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Warning! Westworld spoilers are all over the place below, so only read if you're comfortable digging into what we learned (and didn't) in "The Winter Line."
Westworld's Season 3 premiere introduced viewers to a whole new world, one where Aladdin references like that work because the show's self-guided vehicles are basically flying carpets. For better or worse (where critics are concerned), the second installment only followed up on Bernard's journey and that final scene with Maeve, delaying further exploration of Dolores' new relationship with Aaron Paul's Cal. Thankfully, there were more than enough interesting and thought-provoking moments to go around, complete with both new characters and a few familiar faces.
While waiting to see all the madness that the third episode will bring, I'd like to pick apart some of the major questions I had after watching "The Winter Line." Though first, can we all just take a moment to appreciate the notion that Ramin Djawadi's Westworld theme actually exists within the show's universe itself? That was weird, and awesome. Check out our questions from Episode 1 if you haven't already, and read on!
Does Warworld Actually Exist?
Westworld seemed to be taking a strange left turn (or far-far-right turn) when trailers introduced Nazi propaganda into Season 3 by way of a new park. But as Episode 2 showed us, that park was not what it was first perceived to be, and was actually a looping simulation that Maeve was trapped inside, along with Rodrigo Santoro's Hector. Maeve's loop only shows viewers a small section of the park, which just so happens to be near the Forge that it took characters ages to get to in Season 2. So did Delos actually build a Warworld for Guests to get bloody in, or was it all for the sake of the simulation?
Even with all the additional in-development characters seen in Delos' lower decks, I would probably be convinced that War World only existed in digital form if not for one detail: Maeve is the one who name-checks Warworld when talking to Lee Sizemore 2.0. Considering Maeve was artificially intelligent enough to figure out that she was inside a counterfeit world, it doesn't seem likely that someone could have programmed recognition of a fake park into her core without her then recognizing that as false information.
Was Maeve's Experience Just One Big Turing Test?
While it didn't take too long for Maeve to figure out what was happening to her, even with Lee there in complete denial about his real-world death, the episode didn't exactly deliver very many answers about why Maeve was being holed up inside the War World simulation. One can easily assume that it has a lot to do with Vincent Cassel's newly introduced Serac, but (to be expected) even his end goal for Maeve didn't directly explain what she'd just been through. So was it all just one big Turing Test to see if Maeve could outthink the human creator(s) and game the system, as a tutorial for eventually going after Dolores? Or were there other motivations involved?
As well, what were the rest of those cores stored inside the facility where Maeve's was being held? Were those all the other hosts that factored into the War World simulation, from Hector to the Nazi general? Or is that basically the main storage hub where the majority of the parks' hosts are kept while Delos fixes all the damage Dolores and others caused?
What's Up With Vincent Cassell's Serac?
Judging by his lavish living quarters, Serac clearly has the kind of disposable income that Delos parks like to exploit, and it seems like he's got a decent working knowledge about the depths of Maeve's unique functions. So who is he, and why is he so set on killing Dolores? Could he be a former confidante of Robert Ford and/or Arnold Weber, tasked with being the last line of defense against the Hosts if Ashley Stubbs' security team ever failed to keep things contained? I kinda can't wait to find out what weirdo skeletons he's got lurking inside his massive walk-in closets.
Will Everyone Who Entered The Valley Beyond Return?
Poor Bernard and his terrible ability to hold onto memories. After being on the run from both humanity and his own past, Bernard was able to reconnect with lost moments, including Dolores-as-Charlotte having changed the location coordinates for where the Hosts' minds would end up after leaving The Valley Beyond. Considering we know Maeve is still on a general mission to reconnect with her daughter in some way, it was already half-assumed that at least some of them would be returning in one form or another, and this episode seemed to have strengthened that theory. But where will they end up? Was Dolores able to port the Hosts' minds into the real world to populate a human-hunting army? Or is there another plan for all that vengeful data?
How Will Bernard Attempt To Take Dolores Down?
Westworld is setting up a war that goes against the logic of how wars are usually started, with Dolores fully aware that Bernard will be coming after her, and with Bernard aware that...well, whatever that might be. One advantage on the latter's side now is Luke Hemsworth's Stubbs, whose main directive is now to keep Bernard safe. Don't forget that Stubbs was the one who allowed Dolores to escape into the real world with the mystery host cores, driven by his loyalty to Robert Ford.
It will be interesting to see if and how Stubbs' assistance will give Bernard an edge against an increasingly scary and potentially unstoppable foe such as Dolores. Granted, she suffered from gunshots in the season premiere, so she's not immortal, but that probably isn't the only version of Dolores that's out there.
When Will We See That Dragon Again?
Bernard and Stubbs' trip through Delos' behind-the-scenes facilities offered a smorgasbord of interesting visuals, as the floor they were on appeared to be solely focused on a medieval fantasy park that would likely provide a good Game of Thrones-esque experience for Guests. But more exciting than kings and queens and presumed royal orgies was the rather large dragon seen curled up in one of the tech labs, said to possibly be transported to a startup in Costa Rica. A. Fuck. Ing. Dragon!
Let it be lost on no one, however, that Game of Thrones showrunners David Beinoff and D.B. Weiss had cameos as techs (named David and Dan) in the episode, so that entire fantasy concept might just be one big tip of the crown to the former HBO hit, as opposed to an actual set-up for the show's future. That said, I'm definitely hoping this is a case of Chekov's Dragon, where what you see in the early part of the season comes back in a meaningful way down the road. It's almost ludicrous to think about what Dolores could do if she got ahold of an artificially intelligent dragon, but my god, I am going to think about it a lot.
Is Anyone Actually Keeping Track Of Missing Hosts And Employees Like Stubbs?
Given the wide-ranging and publicized destruction delivered to Delos' parks, its employees and some of its paying customers, one might think the powers that be within the company would soon have an unbreakably firm grip on every detail imaginable before moving forward in any capacity. Dolores' absence would be the exception to the rule in this case, of course. But beyond the obviously awareness to put out BOLO alerts in the real world for Bernard, is there anyone in control that's actually kept track of what happened to all of the hosts after the events of Season 2's finale?
Case in point: After his unsuccessful attempt at suicide, Stubbs' would-be corpse-bot apparently went undetected for weeks inside the lab basement of the Sector 17 cottage where the Ford Host family used to reside. Granted, Stubbs' host nature was hidden from most, and that cottage's location isn't the most well-known, but it still possibly reflects on how lacking Delos' follow-through was after everything went to hell. As head of the board, the non-human Charlotte Hale probably didn't make it a priority, but it seems like someone would have, and should have, ordered teams to do full security checks of every inch of the park. If not to account for those known to be missing, then to at least make sure there weren't any further human casualties to be discovered.
Though HBO gave audiences a free preview weekend to enjoy Westworld's long-awaited return for Season 3, the episode didn't initially pull in as many viewers as one might have expected, following the success of the Stephen King-adapted thriller The Outsider. But here's hoping viewers continue building up as the eight-episode season glides along, so that the mysteries can continue for years longer.
Westworld airs Sunday nights on HBO at 9:00 p.m. ET.