HBO’s mind-bending science fiction series, Westworld, leaves the confines of the eponymous theme park for the big wide world in its third season.

With its non-linear timelines, dense plotting and more twists than a strand of DNA, Westworld’s thought-provoking rumination on the nature of consciousness and the danger of playing God have challenged the grey matter over the course of two seasons.

The third season promises to ease the mental strain with a more straightforward narrative that sees robotic protagonist Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) – having escaped from the park following a massacre – on the loose in neo-Los Angeles, where she intends to take revenge on her creators, the powerful Delos corporation.

“[Dolores is] a fish out of water this season. She’s truly on her own. She’s taken these mysterious pearls with her, and we don’t know who they may be,” teased Wood at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con Westworld panel.

“Things aren’t black and white, and the longer I work on the show, the more it becomes apparent. Like the system being rigged and are we in control of our destinies… we change the rules whenever it’s convenient.”

“This season is a little less of a guessing game and more of an experience, with the hosts finally getting to meet their makers,” reveals co-creator Jonathan Nolan in an interview with EW.

Adds co-creator Lisa Joy: “We’re looking at the aftermath of the massacre in the park. After all they went through to get out of the park, Dolores finally got what she wanted. So we wanted to see how she interacts with the world and what her plan is. That’s a part of the story we were excited to tell.”

Joining the cast this season is Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) as Caleb Nichols – a former military man turned lowly construction worker and sometime criminal, whose chance meeting with Dolores ultimately challenges her ideas about humanity.

“Caleb has a complicated past as we all do, but he’s a bit of a white hat and black hat,” explained Paul at Comic-Con. “He’s just trying to survive in the world and sometimes he has to do bad things.

“Each script that we read, the onion is peeled back for us as actors. Obviously this is a new character to this world, to this show, but I think what Caleb does is give fans of the show a look at one of the humans living in this futuristic society.”

Bringing the characters into the ‘real world’ offered the creators an opportunity to spin a cautionary tale about the dangers of technology.

“The show has always been about reaching a point where our technical capacity potentially threatens our morality and identity as a species,” Nolan tells EW. “There are unintended consequences of essentially unbridled unregulated technological development. We’ve been trapped in the park answering these questions and wanted to escape that.

“So the show is interested in the consequences of these technologies in a world not unlike our own, and our hosts trying to understand the culture they find themselves in. Even the complexities of the 19th-century frontier pale in comparison to a world that does not look like a dystopia – at least at first – but when you get under the hood, there’s plenty of dystopia under the surface.

Indeed, Nolan and Joy’s vision of a ‘beautiful’ dystopia has been realised in season three.

“One of the fun things about the third season is discarding the world of metaphor. Everything that’s happened on the show is very heightened, but it’s based on something we’re seeing in the real world,” he explains.

“When we started, Westworld was a dystopia. And now, three seasons in, it’s kind of a best-case scenario. The form of AI we have on the show is thoughtful – murderous, but thoughtful. I think we’re headed into the world of artificial stupidity.”

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