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A much needed recap of Westworld season 2 before the season 3 premiere

Breaking down the key mysteries, deaths, and reincarnations to keep in mind (or in pearl?)

Westworld season 2 recap Image: HBO
Jeffrey Parkin (he/him) has been writing video game guides for Polygon for almost seven years. He has learned to love just about every genre of game that exists.

It’s been about two years since Westworld’s second season aired. With season 3 premiering on Sunday, March 15, it’s a time for a refresher on what the heck was going on. Here’s what happened to Charlotte, William, Dolores, Bernard, Maeve, and all the other hosts you traveled through the Valley of the Beyond last season, plus one giant mystery that should wind up driving much of the action in season 3.

[Ed. note: This story will spoil Westworld season 2. Obviously.]

What happened in season 2?

Season 1 of Westworld ended in a bit of a bloodbath. Dolores Abernathy (played by Evan Rachel Wood) and her previous persona, Wyatt, merged, making her violent and vengeful. She led an army of hosts to slaughter the assembled Delos (the company that runs the Westworld park) higher-ups, including Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins).

While the timelines are hard to parse, season 2 takes place over the roughly two weeks following the massacre of Delos’ human guests at the end of season 1 (plus a few flashbacks). The new, angry Dolores-Wyatt hybrid spent her time recruiting allies and hunting down human guests as she made her way to the “Valley Beyond” — a kind of promised land offered to her by Ford.

Dolores’ counterpart — or, more accurately, counterpoint — in the sentient host uprising is Maeve (Thandie Newton). While Dolores was vengeful, Maeve was only concerned with finding her in-fiction daughter, largely wanting to ignore the humans. When she reclaimed her daughter, Maeve, too, headed for the Valley Beyond.

At the same time, we learned that Charlotte Hale (played by Tessa Thompson), a Delos executive, and her Delos security forces are searching for a cache of proprietary information, the key to which had been squirreled away in the head of Peter Abernathy (Dolores’ in-fiction father, played by Louis Herthum). That data, it turns out, came from Delos using the park (and, presumably, the other parks like Shogun World) to capture a lot of information about the guests, tracked using the cowboy hats every guest got upon entry.

Westworld season 2 Man in Black Ed Harris Image: HBO

The secret project behind Westworld — one of the reasons they were gathering all that data — was to create a sort of digital immortality for (at least) Delos’ founder: The Man In Black/William’s (Ed Harris) father-in-law. By the end of the season, we learn that the system was successful, boiling every guest who visited the park down to 10,247 lines of code.

The Forge and the end of Westworld season 2

At the end of season 2, Dolores found this cache of guest information, all part of Arnold’s (the previous, human version of Bernard from 40 years ago, both played by Jeffrey Wright) plan to give the hosts their freedom. All of that data in “the Forge,” Arnold thought, would give Dolores the competitive advantage she’d need out in the real world.

Westworld season 2 Dolores in the Forge Image: HBO

The Forge had a second, double-secret purpose, though. Robert Ford had created an entirely virtual world inside the library that he called The Valley Beyond (and that the system controlling the Forge called The Sublime). By opening the door — that appeared as a tear in space to hosts — Dolores allowed many of the hosts to enter this pristine virtual world where they could live freely, away from human interference.

Dolores also uploaded the Valley Beyond out of the Forge, though, to protect it from humans ever finding it again. She reprogrammed some data-beaming devices to send it to a satellite (“270.5 Az 55.5 El 1110km2”). If it stayed on that satellite or was redirected elsewhere is unclear.

So where and when are the characters in the end?

With Arnold and Ford’s (and Dolores and Bernard’s) plans all largely successful, all the characters we know and love are in one of three places: the real world, the Valley Beyond, or dead.

Westworld season 2 the forge the valley beyond Image: HBO

The Valley Beyond

  • Teddy (James Marsden) killed himself after being driven too far by Dolores. Dolores, however, saved his data and uploaded him to the Valley Beyond.
  • Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon) and many of the Ghost Nation made it to the Valley Beyond.
  • Countless other Westworld hosts also made it.

Dead (or dead-ish)

  • Robert Ford is still dead. He died at the end of season 1, remember. His appearances throughout season 2 are implanted programs he left behind in hosts, and, in one case, that host version of his younger self (also dead).
  • Elsie (Shannon Woodward) was killed by Charlotte Hale at the end of the season.
  • Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman), the head writer for Westworld, sacrificed himself for Maeve, and was gunned down (off-screen) by Delos security. (Of course, he’s popped up in the season 3 trailer ... somehow.)
  • Hector, Armistice, and Clementine were hosts, but they didn’t make it to the Valley Beyond, so we’re calling them dead (for now, at least).
  • Maeve found her daughter, but never made it into the Valley Beyond — she sacrificed herself so that the other hosts were safe. We last see her body on the beach, in the care of the hapless techs Sylvester and Lutz (Ptolemy Slocum and Leonardo Nam). Presumably, her data is intact, but she ends the season in a kind of limbo so we’ll include her here.

The real world

  • Charlotte Hale is dead, killed by someone that looked exactly like her. But we saw in the season 2 finale that her body had been reproduced by Dolores, and that body being was operated by Dolores (or a version of Dolores). Not-Charlotte was evacuated from Westworld back to the real world by Delos.
  • Dolores is alive, and in the real world. Using the Charlotte body double, Dolores recreated her own host body, and escaped Westworld.
  • Bernard is alive and in the real world. It’s implied that Dolores brought him back/restored him as a check on her genocidal tendencies, or at least as a worthy opponent. (It’s kind of a Batman-Joker situation.)
  • Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), head of Westworld’s security, is technically alive. When we last see him, we learn that he’s actually a host programmed by Ford to protect other hosts. He doesn’t seem invested in either Bernard or Dolores’ plans, though, nor did he enter the Valley Beyond.
  • The Man in Black/William is down one hand, but alive. Kind of? I think? In the post-credit scene of the season 2 finale, William arrives at the Forge. A host version of his daughter explains that it’s the future, and things didn’t seem to go in the human’s favor. She says that William is not a host, or at least that he isn’t a host in a simulation. When she goes on to verify his “fidelity,” it’s implied that this Future William is human data in a host body.

When Not-Charlotte was evacuated out of Westworld, we also got a brief glimpse inside her satchel, which contained five pearls — the data cores of hosts, which are kind of like stacks from Altered Carbon. Presumably, one of these five was Bernard’s, since we see her revive him. The other four, though, could be from any host that didn’t make it to the Valley Beyond.

Welcome to season 3.