With its second season last year, the HBO sci-fi drama Westworld dramatically altered its entire fictional universe, beginning with new parks and ending with a whole new world for the Host characters at the heart of the story. We still know very little about what's to come for 2020's third season, but the show's cast and creators took San Diego Comic-Con's Hall H stage on Saturday to finally shed just a little more light on things. So, bring yourself back online, and let's dig into it.
Joining moderator Amy Webb onstage at Hall H were returning stars Jeffrey Wright, Thandie Newton, Evan Rachel Wood, Tessa Thompson, and Luke Hemsworth (who arrived slightly later after jokes that he was off the show for being a "disruptive personality"), new cast member Aaron Paul, and creators Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan. Right away, Webb wanted to know one key piece of information: Is Logan coming back next season after his pivotal role in the season finale?
Joy and Nolan wouldn't answer that, but did hint that we'll likely see more of Ed Harris as William/The Man in Black, if only because they're a bit intimidated by him.
"I'm not telling Ed he's not on the show," Nolan joked.
After revealing the gorgeous Season 3 trailer, Nolan revealed the now-traditional subtitle for the new season. Season 1 was subtitled "The Maze" and Season 2 "The Door." Season 3 will be "The New World." So, does that mean the show is done with the park?
"I didn't say that," Nolan added.
Speaking about said New World, which Dolores (Wood) escaped to last season after hiding her consciousness in a copied Charlotte Hale (Thompson) body, the creators revealed that Paul will play Caleb, a construction worker who hangs out with a robot friend named George. Caleb will apparently play a key role in helping Dolores understand humanity as they exist outside the confines of the park.
"She is a fish out of water this season," Wood said of Dolores. "She is truly alone. She's still full of surprises and pretty ruthless, but I think her interactions with Aaron make her reevaluate her views on humanity."
Westworld wouldn't be Westworld without complex themes and ideas at the heart of things, and as Nolan began discussing the themes of Season 3, including the idea of algorithmic determinism (which he compared to how Netflix suggests titles to its users), he reflected a bit on the evolution of the artificial intelligence at the heart of the series.
"As we've been making the show, Westworld started as a dystopia, but now three seasons in it's the best case scenario," he said. "The AIs we have are thoughtful. "Murderous but thoughtful.
"One of the fun things about the third season is that we discard the idea of metaphor and deal with the world as it is — which is a gigantic s**tshow. The show is heightened, but it is based on something we are seeing in the real world."
Then it was time to ask the cast about the journeys of their respective characters. Wright, who's had one of the more complicated arcs on the show so far, was asked if Bernard Lowe's empathy is the product of programming or if it was learned behavior. In true Bernard Lowe fashion, he turned that question back on Webb and the audience.
"That's the central question of the show, isn't it?" Wright asked.
Maeve's arc has also been one of the more convoluted pieces of the show's puzzle in the past, and in discussing where her character is headed, Newton described Maeve as "an extremely expensive piece of hardware, and yet she's treated like she has no value.
"So what I'm loving now is the choice she's given about her sense of self-value," she added.
Season 2 ended on what many fans considered to be a pessimistic note, as the show revealed the Delos scheme to essentially transcribe the minds of guests in the park through brain scanners hidden in hats, and Logan noted that human behavior can essentially be spelled out in what amounts to a thin book. So, does that mean Nolan and Joy are just not very keen on human beings?
"I think [Jonathan's] more bleak on things than I am," Joy said.
"My wife fully understands the concept of loving someone while acknowledging their many flaws," Nolan added.
The creators also addressed the violence on the show, which is always graphic and covers everything from gunshot wounds to, at one point last season, a person's head being sawed in half. For Joy, it's all part of the experience.
"I think the show is violent, but nowhere near as violent as the world, especially if you look at the world at large," she said. "It might make people uncomfortable, but it should be uncomfortable. It should be terrible."
Much of the panel also focused on the show's relationship to technology, including Webb asking the cast and creators who owns things like smart speakers and who has submitted their DNA for ancestry testing (something both Nolan and Joy admitted to). For Wright, the show's focus on the future of technology is commendable in part because it's a series willing to dive into the broader implications of that future, including the way it affects job instability and wealth disparity. Paul, who plays a blue-collar character in a world filled with technology, elaborated on how that impacts Caleb.
"It's normal for him because it's the world he grew up in," Paul said, "but he can't help but wish for a better one."
Further elaborating on why he chose to join a show like Westworld, Paul likened Caleb to the other characters he's been drawn to in his career.
"I just like to get beat up and dragged through the mud a little. Also money," he joked. "No, I don't know, I always gravitate toward characters with deep-rooted, complicated emotions."
As the panel neared its conclusion, Paul further emphasized his character's connection to the wider world of Season 3, noting that he "gives us a sense of what it's like to be a human living in this crazy futuristic world."
The New World of Westworld Season 3 arrives next year on HBO.
Click here for SYFY WIRE's full coverage of San Diego Comic-Con 2019, including up-to-the-minute news, exclusive interviews, and videos.