(Warning: This post contains major spoilers for the Season 3 finale of “Westworld.”)
“Westworld” Season 3’s violent delights had violent ends on Sunday, when the finale episode, titled “Decoherence,” showed us Dolores’ (Evan Rachel Wood) decision to sacrifice herself in the hopes of saving both human and Hosts alike and giving them the gift of free will — something that she, for so long, went without.
Of course, she didn’t do it alone, getting major assists from her season-long human ally Caleb (Aaron Paul) and longtime frenemy Maeve (Thandie Newton), who ended up defeating Incite Inc boss Serac (Vincent Cassel) by shutting down his supercomputer, Rehoboam. But Dolores’ decision to give up her own life to allow others to break free of their chains was a big one, especially given how much she’s despised humans.
TheWrap spoke with “Westworld” executive producers Jonathan Nolan (who is also co-creator and showrunner on the series alongside his wife Lisa Joy) and Denise Thé, about Dolores’ death, and if it’s actually permanent — given the fact there are still copies of her roaming around out there (including Tessa Thompson’s Hale). We also got answers to a couple of our other burning questions about the Season 3 finale, which was written by Nolan and Thé, including that time jump for Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) after he ventured into the Valley Beyond, and what’s to come in Season 4.
Read our full Q&A with Nolan and Thé below.
TheWrap: Is Dolores — this version of Dolores — actually dead? And if so, what does that mean for Evan Rachel Wood in Season 4?
Jonathan Nolan: This is not my fault. I wanna put that out there. Lisa and I love Evan; love the character. Working this season with Denise Thé as our partner–
Denise Thé: Ah, I thought I heard a bus coming for me.
Nolan: Yeah, Denise has the distinction at this point in her long television career of killing off [TV characters played by] Taraji P. Henson, Amy Acker, Chip Caviezel, and now Evan Rachel Wood. It’s just another notch in her belt. It’s sad. So, Denise, this question really goes to you.
Thé: Oh, thank you, Jonah. Look, this is a show, we’ve said, where death can be impermanent. I do think that this version of Dolores, she had an evolution and we got to see that. We got to see her come full circle and, to me, there was a really interesting analogy there that was kind of like a child. You know, her creator, who she railed against, she grew up and ultimately decided to take care of them, like a child taking care of her parent. And I think, personally, it’s really important to honor that death. I think we need to know that stakes are real and she, for a person — or a being, I should say, not a person — for a being who fought so hard for her freedom and wanting to have what she was denied, wanting to have our world, only to come out and find out and find humans being enslaved, to make that incredible decision to try to free humanity. I think it’s a really beautiful, kind of transcendent thing. It came at a price, and I think that ultimate price is something that we should honor. So for me, it is the right time to say goodbye to this version of Dolores. But I do think this is a show, as we said, where death can be impermanent. And I think part of the fun of the show is it changes every season, it can change genres and characters, actors, I should say, can play different characters. So while we want to honor her death, we will see what the future holds for her — for Evan Rachel Wood.
Nolan: That’s just guilt talking. (laughs)
Thé: That’s me trying to avoid death threats. (laughs)
TheWrap: What’s Hale’s plan in Season 4, because Dolores is gone now and she seemed to be her main obsession/target. So what is her goal with killing and replacing William with a Host, and whatever other Hosts she’s getting ready to make in that lab in Dubai?
Nolan: We like the idea, as established in previous seasons with Evan’s character– and we’re uniquely lucky in having the most talented cast I think anyone has ever put together for a TV show, between Evan, Thandie, Tessa, Jeffrey, Aaron, Ed. But in particular with Dolores’ character, there is a schism there and it’s exhibited by the first two seasons and the tension that we played in the third season. The challenge for us with Evan, who is a fantastically talent actor, was– and we knew from the work that we’d seen when we first started working with her is that she can kind of do anything. She can be cold, she can be warm, she can be vengeful, she can be delightful. And so we wanted to try to contain a character that contained multitudes. And at a given point in any given season the audience really might feel, in a good way, upside-downwards. We don’t know if she’s the hero or the villain. I mean, [Anthony Hopkins’ character Robert Ford] literally asked her that question in the first season, and that was a question that we continued to ask in the second and the third season. And you don’t quite know what your relationship to this character is, which is a risky thing to do in a drama and it’s a risky thing for an actor to commit to. And Evan committed to it completely.
And then with Tessa taking on the same role but infusing it now with pieces of the character that she had built from the first season onwards, really a hybrid, a composite of these characters, and picking up certain aspects of the Dolores character. We’ve already made the distinction between Dolores and Wyatt, with Dolores being the friendly, literal rancher’s daughter, the welcome wagon, and Wyatt being the wrathful, avenging, righteous force of destruction and annihilation. And the characters would wrestle over those two pieces, they’re both made out of those pieces. And they both, as Evan explains beautifully and then Tessa articulates herself beautifully, have diverged. There’s a divergence there. There is a point at which you take the same person and put them in different circumstances and see how that plays out. So, clearly, Evan’s character, Evan’s version of Dolores has now made a choice. And one that we hope was unexpected and beautiful, in forgiving humanity and trying to help it, trying to free it. Tessa’s version of Dolores has made a big choice, that’s about as far as we’re willing to go in terms of what’s to come. I mean, it’s a real blessing to be able to work with such a talented group of people, so you want to give each of them something fascinating and diabolic to do.
How far in the future is it safe to assume Bernard is and what does that mean for how Season 4 will play out in terms of timelines, because if it’s been that long how old would Caleb be and what have he and Maeve been doing?
Nolan: Well, unfortunately, Lisa [Joy] wasn’t able to join today and she hasn’t really explained to us how it’s all gonna work. Denise and I had some questions, but she was kinda busy (laughs). No, I think one of the fun things of the show is it has the ability to jump around in time. I think the third season is probably as straightforward as the show would ever get, would be my way of answering it.
Is there a name for Delos Destinations’ Park 5, which was finally revealed in the finale? Because it seems it’s completely devoted to being a military training base, so I wasn’t sure.
Nolan: Yeah, and for that reason, it wouldn’t quite have the same branding as the rest of the parks. And we loved that idea, it seemed like a very natural fit that if you created a space like this, with life-like people, that there would definitely be military applications for it and that Delos would need a regular source of income, above and beyond tourism, to be able to keep the lights turned on.