What do you do with a show like Westworld? It has been nearly two years since HBO’s buzzy sci-fi drama aired a new episode. If you’re anything like me—and I reviewed the damn thing—you’ve forgotten the vast majority of what happened in the show’s ambitious, often baffling second season.
But Westworld is back for its third season tonight—so if you’re going to hop on this train before it leaves the station again (and you probably should, considering it's high time to stay home, avoid social contact, and catch up on your programs) you might want a refresher on where we left off. And while it’s literally impossible to explain everything Westworld is doing with any kind of certainty, we did our best to give you a crash course on what actually happened (a lot!) and what actually mattered (not as much!) in Season 2:
So let’s say, hypothetically, I forgot pretty much everything about Westworld Season 2. Should I even bother with Season 3?
Here’s the good news: You’re going to be fine. Season 2 was kind of a mess, and while Westworld doesn’t pretend it never happened, it also uses the table-clearing Season 2 finale to start Season 3 with a relatively clean slate.
So what do I need to know?
Basically: Everything that happened in the season two finale. If you have 90 minutes to spare, go ahead and watch that again. If you don’t, just keep reading.
Let’s start with the basics: In the chaos of a violent uprising at the park, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) has managed to escape Westworld.
How did she do that?
By killing Delos Corporation bigwig Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson), designing a host body that looked exactly liked her, and using that body to walk out of the park.
Shouldn’t someone have caught that?
Probably! But Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), the head of security at Westworld, figured it out and let her go anyway. He also gave a cryptic speech that implied he was either sympathetic to the hosts or a host himself. Westworld: Where anyone might be a robot!
Okay. So Dolores is out in the real world?
Yep. This is what makes Season 3 a quasi-reboot: For the first time, our main action is taking place outside the boundaries of the theme park. Most of our main characters are there too. First and foremost is Dolores, pretending to be a human. Her long-term goal, as she monologued in theSeason 2 finale, is to wipe out the human race in favor of hosts, whom she believes should be the next dominant species on Earth.
What about "Charlotte Hale"? Still a host?
Indeed. "Charlotte" remains a bigwig at the Delos Corporation, which has obviously taken a bit of a P.R. hit after the hosts killed a bunch of people. And since "Charlotte" is actually a host, it’s safe to assume Dolores can use her to manipulate Westworld’s parent company into doing her bidding without anyone catching on.
What does the Delos Corporation want, anyway?
Well, they were probably making a lot of money from the rich assholes who came through the theme parks. But in Season 2, we also learned that the front-facing theme park business was just a cover for the real purpose of Westworld: Taking the rich and powerful people who come through the park and making perfect copies of their brains—and this is not a joke—via a secret mechanism in the cowboy hats they wear.
Okay, whatever. So the theme parks are gone for good?
Season 2 didn’t explicitly answer that question, but it didn’t look good! Many Westworld employees were killed. Many hosts ascended to The Forge—basically heaven for robots, which enabled them to vacate their robots bodies and move their brains into the cloud.
But there are still three whole theme parks we didn’t know anything about!
Good memory! You’re right: It was established early on in Westworld that the Delos Corporation actually operated six different theme parks. In addition to Westworld, Season 2 took us into two others: Shogun World, which let guests experience feudal Japan, and The Raj, which let guests experience India circa the rule of the British Empire.
So we’re never going to learn about the other three?
You’ve seen Jurassic Park, right? These idiots always find a reason to keep their deadly theme park running after a disaster. Stay tuned.
And besides, there’s at least one major character still inside the boundaries of the park: Maeve (Thandie Newton).
Oh yeah. What happened to Maeve in Season 2?
A lot, and you don’t need to remember (or care about) most of it. But here’s the big stuff: (1) She was desperate to find and save her daughter, and eventually succeeded into guiding her to The Forge at the end of season 2. (2) She has the ability to control other hosts, which sort of makes her the Neo of the Westworld universe. (3) She has a thing with a hunky host named Hector (Rodrigo Santoro). (4) She also earned a handful of human allies along the way, including narrative designer Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) and a pair of technicians named Felix (Leonardo Nam) and Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum).
What about Bernard?
As far as we know? A wild card. At the end of Season 2, Dolores brings Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) into the real world. Bernard, unlike Dolores, believes that humans can still be good and deserve to be saved. In a Team of Rivals-esque flourish, Dolores seems to have brought Bernard into the world with her because he doesn’t share her plan. He might be an enemy, but he’s an enemy she created to ensure that she doesn’t go too far. (Hmmm… maybe hosts really are superior to humans.)
Aren’t there, like… a million other characters?
Yeah. But if I haven’t mentioned them, they’re either dead or irrelevant to what I’ve seen from Season 3, which swiftly introduces a whole bunch of new characters to replace the old ones.
Wait. What about the Man in Black? Is that guy still kicking around?
[deep breath] Apparently! If you didn’t stick around through the Season 2 finale credits—and frankly, why would you?—you missed a big inexplicable scene:
Honestly: I have no idea what’s going on here. My best guess is that it’s a flash forward, which explains why the park is destroyed. The woman looks exactly like the Man in Black’s dead daughter Emily (Katja Hebers) but is probably a host. At least in this scene, the Man in Black is probably a host too: A perfect copy of the real Man in Black, designed to extend his life indefinitely. This is the other real purpose of Westworld: To develop technology that would allow very rich people to put their consciousnesses into robot bodies, which would theoretically allow them to live indefinitely.
But maybe this scene is just another posthumous head game by the late Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins), who hated the Man in Black, and spent much of Season 2 messing with him from beyond the grave.
Here’s the good news: I’m not going to spoil how the Man in Black figures into Season 3, but at least for now, you don’t need to know anything about any of this. So unless you want to join the Westworld hive mind and spend umpteen hours trying to find the center of a very tedious maze, go ahead and shift your mind to the show’s less tedious characters and mysteries.
One big tip: After you watch the Season 3 premiere on Sunday, do not turn your TV off when the credits roll, because there’s another little post-credits stinger designed to make your head explode.
Also: Marshawn Lynch is in the show now.
Former Seattle Seahawk Marshawn Lynch?
I still can’t tell if you’re joking.
That’s Westworld, baby!
Originally Appeared on GQ