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Is Dolores alive? What happens next? 'Westworld' cast and creator answer our Season 4 questions
In Season 4 of Westworld, it's adapt or die.
Westworld is a show in some ways defined by a state of near-constant evolution. The end of the first season looks very different than the way the series began, and by the beginning of the third season, we've departed from the show's original setting almost entirely, as characters and their goals continue to change in the wider world of the narrative.
Season 4, arriving this Sunday on HBO, promises yet another major evolution in the story of Hosts and the humans who created them and fight them, as we both jump forward in time and meet certain characters in very different places than they were when we last left them. Teasers for the series have emphasized the newness of the Westworld status quo, and offered an interesting tagline: "Adapt or Die." In some ways that seems like what many of the characters have been doing for years at this point, but according to co-creator Lisa Joy, the tagline serves more like a springboard to the larger questions lurking in the new season.
"When so many things can stay the same, what aspect of our lives and of our society as a collective can we change, right?" Joy told a group of journalists, including SYFY WIRE, during a roundtable discussion last week. "And I think that that is one of the things that is not science fiction about the quandaries of this show, right? For instance, right now, I think we can all or, certainly mostly agree, that the environment is a problem, right? But in order to fix it, we would have to work as a collective, and there seems to be a lot of problems in getting that kind of consensus needed to move forward and act as human beings, as a species together.
"And it's funny because it flouts logic, but the systems of the world, the different bureaucracies, the different loops that society is in and the different mini loops that individuals are in, they can often stymie change, no matter how badly we want it or how much we intellectually know we should strive for it. And the question really is for Hosts and humans, how much can we save ourselves from ourselves? How much can we transcend our limitations and learn from our mistakes?"
Last season seemed to end with at least a nod in the direction of uniting to do something for the common good, as Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) and Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) finally saw past their differences and worked together with the human Caleb (Aaron Paul) to bring down the tech company Incite and its mammoth AI system designed to guide the path of all of humanity. For their trouble, though, the group was left in tatters, with Dolores seemingly dead and Maeve and Caleb setting off to live new lives, while the Host engineer Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) was given the keys to the robot afterlife known as the Sublime. The season ended with Bernard shutting down his body to go into the Sublime in search of some answers, only to emerge some time later, covered in dust.
The results of Bernard's search, as well as what numerous other characters are up to as the new season begins, remain closely guarded secrets. One of the most interesting publicly known details about Season 4, though, is what became of Dolores, or at least a woman who shares her face. Though Dolores seemingly died at the end of last season, Wood herself is back in a new role, playing a woman named Christina who is by all outward appearances an entirely different, brand-new character. Christina's life is seemingly unmoored from anything else going on in Westworld as the season begins, but that doesn't mean we won't see certain echoes of Dolores, as well as a strange new phenomenon tied to Christina's job.
"When we first meet Christina, we see that she is a writer and that she is a storyteller," Joy said. "She works for a gaming company, but clearly, something is off and something is going on because she's getting these crazy phone calls from a stranger who is accusing her and her stories of being real and actually influencing real people. So I think that's about as much as I can say, but I think it's going to be one of the fun things, too, that will sort of unfold that we get to learn about Christina this season is what is actually happening. Who is Christina? Where are we, when are we, what is happening, and what is her role?"
Wood added, "Anytime I have to say goodbye to a version of her or the character, it's bittersweet because I love the evolution of her, but I do miss aspects of even Dolores from Season 1. So it's difficult, but exciting. And this season, especially, I'm not playing a different version of Dolores as I normally am. This is starting from the ground up, a completely new character and a much more human approach this season, which was exciting for me to feel like I wasn't playing a Host this season. I was very much a player in the game."
The larger game of Westworld remains quite active even if Dolores is no longer a part of it, as Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) continues her fight for Hostkind with a Host version of the Man in Black (Ed Harris) at her side. Her larger plan remains a secret, but her tenacity is obvious to pretty much anyone who's been paying attention.
"I'm anxious not to give anything away, but I think as I understood it this season, the plan is sort of bigger than just a desire for power," Thompson said of Hale. "I think that's always been her fundamental nature, in a way, both as Charlotte Hale when we first met her and as a Host. But I think this really has to do with a idea around what should be the future of Hostkind. I think there's a real righteous path in her mind that she's carving, not just for herself, but for all hosts. And of course, I think the best leaders don't make anybody do anything. They invite people to do things and people typically want to because of the strength of their leadership and ideas. I don't know that Hale entirely understands that. I think she's trying to make people see things her way and is having various degrees of success. But I think it really has to do with... I think in her mind and her heart, she thinks she's doing the right thing. And I'm always fascinated by people that maybe do unsavory things for righteous reasons. I think that is really fascinating and I think humans do that a lot. So, I was really interested in that in her."
Like Season 3, Westworld Season 4 spends a solid chunk of its runtime out in the human world, as the surviving host characters make various plays for the survival of their kind and the world at large. But that doesn't mean we won't see the parks anymore. In fact, as Season 4 trailers have revealed, we'll get a brand-new Delos destination this season in the form of a park that mimics Prohibition-era gangster narratives, with more than a few similarities to the narrative rhythms of the parks we've seen before. For Joy, who's been writing about characters trapped in certain narratives for years now, that's all very much by design.
"I think we were interested in looking at the way that history tends to repeat itself or at least rhyme with itself over time," Joy said. "And I think that as we progressed, the lens has gone from being in the pilot solely, basically, Host-based to a more even split between Hosts and humans as we've kind of shifted the gaze of the narrative. And so we're trying to explore the similarities and differences between the two sort of species there. And so in doing so, it's been helpful to reference the way in which everybody, even humans, live in these kind of loops and find themselves sometimes stuck in a rut or seeming to be unable to change their circumstances or even behaviors that they don't want or like about themselves. And so that's been a recurring theme just explored through a different angle."
Will the stars of Westworld be able to break the loop, and adapt? Find out when Westworld returns for its fourth season this Sunday on HBO.
Looking for more high-concept sci-fi in the meantime? Check out SYFY's Resident Alien on Peacock, as well as originals like Brave New World, Intergalactic and more.