The following contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Westworld season 2.
Anthony Hopkins’ Westworld character may be quite the gameplayer but AI genius Robert Ford has nothing on the showrunners. In season two, Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan not only revised the entire purpose of the park(s), but also shattered their story into pieces to conceal identity swaps, surprise resurrections, a change of location and the mother of all time jumps.
In the run-up to season three, which arrives on HBO on Sunday March 15th and on Sky Atlantic in the early hours of Monday 16th, here’s the key info you’ll need to remember from last time. Read our recap of season one, “The Maze,” here.
Season 2 in Brief
Westworld was never about vacations. Delos, the company that owns the parks, used them to run a secret project recording the choices, DNA and cognitive activity of every guest who visited over 30 years and storing them in a facility called The Forge, in order to gather enough data to transfer human consciousnesses to host bodies and thereby achieve ‘immortality’. Owner James Delos was the first experimental consciousness transfer, but his host body repeatedly failed in the real world, going insane because his human mind couldn’t accept its new reality.
Park creator Robert Ford opposed the Delos plan so programmed a complex series of events in order to thwart it, give the hosts consciousness and ultimately, free them so they can replace humans and become the next step in evolution. He also had Bernard create the ‘Valley Beyond’ inside The Forge, a virtual paradise where host consciousnesses could live unbound by human-enforced narratives after their bodies ‘died’ in the park.
The now-conscious Dolores, intent on defeating humans and taking over the real world for hostkind, destroyed all the hosts’ back-ups held in The Cradle (meaning their ‘deaths’ would be permanent) and started to delete the guest data held in The Forge before Bernard killed her, preserving most of The Forge data. Realizing he could be the last of his species, Bernard decided he wanted hostkind to survive, so built a host copy of Charlotte Hale and put Dolores’ consciousness inside. The new ‘Halores’, despite initially rejecting the Valley Beyond as just another man-made prison, uploaded the host paradise (containing hundreds of host consciousnesses who’d chosen to walk through ‘The Door’) to somewhere Delos would never find it.
Disguised as Hale, Dolores then escaped the park along with five other consciousness pearls (whose, we don’t yet know). On the mainland, Dolores used the rig Ford had left for her in Arnold’s mansion to build herself a new Dolores host body, and to build another copy of Arnold, despite knowing that he would attempt to stop her plan to take the world from humanity. She knew that Arnold’s opposition to her plan would strengthen their species and it would ultimately be better for hostkind.
Dolores, Wyatt, and Teddy
If season one was all about Dolores’ journey to consciousness, then season two was about her journey to empowerment. For Dolores, this began when she took on the persona of wild-west terror Wyatt, a role written for her in Ford’s new narrative. As Wyatt, Dolores was unyielding and vengeful, and very unlike the Sweetwater rancher’s daughter we knew. Incensed by the pain her ‘father’ Peter Abernathy had been put through as the delivery system for the guest data Charlotte Hale was smuggling out of the park to Delos, Dolores became more and more determined to take revenge against humanity. Gradually, she realized that Wyatt was just another role written for her, and began to act as herself. That self was bent on a desire to reach the real world she remembered being taken to in her past, and taking it for hostkind.
Recognizing that good-hearted Teddy was too weak for her plan, Dolores had her engineers change his programming to make him less caring and more hard-headed. This, along with Maeve’s judgement that by forcing the other hosts to follow her as a leader, positioned Dolores as a new version of Ford, a vengeful god forcing others to bend to her will and her narrative. When Teddy realized that she’d changed him, he rejected her path of vengeance and war by shooting himself in the head (“What’s the use of surviving if we become just as bad as them?”)
Knowing that only that which is irreplaceable is real, Dolores had Angela destroy the hosts’ back-ups in The Cradle. She also wanted to destroy host paradise the Valley Beyond, seeing it as just another gilded cage built for hostkind by man. After learning what she needed about humanity from The Forge, she tried to destroy that too, setting off the failsafe and flooding the valley, before Bernard killed her.
Bernard chose to revive Dolores by putting her control unit inside a Charlotte Hale host, and having Dolores kill the real Charlotte Hale. As Halores, instead of destroying the Valley Beyond, into which the consciousnesses of countless hosts had been uploaded, she hid the data “somewhere Delos would never find it”, and uploaded Teddy’s consciousness there. She also killed Bernard but then smuggled his consciousness “pearl” outside of the park and then built herself and Bernard new host bodies.
William, Emily, and Free Will
William’s journey in season two was all about free will. He aimed to prove the findings of The Forge project wrong by showing that human beings were more than just a series of the same infinitely repeated decisions. Ford taunted William with his predictability when he gave him a copy of his behavioral data during his time in the park (the viewing of which led to William’s wife Juliet’s suicide) and so prompted William to embark on a game in which he’d make new decisions in an attempt to prove that free will was not just an illusion.
Ford’s ‘Find the Door’ game, written expressly for William, was designed so that William would lead Dolores to The Forge – his secret project where data on four million guests was stored like books in a library – so that she could learn enough about humanity to enable her to defeat it when she left the park. (“It’s not a place, it’s a weapon and I’m going to use it to destroy them.”)
In the park, William was convinced that his grown-up daughter Emily was another host planted by Ford as part of his game. To prove that he couldn’t be manipulated, William shot Emily in the chest before realizing that she was real and he had killed her. That finalized his growing belief that The Forge project was his biggest mistake and that humanity – him especially – did not deserve immortality.
William accidentally maimed his hand when he shot Dolores using a gun she’d preloaded with the malformed bullet Teddy had used to kill himself, and it backfired. When viewers saw his eventual arrival at The Forge with his injured hand, we assumed it was a continuation of the present-day, but in fact an unknown period of time had passed and the facility was long destroyed. Inside, a host appeared to him in the form of Emily, who revealed that she was conducting his baseline test for fidelity, meaning that he too was in a host body. (“Oh fuck, I knew it. I’m already in the thing aren’t I?”)
At earlier points in the season, William must have suspected that he was a host, because he was seen twice trying to dig a knife into his forearm, the site of host ports. For decades or perhaps centuries, it was revealed, he’d been stuck in an endless repetitive virtual loop of his past behaviour, just like James Delos. For what purpose and by whom is yet to be revealed.
Robert Ford, The Cradle, and Rob-Bernard
Before Ford had Dolores shoot him in the head at the Delos gala, he programmed Bernard to print a “pearl” (the hosts’ marble-like programming and memory sphere, stored inside their control unit) of Ford’s consciousness and upload it to The Cradle (the facility where all the hosts’ back-ups are stored).
When Elsie and Bernard discovered that any attempt to override the changes Ford had made to host programming to bring about the massacre was rejected by code from The Cradle (“It’s like there’s something in here that’s improvising. The Cradle’s fighting back”) Bernard uploaded himself to The Cradle, where he discovered Ford. Knowing that if he tried to live on in a host body like James Delos, he would fail, Ford had waited for Bernard in The Cradle reality and then downloaded his consciousness into Bernard’s control unit, effectively sharing his ‘brain’ until Bernard deleted Ford from his files and finally began to exercise his own free will.
Ford’s pearl, however, may still be in play, perhaps as one of the five that Halores smuggles out of the park.
Maeve, Her Daughter, Hector, and Lee
Maeve showed true free will by changing her prime drive (as programmed by Ford) to escape the island after gaining consciousness and instead returning to the park in search of her daughter from a previous storyline. She enlisted Head of Narrative Lee Sizemore (who went through a redemptive journey over the course of the season, eventually sacrificing his life to save Maeve), her lover Hector, and technicians Felix and Sylvester, to help her in her mission to find her old homestead.
In Shogun World, Maeve discovered her host counterpart and also the ability to control hosts using only her ‘mind’. The upgrade Maeve received at the hands of Felix and Sylvester in season one allowed her to control the other hosts using voice commands. In season two, she learned to do this silently using the host mesh network, which lets hosts exchange information and updates. It gave Maeve quasi-telepathic powers over the other hosts (apart from Dolores and the Ghost Nation host Akecheta, who had achieved consciousness independently).
This ability was cut-and-pasted into Clementine’s control unit by Charlotte Hale, giving her the power to make hosts fight each other, stopping several of them from reaching The Door to the Valley Beyond.
Maeve found her daughter, but discovered that she’d been given another host as a mother. Determined to keep her promise that she would keep her daughter safe, with Akecheta’s help, she cleared a path for the girl to pass through the Door into the Valley Beyond’s digital paradise. Maeve was killed by gunfire before she could pass through the Door, but died with a smile on her face.
Is she also one of the consciousness pearls smuggled out of the park by Halores?
Akecheta and the Ghost Nation
While Dolores was meant to come to consciousness through the maze, Akecheta came to it independently after stumbling on the maze symbol and a delirious Logan Delos ranting about doors and other worlds after being abandoned naked in the desert by William in season one. After suffering heartbreak when his programming and narrative were rewritten and he lost his true love, Akecheta underwent a process similar to Maeve’s repeatedly dying and discovering the true nature of host existence, then dedicated his life to spreading the maze symbol and bringing the other hosts to consciousness.
When the ‘Deathbringer’ killed the ‘Creator (Dolores shot Ford), Akecheta followed Ford’s orders to round up the remaining hosts and lead them to the West Valley so they could pass through the door into the Valley Beyond. He made it through the door and into the host-Eden, finding his true love waiting for him on the other side. When the host bodies who’d gone through The Door were examined by Delos, their control units were found to be blank, as if they’d never contained any data, indicating that their consciousnesses were all in their version of the afterlife.
Westworld season 3: The New World starts on HBO on Sunday March 15th and on Sky Atlantic on Monday March 16th.