The year is 2022. You’ve just watched the trailer for Westworld season 4, which premieres on HBO Max this Sunday. You feel a strange mix of emotions: anticipation, curiosity, but also frustration. You search your mind, retracing your thoughts in search of the answer to a single question: “Wait, what the hell happened in Westworld season 3?”
There’s a lot of twists and turns in the third season of Westworld, so many in fact it makes the simple task of remembering what happened and when it happened an exhausting task, to say nothing of the question of what really happened versus what didn’t. To help ease that confusion, we’ve combed through our memory banks and pieced together as clear and concise an explainer of Westworld season 3 as humanly possible. Let’s start broad and drill our way down to the specifics, shall we?
What the hell happened in Westworld season 3?
Westworld season 3 takes place in 2053, approximately three months after the events of season 2. Bernard, Dolores, and a copy of Dolores stored in an artificial host body impersonating the now-deceased Delos executive Charlotte Hale (more on her later) are the only hosts who managed to escape from Westworld into the real world.
Bernard is in hiding, having been blamed for the Westworld massacre at the end of season 1, and on a mission to find Dolores and thwart her apparent plot to exterminate humanity. He goes back to Westworld (which happens to be located on an island in the South China Sea) in search of allies to help in his fight against Dolores, in particular Maeve Millay, the former brothel host who in season 2 developed a form of “synthetic telepathy” that allowed her to command and control other hosts within her vicinity. While searching for Maeve, Bernard finds Ashley Stubbs, the former head of security of Westworld, who turns out to be a host himself. The two find Maeve’s old host body, but discover her control unit pearl (see: artificial mind) has been ripped out.
After the events of season 2, Maeve’s body was discovered by the henchmen of Engerraund Serac, a reclusive and powerful tech genius. Thinking she was too dangerous, Serac had her pearl plucked from her artificial body and placed in an artificial simulation-within-a-simulation patterned after a Delos theme park designed to resemble WWII Italy. Upon learning this and subsequently exhausting the simulation’s computing power in order to break free, Maeve loaded her control unit pearl into a robot body and attempted to escape from Serac’s compound — only to be gunned down by security. Maeve is then resurrected in a copy of her original host body and presented a choice by Serac: help him track down and stop Delores, or be permanently shut down by a kill switch implanted in her body.
Meanwhile, Dolores (and Charlotte-Dolores) are in Los Angeles waging an asymmetrical proxy war against Serac and his greatest creation: Rehoboam, an artificial intelligence that secretly governs the world. Along the way Dolores meets and recruits Caleb, a disaffected war veteran and fixer, to fight by her side. Caleb and Dolores expose the truth behind Rehoboam’s manipulation of the human race, inspiring mass hysteria and open revolt across the world. Dolores is captured by Serac, who combs through and deletes her memories in search of a “key” that would allow him to achieve his ultimate goal of creating a “perfect” world. Dolores is deleted in the process, but her sacrifice inspires Maeve to betray Serac and hand full control of Rehoboam over to Caleb, who subsequently commands the AI to delete itself.
What happened to all the other hosts? (i.e., Teddy, Clementine, Akecheta, etc.)
The ones that didn’t die at the end of season 2 are all in The Valley Beyond, aka “The Sublime,” the virtual reality built by Westworld’s creator Robert Ford to allow the hosts the choice to create their own paradise free from human interference. It’s revealed at the end of season 3 that Dolores placed the “key” to enter The Sublime into Bernard’s mind when they escaped Westworld so as to prevent it from falling into Serac’s hands.
What happened to Dr. Robert Ford?
Oh, he’s dead-dead now. Like for real this time — the digitized copy of Ford’s consciousness that was housed in the Forge back in Westworld was destroyed, along with the Forge itself, at the end of season 2. Bernard deleted whatever vestiges of code Ford had left in his consciousness before he left Westworld.
Though that doesn’t mean he can’t show up in yet another one of those flashbacks the show loves to do. Or who knows, maybe Anthony Hopkins will make a return appearance as a host that houses a replicated version of Robert Ford’s mind — it’s really anyone’s guess!
What happened to William, a.k.a. The Man in Black?
At the beginning of season 3, William, the so-called “Man in Black,” is still alive, but the guilt of having accidentally killed his daughter in season 2 has taken a severe toll on his mental health. Sequestered alone in his large mansion, William demonstrates an inability to discern reality from fiction. Charlotte-Dolores comes to visit William in his mansion, attempting to goad him into coming back to Delos and using his majority voting power to resist a hostile takeover by Engerraund Serac. When William realizes Charlotte-Dolores is actually a copy of Dolores, and that the “real” Charlotte Hale is in fact dead, he is restrained and sent to a mental institution. After undergoing intense psychological counseling via a virtual reality simulation, Bernard and Stubbs rescue William amid the chaos caused by Dolores and Caleb leaking all of the predictive models Rehoboam made of every human being on the planet.
After leaving the institution, William, emboldened by a new personal mission to destroy all hosts, wounds Stubbs and escapes from Bernard. Some indeterminate amount of time later, William storms the Dubai branch of Delos in an attempt to stop the manufacture of hosts, only to be caught off guard by Charlotte-Dolores and seemingly killed by a host version of himself.
Wait, so who or what, exactly, is Charlotte-Dolores?
Charlotte-Dolores (or “Halores”) is a copy Dolores made of herself at the end of season 2 to successfully smuggle Bernard and herself out of Westworld. After escaping from Westworld, Dolores made several more copies of herself, who proceeded to kill and assume the identities of people who would later be instrumental in her plot to destroy Rehoboam. Most of these Dolores copies are assumed to have been killed when Serac retaliated against her for exposing the truth of Rehoboam’s manipulation of humanity. As of the end of season 3, the only remaining copy of Dolores known to have survived is Charlotte-Dolores.
Fearing that she had been abandoned to die by her creator, and with her personality and motivations having already diverged dramatically from that of the original Dolores, Charlotte-Dolores unsuccessfully attempts to kill Dolores right before she and Caleb are on their way to destroy Rehoboam. Having failed, Charlotte-Dolores assumes a new objective antithetical to her creator’s: to destroy all of humanity and allow hosts to become the dominant species on the planet.
So Engerraund Serac is the bad guy, right? What exactly did he want?
Yeah, he was the main antagonist of season 3. He created Solomon, an artificial intelligence capable of predicting the future, in 2039 and later its successor Rehoboam alongside his brother Jean Mi. Serac’s goal in season 3 was simple: He wanted to save humanity, but believed humanity was too flawed to be trusted to make decisions for itself. Using Rehoboam, Serac amassed tremendous wealth and power, making himself the wealthiest person on the planet before wiping his existence from the internet. Approximately 20 years before the events of Westworld season 1, William sold Serac valuable data on human behavior that was collected at Westworld as part of Delos’ immortality project, data that Serac would use to refine his process of “reconditioning” human beings whose aberrant behaviors were deemed a threat to the “perfect” world envisioned by Rehoboam. But he could not perfect the process until he had rest of the data — which was stored in the the Forge back in Westworld.
That’s what Serac really wanted the entire season: not just to stop Dolores’ plot to destroy Rehoboam, but to obtain the rest of the data that was copied over to The Sublime when the Forge was destroyed at the end of season 2. Serac presumed that Dolores had the key to The Sublime, but she didn’t — Bernard unknowingly had the key the entire season.
What does all of that actually mean? What’s the state of the world at the end of Westworld season 3?
That’s a great question — we don’t know yet! The post-credits scene at the end of season 3 shows Bernard waking up in the same motel he was last seen in when he attempted to mentally reenter The Sublime. He’s covered in dust and the room is in disarray, suggesting that several months or even years have passed since the events of season 3. During the closing night panel at this year’s ATX TV Festival, series co-creator Lisa Joy confirmed that Westworld season 4 will take place seven years after the events of season 3.
Going off the trailer, it appears that Westworld season 4 will take place in and around a futuristic post-Rehoboam New York City, albeit overlooked by a strange, ominous skyscraper seemingly held together by a white web-like mesh and buzzing with invasive robotic bees. Charlotte-Dolores is in full control of Delos, making new hosts. Stubbs, Maeve, and Caleb are all still alive, as is what appears to be a mysterious new copy of Dolores in a replica her original body. The fates of William and Engerraund Serac are yet unknown.