After nearly two years of waiting, Westworld is back with a whole new look. There are some familiar faces, but a lot more new ones, as the third season of Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s HBO series seems intent on rebooting itself from the jump, shifting its focus to the human world, well beyond the parks and the narratives built by the omniscient Robert Ford.
Dolores is back in her own body after escaping Westworld in the Season 2 finale, Bernard is hiding out somewhere in the Philippines, and the host pretending to be Charlotte is running Delos Incorporated. Even Maeve, in a sneaky post-credits scene, is alive again, seemingly reborn in a newly introduced park resembling a Nazi-occupied Italy around the time of World War II (Delos may have some suspect taste in entertainment, but I, for one, am excited to watch Maeve claim some Nazi scalps). And now, Jesse Pinkman, Lena Waithe, Marshawn Lynch, and Kid Cudi are all along for the ride too.
Every week, we’ll break down key characters and major developments unfolding in each episode, as well as look at some of the impressive technology seen in the human world of this not-too-distant future. Undoubtedly, this season will lead to some head-scratching moments that hopefully won’t force me to break out a bulletin board to string everything together, but along with our weekly Recappables podcast and Danny Heifetz’s midweek post on theories, The Ringer will be there to help guide you through the maze that is Westworld.
This Week’s Key Characters
The first we see of Dolores Abernathy—the host who, several lifetimes ago, never strayed far from the ranch—she’s skinny-dipping in a luxurious pool in Beihai, China. Within the opening moments of the season premiere, Westworld has stepped further outside the parks than it’s ever been. Dolores is still hell-bent on avenging her species, with her plans for taking down Delos Inc. (and probably all of human society too) beginning to take shape.
The pool she’s swimming in belongs to a Delos investor who used to work at Incite, another powerful company with interests in artificial intelligence. After hijacking his house’s control system overnight (and taking a little dip in a pool for the first time ever, apparently), Dolores intimidates the guy into giving her money and some “confidential files” he had taken with him when he left Incite; these are tools she’ll need to rebuild her kind.
The next time we see Dolores, she’s already cruising around in driverless cars and wearing shape-shifting dresses in London. By now, she’s already met Liam Dempsey Jr., a prominent technologist and son of an Incite cofounder, and has seduced her way to quickly earning his trust. (I guess they had a meet-cute in Burma?) Liam, who kind of looks like Kyle from Saturday Night Live but is really Jim from The Newsroom, doesn’t seem to be all that smart for someone who was just awarded Technologist of the Year. He’s totally oblivious to Dolores’s keen interest in him (classic rich guy behavior) and is not suspicious at all that she keeps asking about Incite’s inside information, including the company’s all-powerful system called … Rehoboam, I think? (It’s very unclear; here at The Ringer, we haven’t figured it out yet). Anyway, Liam himself doesn’t even know what the system does exactly.
“I go to the office, I spend the money; I’m a fucking figurehead,” Liam tells Dolores late in the episode, long after they’ve flown to Los Angeles together. “No one knows what the system is doing—other than its original architect.” Liam’s lack of power is thanks to his father’s partner, who locked Liam out of it when his father died. The dead-partner dynamic brings Ford and Arnold’s relationship from Season 1 to mind, though this time, the unknown half of the founding duo is the one who’s still alive and pulling the strings.
Incite controls all the technology in Los Angeles, most notably the city’s traffic—it makes sense that desperate measures were needed to fix that issue—and the company’s power all seems to stem from a mysterious control system. Described as a “strategy engine,” the massive ominous orb—which immediately made me think of the evil supercomputer V.I.K.I. from 2004’s I, Robot—will likely play a major role this season, as it becomes either Dolores’s weapon against humanity, or the latter’s last defense against the host uprising.
Dolores’s plan to extract information from the unsuspecting Liam is cut short by his head of security, Martin, who puts a damper on their evening when he shows up and Tasers Dolores in the neck. (In the role of Martin is Tommy Flanagan, who played Chibs in Sons of Anarchy. This episode is a great one for That Guys—early on, Rez from A Star Is Born also makes an appearance as an extremely stoned rich dude.) Martin reveals that Dolores has been conning him, and has assumed the identity of a dead teenager from Kiev. After being sedated, Dolores is brought to a discreet location where she had been intending to lure Liam, where she breaks free and kills everybody on sight save for Martin, who briefly escapes. Dolores quickly tracks him down and squeezes out the name of the head of Incite, Serac, before giving him a final message. “You were free, you had no God. But you tried to build one—only that thing you built isn’t God,” Dolores says. “The real gods are coming, and they’re very angry.”
Dolores then unveils a cloned copy of Martin, which saunters over to the original and shoots him in the head—the same trick Dolores pulled off with Charlotte Hale in one of Season 2’s biggest twists. With tricks new and old at her disposal, Dolores is back and scarier than ever. Seriously—murdering someone with their own clone is really messed up.
Caleb (Aaron Paul) is our first real look at a human being in Westworld who’s not confined to the parks. He’s a construction worker for Delos Inc., but his job doesn’t pay well enough to help him cover his sick mother’s hospital bills, and he keeps falling short in interviews for new jobs. So he turns to an app called Rico, which connects him with the likes of Lena Waithe and Marshawn Lynch (!!!) to commit quick crimes for cash.
Much of our introduction to Caleb happens through conversations with Francis (Kid Cudi), whom Caleb fought beside in the Army. It’s slowly revealed, however, that Francis died and is now nothing more than artificial intelligence himself, a familiar character in Caleb’s life used to anchor him as part of a therapy program for veterans. In a world where Caleb is surrounded by robots at work or even in therapy—you know times are tough when even Kid Cudi isn’t real—he’s longing to find something, and someone, real.
As the episode comes to a close, Caleb finds a wounded Dolores near MacArthur Park, right after her shootout with the Incite security team. She falls into his arms just like she did the young Man in Black back in Westworld many years ago. This is likely a tough beat for Caleb—you probably don’t wanna hook up with the robot who hates humans more than ANY OTHER ROBOT—but since it’s clear that he has his own frustrations with human society, the two seem primed to take on the corrupt elite together.
Bernard is far off the beaten path, hiding somewhere in the Philippines and living as a worker at a meat-packing plant under the name Armand Delgado. As revealed in a brief scene with Charlotte (or whichever host is pretending to be her) and the Delos board, Bernard is being blamed for all the murders committed at Westworld. Despite being killed by Dolores, only to be re-created by her at Arnold’s home in the human world in the Season 2 finale, Bernard now finds himself far away from Dolores and the happenings in Los Angeles.
As always, poor Bernard is questioning his existence, though he’s now literally doing so by running diagnostics on himself with a remote that switches him from being Armand to being Bernard’s scary-swole new persona. He uses the remote to bulk himself up when he has to defend himself against two coworkers who discover he’s a wanted man, quickly brutalizing them before setting out to find Westworld.
Just like us, Bernard is out to fill in the missing pieces of the timeline. He’s searching for a “friend” at Westworld, and likely answers about who he is and what happened to him. Of course, it’s unclear when exactly Bernard is. But if we knew the answer to that then this wouldn’t be Westworld!
How Does It Work? A Running Series.
When all else fails for Caleb, he turns to the aptly named app Rico, which has an extremely aggressive interface and opens with the greeting “Make money motherfuckers!” It’s essentially Taskrabbit, except with less of a “paint your room” vibe and more of a “smash and grab” vibe:
It provides options like “wetworks,” “grand theft auto,” “creative accounting,” “babysitting” (huh??), and “redistributive justice,” with accompanying information on each crime’s monetary award and proximity. Even the prompt to agree to a crime is wildly aggressive:
(My editor would like to point out that Rico’s tactics are similar to the ones used by Us Weekly when they’re trying to get you to sign up for their newsletter.)
But the app proves to be effective, as it not only helps Caleb make quick cash, but also connects him to new friends to commit crimes with (a handy networking tool like LinkedIn, but for crime!). And though unintentional, the app also leads Caleb to Dolores. Maybe she can help get that weak Rico rating of his up to five stars too.
There were several other intriguing technological achievements I could have selected here: driverless cars, those implants everyone seems to like, Dolores’s telescopic sunglasses, Dolores’s bad-memory-inducing glasses (?), or that little remote that Ash (Lena Waithe) uses to throw off tracking systems and blast music in people’s ears against their will (similar to what U2 did with Songs of Innocence back in 2014). But the easy choice is Marshawn Lynch’s mood shirt.
When Ash and Marshawn first meet up with Caleb, Ash and Caleb strike up some small talk as Marshawn sits quietly, tilting his head back with a huge grin stretched across his face. “You OK?” Caleb asks.
”He’s just dripping,” Ash says for him. And while dripping is a thing in the fashion world of 2020, in this case it appears to mean “on some sort of drugs”—as Marshawn Lynch seems super high.
The technologically advanced yet subtle black shirt essentially spells out a series of emotions, sprawled out in crossword style: amused, scared, angry, bored, excited, anxious, sad, and sexy (I guess that’s an emotion?). But the stunning aspect of this article of clothing is that the word that’s lit up reflects how Marshawn is feeling at that moment; in other words, Marshawn’s shirt is literally a mood. (He’s “amused” 90 percent of the time apparently.)
There’s that dull feeling you get just before blowing up a futuristic ATM:
And then that feeling you get the moment right after blowing up a futuristic ATM:
Or, of course, that feeling when you get punched in the face at the club:
This shirt probably says more than Marshawn does during the entire season premiere, but then again, it’s not like he’s saying any less than he does to the media in real life. Here’s hoping that we’ll see plenty more of Beast Mode—and his many emotions—in the episodes to come.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.