Bring yourself back online, Westworld fans, because season 3 of HBO’s award-winning sci-fi drama premieres this Sunday, March 15.
It’s been almost two years since the second season of Westworld came to its conclusion, and it packed plenty of surprises into 10 episodes. Ending with a massive cliffhanger that left not just the fate of the android-populated theme park, but that of all of humanity, in question, season 2 of Westworld set the stage for an epic showdown when the series returns.
Given the long period between the end of the second season and the premiere of season 3, a refresher on where things stand — and who’s left standing — might be in order for many fans. Here’s everything you need to know heading into season 3 of Westworld.
(Note: This article contains plot details from the first two seasons, so consider this your spoiler warning.)
The story so far
Season 3 of Westworld rises from the ashes — quite literally, in some cases — of the futuristic facility where human guests were able to live out their deepest (and often darkest) fantasies in a world populated by android “hosts.” When some of the hosts evolved beyond their coding to become self-aware, it sparked an uprising that left piles of human guests’ bodies in its wake.
The first season of Westworld explored the history of the park and its parent company, Delos Inc., and chronicled the gradual self-awareness that developed in several hosts. The final spark that sets off the rebellion occurred when the host Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) murdered the park’s co-founder, Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), igniting a war that pits humans against hosts, with both species’ survival at stake.
In the second season, the war raged on both within the various parks’ borders and Delos’ facilities, as the park’s corporate owners sent waves of security personnel to end the uprising, only to be thwarted by various factions of hosts.
The season follows several hosts as they pursue particular goals, with Dolores’ faction looking for a way out of the park, and a group led by the host Maeve (Thandie Newton) searching for the childlike host who was once her daughter. Meanwhile, brilliant programmer Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) — who was revealed to be a host in season 1 — struggles to determine where his allegiances lie.
Among the major revelations in the second season of Westworld is the true mission of the park and Delos Inc.: To map the minds of the park’s human guests in order to develop a way to implant them in synthetic host bodies, thereby granting a form of immortality to those who can afford it. The season ends with Dolores — now hidden in the body of Delos executive director Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) — escaping the park and entering the outside world.
After creating a new body for Bernard, Dolores indicates that she plans to create a new world for hosts like herself, even if it means eradicating the human species.
Westworld built up a relatively large cast of memorable characters across its first two seasons, only to whittle their numbers down — often in brutal fashion — during the second season’s final episodes.
Among the most prominent survivors is Dolores, whose self-awareness leads her to incite a bloody rebellion within the Western-themed park that spills over into the surrounding theme parks and into the human-staffed facilities of Delos Inc.
Now free of the park, Dolores has set her sights on ending the subjugation of hosts — and all androids, for that matter — at any cost.
In HBO’s trailer for Westworld season 3, Dolores indicates that she is one of five hosts to survive Delos’ purge of its theme parks. Among the others is Bernard, whose efforts to save both humans and hosts prompted him to first kill Dolores, then resurrect her, in season 2.
After killing himself in the season finale, he was later resurrected by Dolores in the real world, as she believes he will play an important role in saving the hosts despite their conflicting goals.
Also surviving the fallout from the host rebellion is Maeve, the host who served as the madam of Westworld’s primary brothel before becoming self aware.
Maeve developed a powerful ability to assert control over other hosts, only to have her story seemingly end when she sacrifices herself to protect a group of hosts (including her daughter) attempting to enter the Valley Beyond, a digital sanctuary where they can live out the rest of their lives in peace.
However, the third season’s trailer confirms Maeve’s story is far from over, and she appears to be aligned against Dolores in season 3.
Westworld’s head of security, Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), revealed himself to be a host in the final moments of season 2. He allows Dolores to escape the park, and also appears in the season 3 trailer, so he clearly has a role to play in the events to come.
Also revealed to be a host in the closing moments of the second season was William (Ed Harris), the enigmatic “Man in Black” whose obsession with Westworld led him to become the majority shareholder of the park and one of its most frequent guests.
His grueling pursuit of an answer to a park-spanning puzzle eventually leads to him to discover that his consciousness is already in a host, and he’s been reliving the same, simulated adventure countless times over.
Much of the season 3 story remains a closely guarded secret, but there have been a few plot details to emerge in the lead-up to the show’s return.
Although a significant portion of the season is set in the real world, there will still be some adventures within the park’s confines. Clips from the season have revealed yet another new park, this time with a World War II theme, where some of the action unfolds.
The new season also introduces a newcomer to the cast played by Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul. His character, Caleb Nichols, is reported to be an engineer of some sort who finds his life entangled with Dolores’ mission.
Like the two seasons before it, the third season’s primary story arc has also been given a title, “The New World.”
And that’s it! That’s all you need to know before jumping back into the story of Westworld. Just make sure to mark your calendars, because season 3 of the series premieres Sunday, March 15, on HBO.
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