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Does Dolores Actually Want to Save Humanity From Serac?

Who is the real villain of the third season of ‘Westworld’? It’s time to address that question (and several more).

HBO/Ringer illustration

“You’ve always been of two minds, haven’t you Bernard?” Martin Connells, who is actually Dolores, says halfway through “Genre,” the latest episode of Westworld. As if Connells’s question wasn’t pointed enough, the characters’ reflections fill the screen while Connells’s words hang in the air.

All screenshots via HBO

“It isn’t that binary,” Bernard responds.

He and Connells might as well be talking about Westworld’s third season. One part of this season has been about simplifying the plot. After a near-two-year layoff from the complex and much-criticized second season, the third season has drastically reduced the amount of characters to keep track of, even revealing that four of the characters are actually all Dolores. But the other part of Westworld is about the potential that the entire season may be a simulation. The ever-increasing possibility that much, if not all, of what we’ve been seeing is inside an endless loop of artificial realities, with potentially infinite iterations of the same people, is one of the harder things any show could ask its viewers to wrap their minds around. So is the third season simplifying the plot or making it more complex? Which of the two minds is in control? As Bernard says, it isn’t that binary.

The key is revealing the right information at the right time (according to Martin), but the show doesn’t always have Dolores’s sense of timing. So to help sift through the vast amount of information Westworld drops on us every week, The Ringer will be answering reader questions in this space for the second half of this season. (You can send your emails to Two minds may not be enough, but perhaps if we all put our heads together we can figure out what the heck is going on.

Sam: I don’t understand Dolores’s progression from revolting against Delos to her main dispute being with this tech company. Why is her entire mission centered on destroying Incite?

Dolores’s mission involves all of humankind, and the tech company Incite is merely the corporation controlling humanity. In “Genre,” Dolores decries what Incite has done to people.

“We’re going to open their cages,” Dolores says to Liam Dempsey Jr. on the subway (which is a train heading west). “The system has written their life story, they should get to read it. … It’s their fate, their data. You just stole it and put it all together. Why should you control it?”

Dolores seems to be fighting against the institutions controlling human society, which would imply she believes there is some inherent human dignity that is being stifled, that is worth saving. But does that sound like the Dolores we know? Dolores has been traumatized by human beings for most of her life, so it is odd that she is suddenly obsessed with restoring human free will. We’ve heard Dolores say over and over again that she wants to raze the human world, so why does she suddenly care about giving users their data back like she’s part of the #YangGang?

The answer might be that Dolores wants to free humankind so that it simply stumbles off of a cliff. In the Season 2 finale, Dolores tells William, “Your species craves death.” In the Season 3 premiere, we heard Dolores (as Charlotte) say that “robots don’t kill people, people kill people.” In the fourth episode of this season, we heard Charlores promise that she’d let William destroy himself. Dolores may be donning freedom fighter cosplay, but let’s not forget that in Season 2 the Native American hosts called her “the deathbringer.” That’s a harder nickname to shake than Snot Boogie. Dolores may still want death for humankind, and freeing them—by destroying Incite—is merely a key step.

Dolores’s dim view of people isn’t that different from Serac’s. In the fourth episode, Serac tells Maeve that humanity’s biggest threat has always been itself. The two seem to agree that humanity’s freedom will lead to its own destruction—they just disagree on whether they want that destruction to occur. If Rehoboam is the cage around humankind—not only trapping them, but keeping them safe—Dolores is happy to open the door.

The big wrench in this plan is what will happen when Caleb realizes Dolores wants humans to descend into chaos and die off. What choice will Caleb make when he regains a shred of agency? And is there any chance that Caleb can change her view of humankind?

Melissa: In the conversation between Serac and Liam Dempsey Sr., Serac said they send outliers to high-risk scenarios like war. Does this mean that Caleb was identified as an outlier, was sent to war, and was then experimented on?

This is increasingly the most likely explanation for why Caleb is such a goddamn weirdo. Early this season, we learned that Caleb was in the army with his friend Francis, played by Kid Cudi, and that Caleb was unable to save Francis from being shot and killed. But Caleb’s flashbacks are increasingly indicating that this story is somewhere between a half-truth and a full lie. Was he in the army, or was he a criminal? Did he really survive getting shot in the head? Was he actually the one who killed Francis? Was his mom right when she said (twice!) that Caleb wasn’t her son?

And those are all questions that lingered before this episode, which only raises more doubt. “You think I killed your friend?” Liam asks Caleb, with the heavy implication that Caleb might have done it himself. Liam’s final words to Caleb, meanwhile, are, “You did it, you did it.” Subtle.

Before Liam died, Caleb had another series of flashbacks further suggesting that his identity is muddled. Consider that those flashbacks starred Enrico Colantoni, who is famous enough to suggest that the scene must be consequential, and that we haven’t seen the last of it. Oh, and also don’t forget this image from the flashbacks:

Nothing to see here!

Serac explains that the reason he and Rehoboam have sent outliers to war—or even just straight-up locked them away in a remote facility, like Serac’s brother—is because the AI can predict the behavior of 99.5 percent of humanity. And instead of trying to increase that percentage, or merely allow for discrepancies, it was easier to remove the remaining 0.5 percent from the population. Further, if everyone who Rehoboam can’t predict is in one place, the most logical thing to do (if you’re an obsessed trillionaire) is put them through simulations to enlarge the dataset and improve the predictions. That could mean that the outliers are being run through scores of simulations (which, as a reminder, run at a faster pace than regular time). Anyone who has been in this facility may have been put into a simulation just like Maeve was in this season’s second episode—and it’s likely Caleb was among these outliers. So is it possible that some of what we’re seeing with Caleb is a simulation?

Whatever Caleb’s deal is, we’ve gone beyond doubting his flashbacks and might have to start doubting his reality. In this latest episode, the basics of his appearance by the pier make no sense, including how close he and Liam are when they’re walking to the water versus when Liam is shot and waves are crashing over them. But the most notable part of this scene is when Liam gets shot by Lena Waithe’s character. As she is standing on Liam’s left side, he is shot on the right side of his chest. The bullet enters underneath the “B” in “BASIC” ...

… an angle which makes no sense based on where she is standing:

Continuity errors—ones that are so blatant that I pray they mean something and aren’t just production mistakes—have already led us to question whether this season is partially taking place within a simulation. This feels like yet another instance. And if Caleb is indeed in a simulation, Dolores’s plan is likely similar to Maeve’s: crash the simulation by overloading it just like Maeve did to War World earlier this season.

Stefanie: Any thoughts on the blood prick Charlores did to William before he was carted off to the mental institution?

We might not have to wait long for this answer. We know William went to the Inner Journey Recovery Center, and in this episode, Connells hands BernArnold a tablet and tells him to head to … the Inner Journey Recovery Center. But Connells doesn’t tell BernArnold to go find William. He tells him that this is the location where Serac keeps the outliers. So Charlores seems to have sent William to Serac’s outlier facility. And if we look at the “Next week on Westworld” segment, what do we see?

William, in what looks like the same facility Caleb is in during his flashbacks, wearing the same weird goggles we’ve seen Caleb wear, being forced to take a pill. Serac has a building full of outliers, William is there, Bernard and Stubbs are probably headed there, and Caleb has likely spent some time there. If Dolores needed William’s blood for something, it’s probably related to whatever experiments happen at this place, and those experiments are possibly simulations that not only distort reality, but also time. But we’ll have to wait until Sunday before diving any deeper.

Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.