Westworld is a pretty straightforward show, really. It’s about consciousness. And the future. And what it means to be alive. And the greed of massive corporations. And the quest for immortality. There are robots. The robots originally existed for millionaires to have sex with and/or murder at a kind of debaucherous Disney World, but then they got smart and planned a revolution. Some of the real people are secretly robots, too. One guy was real then returned as a robot but his robot was murdered and his consciousness was stolen to be placed into another robot. The action happens across multiple timelines that are not identified as they change. At one point, a robot madam in a Wild West brothel escaped to look for her robot daughter and ended up in an amusement park based on feudal Japan, where she proceeded to use mind control to force dozens of robot samurais to commit suicide-by-katana while an instrumental cover of “C.R.E.A.M.” by Wu-Tang Clan played in the background. Some of the robots have escaped into the real world. Others went to what appears to be robot heaven. Sometimes Anthony Hopkins shows up as a ghost.
Hmm. Okay, I take it back. Westworld is not a simple show. Westworld is very confusing at times, often on purpose, occasionally in ways that pay off thoughtful and profound meditations on existence, other times in ways that will leave you saying “Wait… who is that guy?” four or five times in an episode. It’s still a fun watch, though, even if there’s no way you remember or understand everything that has happened in the show’s first two seasons.
That’s why we’re doing this: a casual viewer’s guide to Westworld as we head into the upcoming third season. It’s not a comprehensive, exhaustive look at the show that touches on every development we’ve seen to date. I wouldn’t do that to you or myself. I respect us too much for that. What it is, however, are some highlights that will probably be helpful and useful going forward. Five of them, to be specific. We’re going to keep this as simple as possible, for both of us.
Here we go.
1. Delos, briefly
Delos is the billion-dollar company that owns and operates the theme parks where this all started. There are a bunch of them: Westworld (Wild West), Shogun World (samurais and such), etc. That was never really the point, though. The parks were used as part of an evil misdirect: first, as a way to build psychological profiles of the one-percenter guests and/or blackmail them with their acts of robot murdersex; second, as a backdoor to immortality, by creating a system where your consciousness can be downloaded into a robot host that you can just swap out every now and then for the rest of time.
The controlling shareholder of Delos at present is William aka The Man in Black aka Ed Harris, who is also the park’s most hopelessly obsessed gamer and a guy who killed his real daughter because he thought she was a robot sent to torment him by the park’s creative mastermind, Ford (Anthony Hopkins), who set the robot revolution in motion at the end of season one by having Dolores blow his brains out in front of the entire Delos board.
Speaking of Dolores…
2. Characters, alive and deceased and in limbo, also briefly
Okay, here goes. I promise this is the simple version.
Dolores — Dolores started out as a sweet farmer’s daughter and eventually evolved into the lead robot revolutionary, a blond bringer of doom, who became hellbent on freeing the hosts at the parks by breaking the chains that enslaved them. Her quest resulted in a classic She Knows Too Much situation, which itself resulted in Bernard shooting and killing her, but then creating a robot version of a Delos executive named Charlotte to house her brain, and then Charlores (Dolorlette?) sending all the robot data to some as-yet-unknown location and fleeing the park, but not before killing Bernard and taking his brain with her to plop into a new Bernard in the real world.
Bernard/Arnold — Arnold was one of the park’s original creative minds before he got cold feet about it all and had the robots murder him. He was played by Jeffrey Wright. Bernard is basically a robot version of Arnold, also played by Jeffrey Wright, that was created by Ford to build the park. Bernard is the most existentially troubled character on the show, both because he didn’t know he was a robot at all until very recently and because he wanted to stop Dolores but ended up helping her before she killed him and smuggled him out of the facility to help her continue the revolution in the real world. He is also the most difficult character to explain in one paragraph. The keys here are as follows: brilliant, confused, troubled, sad, currently exists as a brain in a jar as Dolores waits to rebuild him. That’s probably good enough.
Charlotte — Delos executive who tried to get in the way and was killed by Bernard, who then created a robot version of her and plopped Dolores’ brain into it so she could escape.
Maeve — The aforementioned former robot brothel madam who became what could be most simply described as the Keanu Reeves of the show, a kind of mix of Neo’s ability to manipulate his world with his brain and John Wick’s lust for bloody revenge. She became obsessed with getting her robot daughter into the park’s robot heaven (also known as The Valley Beyond, it was a whole thing), and was mowed down by a heavily-armed Delos security team in the process. She is dead. She probably won’t remain dead, though, thanks to two human technicians named Felix and Sylvester, who a) survived the robot revolution, b) are idiots, and c) are named after famous cartoon cats. We like Maeve. Maeve is cool. Long live Maeve.
The Man in Black — We touched on this above. He’s in charge of the park, which he used to live out his wildest and most violent fantasies. He got in way too deep. When we last saw him, he had his hand mangled by a gun that Dolores boobytrapped, washed up on a beach with the other human survivors, and, in a post-credits scene that apparently took place in the future, was getting interrogated by a robot version of the real-life daughter he once killed because he thought she was a robot. I rarely have any idea what’s going on with him but I do very much appreciate that there is a television show out there that lets Ed Harris make evil faces five or six times per episode.
Various dead people who may or may not return because who the hell knows with this show? Not me, buddy — Teddy, the sweet white-hat robot cowboy played by James Marsden who was reprogrammed to be an evil maniac and then put out of his misery; Lee Sizemore, the useless human weasel who wrote the stories for the parks and once got so drunk at work that he peed off a balcony and onto a working map of the facilities; Hector, the handsome robot safecracker who traveled with Maeve and who shows up in the season three trailer, which is great news because there are so few handsome robot safecrackers on television these days; and Elsie, Bernard’s poor human protege who got too close to the truth and was held hostage in a cave for weeks before getting out and promptly getting killed by Charlotte.
3. The dang robots are on the loose
As alluded to a number of times already, the robots have broken out. Or, one robot has broken out, with the intention of multiplying. Dolores’ anarchy-obsessed brain is currently in the body of a robot version of Charlotte, with a case filled with at least five additional robot brains, including Bernard’s and (possibly) Maeve’s. She is obsessed with revenge against humanity and is apparently in a futuristic city in what appears to be the home owned by Arnold before he was killed by a robot and was resurrected as a robot named Bernard, who, again, was also killed by a robot. Early reports imply that this new season is a little less mindbendy, which is probably good and probably inevitable because, like, I’m giving you the most basic version of it right now and I still sound like a lunatic. I won’t lie, though, a part of me does kind of hope the show takes a hard left and gets even weirder. I love the chaos of it all. Put two of the robots on the moon and never tell us why or how they’re up there. See what I care.
4. Aaron Paul, Lena Waithe, and Marshawn Lynch are on the show now
That’s them in the trailer, sure enough. I’m very happy to see Aaron Paul on my television again. Lena Waithe is great. Marshawn Lynch is a Skittles-loving NFL running back whose two best-known moments are: 1) hijacking the injury cart during a postgame celebration in college and whipping around the field on it; and 2) ripping off a touchdown run that ended with him leaping into the endzone backwards while grabbing his crotch and resulted in a roar from the home crowd that was so loud it rumbled the ground with enough force to register on the Richter scale. Neither of those things have anything to do with this upcoming season. I just wanted to mention them. I stand by it.
Actually, we don’t know much of anything about these characters or what they’re up to. Are they helping Dolores? Are they trying to stop her? Is Aaron Paul playing a robot version of Jesse Pinkman who is still on the run from the police years after the end of both Breaking Bad and the follow-up movie, El Camino? Too soon to say. The closest I’ve come to finding an answer is this brief description of his character on the Westworld Fandom page:
Caleb Nichols is a main character that will appear in Season Three. He is a construction worker and the co-worker of George, a Delos model G-267. He also appears to commit heists with the characters played by Lena Waithe and Marshawn Lynch.
I have no idea if that last sentence is true or not but, reader, please know that I began cackling like a supervillain upon reading it, and not just because there was an evil real estate tycoon named “Caleb Nichol” (no “s”) on The O.C. Any big-budget prestige series that may or may not feature Marshawn Lynch doing heists is must-watch television in my eyes.
5. The show has a two-season streak going where one character tells another character that the two of them are “not so different” and I will be on high alert to see if it continues
This one matters very much to me and very little to anyone else, but this is my list and I care about it more than any of the stuff about robot heaven so, boom, here it is.
I hope this helped. I suspect it did not. Either way, know that we’re all in this together.