Note: Contains BIG spoilers for Westworld seasons one and two.
These confusing delights have confusing ends. Westworld season two wrapped up with a mind-bending finale that shook the HBO series to the very core of its programming.
The third season will have to be a radical departure from what came before, so here's everything we know so far about the Hosts' future.
(At least, we think it's the future – timelines are kind of sketchy around these parts...)
Westworld season 3 trailer: What does it mean?
At San Diego Comic Con earlier this year, executive producer Jonathan Nolan said (via TVLine) that season three "is really more about destiny".
Executive producer Lisa Joy added: "We've tried to constrain the aperture through which we view the world through the hosts.
"The nature of the reveals might change, but they're [still] all kind of grounded in what would the hosts perceive… and what could they be misapprehending."
"One of the things we're excited about is the third season is our world,"showrunner Jonathan Nolan told Digital Spy. "We get a chance to see what that world looks like [after] 30 years.
"The story to this point has taken place in this artificial reality and for the story to move forward, we now have this fun / terrifying challenge for the third season of filling out what the real world looks like, and what Dolores and the others will find out there."
That doesn't mean that we've seen the last of the parks, though, with co-showrunner Joy adding that there are "absolutely" plans to explore the as-yet-unseen parks that exist alongside Westworld, Shogun World and Raj World. Well, we can add WW2 World (Nazi World?) to that list, having seen the trailer (above) released at San Diego Comic-Con on 20 July.
We also know much of the production is taking place in Singapore.
"When we were trying to think about what the future could look like," Joy told Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore, "we scouted and examined a bunch of areas, and that's how we came to Singapore. There's nowhere that looks like Singapore; it's absolutely beautiful on a purely aesthetic level.
"There's a different texture to everything and the bounce from the water off of the glass there. The other thing that's really interesting is the incorporation of nature."
As part of season three's promo, the folks over at Wired were invited to meet mysterious tech company Incite Inc (a new addition to the series) earlier this month, and have a look at what they'd been working on.
The corporation analyses data to solve some of life's biggest problems, as well as offering an array of exiting job opportunities: "We can protect our climate, and we can find you a career you can be excited about. The possibilities are limitless. With Incite the only choice you’ll have to make is us.
"The world is complex, complicated, disordered. But life does not have to be. You power the future, and we know you. Incite is different."
On its website, it states that it wants "to make 'impossible' a thing of the past".
Watch the trailer below, featuring new character Liam Dempsey Sr (Jefferson Mays), the company's co-founder.
Westworld season 3 release date: When will it air?
We don't have an exact date yet, but the fact that there's a second trailer (following the Aaron Paul-heavy first teaser) is a positive sign that everything's on track.
(That's not always been the case with this show.)
Speaking to Deadline, WarnerMedia chairman (and HBO overlord) Bob Greenblatt confirmed that the show will return in 2020, though he wouldn't be drawn on specifics.
It's thought that it will return in the first half of the year and there will be eight episodes rather than ten.
Westworld season 3 cast: Who's in it?
"It's a large ensemble cast and sadly we're saying goodbye to some people at the end of this season," Jonathan Nolan told Entertainment Weekly.
The following cast members are confirmed to be back:
- Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores
- Jeffrey Wright as Bernard Lowe
- Thandie Newton as Maeve – "It just grabs you," she said when chatting about season three.
- Ed Harris as older William/Host William
- Tessa Thompson as Charlotte Hale/Host Charlotte
- Luke Hemsworth as Ashley Stubbs
- Katja Herbers as Emily / Host Emily
- Rodrigo Santoro as Hector
We also know that Aaron Paul has joined the cast along with Vincent Cassell, Lena Waithe and Kid Cudi.
Speaking to Winter Is Coming, Paul said: "The first two seasons were so big and so ambitious, and this third season is even more ambitious and crazier. And it comes out sometime next year.
"I'm just so excited for people to see the world outside of the parks."
Beyond those, things are less certain.
Don't forget, Dolores left Westworld with five orbs, each containing the consciousness of a particular Host, which means a number of 'dead' Host characters could be revived.
This, plus further plot twists, could allow for reappearances from Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr), Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum) and Clementine (Angela Sarafyan).
Oh, and the possibility of further flashbacks mean we shouldn't rule out more from Jimmi Simpson (young William) and Peter Mullan (James Delos), either.
One other character we can probably strike off the list for good includes the late Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman), as well as Teddy (James Marsden) and Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon), both of whom crossed over to the Sublime.
As for whether we've really, really, seen the last of Anthony Hopkins after Ford was expelled from Bernard's consciousness, Joy has insisted that that character is "gone" – but then, that's what we thought after Dolores blew his brains out.
Westworld season 3 plot: What's going to happen?
Let's start with a recap of what happened in season two's finale, 'The Passenger'... *deep breath*
• Bernard, Dolores and William / the Man in Black arrive at the Valley Beyond. William attempts to betray Dolores, but she's sabotaged his gun, which explodes, seriously injuring him. (He survives, though, and is later seen being evacuated from the island.)
• Dolores and Bernard enter the Valley where they find the Forge, a more advanced version of the Cradle, which has digital records of every human guest to have visited the park.
• Bernard opens "the door", a giant system-transfer device which allows the Hosts to transfer their personality into "the Sublime" – a virtual world inaccessible to humans (essentially Host heaven).
• Many of the Hosts are able to pass over into the Sublime, where Akecheta is reunited with his wife, yay!
• Lee Sizemore sacrifices himself to allow Maeve and her gang to reach the Valley Beyond. *sob*
• Maeve reunites with her daughter and convinces her to cross over into the Sublime, but Maeve herself is then shot and killed by Delos security. (In the aftermath, though, it's hinted that Felix and Sylvester might still be able to bring her back.)
• Dolores rejects the Sublime and wants to take the battle to the outside world. Bernard refuses to let her go on the rampage... and kills her! But wait, there's more...
• In the past, Elsie confronts Charlotte Hale about the true nature of Westworld and is killed by Charlotte. Shocked by Elsie's death, Bernard – with the help of an imaginary Ford – builds a Host version of Charlotte and installs Dolores's control unit. Dolores then kills and replaces the real Charlotte.
• In the present, Dolores reveals her true self in Charlotte's body and kills Strand and his men while they are trying to recover the guests' memories from the Forge. She reconfigures the Forge to transmit the Hosts' data, including Teddy's, to a new Sublime stored at a place only she knows.
• Dolores then kills Bernard(!) and (still disguised as Charlotte Hale, remember) joins the evacuation team, taking several Hosts' cores with her as she leaves the island.
• Arriving at Arnold's home, Dolores is apparently able to restore her consciousness to a body identical to her original form. She also creates a new body for Bernard, warning him that they'll be enemies in the outside world if he attempts to stop her Host revolution.
• A final post-credits scene jumps forward to the far future, with William in a Forge that's fallen into disrepair. He's interviewed by someone or something resembling his dead daughter Emily, who reveals she's there to test his "fidelity".
• Clear as muck? Good.
So what next?
Westworld's showrunners have described the third season as a "radical shift", with episodes that feel like they're from a whole new show. "It really is like re-piloting," said Joy.
This shift is something that's been in the works for a while, though. "The great thing about season three is, when we were writing the [original] pilot, the major storyline for season three was already something that we had talked about nonstop," she added.
"We've been waiting to get to this place and now that we've arrived here, we already have a very strong idea of exactly where we want to go and we can't wait to go there."
As for that baffling post-credits sequence, the version of the Man in Black we'll see in this "very different timeline" is apparently a Host, but that doesn't mean that the version we've been following in the series thus far wasn't human.
"It's not his original incarnation," Joy told The Hollywood Reporter. "That version of him that was 'human' would be somewhere lying dead [by this point in time], and this is some other version of himself now. He doesn't quite understand what."
Joy also confirmed to The Wrap that the original version of William's daughter Emily is dead, and the person he's speaking to in this sequence is a Host.
'The Passenger' also hinted that Stubbs could be a Host, as he allowed Dolores to escape the island and referred to his "core drive". The episode's director Fred Toye told Vanity Fair that, as far he's concerned, Stubbs is a Host, while Joy elaborated, "Doesn't it make sense if you are Ford and designing a park and you have a whole master plan about helping robots that you would keep one Host hiding in plain sight as a fail-safe? Maybe the Host who's in charge of quality assurance?"
Speaking of Dolores, Nolan promised that the third season will answer one big question left hanging by the finale: if Evan Rachel Wood's character is now back in her own body, who is in the 'Charlotte Hale' Host form that's accompanying her at the end of the episode?
"The question of who's who and what we're looking at is something we're excited to play with," he told Entertainment Weekly. (For her part, Tessa Thompson has admitted she isn't sure whose mind was inside the Hale host body that we saw in season two's moments.)
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