There are no dumb Westworld questions. The show is rewarding to watch but hard to understand, and even the most basic questions about it sound silly when you say them out loud.
“Was Bernard a robot the whole time?” (Yes.)
“Was Dolores’s consciousness in a copy of Charlotte’s body during Season 2?” (Yes.)
“So Arnold built Dolores, and then Dolores killed Arnold, and then Dolores helped build a replica of Arnold named Bernard, and then Bernard killed Dolores, but then rebuilt Dolores, and then Dolores killed Bernard and rebuilt him and they are now hanging out in Arnold’s house?” (Yes.)
This show demands a lot from its viewers, and it doesn’t help that the series takes long breaks in between seasons. Westworld premiered in October 2016. The second season did not air until 18 months later, in April 2018, when LeBron James was still on the Cleveland Cavaliers. The third season is returning after an even longer layoff: one year and eight months—630 days—since Season 2 ended. There are Westworld fans who have had multiple children since the show was last on.
This sort of thing breeds questions, including ones that sound stupid but are on the minds of many viewers. So whether you have seen every episode of Westworld but are two years removed from it, enjoyed Season 1 but tapped out during Season 2, or just never got to the show because there are more TV shows than one human can possibly watch, just remember that if you have a question about the show you are not alone. Here are some frequently asked questions about Westworld ahead of Sunday’s Season 3 premiere—again, none of them are dumb.
What is the show about?
Westworld is an amusement park that is essentially an open-world video game like Red Dead Redemption, but in real life. The “guests” are rich people who pay money to vacation in that world. The “hosts” are the robots who are nearly indistinguishable from people and exist to be murdered and tormented by guests. Eventually the robots realize what is going on, decide it sucks, and rebel.
At the same time, Westworld is a show about Delos, the company that founded the theme park as a means to collect data, and, eventually, to find a path to eternal life. What better way to get at the desires of the über-rich—and, you know, gather blackmail material—than by having robots that are seemingly there for the users’ twisted enjoyment recording their every move? What better way to exist forever than by uploading your consciousness into a body that is just like yours in seemingly every way?
In truth, however, the show is a creation myth for a new race of artificial intelligence—and a parable for this new race’s makers. Seasons 1 and 2 are the Book of Genesis for these newly sentient beings. The Bible starts with, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The Westworld bible would start with, “In the beginning, a billionaire family invested in an artificial intelligence project aimed at collecting data on the 1 percent.” Season 1 has big Garden of Eden vibes. Season 2 is like M. Night Shyamalan’s take on Noah’s Ark. Season 3 may skip straight forward to Revelations, with the humans who played god meeting the apocalypse.
When does the show take place?
How futuristic is this future?
Enough that the cars look like they were designed by Elon Musk.
Who are the people I need to know for Season 3 and where did we last see them at the end of season 2?
Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood)
The rancher’s-daughter-slash-damsel-in-distress-slash-murderous-gang-leader who is the star of the show. Dolores is the oldest host, was the first to achieve consciousness, and is hell-bent on razing human cities to the ground. She wants to wage a war on humankind, and that is a decision she came to on her own, not some pre-programmed code she is following. We last saw her in Arnold’s old house in the human world.
Arnold (Jeffrey Wright)
Mysterious codesigner of the hosts who died three decades before the events of Season 1. He treated Dolores like a daughter, and when Arnold realized the hosts could achieve consciousness, he programmed Dolores to kill him. Arnold hoped his death would prevent the park from opening, but his partner, Dr. Robert Ford, opened the park anyway. Arnold is dead, but as of the end of Season 2, Dolores is at Arnold’s abandoned house.
Bernard (also Jeffrey Wright)
A host designed by Ford and trained by Dolores to be a near-exact replica of Arnold. Bernard helped Ford create many of the hosts in Westworld. Dolores shot and killed Bernard at the end of Season 2, but smuggled his hard drive out of the park with her, rebuilt his body in Arnold’s house, and then trained him until he was similar to the old version of himself.
Maeve (Thandie Newton)
A madam at the local brothel who was a homesteader in a (literal) past life. Maeve spent most of Season 2 looking for her daughter from that past life. She died at the end of the season while bringing her daughter to safety in the Valley Beyond, but is likely to be resurrected by two park employees she befriended, Felix and Sylvester, based on how Season 2 ended and her prominence in the Season 3 trailers.
William/The Man in Black (Ed Harris)
William is the billionaire majority owner of Delos, the parent company of Westworld. He is the most obsessed gamer in the park. At the end of Season 2, it was revealed that his real, human mind was transferred onto the Westworld cloud (not the official name) and uploaded into a host body as an experiment to see whether his mind could survive that way. He lost his grip on reality toward the end of the season, culminating in the shooting and killing of his real, human daughter, Emily.
Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson)
Executive director for the Delos board. Spent much of Season 2 trying to recover the data on human guests from the park’s history, which she had planted in a host’s hard drive at the end of Season 1. Shot and killed by Dolores at the end of Season 2. The human version of Charlotte is dead, but the Season 3 trailers suggest someone will be impersonating Charlotte for much of the season. This unknown person is the third host at Arnold’s house along with Dolores and Bernard.
Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins)
Human cocreator of the host race, making him a de facto god. Shot and killed by Dolores at the end of Season 1. A ghost/host/digital version of him appeared in Season 2, but no longer exists in the physical world.
Are there any new characters?
Yes. Aaron Paul, who most famously played Jesse on Breaking Bad, is appearing in Season 3. Not much is known about his role, but based on the trailers he is a construction worker by day and possibly a bank robber by night. He blows stuff up with Marshawn Lynch and Lena Waithe.
Wait, Marshawn Lynch and Lena Waithe are in this show?
Is Season 3 going to be as complicated as seasons 1 and 2?
It’s unlikely. The show seems to have condensed its characters and placed more emphasis on the human beings. Odds are this season will be easier to follow and will require less homework. (On the other hand, this is Westworld.)
Are there multiple parks?
Yes. The Westworld amusement park is based on the Old West. There is also:
- The Raj, which is based on British rule in India
- Shogun World, which is based on the Edo period in Japan
- There are more parks, and while none but the above three are confirmed, there appears to be a World War II–themed park coming in Season 3.
Where else does Season 3 take place?
We may see these parks, but the new season is mainly taking place in a human city in the human world. We have seen human cities only sparingly in the first two seasons, but it seems they will be the primary focus for Season 3.
To be clear: The hosts aren’t supposed to leave the park—everything is extremely fucked right now.
Which characters have entered into the human world?
Last season, Dolores traveled to the human world with five host hard drives (called “pearls”) in her bag. That means up to five other hosts could be given a body and join her there. We know one of those is Bernard. We also know that another host is walking around in a copy of Charlotte’s body, but we don’t know who that person is yet. In the trailer, the host version of Charlotte says that there are “five of us against an entire world.” So Dolores seems poised to resurrect at least two more hosts.
What do the hosts want?
Different things. Dolores wants to destroy humankind; Bernard is not convinced mass murder is a good idea; other hosts just wanted to go to the Valley Beyond. In Season 2, the host Maeve was focused on finding her daughter (the hosts are programmed to care about family members even if they don’t give birth) but in the Season 3 trailer, she is being asked to kill Dolores by a mysterious, new businessman-looking dude played by Vincent Cassel.
Can people become hosts?
Yes. I mean, kind of. The ultimate goal of the park was to research and conquer human mortality by placing human minds into host bodies. Delos has made progress, but downloading a faithful recreation of a human mind onto a hard drive is even harder than making a new iCloud account. It is an inexact science, to say the least.
Can hosts become people?
Hm. Hadn’t thought of that one before. Probably not.
Can we go back to the Valley Beyond thing?
The Valley Beyond (also known as Glory, also known as Eden, also known as the Sublime) is a sort of afterlife for AI in which their consciousnesses can exist in the homepage art for Windows XP. It is a cloud that can store host minds. Dolores’s old boyfriend Teddy, a Native American host named Akecheta, Maeve’s daughter, and many other hosts shed their mortal husks and entered the Valley Beyond at the end of Season 2. It is unknown when, if, or how they can return from digital to physical form. I’m sure it’s gonna come up in Season 3, though. Or it won’t, and, because this is Westworld, the show will give us a host (pun intended) of other things to keep track of. But isn’t that the fun of it?
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.