Westworld has ended its second season with more unsolved mysteries than it started with. Here are some of the biggest questions we hope to see answered in the next season (or two), as well as some hints from the folks in front of and behind the camera that may point us to the answers.
Ford (Anthony Hopkins) and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) take in some of that natural splendour we keep hearing so much about. Photo: HBO
1) Whose host pearls did Dolores smuggle out?
Near the end of the episode, Dolores-in-Hale's-body - or, as I (and actor Tessa Thompson) affectionately call her, Halores - smuggles out five brain balls in her purse.
While some have speculated that one or more of them could hold plans or encryption keys, like Peter Abernathy's brain, co-showrunner Lisa Joy confirmed to Deadline that they are "a handful of hosts that she is smuggling out of the park".
Joy wouldn't reveal which hosts they were (no surprise there), so we're left to wonder who the hell Dolores wanted to take to the mainland with her.
At first, I figured Bernard was one of the pearls - but then Dolores says she rebuilt him from her memories. Why would she need his pearl if she was starting fresh (which she did, as actor Jeffrey Wright said during his recent Reddit AMA)? Other choices include her lieutenant Angela and Peter Abernathy, though I'm pretty sure the latter already had his swan song.
But, sorry folks, there's no reason she'd be bringing Teddy back after putting him in the Sublime.
Personally, I think we're going to see some new hosts come into the picture, others who can help Dolores realise her vision. It would result in some good flashback exploration, too.
Thanks, Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), we'll call you when Loki needs to be immortalised again. Photo: HBO
2) Is Stubbs really a host?
This is one of those questions that looks to already have an answer, but since it's Westworld there's still room for doubt.
As Halores is leaving the park with her secret brain balls, she's stopped by Ashley Stubbs for a little chat. At first, you think their meet-up could result in a shootout. But then, Stubbs engages in a bit of double-speak about hosts, core drives, and his purpose in the park.
It's heavily - and I mean heavily - suggested that he's a host who was created by Ford to watch over the other hosts. Or is he?
According to Joy... probably.
We don't say it explicitly, but if you are left wondering with all [Stubbs'] talk - his knowing talk about "I've been at the park a very long time," and Ford designed him with certain core drives, and he's gonna stick to the role he's been programmed with - it's a little acknowledgement of just why he might have his suspicions about what's going on with Hale, and then lets her pass.
Doesn't it make sense if you are Ford and designing a park and you have a whole master plan about helping robots that you would keep one Host hiding in plain sight as a fail-safe? Maybe the Host who's in charge of quality assurance? And by the way, that was totally meant to be subtle [laughs].
Still, that isn't complete confirmation. If you want to believe she's giving us this tidbit to keep the audience on its toes, there's still a healthy bit of speculation available. Who knows, maybe Stubbs just looks good for his age.
3) Who's in Host Charlotte's body at the end?
When Dolores wakes Bernard up at Arnold's estate, we see her and Host Hale hanging out together. Does this mean that there are now two Dolores bots plotting to take over the world? Probably not. So that leaves us guessing who she decided to put in Charlotte's body.
My money's on Angela, as she was one of Wyatt's most-devoted followers, and she already knows a great deal about living in the real world. You might be wondering: Wait, didn't she get blown up? I mean, so long as her brain ball survived that Cradle explosion, she's fine, guys. She's fine.
4) Where did Dolores send the Sublime, and will we ever see it again?
For those who haven't been reading as many Westworld interviews as I have, the Sublime is the name the writers room gave to the virtual world the carvan of hosts travel to in the Valley Beyond.
After a select number of hosts make it to the other side - including Akecheta, Maeve's daughter and dear old Teddy - Dolores changes the coordinates for its location to hide it from the real world. So, where are they? And will they ever come back?
Joy said in an interview that only Dolores knows the location of the Sublime, and humans will never be able to access it, but that leaves a bit of wiggle room for Dolores or other hosts to interact with the virtual paradise.
And while co-showrunner Jonathan Nolan said it's "safe to assume" the people in the Sublime aren't going to be coming back, I think we'll see them in the Sublime again. In fact, I really really hope we do. There's a unique story that can be explored there.
I'm fascinated to see what hosts would do with a world that isn't bound by physical limitations, like the Geth Collective in Mass Effect. Would these hosts become a far superior intelligence, evolving better and faster than hosts still living in the real world - including Dolores herself? I don't imagine she'd be OK with being outpaced.
It not only presents an opportunity in that regard, but also the chance for internal conflict between the hosts themselves. Unless, of course, it turns out they all just wanted to stick to their innocent pastoral way of life. Which, I mean, good for them... boring for us.
It looks to actually be curtains for Elsie (Shannon Woodward) this time. Photo: HBO
5) Who's coming back for season three, and who's gone for good?
The finale had a hell of a body count. Hosts, humans, hybrids. Everybody died.
It's been kinda-sorta-confirmed by Nolan that Shannon Woodward will not be coming back as Elsie, after Charlotte shot her because she's a dick. And it looks as though any host who went to the Sublime won't be revived in the real world, because their core programming has been completely erased.
But, some of the others have the chance to return. It seems likely that Maeve and Hector will be revived, since Felix would never keep them dead forever, and both Armistices could return.
Other than those core few? It's anybody's guess. Pour one out for Zombie Clementine, though, because I'm guessing she's toast.
Of course, there's one more character whose future is both unique and uncertain, which would be Robert Ford. He's been deleted from Bernard's subconscious, but his code is almost certainly still out there somewhere.
Anthony Hopkins is a busy man, but I don't think this is the last we'll see of the creator of the park. Whether it's in Bernard's brain, William's game, or flashbacks... Ford is Westworld.
6) What's Delos going to do with Westworld?
Speaking of the park: What the hell is Delos going to do now? A bunch of rich people are dead, their immortality project has been destroyed, and their boss just lost half of his fingers! Are they going to pull the plug on Westworld and try something else?
I'm guessing they're going to dust themselves off and try again - but that could depend on the new Host Hale, who's in a powerful position to control Delos' actions from the inside.
7) What about the other parks, and all of their hosts?
I was a little disappointed that Shogun World and the Raj were completely ignored after they served their side quest purposes - especially given what happened in the season finale. Did any of their hosts get the opportunity to go to the Valley Beyond, or were they outside of Ford's influence because he didn't create those parks? If they didn't get to escape, what's next for them?
I want to know what's going to happen to the survivors (both host and human) at the parks we already saw, as well as the ones we haven't visited yet. They may not be in the park we spent all of the first season in, but dammit they're still people... and robots.
As of now, it's really hard to say what's going to happen with them, but what is clear (according to Joy and Nolan, at least) is that at some point we will learn more about the other three parks.
"Hello old friend." Photo: HBO
8. What's Dolores planning next?
Dolores took a trip to the Dark Side in the second season, coming out the other side a little wiser and stronger... but still angry as hell. Now that she's escaped Westworld and is (presumably) in the real world, what's she going to do now?
All we know at this point is she's going to fighting for the survival (and supremacy) of her species, but there are a lot of ways that could be interpreted. However, we have one other detail: This time, Dolores won't be doing it alone.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Joy said Dolores has learned a major lesson this season about not being a total arsehole, and plans on working with other hosts to secure their combined future.
This directly contrasts with her paternalistic approach from the latest season, where she controlled everyone around her because she was certain she had the best vision for all of them. It will be interesting to see how much she actually listens to other hosts, but I'm glad to see her try:
The lesson she learned is that she can change. She's changed her mind. She's changed her philosophy. She realises she has but one path to potentially securing the hosts' safety... It's an acknowledgment that there are paths other than hers that she needs to be tolerant and accepting of and can't stand in the way of.
She's come to understand that true freedom isn't something that arises from a lack of dissent, from a dictatorial or totalitarian rule of one set of ideologies. It's something that has to happen with a plurality of ideas, sometimes coming into conflict. Because she's learned her lesson, she's bringing Bernard back into this world to be a check on her own power.
9) What will Bernard do now (and what about that scar)?
Speaking of Bernard, he's a free host now! And unlike Dolores, who has a goal (even if we don't know everything about it), Bernard doesn't really have anything he wants to do. So, what's next for him?
The obvious answer would be he's going to serve as Charles Xavier to Dolores' Magneto, arguing to preserve humanity as Dolores yearns to destroy it. But it might actually be more complicated than that.
In his Reddit AMA, Wright responded to a question about what's next for Bernard, Dolores and Host Charlotte with an interesting teaser quip: "We're the guests now in the other Westworld - the real world. Which hat will we choose?"
I kind of like the idea that Bernard is now free of his reins and can make his own path, but we don't necessarily know which one he's going to take. Similar to William when he first stepped into the park, Bernard should be able to realise his true self... for the very first time. And we may not like who we find on the other side.
There's also the issue with Bernard's scar. Early in the season, fans started noticing that Bernard had a scar on his right temple in some scenes but not in others - including in the pilot episode of the series - using that as a tool to try and put the timeline pieces together.
As of now, we still don't know what the scar is, how he got it, or which Bernard host body it belonged to.
William (Ed Harris) just took a look at the latest post-episode Westworld theory Reddit thread. Photo: HBO
10) What the hell is going on with William?
The finale's post-credits scene could easily fill its own article, but I'm going to try and restrain myself.
After I speculated for the entire season that William had died during the Journey Into Night party in the season one finale and had been resurrected as a host for Ford's "game", it turns out that wasn't the case - at least not yet.
At the very end of the episode, we see William enter into the Forge to find it dried up and decaying. It's far in the future, and a host version of his daughter Emily is there to test his fidelity, as has been done countless times before.
This raises an entire series' worth of questions. When does this take place? Is William dead, and if so when did he die?
Plus: Why is any of this happening? Has Delos brought back its experiments, trying to finish where it left off with James Delos? Have Dolores and the other hosts taken over the world, and choose to spend their time subjecting William to cruel torture because why not? Or, is Emily (or possibly Dolores in her body) trying to do for William what they did for Bernard, change a few pieces in his "code" to make him a better man?
My theory (which is supported by the director of the episode) is that William is subjecting himself to this game. Whether he's pursuing it alone or working with Dolores, he is a volunteer and not a captive.
But why would he subject himself to this kind of torment, being forced to relive one of the worst moments of his life - when he killed Emily - over and over to become a conscious robot?
Because, as another William once said in A Knight's Tale, "A man can change his stars."
Director Fred Toye seemingly confirmed in an interview with Vanity Fair that William wants to change his life's cornerstone, meaning the moment he killed his daughter. It's a constant in his life that supposedly cannot be changed, just as James Delos' final conversation with Logan was his.
But William needs to believe he can live a life where he never makes that choice.
Of course, the underlying question is: Does that mean William was a host the whole time? Nope. Joy confirmed to The Wrap that "for the majority of the season, we're seeing him in the same timeline as everybody else".
Of course, that's heavily open to interpretation; technically, majority means anything over 50 per cent.
This could mean one or more of William's scenes from the second season weren't in the current timeline, but part of William's many attempts to replay his story and come to a different conclusion. Such as, for example, the moment William chooses to help Lawrence's family. Kind of out-of-character for a man who'd soon after murder his daughter, right?
But let's save all that for next season, because it's a lot to take in.