HBO took advantage of the record number of viewers tuning in to the finale last night to release the first teaser for season three of . The teaser is deliberately vague on details, but it looks like we’re in for a dystopian near-future scenario set not in the original theme park but in the real outside world.
(Some spoilers for first two seasons below.)
If you’re new to the series, the titular is one of six immersive theme parks owned and operated by a company called Delos Inc. It’s essentially Live Action Role Play (LARP-ing) combined with a choose-your-own-adventure experience. The park is populated with a “cast” of very human-looking androids, called hosts, who follow a bunch of intertwining narratives, rebooting the same narrative every day. The park’s well-heeled visitors can pretty much do whatever they like to the hosts—rape, pillage, torture, murder—and they do so more often than not, because they don’t see the hosts as anything more than unfeeling props in their private dramas.
But the hosts are much more complicated than that, and their creator—co-founder and park director of Westworld Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins)—has a plan to “awaken” one host in particular named Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) to true sentience. The result is a bloody massacre at the end of season one, as the reprogrammed hosts rise up to take revenge on the guests.
Naturally, Delos responds by sending in security forces to quell the uprising and prevent any hosts from escaping the confines of the park into the real world outside. It proved a futile effort. In the season two finale, three of the Hosts were shown entering the real world in the central timeline: Dolores, Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), and former Delos executive Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson), except she’s really Dolores’ consciousness inhabiting a rebuild of Charlotte’s body.
The responses to s second season were mixed. But Ars’ Lee Hutchinson picked it as his top series for our annual TV Technica roundup last year. “Yes, it’s needlessly baroque, nearly to the point of being impenetrable,” he wrote. “Yes, the layering of the plot means you really do need to watch every episode more than once to get the full measure of what’s going on. Yes, a timeline diagram really does help… I still think it’s the best TV show of 2018.”
The teaser that aired last night opens with a weary voiceover. “Sometimes it seems like the world looks all right,” a man says. “Like they put a coat of paint on it. But inside it’s rotting to pieces.” We see Adrian Paul walking along streets that seem familiar, only with strange futuristic touches. I suspect this is the future that emerged after the three hosts left the park, and we’re in for more multiple shifting timelines in season three to reveal how everyone ended up there. “They said it would make a better world, smooth out the rough edges,” Paul’s character continues. “But that was a lie. I guess the rough edges are the only thing I’m hanging onto.” That, and a bit of armed robbery at a charity gala to augment his day job earnings as a worker drone.
There’s no sign of Bernard and just a fleeting shot of Charlotte Hale lounging by an infinity pool. But in the final moments, we catch a glimpse of a very different-looking Dolores, as Paul’s character muses that he needs to find someone “real.” (If Dolores is no longer inhabiting Charlotte’s body, who is?) It looks like will be continuing the theme so nicely articulated by Hutchinson last year: “We are crude hunks of self-animating meat—obstacles standing in the way of the hosts’ path to true self-actualization. It’s time for us to die and for the hosts to inherit the Earth, because in [supervillain] Ford’s mind, only a true ‘original work’ has worth. The hosts, as created beings, are such a work.”
The humans are still around in this brave new world. Or are they? If we’ve learned one thing from watching the first two seasons of , it’s this: who can tell who’s human or not, or even what’s real anymore?
Season three of will debut on HBO at some undetermined date in 2020.