With perhaps the best-timed season premiere in history, HBO’s mind-warping sci-fi saga Westworld returns to the small screen this weekend. Glued to our sofas and too scared to venture outside (“But there’s coronavirus out there!”), literally all any of us will be doing til Monday (and maybe beyond) is filling our brains with binge-able box sets. Unfortunately, the biggest show on TV is perhaps the most confusing too.
Set in a world where sentient robots fight to take control of their destinies from nasty, exploitative humans, Westworld features mind-boggling narrative techniques like delayed timelines, slow-burn reveals and unreliable narrators. Not helpful if you like to pop out for a cuppa mid-scene.
As a result, fans are often left with quite a few questions at the end of each episode. Season three, while slightly simpler than the first two seasons, is no different. So, if you’ve just finished episode one and haven’t the foggiest what just went down, scroll on and enlighten yourself. You’re welcome.
What happened at the end of Westworld season 2?
A quick recap for returning tellyheads (and new fans too). Spending the first 20 episodes held captive in the titular theme park – a wild west utopia where rich people murder, maim and have sex with ultra-lifelike machines – some of the ‘hosts’ have escaped. But let’s rewind a bit, shall we? Right back to the the most WTF series cliffhanger in recent memory.
Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), a former park employee and ‘host’ himself, shot and killed Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) – a sentient robot determined to wreak vengeance on mankind. But then he realised that he was now the last living host because his fellow rogue cyborgs had either been ‘killed’ or managed to escape to ‘The Valley Beyond’ – a digital cloud of sorts in which they now live freely. Ol’ Bernie wasn’t too keen on that, so he created a new host in the likeness of dead park CEO Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) and planted Dolores’ consciousness inside her head. In Dolores’ empty robo-skull, he left a micro-brain (‘pearl’ in Westworld language) which contained all of the illegal data the park had been keeping on its customers. This is a hugely powerful gift, and one that Dolores is certain to take advantage of in her fight against the fleshies.
Now comes the difficult bit. Thanks to showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s time-twisting delayed narratives, some of this stuff had been happening out of order, unbeknown to fans. After a brief monologue, Charlotte (actually Dolores) revealed her true identity to Bernard, who had scrambled his own brain so that his employers couldn’t steal the park data from him. She then shot him and stole his and several other hosts consciousnesses, which Charlotte/Dolores then takes with her into the real world. Politely, she rebuilt Bernard before she left – and explained to him her plan to bring human civilisation crashing down. Sensibly though, she brought Bernard back from the digital graveyard because she reckons A.I.-kind will need both of them to survive.
And that’s where we left things. Dolores and Charlotte/Dolores in the real world – and Bernard following on. The first few episodes of season three takes place almost entirely in a Blade Runner-style metropolis that may or may not be a futuristic version of Los Angeles.
What park is Maeve in?
At the start of season three, Maeve (Thandie Newton) – another clever bot who’s achieved sentience – is now in Warworld, a neighbouring park with a different historical theme (Nazi-occupied Europe). But as the episode unfolds, it emerges that she might not actually be where she thinks she is…
Who is Serac?
One of the new characters introduced (in name only) this episode, is shadowy trillionaire Serac, played by slick French actor Vincent Cassell. His name is the only thing we learn in this season’s opening 60 minutes, but for those anxious to know more: Serac is a mysterious business magnate who controls a high-tech system which can predict anyone’s future based on an algorithm. He’s determined to track down Dolores (new version) and make use of the park data in her head to tighten his grip on society.
What happened to Caleb in Afghanistan?
Another new face is construction worker Caleb (Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul), an ex-serviceman suffering from PTSD who wanders onto Dolores’ radar. Throughout the episode, we see him talking to a male voice (Francis, played by rapper Kid Cudi) via an earpiece. In later flashbacks, it is revealed that his confidante is an A.I. version of a friend who was killed during a past tour of Afghanistan. In the same accident, Caleb was shot in the head, but unlike his pal, he survived.
What is the app Caleb uses to earn money?
To supplement his meagre earnings as a builder, Caleb books small time criminal work via a Grand Theft Auto-inspired app on his smartphone. As he completes missions, cash payments are deposited in his account. It is through this work that we meet Lena Waithe’s character, a mysterious agent of the criminal underworld who gives Caleb jobs.
Is Dolores dead?
At the end of the episode, Dolores isn’t in good shape. After starting a gunfight with some goons, the angry automaton finds herself lying in the gutter, riddled with bullet holes. Luckily, Caleb is just around the corner and stumbles upon her damaged body. The last thing we see of the newly-met pair is Dolores limp figure in Caleb’s arms. You’ll have to wait until episode two to see if she pulls through.
Where is Bernard going on the boat?
The last scene in Westworld season three episode one concerns Bernard. Following a mini-origin story in which we see him living undercover as some kind of meat-packer in the Phillipines, he is discovered by two co-workers who recognise him from the news. After quickly dispatching the pair – thank you robot super-strength – Bernie makes for a nearby port where he requests a lift to, you guessed it: “Westworld”.
‘Westworld’ season three premieres at 2am on Mondays on Sky Atlantic. It is repeated at 9pm