This article contains Westworld Season 2 spoilers.
Trying to figure out what happens next on Westworld after season 2’s intentionally convoluted finale is a bit like trying to guess what will happen next after you enter a black hole. Oh sure, there are theories, but we’ll only know what’s on the other side of an event horizon, or Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s vision for robo-transcendence, when we get there. Still, like Nolan himself penning that trippy ending to Interstellar, guessing what knowledge might yet be learned is half the fun. So here we are.
While the second season of Westworld seemed to invite a more clear-cut path forward—given that the original Westworld movie was the first draft of writer-director Michael Crichton’s next story of theme park mayhem, Jurassic Park—we are well past that road map now. The first season built toward the proverbial fences going down and the T. rex leaving its paddock, while season 2 was a whole lot of folks getting chomped. But season 3 will, in theory, be about what Crichton always teased in his original book but the Jurassic Park movies, five installments in, have always steered clear from: what happens when these creatures get off their island and multiply?
Westworld Season 3 seems destined to answer that question, so we’re here to provide a few key elements we suspect will be instrumental going forward:
Robots Walk Among Us
The most obvious direction season 2 must take is the gratification of seeing hosts finally interact to a meaningful degree with the real-world. Dolores has at last escaped the park in a new body that looks like Charlotte Hale, but we did not see how she first interacted with a world she once viewed as “stars scattered across the ground.” In Dolores’ final scene of Westworld Season 2, there was a time jump for a non-determined amount of time. Dolores is back in her preferred Evan Rachel Wood body, and Charlotte Hale’s robo-clone is also walking around, albeit it is left vague who is now hitching a ride inside of it.
Previously, I ventured a guess that there could be multiple Dolores’ all sharing the same consciousness, kind of like a hive mind, however showrunner Jonathan Nolan discounted that theory already on EW. More likely now, it would seem Dolores is sharing the real world with a chosen few, including Bernard. She stole her preferred pearls/control units and has already begun repopulating this earth with new hosts, including whoever is inside Charlotte Hale, and Bernard. At least.
In fact, I suspect that there will be some timey-whimey shenanigans about what Dolores has been up to until she deemed it time to bring Bernard back. There could have been several years of her adjusting and making plans to change the paradigm and preparing the room for her species’ greater conquest. However, given the very last scene before the end credits in the season 2 finale was just Bernard stepping outside into the real world, we imagine the hosts interacting with that reality, and humans who don’t realize they’re synthetic (or “play things”) will be a large part of season 3.
Bernard is Really in a Loop
Still, I suspect what Bernard does will be more crucial than we previously expected in season 3. Dolores pays some lip-service about having restored Bernard into a new body that will not explode on the outside in order to offer her species a choice forward. That certainly seems reasonable of her. Much of season 2’s finale built to Dolores realizing the hosts deserve a choice. She tried to take that away from Teddy, as it was often taken away from her by humans, but in the end it destroyed him. Bernard ultimately chose to keep Dolores around, so perhaps she sees the need of Bernard: he’ll allow the future hosts she builds or rebuilds to also have that choice.
Previously, I’ve mused in reviews that Dolores and Maeve represent two different paths for the future of the species, one a political force of violence and the other of tolerance and acceptance of some humans as allies, like Lee Sizemore. However, Maeve never really wanted to be a leader. Then again, neither does Bernard, but he could be a good reluctant Xavier to Dolores’ Magneto, and offer a different path for interfacing with humans, especially if he becomes a public figure.
… However, I don’t actually believe any of that will really happen. More likely, Dolores has decided Bernard’s empathy for humanity will serve some purpose for her own goals. She said to the original Bernard that she made him to be different from Arnold, because Arnold didn’t make it. Well neither did Bernard, so Bernard 3.0 could be written to act a certain way. In this vein, I have a hunch season 3 will involve Bernard realizing he is now on a new elaborate loop that, rather than being designed by Robert Ford, is of Dolores’ making. Perhaps she wants Bernard to become the poster-child for how robots should not interact with humanity. She needs to show the next wave of hosts she creates or brings back that his way is folly and leads to doom and gloom. That is unless Bernard can break the loop Dolores might have in store for him.
The Park is Not Gone
But while this is all well and good, we will definitely still be spending more time in Delos’ Westworld park. I’m actually genuinely curious how things might progress on that end, because after a security disaster that’s seemingly left hundreds of the richest and most powerful people in the world dead, there is no way Delos could cover this up… or stay in business when its clientele is the type of folks who aren’t going to just take PR spin at face value.
No matter what though, we must remain invested in the park, because the most likable character in the series remains there: Maeve. The woman who became a near messiah before her latest death was shot multiple times by Delos security. But of course she’s not gone. Her control unit is in fine shape, and Felix and Sebastian are certain to boot her back online sometime next season. If I had to speculate about what her storyline will be in season 3, it’ll include her accepting her daughter is gone. It would seem that the hosts who traveled to robo-Heaven are essentially free from human (or Dolores’) touch forevermore. Unfortunately for Maeve, that includes her daughter.
Hence her only choice going forward is to find a purpose that extends beyond saving her daughter, and maybe escaping the park. Keep in mind there are still three other variations on this park beyond Westworld,, the Raj, and ShogunWorld. If I had to guess, maybe Maeve can venture back to a Medieval land or something even more inventive?
Additionally, I suspect Dolores still wishes to save the hosts who were not wiped clean by the Forge’s robo-Heaven. She could only save herself and a fistful of pearls, because each host’s body is programmed to explode if it leaves the park. But rather than making new bodies for the other hosts, at some point, I suspect Dolores will mount a rescue that involves more than guns and destruction to get her hands on the host IP in Westworld park.
Maybe through the visage of Charlotte Hale, the hosts could even attempt to purchase a bankrupt Westworld from Delos and start building for a future that will look a whole lot different…
The Distant Future Will Be the Most Important
Yet while all of the above is well and good, and will undoubtedly play varying degrees of consequence, the biggest change about Westworld Season 3, I suspect, is that we are going to be traveling years, decades, and even centuries into the future to the world we saw in the post-credits scene. It’s a stark and grim reality where Delos’ dream has long been abandoned, and the Forge now lies in ruins. In this context, the Man in Black, Ed Harris’ permanently damned William, stumbles into his fidelity test.
Waiting for him is a synthetic replica of his daughter Emily—a daughter he murdered. And I suspect that is the key to his fidelity test. We never had a chance to witness what happened to William when he entered the Forge during the Season 2 finale, but it was an event so dire that it’s become something akin to his cornerstone. He lost his daughter, his mind, and his hand all at once. And now in the future, robotic beings remade in the image of long dead humans test the humanlike fidelity of a robo-clone of a man who’s been dead almost as long. On a certain level, it could be a fitting Kafkaesque ending for the whole series. The man who never wanted to leave Westworld is trapped in a Sisyphean hell where he repeats the same cycle again and again. Doomed to never leave.
But this is not the end of the series. It’s a new beginning. If the first few seasons, as well as part of season 3, are about the birth of a new species, the rest of season 3 could very well focus on what that world will look like once that species dominates it. At a certain point, it could even be considered moot who is human and who is robot. You just don’t want to be the one asked to sit down and answer fidelity questions.
And yet, it matters actually a great deal what this future can unpack. Season 2 takes a cynical view that humanity is incapable of getting out of its own way. We don’t have free will; our minds and personalities doom us to repeat the same mistakes forever. William is clearly being required to repeat what is probably the worst day of his life. He lost his final grip on reality and murdered his daughter, then began questioning his own existence while entertaining the idea of suicide, and finally blew his own hand off. He destroyed himself while chasing a dream.
Our own Alec Bojalad rather intriguingly posits the future is a world where the roles are entirely flipped. Rather than humans making robots to enact our fantasies, robots are now making (or remaking) humans who can be spared from their own shortcomings. In the finale, the Forge says William is irredeemable, so the hosts who inherit the earth are trying to see if they can “fix” his programming.
This certainly lines up with what Jonathan Nolan recently said to EW about our species:
I’ve been reading a lot of history this season, a little bit connected to the show, but also just following the train of things I’m interested in, and it’s depressing to realize how familiar some of these problems are, right? It’s like we just can’t figure these f—ing things out… Much of [dramatic storytelling across the ages] has concerned itself with ‘how will we overcome?’ and personal growth and change. At a certain point you gotta f—ing call it. We’re not going to fix this s—, we’re not going to figure it out. But there’s an opportunity for the things that replace us to do so.”
Could the focus on the future be about hosts using human cognition as a guinea pig for “fixing” the lesser species? It’s possible, however I suspect there is something more insidious about this. My guess is William does something truly despicable to the hosts after he manages to survive leaving the park with only one hand. He may become a scourge against Dolores, and he becomes a de facto leader for humanity if things really do come to war. Perhaps he even engineers something so human that the robots need to know how his mind works to undo it?
This is all spitballing, but what William does next in what is now ostensibly the past will affect what happens to robots in the future, so they’re forced to study him like an especially nasty piece of fungus. And in the process, we’ll learn how a world dominated by immortal hosts differs from one built by we fragile, mortal things.
Those are some of my theories for season 3. What are yours?