Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Graphic: Rebecca Fassola, Photo: John P. Johnson (HBO)

HBO’s Westworld tends to get a lot of attention for its puzzles, twisty mysteries, and elaborate Reddit trolls, but there’s more to the show than trying to find “the door” before the characters do. Beyond its maze, Westworld is a show with a lot to say about free will and the corrupting influence of seemingly absolute power, as well as how those in power react when they’re forced to reckon with the consequences of their actions. It all just happens to take place against sweeping vistas and in dusty saloons of a Wild West theme park full of robots.

And yet, Westworld co-creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have regularly blown up all all their intricate plotting with the season finales, first by inciting a revolution on behalf of its tortured, abused, and very angry robot hosts (led by Evan Rachel Wood’s Dolores), and then by setting a couple of those hosts (including Jeffrey Wright’s Bernard) loose in the world outside of Westworld. And there are still plenty of multi-layered mysteries for the internet to solve. With the show’s long-awaited third season finally kicking off, we’ve put together a guide on the show’s most central characters. It can be as difficult to distinguish between primary and secondary characters on Westworld as it is to tell the hosts and guests apart, but virtually all paths lead to these four players.


Illustration for article titled Catch up with iWestworld/i, character by character
Photo: John P. Johnson (HBO)

Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood)

In season two, Dolores goes from sweet rancher’s daughter to unyielding leader of the host rebellion. She recruits everyone from Angela (Talulah Riley) to an army of Confederados to her cause, but mostly debates the outcome of war with Bernard. Dolores believes there’s a way for her and the other hosts to escape Westworld and, with her new ability to “resurrect” dead hosts, goes looking for that refuge. The viciousness of her crusade weighs on White Hat cowboy Teddy (James Marsden), so Dolores alters his personality to make him more aggressive. Dolores’ mission shifts throughout; she first intends to destroy the Cradle, where all the hosts’ consciousnesses are stored, then the Forge, where intimate data on the park’s guests is kept. She later sets her sights on the Valley Beyond, a virtual afterlife that she believes is just another “cage” for the hosts.

Dolores encounters the Ghost Nation, Maeve (Thandie Newton), a Delos extraction team, and the Man In Black (Ed Harris) on her quest, shrugging off every attack until she and Bernard make it into the Forge. She reads the book on human consciousness, which is why she decides she has to take down humanity and the virtual heaven created for hosts. Bernard shoots her to stop her, but then creates a host version of Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) to house Dolores’ mind after realizing that she was kind of right about the humans being irredeemable. Dolores-Charlotte then sends all the hosts’ data to some unknown location, liberating them into the ether rather than destroying them. Dolores, still posing as a new-and-improved Charlotte, kills Bernard for his efforts but saves his memory and rebuilds his body after escaping to the world outside the park.


Illustration for article titled Catch up with iWestworld/i, character by character
Photo: John P. Johnson (HBO)

Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright)

Poor Bernard—having only recently learned that his humanity was a façade, he must navigate that world-shattering revelation while also making his way in and out of enemy lines in Dolores’ revolution. At first, he tries to help Charlotte Hale from Delos’ board of directors track down Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum), Dolores’ host father, because his brain holds the key to the data that Delos has been compiling on its guests. When they’re attacked by hosts, Charlotte immediately abandons him. Bernard’s story sees him encounter familiar faces like Elsie (Shannon Woodward), the Westworld technician who patches him up, and later, Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) himself—well, a representation of his mind, which was stored in the Cradle, which is soon destroyed by Dolores. But its destruction means that the hosts that will die now “for real” at the hands of the Delos extraction team, which is only concerned with retrieving the data on the guests.

Bernard and Dolores are diametrically opposed on the question of what to do with the hosts; he wants to get them to the Valley Beyond, but she thinks it’s just another prison. When he learns that Dolores wants to destroy the Forge, the Valley Beyond, and the human world outside of Westworld, Bernard kills her but saves her memory core. Bernard quickly becomes disillusioned once more after seeing Charlotte kill Elsie; unable to carry out justice himself, he kills Charlotte, creates a host version of her, then puts Dolores’ consciousness into that host. That brings Bernard’s storyline back to beginning of the season, when his memories were failing—it turns out he did that to himself. Before the Delos team can shoot him, Charlotte/Dolores kills them and Bernard. But then Dolores rebuilds Bernard because, as she explains, she won’t be able to find a life for hosts outside of Westworld without him. So, even though they might end up on opposite sides, he and Dolores are both now out in the real world.


Illustration for article titled Catch up with iWestworld/i, character by character
Photo: John P. Johnson (HBO)

Maeve (Thandie Newton)

Though she briefly makes it out of the park, Maeve returns to Westworld in search of her daughter. She soon reunites with her squad, including the park’s narrative director Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman). The group runs into Dolores and her faction, but Maeve ultimately turns down an offer to join the revolution, suggesting that the freedom she believes she has may just be another function of the humans’ programming. Maeve and her gang manage to evade the Delos extraction team and the Ghost Nation, ending up in Shogun World where they realize that Lee has essentially been reusing Westworld storylines with samurai characters. Watching another host relive her own trauma leads Maeve to discover an ability to command other hosts without speaking. The big samurai showdown happens offscreen, but when we see Maeve again, we know that nothing will keep her from her daughter.

Through the host mesh network, Ghost Nation leader Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon) teaches Maeve about the Valley Beyond, revealing just how long ago he achieved sentience. Spurred on by Akecheta’s heartbreaking story and his faith in the afterlife, Maeve fights her way to the Valley Beyond. She helps her daughter flee into the virtual paradise before she herself is cut down by the Delos team. But this is likely not the end of one of Westworld’s most clever characters—not if Felix (Leonardo Nam) and Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum), two technicians who survived the host revolt, have anything to say about it.


Illustration for article titled Catch up with iWestworld/i, character by character

William/The Man In Black (Ed Harris)

The only guest who’s thrilled to be caught up in the robot uprising—he never cared for the safeguards, anyway. Having found the maze he was looking for in season one, William now believes it’s his “quest” to find something called “the door.” In flashbacks, we learn that he convinced his father-in-law of Westworld’s delights beyond the park, as they began to compile data on their rich and powerful guests. Instilling an existing human consciousness into a host body became the ultimate goal, though for James (Peter Mullan), it ends up being far from successful.

William was then put in charge of the park, and though he excels at the “violent” part of the game, he has actually been lost to it. He’s unable to distinguish between reality and his storyline—he kills his daughter Emily (Katja Herbers) because he’s convinced she’s a host. Dolores and William’s paths are intertwined throughout the season, but just when he tries to double-cross her, he learns she’s been three steps ahead of him this whole time. Only Dolores (and Bernard) understand what the Forge and Valley Beyond actually represent; she also sets up the gun he shoots her with to backfire on him. Injured and weak, William stumbles into the same facility where he once tested his father-in-law’s “fidelity,” but the next thing we know, he’s unconscious on a beach with other survivors of the host rebellion. Interestingly, the season two post-credits scene appears to take place in the future, a fact that confounds no one more than William, who struggles to make sense of an apparent host version of his daughter, who is now testing him.


Secondary players

Because Westworld season two rivals only Game Of Thrones in offing characters, the 2018 memorial reel is a long one. Dolores and Bernard have already been resurrected, and it looks like it’s only time before Maeve finds a new host body. But poor Teddy Flood, the man who had already died a thousand deaths, sacrificed himself rather than continue with Dolores’ revolution (though, in a rare moment of mercy, Dolores does send his mind to the Valley Beyond). Robert Ford was assassinated at the end of season one, but in season two, his consciousness lived on in the Cradle—that is, until Dolores destroyed it with a train. Armistice, Hector Escaton, and Hanaryo were all brought down by the Delos team, but Hector’s appearance in season three promos suggests he gets a second (or hundredth) chance at life, such as it is. Lee Sizemore wasn’t so lucky, though he did finally get a chance to hear that speech aloud. William betrayed Lawrence, but at least the latter is finally free of the Man In Black. James Delos and his children Juliet Delos and Logan Delos all met their maker offscreen. The robot revolution wiped out whole swaths of the Westworld population, including hosts in Shogun World and the Raj, as well as the Confederados and the Ghost Nation. But there is a silver lining there—Dolores beamed all of the host data into the cloud, so they could all be free of humanity’s basest instincts

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