Did we expect Westworld‘s season three premiere to be straightforward and easy to follow? No. (That’s why we wrote a primer on everything you needed to remember before watching.) And yet we still weren’t prepared for everything that happened in the episode. It was… a lot. Fortunately, we’re here to help make sense of all of it. Here’s everything we learned about the current state (and time) of the robot uprising, old characters and new, the mysterious “system” controlling the world with algorithms, and the biggest questions we have.
Looks Like Spoilers to Me
Rehoboam, also known as “The System,” is the giant global computer whose algorithms run the world. It’s named after an ancient king of Judah, the son of Solomon, who “proved to be unfit for the task of reigning.” Rehoboam translates to, “May the people be enlarged.”
Liam Dempsey’s late father created Rehoboam. He “sketched the whole thing out in a weekend,” then took 15 years to build it. Liam says no one can track how many “thoughts” (a.k.a. strategies) the computer has per second. But we know what its original purpose was: Liam said, “My dad thought the biggest problem in the world was unrealized potential. He thought that if you could chart a course for every single person, then you could make the world a better place.”
The machine is owned and operated by Incite, a data-collection company that promises to chart the perfect life for customers. Rehoboam is also being used to chart a perfect life for everyone, and therefore for the entire world. “The System” controls what people do, and ultimately what happens. Rehoboam is credited as “the strategy engine that saved the world” from chaos.
Not everyone loves Rehoboam. Aaron Paul’s Caleb, who can’t get a better job thanks to “The System,” offered the most pointed criticism of the false Utopia it has created:
“They said the way the Army was run—algorithms—that was the way everything was going to be someday. Better living through technology. Some things are better, but I don’t know.”
“Sometimes it seems like the world looks alright. They put a coat of paint on it. But inside it’s rotting to pieces.”
“They say it’s a meritocracy. The system picks the right people for the right job. Which is great, I guess. But I don’t know where that leaves the rest of us. People who didn’t make the cut.”
“You said that the system didn’t care about us at all. They didn’t give a s*** if we lived or died. That we had to have our own plan. Stick together. And you were right.”
Liam himself has said that he wishes he “could just turn the whole f***ing thing off. Kill it.” But as a figurehead, he has never actually had control over it. His father’s partner locked Liam out after Liam’s dad died, so Liam has access to the outer layers, “but nothing deeper.” No one other than its original architect, the unseen Serac (who will be played by Vincent Cassel), knows what the system is actually doing now.
But we do know Rehoboam can be used for nefarious reasons. Liam told Dolores that if he were really going to tell her who controls the system, he’d already be dead (just like his dad) because Rehoboam would already know. It can predict what people are going to do before they actually do it, à la Minority Report. Instead of pre-cogs with visions of the future, it’s a giant machine reading the algorithms of people and life.
Rehoboam is like a manmade god, though Dolores says it’s not a real one. (And the “real gods” are coming for mankind.)
But someone—or something—is currently interfering with it, causing the divergent spikes seen throughout the episode. Serac’s representative, played by Pom Klementieff, met with Liam to ask him about it and question if Liam was responsible.
“We don’t like being surprised. There’s been some turbulence in the data. There have been discrepancies. We think someone may have acquired access to Rehoboam. A level of sophistication we haven’t seen before. Like someone is testing the system.”
Rehoboam would alert its owners if someone from the outside tried to sabotage it, but it wouldn’t if someone with internal access was responsible. As for who it could be, we know that Incite has connections with Delos (a relationship neither company wants made public). Delos Inc. was certainly selling guest data that Incite then uploaded into Rehoboam.
Westworld’s own computer program said humans were “simple” and “predictable” algorithms that always ended up in the same spot in life. All that data would be invaluable for Rehoboam’s perfecting of its own algorithms to run the world.
Liam’s knowledge of Incite’s partnership with Delos makes him a threat. And Serac could use Rehoboam to murder him, as his representative explained. “It would be an inconvenience to kill you. But we’d have your daddy’s system to help us strategize how to deal with it. Wouldn’t we?”
Caleb Nichols (Aaron Paul)
Employment in Westworld is based entirely on a point system run by algorithms. During the day, Caleb and his robot partner lay fiber cables in Los Angeles. It barely pays the bills, but Caleb commits to working harder to keep his “scores” up to get a better paying job. He needs money so his sick mom can stay in her expensive private facility.
To make ends meet, he accepts illegal jobs from RICO, a criminal WeWork app. Even that uses a points system. You need a certain “stat” level to take on bigger jobs. Caleb does not like to accept “heavy” assignments or “personals,” jobs that involve specific people. That keeps his “stats” down. He prefers stealing from ATMs and transporting goods, which he and his now deceased friend Francis did overseas during their time in the Army.
As part of his therapy, Caleb chats with a computer program that (inaccurately) simulates Francis. The program promises privacy, but in this world there’s no way to trust that. Just as the A.I. Francis isn’t a completely accurate facsimile, the replicas of James Delos never achieved full “fidelity.” It’s not clear if Francis died on an official Army mission or following their own “plan” independent of the system (as neither man was wearing Army fatigues at the time).
Ash (Lena Waithe)
Another RICO user who has worked with Caleb before. She’s worried about getting her “stats” up too, but she seems adept at her job. She had a “voodoo” device that shut down all of the cameras and “loggers” that trace peoples’ movements. All of that data is needed for Rehoboam.
Giggle/Coolest Person Alive (Marshawn Lynch)
RICO user Giggle’s light-up mood shirt makes him the coolest character in Westworld history. He also enjoys “dripping,” though being high makes him easily distracted on the job.
Liam Dempsey (John Gallagher Jr.)
Some say Liam is the man who “saved the world through algorithms.” Others believe he is merely the son of the man who did. While highly respected by most of the world, he seems to garner very little from those around him.
Liam wouldn’t agree with Dolores/”Lara” that Incite controls everything. Liam said it’s just a technology company and credits his dad for creating the “best A.I.” Dolores believes he know a lot more than he’s letting on.
Martin Connells (Tommy Flanagan)
Head of security for the Dempsey family’s company for 20 years. He was set up and killed by Dolores. She replaced him with an exact replica in order to have a spy close to Liam. We don’t know which host is in the clone Connell’s body, but his non-Scottish voice indicates that it might be someone like Lawrence or a former member of Ghost Nation.
Francis (Kid Cudi)
Caleb’s dead Army buddy who once said, “They built the world to be a game. Then they always rigged it to make sure they always won.” He did not trust “The System.” The circumstances of his death are not known, but it might have happened outside of an Army mission.
We first see her in China, shortly (maybe even days) after she gets off the park’s nearby island. She remotely hacks a rich magnate’s home and steals all his money, and gives him an augmented reality trip down memory lane and has him give her all of the secret files he stole from Incite. As of this scene, she is the last of her kind; it might have taken place before she woke up Bernard at the end of season two.
She then steals the identity of a dead Ukrainian girl named Lara Esbin, and at the same time is shown to be in a close (albeit one-month-old) relationship with Liam. Their first scene together in London seems to be at least three months after the Westworld massacre. She spies on Liam to learn who controls Rehoboam and “The System.”
Part of her plan involves setting up Martin Connells. She allows herself to be found out and captured in order to kill Connells and replace him with a host clone.
Her plan shows how much she can use human predictability against humans; Dolores even knew where Connells would flee to, ultimately beating him there. Combined with her control over computer programs, that makes her incredibly dangerous to every person alive.
Dolores’ fate at the end of the episode is unclear. In season two, the Man in Black shot her multiple times and she never even flinched. In the season three premiere, Connells gives her a deadly overdose, but it doesn’t kill her. But at the end of the episode, her gunshot wounds seem like a real injury. Is Dolores genuinely harmed, or is she pretending? If she is, it would mean she’s manipulating Caleb too.
We still don’t know which host is inside the secret clone of Charlotte Hale. Whoever it is, they are now temporary CEO of Delos Inc., three months after 117 people died in the robot uprising at Westworld. Against the advice of the (hologram) board, “Charlotte” pushes to take the company private while they resume making hosts immediately. Dolores wants reinforcements soon. (And she got at least one by episode’s end.)
As part of Charlotte’s pitch, she mentions the company’s other assets, which could prove “very valuable” someday. The missing board member she needs approval from is almost certainly William (The Man in Black). She says that he assigned a machine shareholder proxy and it “agrees” with her.
We don’t know where William is or if he has recovered from his wounds in Westworld yet. But Charlotte and Dolores could obviously hack William’s machine proxy to get the “algorithm” to say whatever they want it to say.
Charlotte also says, “Robots don’t kill people. People kill people,” and places blame for the entire Westworld massacre on Bernard Lowe. He’s a fugitive, and authorities still think he’s human.
Bernard was working on a Chinese dairy farm under the alias Armand Delgado, 92 days after he last spoke with Dolores. (The same general time Charlotte met with the Delos board.) During those three months, Armand ran #342 self-diagnostic tests on himself to make sure no one else had “tampered with or altered” his code.
Bernard split himself into two different personalties, which he can knowingly switch back and forth between. But while Armand is aware of Bernard and can talk to him, he does not know everything Bernard knows. As a result Armand, who is not dangerous, does not completely trust Bernard. However, Bernard said he would never lie to Armand. (We know, it’s confusing. Welcome to Westworld.)
When two dairy farm colleagues try to turn Bernard into the authorities, Armand switches back to Bernard in order to stop them; Armand asks him not to hurt them too badly, and Bernard incapacitates both men.
Before he makes the switch, Armand says that something terrible is coming for them all, and he can’t stop “her” (Dolores) by himself. Armand also says that he can’t trust himself, which is why Bernard split himself into two personalities.
Dolores brought Bernard back to life in the real world. He doesn’t trust his own code and actions, because he doesn’t trust her. She might have made Bernard part of her own master plan. In the end, Bernard (with a trimmed beard) decides that he needs help, and heads back to Westworld to find it.
The Man Who Controls “The System”
The unseen mystery man in charge of Rehoboam makes his presence felt throughout the episode. He sends his employee to question and threaten Liam; Dolores worked for months and killed a lot of people to find out his name. But Connells tells her she won’t have to find Serac. “He has ‘The System.’ He’s probably looking for you right now.” Even if he doesn’t know who Dolores is and can’t predict her movements (since she is a host), he knows something is out there. Divergences in the world are proof of that.
Rehoboam “saved” the world by giving everyone in it a clear path, bringing order and stability to the planet. It measures the present and predicts the future. Nothing that happens should ever be a surprise to “The System.”
We see three measurements in the premiere: The first is a divergence in China when Dolores breaks into the magnate’s house. The second is an anomaly in Los Angeles, right before we meet Caleb. And the third is “elevated scrutiny” in London, where “Lara” joins Liam.
These aren’t just narrative devices for exposition; these are Serac’s own analyses from “The System.” We see Rehoboam in action, recording/analyzing the world and measuring when something unexpected happens. It’s why Serac sends his employee to question Liam about unexpected “disturbances” and why he assumes they were caused by someone hacking it.
Since Rehoboam can’t predict what a host will do, divergences are the best (maybe only) proof of hosts in the real world.
Even one of their biggest investors had no idea Delos was recording their guests’ information and selling the data. The scope of Delos’ work is unknown to even the most powerful.
Multiple characters, including the magnate at the beginning, Caleb’s mom, and others, take Communion wafer-like tabs. These appear to be “pills” that help people sleep, rest, or moderate their emotions. (Or get high.) These could be another form of control by Incite.
Maeve wakes up in the middle of a WWII story she had seemingly already been a part of. When does this take place, and why is it happening? Who knows. If it really did happen, it’s likely a flashback to an early time at Delos Destinations.
Maeve might not be in a physical park, but a virtual park. Westworld used to test new parks and stories virtually, and her reaction indicates she’s never been there before.
Delos Destinations is in shambles. There’s no new park. So if she’s in a virtual park we don’t yet know who put her there or why.
Is Caleb Human?
Someone once shot Caleb in the head. His mother said, “You’re not my son.” One of the three divergences we saw preceded his first appearance on the show. His therapist also asked him, “How did you get here, Cal?”
That’s all circumstantial evidence that he’s not a human. But If Caleb is a host, he doesn’t seem to know it. That would also explain why the Army was so intent on his being a part of their therapy program. It could keep tabs on him and check for “fidelity” to see if Caleb was “real.”
Did Dolores Set Up Caleb?
Dolores knew what Martin Connells would do and uses his predictability to set him up. Did part of her plan also include getting Caleb to show up? Flanagan orders the lethal dose for “Lara,” which Caleb delivers. Just how many steps ahead was Dolores? How much does she know about people already?
Also, Dolores is essentially indestructible. Bullets from William in season two didn’t stop her, and neither did a lethal dose here. So how did a single bullet to her stomach stop her? Was it a ruse to lure in Caleb?
How Did Liam’s Dad Die?
Did Liam kill his father? Liam was never sure if his father loved him or Rehoboam more. Then he realized it wasn’t close. But he didn’t say in which direction it wasn’t close. His dad might have loved Rehoboam much more. Enough that it pushed Liam to kill him.
Or did Serac kill the elder Dempsey? Dempsey’s death gave Serac complete and unchallenged control over the most powerful machine on Earth. It makes him the de facto ruler of the world, but more like a god than an empire. Serac literally controls everyone’s life. And he’s sure he can use Rehoboam to cover up any murder.
Whenever Stubbs is not on screen, all the other characters should be asking, “Where’s Stubbs?”
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.