A dystopian landscape from HBO series Westworld
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Fans react as HBO brings Westworld back online in Season 3 premiere

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Mar 15, 2020, 10:57 PM EDT (Updated)

Things have changed in the land of Delos, Inc. — but have they changed for the better? That was the question on the mind of every Westworld fan Sunday, as HBO booted up the series for its hugely anticipated Season 3 return. Critics already have weighed in, praising the show’s soft reset after the mind-bending events that left Dolores bent on payback last season, and now fans are flocking to social media with their own hot takes.

With tons of fans staying home as coronavirus concerns have people imposing their own self-quarantine, no TV debut Sunday staked out a more prime appointment-viewing slot than the series’ return after an almost two-year absence. And while Westworld has always been a futuristic show, the new season shows off a darker, more overtly sci-fi look than in previous seasons, when most of the tech was buried in the bowels of the park — or just beneath the skin of its android hosts.

Are those sleek new digs, plus key cast additions that include Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul, enough to entice fans into HBO's feedback loop? Judging from the early reactions — many of which came pouring in as the first episode ("Parce Domine") unfolded — we'd say Westworld is safely off to a switchboard-melting hot start.​​​​​​After the credits rolled, fans who stuck around were treated to a bonus scene featuring Maeve (Thandie Newton), who was conspicuously absent from the episode itself. In the super-brief clip, Maeve awakens seated in a dungeon-like room, surrounded by a dead body or two, only to stumble upon a bound and gagged hostage. Turning to the window and looking out on the city below, the camera pans away from her to reveal a jarring setting indeed: a European courtyard emblazoned with the flag of the Third Reich. What could it mean, and what time is it there, exactly? Wherever she is, it’s clear Maeve, like Bernard, is far from the action swirling around Dolores…for now.

As you can tell, the new visuals, as well as the new cast members and Dolores' lean, mean, take-no-prisoners attitude are getting plenty of online love, even as fans are still trying to wrap their heads around just what, exactly, is going on in the wake of the brain-teasing twists and time jumps that left last season’s cliffhanger finale suggesting all kinds of possible futures. How will fans react now that Caleb (Paul) and Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) have paired up? Patience…we’re only just getting started.

Starring series mainstays Wood, Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Tessa Thompson, Ed Harris, Luke Hemsworth, Rodrigo Santoro, and Simon Quarterman, Season 3 also brings online a host of newcomers, including Paul, Lena Waithe, Vincent Cassel, Scott Mescudi, Marshawn Lynch, John Gallagher Jr., Jefferson Mays, Michael Ealy, and Tommy Flanagan. A new installment in Westworld's eight-episode third season drops each Sunday at HBO at 9 p.m. ET.

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