. Part of the fun for the character will be self-realization. She will be realizing the things we know about who she is."

We also know that at some point in the future, the Man in Black becomes a host, or rather a human copy, like his father-in-law, James Delos. The purpose of that post-credits scene, where host-William is given a fidelity test by his daughter Emily -- also, presumably, in host form -- remains unclear, though Joy commented that is has to do with the cyclical nature of William's story. "He realizes that he's been living this loop again and again and again," she told THR. "The primal loop that we've seen this season, they've been repeating, testing every time for what they call 'fidelity,' or perhaps a deviation. You get the sense that the testing will continue."

What exactly that looks like and how it fits into Westworld's new conceit remains to be seen, but the show's attempt at new heights was a part of its genesis from day one. And, according to Nolan and Joy, they know where this story is headed, which should inspire some confidence in the audience. We can't wait to see what they have in store for us, and what layered observations about the human condition they might procure once Season 3 hits HBO.

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Is there a trailer for Westworld Season 3? 

Yes, there are three, and each offers its own form of intel as to what we can expect. To get HBO viewers to hold onto their subscriptions as their other big-budget series Game of Thrones came to an end in late May, the network dropped the first trailer for what they’ve dubbed Westworld III ahead of GoT’s Season 8 finale. The teaser primarily introduces series newcomer Aaron Paul, who appears to be a disillusioned, probably human man in the show's high-tech future (robots and flying cars galore!). His voiceover laments the horrors of modernity, saying things like, "They said they would make a better world, smooth away the rough edges, but that was a lie," and eventually, "I think if I’m going to get on with my life, I’m going to have to find something, someone real," just as he comes into contact with a very creepy, potentially wounded, probably angry Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood). Real is right! 

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What was in the San Diego Comic-Con trailer for Westworld Season 3?

During San Diego Comic-Con, HBO released the first full trailer for Season 3, and it included a wealth of eye-popping images and brain-scrambling clues. Where the first teaser mostly emphasized Aaron Paul's new character, suggesting the show was going down a new narrative path, the new clip moved the focus back on the (still living) characters and actors we've gotten to know from the previous two seasons. Freed from the confines of the park, Dolores moves about in the "real" world with a sense of purpose and drive, saying in voiceover that "we've got to be smarter than them." Tessa Thompson also pops up multiple times as Charlotte Hale -- or, we should specify, a host who looks a lot like Charlotte Hale. The trailer also gave us our first glimpse of Thandie Newton's Maeve in what's being called "WarWorld," a region of the park that appears to be devoted to recreating a Nazi-filled World War II city. There's a lot of futuristic gun-pointing, a healthy dose of robot-running, and some angry shoving. Exciting!

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HBO dropped the third trailer on February 20, a little less than a month out from the Season 3 premiere date, and it's the most revealing by far. The preview finally catches us up with Dolores who poignantly declares, "I was born into this world, and my first memories of it are pain. For my kind, there was one place we were never allowed to go, one place we were never allowed to see: your world." Basically, the AIs are PO-ed! The clip reveals Dolores is teaming up with Aaron Paul's character Caleb who apparently has also lived a confined life and has been under surveillance by someone "who took his future," and that's who Dolores is plotting they go after. (The Man in Black perhaps? Someone else?) Meanwhile, unbeknownst to her, it looks like Vincent Cassell's character is sending Maeve out to hunt down Dolores. There's a lot of car chases and buildings blowing up and guns and it's all accompanied by a piano cover of Guns N' Roses’ "Sweet Child of Mine," so it looks like we're about to get the most dramatic season yet. Oh, oh, oh, Westworld

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