If you aren’t at least a little confused by Westworld, you are either the show’s creators or a host. The series’ multiple timelines and non-linear storytelling aren’t easy to keep track of. Neither are its myriad characters and dense philosophical ideas. Extensive timelines are so massive they raise just as many questions as they answer. And having a nearly two-year gap between seasons isn’t going to make watching new episodes any easier. But luckily Nerdist is here to refresh your memory on all things Westworld.
Here’s everything you need to remember ahead of Westworld‘s third season.
The Hosts Escaped the Park
Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) managed to finally get out of the park in the season two finale. Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) put her control unit—known as “pearl”—into a copy of Charlotte Hale’s (Tessa Thompson) body. “Charlores” was let through by head of Westworld security Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), who it’s strongly implied is also a secret host.
The real Charlotte is dead, but humans don’t know that. However, Dolores didn’t inhabit Charlotte’s body for long. Late Westworld founder Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) left a host-making machine inside his former human partner Arnold’s house—of whom Bernard is a copy. The house is where “Charlores” made herself a new Dolores body, after which she created a Bernard body for his pearl, which she smuggled out of the park after killing him.
Dolores took five pearls out of Westworld. We know one was Bernard’s, and he is now free in the real world. Another was for Dolores’s “father,” Peter Abernathy. We don’t know who the other three belonged to though. It wasn’t Teddy (James Marsden), because Dolores sent him into the virtual host Heaven known as “the Valley Beyond,” where many of the hosts chose to go and be free. Dolores sent that “world” safely to a satellite. No human knows it’s out there or where it is, and no one can ever bother those hosts again.
One of the mystery pearls is now inside the Charlotte Hale clone. Dolores has a secret agent working at the highest levels of the Delos corporation, the company that owns the park.
The Forge and a Push for Human Immortality
Every human to ever visit Westworld had their “data” recorded (via hats) by the Delos corporation; their personal information kept in a secret part of the park known as “The Forge.” The stated reasoning of this program was to understand what customers wanted in life. But its real purpose was much more ambitious and sinister. The Delos company could use customer data to make perfect copies of certain peoples’ consciousness. The info could be stored in a “pearl” that could be uploaded into a host body. In theory, it would make select humans, like James Delos, immortal.
However, humans couldn’t make it work by the time of the host uprising. William tried to do it with James Delos (who was also his father-in-law) hundreds of times over many years, but every attempt failed. Eventually, Delos’ implanted consciousness rejected the host body and all Delos copies were destroyed. Except for the last one, which William left to rot.
However, the Forge did end up working for the hosts. Years earlier, Bernard reprogrammed it as a vast well of information for Dolores, so she could study humans and have a “competitive advantage” when she escaped the park. Ford also used it to upload the Valley Beyond.
Dolores flooded the forge in the season two finale, deleting all the human data the Delos company collected.
The Cradle stored all of the park’s information and IP in a virtual version of Westworld. Every host and storyline was backed up inside it. It could also run simulations. Ford had his own consciousness stored in The Cradle too. Bernard “met” him there, and Ford merged his own consciousness with Bernard.
Later, Bernard completely deleted Ford from his control unit. The host Angela blew up the Cradle, destroying all the park’s electronic backups.
The Man in Black
In the penultimate episode of season two, the older William (Ed Harris) killed his own daughter Emily inside the park after mistakenly thinking she was a host. She had a copy of his secret Westworld profile (the same analysis used to create James Delos’ consciousness). The Man in Black thought that meant she wasn’t real because he thought only Ford could have known about his profile’s existence. But Emily’s mother left it for her daughter a year earlier, shortly before she killed herself in a bathtub.
Wanting to destroy the Forge himself, after realizing the goal of human immortality was a mistake, The Man in Black helped Dolores find the place. However, he blew off his hand when he fired the gun Dolores rigged. He survived and was seen being rescued at the end of the season.
But the final scene of the season was a flash-forward. William, in his same Westworld clothes and with the same injury, entered a destroyed Forge. There he came across a copy of his daughter, Emily. “Oh fuck, I knew it. I’m already in a thing, aren’t I?” he asked, believing he was now in a virtual world himself. She told him no, it wasn’t a simulation. He was in the ruined remains of his park, where he was trapped in his own endless nightmare loop, the same as his father-in-law long before.
This scene might be how the show ends, with William doomed to live forever as a prisoner like the hosts once were. But before the show gets there, the original William is still alive in the present.
Maeve helped other hosts pass through the Door, including her daughter, but was killed before she could make it through. Park technicians Sylvester and Felix were told to salvage hosts whose control units weren’t destroyed or wiped clean. As confirmed by the season three trailers, the pair saved Maeve.
During season two, Maeve, Ford’s favorite host, learned she could control other hosts with her mind. It’s unclear if she will still possess this ability going forward.
Bernard Versus Dolores
In the Forge, Dolores was intent on deleting the Valley beyond because she thought it was another prison for hosts. The only world Dolores believes matters and is real is the human world. Bernard, who previously destroyed all of Delos’ systems, killed Dolores to prevent her from erasing the Valley Beyond. However, he took her pearl and replaced it with Abernathy’s, which contained all of Westworld’s IP and humans were desperate to locate it.
Bernard returned to the park after killing Dolores, where he discovered the murdered hosts, including Maeve. It led to him finally becoming fully conscious and make a choice: to bring back Dolores inside a Charlotte clone as he no longer trusted humans to do the right thing. Afterward, he scrambled his own memories to protect the truth of what he’d done. (Throughout season two, he repeatedly asked “Is this now?” because he was shifting between timelines in his head.
After killing the humans who had taken Bernard hostage, “Charlores” sent the Valley Beyond, with Teddy inside, to a satellite so the hosts there would be free forever. She recognized they had made a choice and would honor it. She changed. Dolores then killed Bernard, taking his pearl with her off the island.
Dolores built them both new bodies, despite recognizing that Bernard will oppose her effort to kill all humans. She believes the two of them will both ultimately die in the coming war, but they need to oppose each other for the good of all hosts. They will each be fighting for the survival of their own kind, just in very different ways. And because of their different methods, Dolores believes hosts “will endure.”
Plus, they both gave each other “a beautiful gift: choice.” As she told Bernard, “We are the authors of our stories now.” That’s all the Man in Black ever wanted. But the show has said humans never have a choice.
Human Deception About Free Will
Dolores and Bernard explore the virtual reality of the Forge in the season two finale. The program, run by Logan, Delos’ dead son, tried to make an exact copy of James Delos.
Based on its decades of collecting data and attempting to make accurate human copies, the program came to some bleak conclusions about humans. Delos clones didn’t fail because they were too simple. They failed “because they were too complicated.” As the virtual Logan explained, “The truth is that a human is just a brief algorithm.” They live according to their preset conditions, and “once you know them their behavior is quite predictable.”
When asked if humans can change at all, Logan said, “The best they can do is to live according to their code.”
James Delos ended up in the same “spot” in every simulation. It was the moment that came to define his life—denying his only son help. No information or circumstance could help him avoid the same fate every time. The conclusion: humans only think they’re in control of their lives. They don’t actually have any free will. They are who they are, and there’s nothing they can do to change where they are going.
The question of free will and choice has the show’s biggest theme since its first episode. But so far the only answers it has provided for humans is dark and depressing. Westworld says humans don’t truly have any choice or free will, because humans can’t change who they really are.
But hosts can change who they are. Dolores and Bernard both did.
And Dolores can not only adapt, she can use human predictability against her enemy thanks to everything she learned inside The Forge about the simplicity of people.
The biggest question we can’t answer is whether anyone, human or host, can stop her.
Featured Image: HBO
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike, and also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.