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‘Westworld’ Season 2 Explained: The Key Things to Remember Before Season 3

TheWrap refreshes your memory before HBO sci-fi series unfreezes all motor functions this Sunday

(Warning: This post contains all the spoilers for “Westworld” Season 2. But presumably that’s what you’re here for.)

We’re so close, finally, to Season 3 of “Westworld.” This was already a big television event, but it’s probably an even larger one now with the coronavirus pandemic causing so many people to become temporary shut-ins. But it’s been so long since “Westworld” season 2 wrapped up all the way back in 2018. That season was so narratively complicated that it can be tough to remember everything that happened even if you had just watched it — but the fact that it’s been nearly two years makes it even tougher.

But don’t worry, because TheWrap is here to remind you of and explain the most important things that happened in the Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy-created show so that you’re ready for the returns of Dolores (Wood), Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson), Maeve (Thandie Newton), William (Ed Harris) and the debuts of new characters like Caleb (Aaron Paul), as the show ventures out of Westworld and into the “real world” on its Season 3 premiere.

Now as you may or may not remember, Season 2 consisted of two different main timelines — with some other flashbacks thrown in for good measure — and it wasn’t clear when certain events took place until the finale. So, in order to make this as easy as possible for you to process, we’re going to break down “Westworld” Season 2 by noting the key moments from those 10 episodes. So let’s dive in.

1. The immediate aftermath of Dolores killing Ford (Anthony Hopkins) at the end of Season 1 led to a season-long battle between the hosts and the humans for control over the park.

Dolores was the leader of the rebel Hosts inside Westworld, of course, and she tried to make Teddy go along with it. Which ultimately led to him killing himself over what she had turned him into when she had him altered to be more amenable to her brutal approach to the fight.

Meanwhile, Maeve was doing her own thing with Hector, Lee, Felix and Armistice, as she revolted against her coding in an attempt to reunite with the daughter she had in a previously programmed storyline. Maeve also learned during this time that she had the ability to control other Hosts via the “mesh network” that unites them all and her trip took the gang into Shogun World, a park we’d previously never seen.

On the human side, Delos, Inc. executive Charlotte Hale, who survived the massacre at the party where Dolores killed Ford, was focused on trying to get important encrypted information (located inside the head of Dolores’ father, the host Peter Abernathy) out of the park so that the company would rescue her, her employees or any of the guests.

This was a continuation of a big plotline from Season 1, when Charlotte and Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen) were trying to sneak various pieces of the company’s intellectual property out of Westworld so Ford couldn’t bury them when he retired. But Dolores got that information instead.

2. Bernard was in a state of confusion all season, having lost certain key chunks of his memory, which we eventually found out he had removed himself.

OK, so this is complicated. Midway through the season, Elsie — who teamed back up with Bernard even though he tried to kill her in Season 1! — sent Bernard’s mind inside the Cradle, the bunker in Westworld that stores complete copies of the programming and memories for every Host, as well as the programming for the park environments. Like the Matrix, basically.

And it turned out that a copy of Ford lived in the Cradle. And while Bernard was in there, the copy of Ford basically piggybacked into his robot brain, a.k.a. his control unit “pearl.” (By the way, Dolores’ team destroys the Cradle soon after this occurs, so all the data that was stored there is gone.)

So after that, this digital Ford was in Bernard’s head, trying to steer him to The Forge, the place where the park keeps all the data it has collected about its guests. (It is also the place where you can set all the Hosts “free” by opening the “door” to “The Valley Beyond” — more on that in a bit.)

Eventually, however, Bernard “deletes” Ford from his system, and it takes a lot of effort because Ford is actively fighting to control him.

Then, near the end of the season, we learn that a lot of the damage to Bernard’s mind was a matter of perspective: Bernard had essentially wrecked his own brain in order to prevent the company QA guys from being able to just look in his head and figure out what went down. And so a lot of the weird Bernard scenes were actually him exploring his damaged memories.

3. The ultimate purpose of Westworld and the other parks was actually to figure out how to replicate human consciousness into a Host body.

So while folks were visiting the parks, the hats they would wear contained a sort of brain scanner that would record everything they were doing while going buck wild in the free-for-all environment. The idea was that this could be used to figure out essentially how to record human consciousness as data, and then use that process to copy real minds into manufactured host bodies.

The Delos founder, James Delos, died of an illness during the early days of the park, and was William’s first attempt at making this replication happen. They recreated his mind using the data they had gathered from their brain monitoring system, and inserted it into a body that was identical to his real one. But while these sorts of minds could live comfortably inside the Cradle, they would basically go insane after a few days in the real world. So they tried to bring Delos back this way over and over for decades, performing all these trials in the bunker inside Westworld known as the Forge. It didn’t work.

4. Dolores stole a bunch of guest info

Dolores knows all about those brain copying experiments in Westworld thanks to her recovered memories, and so she and Bernard head to the Forge later on — using the encryption key that had been inside Dolores’ father’s head the whole season. The information is kept inside “books” within the simulated world of the Forge that Dolores and Bernard enter, and Dolores reads through as many of these as she can before they exit.

5. Several Hosts went into “The Valley Beyond,” including Maeve’s daughter.

The “door” to The Valley Beyond was opened when Bernard and Dolores were inside the Forge, and they learn that the Valley was created by Arnold to give the Hosts an escape to a real-life in a world all their own. Akecheta, along with his true love and his tribe, all make it through the door, as does Maeve’s daughter — but Dolores decides she is gonna destroy the Forge and the Valley Beyond with it.

Dolores says the only place she and the other Hosts deserved to be was the real world outside Westworld that they had been denied. In response, Bernard says he won’t let her hurt any more people (humans or hosts) and kills her before she can do any real damage to the Forge, which she had started the protocol to flood. The door to the Valley Beyond is shut, meaning no more hosts can enter, when Bernard removes the encryption key and takes it with him on his way out of the semi-flooded Forge.

6. Bernard puts Dolores’ mind inside a Host copy of Hale.

After Bernard killed Dolores and rejoined the humans, he’s devastated when he sees that a giant massacre has occurred — because Hale had all the Hosts who didn’t make it through the door killed. Then he witnesses Hale murdering Elsie and realizes how corrupt the Delos exec really is. That’s when Bernard realizes Dolores was right all along and so he “imagines” Ford again to help guide him as he builds a Host replica of Hale, and puts Dolores’ control unit inside of it. Then he sends “Halores” to go kill the real Hale and assume her identity. After doing this, Bernard scrambles his memories of the last week’s events, as mentioned above, and is then found by the extraction team on the beach — which is where he was at the very start of the season when viewers first saw him.

7. Dolores exited Westworld inside of Charlotte Hale’s body and took five Host control unit pearls with her.

When Hale (but really Dolores) and the extraction team take Bernard back to the Forge to try to recover the guest data they have been looking for, they find the encryption key hidden inside Dolores’ dead body, which is still lying on the floor. Bernard begins to remember what he did and Hale/Dolores reveals who she really is before killing the team. She uses the encryption key to transmit the Forge’s data — which includes both the guests’ info and the hosts’ Valley Beyond world — to a place in space where “no one will ever find them” and leaves “no passage between their world and ours.” Then she kills Bernard, saying there is no way for them to escape as “us.”

After that, Hale (Dolores) goes to exit Westworld and runs into Stubbs before she can leave. He gives her a speech in which he strongly implies he might be a Host himself before he lets her pass without scanning her to confirm she’s human. Once she’s in the boat to leave the island, we see she has five control unit pearls in her purse. We don’t know who four of them are, but we do know one is Bernard because…

8. Dolores is now in the real world, inside a copy of her original body, and has remade Bernard — and kept Hale’s body, too.

At the very end of the Season 2 finale we see that Dolores is inside the house that Arnold built for himself and his family out in the real world, and she has rebuilt Bernard and put his pearl inside that body. He can’t quite figure out why she would have brought him back, since he is still at odds with her entire world view — but it appears to be a checks-and-balances thing Dolores wants in place if “they” (the Host kind) are going to survive. We also see that the Host version of Hale is still around, but since Dolores is in her own skin again, we don’t know who is inside Hale. We also don’t know who is in those three other pearls! But we know one probably isn’t Teddy, because Dolores put him inside the Valley Beyond before shooting it off, and then left his pearl behind.

9. William killed his daughter, Emily.

He was convinced Emily (Katja Herbers) was a Host sent by Ford to terrorize him, and he was very mistaken. In a flashback, we learn that he feels responsible for his wife’s death — she killed herself after she learned about his brutal behavior in Westworld — and in a flash-forward (which was a post-credits scene for the Season 2 finale) we learn that some time in the distant future he appears to now be a Host himself. And he’s being tested by another Host named Grace, who happens to look exactly like his daughter.

10. A lot of other people — both humans and Hosts — died.

By the end of Season 2, these characters are dead: Maeve, Hector and Lee (though we know that Thandie Newton, Rodrigo Santoro and Simon Quarterman are all returning for Season 3), Angela, Costa, Strand, Clementine, Emily, Teddy, Elsie Hughes, Armistice, Japanese Armistice and Robert Ford. As we all know, the Hosts that weren’t sent to the Valley Beyond could be brought back as long as their control units are intact, since the copies of their data were lost when the Cradle was destroyed. The humans, well, they can’t come back — at least not as humans.

11. We still don’t know the full picture of what went on in the other parks.

There are six parks that make up Delos Destinations and we currently know of four of them: Westworld, Shogun World, The Raj and now War World (as teased by Nolan and Joy and the trailers for Season 3). So we’re still waiting to find out what those other two parks are, or how the Host uprising was resolved in all the parks other than Westworld.

The uprising extended to all those other parks too, after all, as we saw a Host murder a guest in The Raj, and we got two whole episodes about hosts on their own journeys of self-discovery in Shogun World. But while we saw the end of the Westworld part of this little war, we did not find out in Season 2 what went down in the other parks that we saw.

“Westworld” Season 3 premieres Sunday at 9/8c on HBO.