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Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s HBO drama, originally set in a futuristic Wild West theme park populated by killer robots, returns for its third season in 2020 with several new faces in tow, including Aaron Paul, Lena Waithe and Vincent Cassel. Along with the new faces, a deadly new setting: Los Angeles, where Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) has escaped following the collapse of the theme park. What does the new American setting mean for season three? At Comic-Con, Nolan and Joy (among other panelists) answered those questions, primarily in the form of a revealing new trailer.
The trailer begins with voiceover from Dolores: “I thought your world would be so different from mine. There’s no difference at all, is there?” In that context, it appears she’s speaking with Paul’s human character, but elsewhere, it appears she’s speaking to Tessa Thompson’s Charlotte Hale — or whomever Thompson is playing this season. Either way, Thompson’s character will at least pose as Charlotte at a certain point, returning to work at Dolores (and eventually exchanging bullets with some unknown threat on Delos grounds).
Speaking at the panel, Nolan confirmed that just as season one was internally called “The Maze” and season two was called “The Door,” season three also has a name: “The New World.” It does not mean the series will leave the park, as Nolan teased: “I never said that.” The trailer backs up Nolan’s claim, as Thandie Newton’s Maeve is seen as a host in a new park, one that appears to be set in Nazi-occupied Europe. How will she break out of the park? The trailer indicates Jeffrey Wright’s Bernard is searching for a host powerful enough to take on Dolores, and Maeve is his pick for the job.
“I think it’s a radical shift,” Nolan previously told The Hollywood Reporter about the vision for season three. “What’s compelling and appealing about these characters is that they’re not human. As we said in the show, humans are bound by the same loops the hosts are, in some ways even smaller. You couldn’t expect human characters to withstand and survive the kind of story that we’re telling. The hosts have a different version of mortality, a different outlook. I think clearly with Dolores, as she’s laid out, there is a longer view here, a larger set of goals. They’re existential. They span eons. And that’s a fascinating level of story ?to engage in.”
At Comic-Con, he elaborated: “When we started, Westworld was a dystopia. Three seasons in, I think it’s the best-case scenario, to be perfectly honest. The form of AI we have on the show is thoughtful. Murderous, but thoughtful. I think we’re now heading into the era of dumb artificial intelligence.” Nolan referenced how algorithms decides people’s choices in today’s day and age, describing “algorithmic determinism” as a cautionary theme for season three.
“You get to play around with big ideas and pretend they’re far in the future, but they’re not,” he continued. “They’re right now. In season three, we discard with metaphor and deal with the world as it is: a giant shit show.”
“Our civilizations have evolved,” said Joy. “The solutions we can find for the things that keep us somewhat primitive and base and ugly in our desires can improve and become more sophisticated. Sometimes there’s a disconnect between that. My car can drive, but we can’t get rid of violence.”
In addition to the creators’ comments, castmembers spoke specifically to some of the new developments for their characters in season three. For instance, Wood said that her Dolores remains the ruthless host from season two, but will be softened and challenged by Paul’s construction worker, Caleb.
“It’s difficult for me to do a lot of the things she does but I understand why she’s doing them,” said Wood. “That’s exactly what the show is asking us all, and why it’s challenging. We have to examine things we take for granted, and pick them apart and see through the maze to see things for what they really are, if we can. I think [Dolores] encapsulates all of those things. I’m really excited for people to see her this season, because she’s constantly growing and discovering new things about herself and the world. She’s always being challenged. Even though she’s a thousand steps ahead of everyone else most of the time, she’s always still learning and growing.”
As for Caleb, here’s a fun fact: he has a robot named George, who Paul described as “very helpful.” He elaborated on the character: “We all know the world we’re placed within. My character, Caleb, this is the world he’s born into. It’s very normal for him. But it’s impossible for him to not wish for a better world, just like we all wish for a better, less complicated world where we can all get along and love one another. Some people are born into privilege and some are born into poverty. Caleb was born into a complicated thing. He’s just learning to roll with the punches.”
Wright, who plays Bernard, weighed in on his character’s newfound empathy, openly wondering if that was actually earned behavior or if it was programmed. “We have a real gift in this gig: our bosses,” he said. “We have two of the most incredibly generous and engaging and challenging leaders you can ask for in the work we do. I read the script, I bombard them with questions, and I try to translate all that into performance.”
Newton weighed in on Maeve’s own transformation for season three: “With this new season, she’s an extremely expensive piece of hardware. We have seen the destruction of Westworld as we know it. This thing that’s treated like she has no value — that’s what she receives — and yet she’s a very expensive piece of hardware. I love what that gives her regarding the choice she makes about her value. These robots have no sense about their value. and I’m loving that agency [in Maeve].”
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