7:02pm PT by Josh Wigler
'Westworld' Creators on That Game-Changing Season 3 Twist: "It's a Very Dangerous Idea"
[This story contains spoilers for season three, episode four of HBO's Westworld, "The Mother of Exiles."]
"Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?"
It's a fundamental question asked throughout Westworld, primarily directed at the hosts: Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), Maeve (Thandie Newton) and, of course, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood). But saying the words "Dolores" and "of course" in the same sentence are very dangerous these days, if they were ever safe to begin with — because Westworld now has not one, not two, not three, but four different Doloreses in play.
In "The Mother of Exiles," directed by Paul Cameron and written by Jordan Goldberg and Lisa Joy, one of the biggest questions of season three gets a shocking answer: who is Charlotte Hale? Tessa Thompson's cold and calculated Delos executive was assassinated in season two's finale, replaced by Dolores, and then seemingly inhabited by a new artificial intelligence once Dolores brought her original body (see: Evan Rachel Wood) back online.
Listen to the Series Regular: Westworld podcast for more on the shocking twist.
As it turns out, the person occupying the new Charlotte Hale's shoes is none other than Dolores as well — albeit a different digital copy of Dolores. And she's not alone. In fleeing the park at the end of season two, Dolores escaped with five different pearls (host-brains, in layman's terms); periodically in season three, viewers have watched Dolores kill and replace folks with hosts, such as Martin Connells, the security expert played by Sons of Anarchy veteran Tommy Flanagan.
Who is the robot kicking around in Connells' body? Yet another Dolores. And there's still another: Hiroyuki Sanada's Musashi, the Shogun World warrior, now serving as the leader of the Yakuza in Singapore — and currently studded with a Dolores pearl of his/her very own.
There are at least four different versions of Dolores at large: Evan Rachel Wood's "original," Tessa Thompson's "Halores," Flanagan's "Connellores," and Sanada's "Yakuzalores." (Names are not official, of course, but Westworld nation better arrive at a consensus fast, because we may not be out of the woods yet: there should be two additional pearls in play, including Jeffrey Wright's Bernard, who could theoretically be housing an asymptomatic Dolores personality at the moment (after all, Dolores once featured both a version of herself and a version of the stone-cold killer persona Wyatt at the same time), as well as an as-yet-unrevealed fifth pearl.
Brain hurt yet? It's just another week in Westworld, albeit an even headier one than usual, and one that creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy wanted to wait a long time to unfurl.
"We very carefully avoided the idea of clones and copies of hosts in the first couple of seasons," Nolan tells The Hollywood Reporter. "When you apply the idea that digital information wants to be free to your characters, it's a very dangerous idea. If Dolores is infinitely copiable, then is she still Dolores? One of the ideas we're most fascinated with is identity, agency. Is Dolores a computer program? Or is Dolores a collection of her experiences? It's one of the questions that's the origin of the series: nature versus nurture. If we indulge in the idea of copies of the hosts too early, then the rules get threatened, and your affinity for and investment in Dolores — this Dolores — is threatened."
With two seasons under their belt, Nolan and Joy no longer felt the threat of thinning out the viewers' investment in Dolores and her quest.
"Now, in our third season, a fascinating thing for us to explore is this other way of approaching the question of identity," says Nolan. "If you take two copies of the same person but set them on slightly different trajectories but with the same goals, would they remain the same person? Would they maintain the same goals? Or would some part of the character — the version of Dolores who has been forced to pretend to be Hale (Thompson) — in pretending to be Hale, has she absorbed any of her methods of thinking? Is she absorbing any of who Hale was? Or could a natural consequence of being in a different circumstance than the original Dolores be that they may not remain the same person anymore — that they may not even be allies? It's a larger question that we think is a lot of fun to play with."
If Evan Rachel Wood's Dolores and Tessa Thompson's Dolores are on track for a breakup, it will be a very rude awakening for the original version of the character, who brought at least three versions of herself online in her mission to create a new world order. For the creators, part of the fun of the twist (and its fallout) resides in the questions sure to arise about Dolores and her tactics.
"Maybe it's the ultimate act of hubris to say, 'I'm going to make and populate the new world with me,'" says Joy. "On the other hand, if you're about to engage in something very dangerous, there's something quite selfless in saying, 'Nobody gets hurt anymore except me.' There are so many ways to interpret the action. We won't understand Dolores' motivations fully until later on."
Follow THR.com/Westworld for more coverage.