*Warning: Spoiler Alert for Westworld Season 2*
On Sunday night, HBO’s Westworld wrapped up its second season in a convoluted and underwhelming fashion. (I made a valiant effort to explain as much as I could, but I found myself lost far often than not.) Even though the ambitious and expensive Westworld never quite became the heir apparent to Game of Thrones that HBO likely hoped for, I’ll still be in tow for the previously announced third season.
But just when will that third season arrive? What form will it take? Which characters will and won’t be back? While we don’t know much about the future of the notoriously secretive series, showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have loosened the lid just a bid in the wake of Sunday’s finale.
Here’s everything we do know.
Don’t Hold Your Breath for Season 3
The first season of Westworld, which itself was delayed, premiered in October 2016. Fans then had to endure a painful 18 months until season two arrived, a massive wait that may have played into this year’s slight ratings decline. It’s understandable why Westworld takes so long to produce; it is a sprawling large-scale $100 million endeavor, after all. But we wish there could be a quicker turnaround.
Unfortunately, that won’t be the case for season three. While no release date has yet been announced, Nolan warned fans while speaking to Entertainment Weekly not to get their hopes up anytime soon.
“There’s going to be a bit of a wait for a third season, but we want to surprise and hopefully delight people with the way things progress… We’re still talking it through, honestly, with our friends at HBO, and with the cast and the crew. We want to take the time to make every season as exciting as possible. And we have an enormous challenge going into Season 3 with the worlds that we’re building going forward. We want to make sure we have the time to do that right.”
It’s not easy to produce a season of television, especially one as grandiose as Westworld. But for a show that deliberately misdirects its audiences as often as Westworld does, these long layoffs can really dull fan interest.
Expect the Setting to Change
Westworld has evolved beyond the boundaries of Delos’ property holdings, and season three will reflect that as we move into the real world. At the end of season two, Dolores, disguised as Charlotte Hale, took a handful of memory modules outside the confines of the park. We know she resurrected Bernard and made herself a new body, but we don’t know who else will be brought along for the ride.
What we do know, however, is that much of the action will be set away from Westworld as the hosts begin to experience the real world for the first time, according to Nolan.
“Yes [Season 3 takes place largely outside the park]. We’re very excited about where the third season goes. It’s been a long build-up to get outside the park. And we’re incredibly excited about what that looks like and sounds like and what exactly our hosts discover out there.”
However, that’s not to say that the series is abandoning its main stage altogether. In addition to Westworld, Shogun World and Raj, we still have three remaining mystery parks, believed to be Roman World, Medieval World and hopefully Future World.
“Well, not all of our favorite characters have managed to escape yet, so…,” Nolan said when asked about returning to the familiar setting.
This sounds like a great opportunity to expand the world of the show and the implications of its characters’ actions while also still playing into fan speculation. If season one was all about the host journey to consciousness within Westworld and season two was all about the host species fighting for their right to exist, then season three is about their exposure to the real world.
As Joy explained to The Hollywood Reporter:
“From the beginning, when Jonah and I were thinking about the series as far back as the pilot, we knew we wanted to explore other worlds in the park, and we also knew the one world we would start to see little glimpses of throughout the first two seasons was the real world, and that we would get there eventually—and when we did, it would be a whole new experience.”
Say Goodbye to Some Fan Favorites
Despite headlining Westworld‘s best overall episode, we likely won’t be seeing Zahn McClarnon’s Akecheta again. Or Teddy. Or Angela. In fact, a number of supporting characters may not ever be revisited as the showrunners don’t appear to have any plans in place to return to the Valley Beyond, or what the writers refer to as the “Sublime.” Per Nolan:
“I think that’s on the safer end of things to presume. But there’s a big story we’re telling here so… yeah… We’ve had some interesting conversations. It’s a large ensemble cast and sadly we’re saying goodbye to some people at the end of this season. But as always with this show, who remains and who doesn’t is something we’re having a lot of fun with. There’s going to be a bit of a wait for a third season, but we want to surprise and hopefully delight people with the way things progress.”
While it may be hard to say goodbye to certain characters, it’s hard to maintain this web of faces for multiple seasons. Game of Thrones is famous for thinning the herd over its run (RIP Ned Stark). This is just a matter of efficiency at this point.
Dolores vs. Bernard
What is most striking about Nolan and Joy’s comments is who they believe season three belongs to, and it’s hard to argue with their choice. When we last saw Delos’ well-meaning head of programming and the rancher’s daughter, they were both in the real world, ready to oppose one another (though a begrudging mutual respect may have formed). That dynamic will serve as the spine of season three, according to Joy:
“In the end, the lesson [Dolores] learned is that she can change. She’s changed her mind. She’s changed her philosophy. She realizes she has but one path to potentially securing the hosts’ safety, when she helps see through Maeve and Akecheta’s plan by securing the sovereignty and safety of the Sublime, to which many of the hosts have escaped. It’s an acknowledgment that there are paths other than hers that she needs to be tolerant and accepting of and can’t stand in the way of. It’s much like how she tells Bernard that she understands they will likely be at odds. They will likely come into conflict. They may even kill each other. But she’s come to understand that true freedom isn’t something that arises from a lack of dissent, from a dictatorial or totalitarian rule of one set of ideologies. It’s something that has to happen with a plurality of ideas, sometimes coming into conflict. Because she’s learned her lesson, she’s bringing Bernard back into this world to be a check on her own power, in some ways.”
As a viewer, I’m fascinated to see these two hosts operate in the real world. But my hope is that Maeve is not forgotten in all of this drama. Yes, I know she “died” in the finale, but the show went out of its way to imply that she’ll be back. Maeve has always been the show’s most interesting character and remains so after Dolores’ one-note heel turn. There’s still plenty of interesting story to mine from her in the park, but I would love to see what she could do with the freedom afforded to Dolores and Bernard. Hopefully, the showrunners don’t sideline her character next season.