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Depending on whom you root for in Westworld’s dystopian war of wills, the quietly shocking fate of one key character in Sunday’s Season 3 finale may have left you with a lingering taste more bitter than sweet. But as the series appears to say goodbye for good to one of its biggest names, Westworld’s showrunners already have thoughts about what it could mean for the future.
Speaking with Variety, showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan said that despite the finale’s big character farewell, they definitely aren’t looking for a casting shakeup as work gets underway for Season 4. But the creative team isn’t ready to reveal how Westworld could bring back every big name — yes, even that one — although it sure sounds like they already have something specific in mind.
**SPOILER WARNING: There are huge, very big spoilers ahead for “Crisis Theory,” Westworld’s Season 3 finale. Read no further if you aren’t ready to know what happened!**
In the season finale, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) essentially sacrifices herself to shut down Rehoboam, the totalitarian AI that’s been scripting humanity’s fate behind the scenes. Strapped to a table and wired to the system’s core, the last of her android memory is erased as the light fades from her synthetic eyes. As much as a robot can “die,” Dolores definitely dies — but does that mean Wood’s time on the show is really finished?
“I f***ing hope not,” Nolan told Variety, before stating unequivocally that what we saw Sunday was real. “Let me clarify: Dolores is gone. We’re not yet discussing publicly the direction the show is taking, but … [t]hat version of that character is gone. We love Evan Rachel Wood, and we haven’t [sighs] started talking publicly about exactly what the show looks like going forward. But it looks very different.”
Nolan acknowledged that Westworld’s android playground lends itself to plenty of on-again, off-again “deaths” that somehow don’t always manage to stick. But he wouldn’t share whether that means Season 4 will leave Dolores behind to focus more heavily on Maeve (Thandie Newton) and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright, who stole the finale’s post-credits scene by powering back on after literally collecting dust for years after the closing events).
“I wouldn’t make any assumptions,” he said. “… [P]art of the fun of the show from the beginning is that one actor can play several roles and that the story shifts underneath them — shift[s] genres, shifts time … So I think we would anticipate seeing some or many of these faces in very different circumstances, and very different relationships.”
Exactly how that will play out — and for how many seasons —remains a mystery. Nolan teased that “there’s no earthly way” he’d reveal whether Season 4 will stay in the real world that Dolores saved for Caleb (Aaron Paul) to help rebuild, or whether fans might even find themselves back in the park where it all started.
Joy also hinted that no one involved with the show has made a final decision on how many more seasons of Westworld to expect. “It would be like working on [a] novel and saying, this novel is going to be 436 pages,” she said.
At least we know Season 4 is a sure thing, though for now, there’s no early word on when production could get underway — let alone a premiere date. That just gives us plenty of free time to go back and catch the entire series, pencil in hand, to note all those Westworld breadcrumbs we probably missed the first time around.