The following contains spoilers for Westworld season 3 episode 8.
It’s not always clear what can kill a host on Westworld. When Dolores battles Maeve in the season 3 finale, she points out that Delos made hosts to be weak but their human counterparts…but they don’t have to be. Dolores then proves this by deflecting Maeve’s sword blow with her cool robo-arm. Earlier on in the season, Charlotte survives the most astonishingly violent car crash of all time and sustains nothing more than a scar on her arm.
So what can kill a host? Well data removal seems like a good start, as hosts are nothing if not a collection of data. And that’s what makes what happens to Dolores in the Westworld season 3 finale so troubling. Dolores has proven time and time again that she isn’t really attached to whatever body she happens to be in. By our count, some version of “Dolores” resides in no fewer than seven corporeal forms throughout the season. Her final encounter with Serac and Rehoboam damages something far more valuable, however: her memory.
When Rehoboam and Serac (or really just Rehoboam using Serac as a glorified meat puppet) capture Dolores, they hook her up to Rehoboam’s guts to have the supercomputer look through her hard drive to find the data about Delos’ guests that they seek. Unbeknownst to Rehoboam, Dolores had hidden that data, along with the Sublime, inside Bernard. Still Rehoboam continues its rampage through Dolores’ brain and in the process methodically deletes all her memories.
This is a particularly cruel fate for Dolores as it’s the accessing of her memories in the first place that begins Dolores down her path to sentience. Now Rehoboam is erasing it all: the first time she met William, the last time she saw William, and everything touching and terrifying in-between. Rehoboam’s cruelty is ultimately its undoing as Dolores includes a key to take control of Rehoboam in her memories for Caleb to exploit. But after Caleb does so and reclaims the world for humanity, he and Maeve appear to believe that Dolores is well and truly gone. Maeve is even present for Dolores’s last memory – a simple chat they share back in Westworld.
While Caleb and Maeve seem to have written Dolores off, should we the viewers do the same? Almost certainly not. Yes, memory deletion is a pretty final manner of robotic execution but there is also just no way that Westworld season 4 goes forward without Evan Rachel Wood front and center. Wood is unambiguously the star of this show and if her character is to be killed, it has to be in a truly unambiguous fashion. For Dolores to be gone, Maeve has to all but look down the center of the camera and say “all the Dolores copies are gone. That’s a series wrap on Evan Rachel Wood.”
Even with that memory deletion, there are just so many other ways for Dolores to continue on. Yes the memories within her “primary” pearl have been deleted but it’s not like she doesn’t have dozens of other external hard drive pearls lying around with her data encoded on them. We even know of one confirmed existing Dolores pearl that is still perfectly intact and healthy in the form of Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.). Charlotte is also a Dolores pearl technically but she is very much her own thing now.
Then there’s also the matter of what Wood says in the HBO post-episode featurette, “Saying goodbye to this version of Dolores – it was very sad to shoot.”
Ahhh this version of Dolores, you say. In addition to being its lead, Dolores is certainly Westworld’s most dynamic character. Every season has presented us with a radically different version of the character. There is no question that Dolores will be a part of Westworld season 4…we just don’t know what kind of Dolores she’ll be.