The first two seasons of robot cowboy drama Westworld were massive hits for HBO, and it's arguably the first show to finally look like it might be the 'next Game of Thrones' that everybody's been waiting for. Unfortunately, it took the company a grand total of three years to make that first series - and while the wait for season 2 wasn't quite as long, it's still not going to be a show that premieres once a year like clockwork.
So when is Westworld back on our TV screens for its third season, and where will you be able to watch it when it does return?
When does Westworld season 3 premiere?
Westworld won't be back on our screens any time soon. HBO renewed the show for a third season shortly after the second series premiered, but didn't announce an air date, and the show's creators have been just as tight-lipped.
“We’re still talking it through, honestly, with our friends at HBO, and with the cast and the crew,” showrunner Jonathan Nolan told EW. “We want to take the time to make every season as exciting as possible. And we have an enormous challenge going into season 3 with the worlds that we’re building going forward. We want to make sure we have the time to do that right.”
It took HBO about a year and a half to put season 2 together, so realistically we'd expect about the same again: look for Westworld's third season some time around late 2019.
Where can you watch it?
Westworld is made by HBO, so if you're in the US, that's where you've got to watch it. For the UK, as with most big HBO shows, that means it airs on Sky Atlantic, and season 3 will presumably be no exception.
If you don't have Sky already that means you'd have to sign up for one of its TV bundles to watch the show live, but there is another (cheaper) way: Now TV. This streaming service boasts Sky content - including Westworld - so you'll be able to watch Westworld season 2 episodes whenever you want as the show airs, and the Entertainment Pass costs just £7.99 a month, with a 14-day free trial.
Now TV also often has the first two seasons of Westworld available to stream, though availability does vary. At the time of writing the service has the full second season, but not the first - check here to see what's available right now.
What can we expect from season 3?
We don't know a huge amount yet about the show's third season, but we have a few ideas. Naturally, spoilers for the first two seasons follow from here.
How many episodes will there be?
As with the first two seasons, we expect that there will be ten episodes in total, but HBO hasn't yet confirmed that.
Which characters will be back?
It looks like most of the cast will be back in action - at least those whose characters survived (or can be rebuilt).
The end of season 2 left Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, and Tessa Thompson's characters outside the park together, so it seems a safe bet that those three actors are all returning. Meanwhile, the post-credit sting (you did stick around after the credits didn't you?) revealed that Ed Harris and Katja Herbers' characters both have parts to play too.
Just about every other character got killed off, but of course that hasn't stopped the show before. Dolores stole a few host 'brains' when she left the park, and has access to a body printer, so it stands to reason that she'll be bringing back a few fan favourites. We'd be shocked if at least Thandie Newton doesn't return as Maeve, but beyond that it's anyone's guess.
Another character likely to return is Luke Hemsworth's security chief Stubbs, who surprisingly revealed that he too is a host as he let Dolores/Hale out of the park - no doubt we've got more to see from him next season.
The other big question mark right now is Anthony Hopkins, whose park creator Robert Ford was killed in season one, but brought back a few times in the second series as a digital version of himself. There's no word yet on whether HBO will be keeping him around, or if Ford is gone for good now.
Are there any new characters?
So far we've had one new (and very exciting) cast member confirmed: Aaron Paul, of Breaking Bad fame. We've got no idea who he's playing - human or host, goodie or baddie - but he'll be in there somewhere.
What's the story?
Right now, naturally we don't know too much, but we can speculate based on the second season finale, and a few comments from the showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan.
As we said above, the finale left Evan Rachel Wood's Dolores and Jeffrey Wright's Bernard out in the real world, accompanied by another host played by Tessa Thompson. This is the host Dolores had used to escape the park, but it's not clear now if it contains a copy of Dolores's mind, or is being used to hold the brain of a different character altogether.
"The question of who’s who and what we’re looking at is something we’re excited to play with," Nolan said of the setup. "We’re excited to withhold a little from the audience but … it’s complicated."
We know that Dolores will be trying to take humanity down from within (though it's anyone's guess how), while Bernard will likely be playing some sort of moderating influence on her, which could build into outright opposition as the season goes on. Nolan and Joy have already confirmed that most of the third season takes place outside the park, so expect this to be the main storyline.
“It’s been a long build-up to get outside the park,” Nolan said, “and we’re incredibly excited about what that looks like and sounds like and what exactly our hosts discover out there.”
Still, don't expect the show to leave Westworld (or the other parks) behind entirely. Nolan pointed out that "not all of our favourite characters have managed to escape yet," so it's safe to see we'll see a bit more of Westworld itself, and maybe more glimpses of the other Delos parks.
Ed Harris's Man in Black is a little trickier. Towards the end of the finale we see him on a stretcher being treated for his wounds - so we know he survives, and will likely head back to civilisation to deal with the the park's collapse. But then that post-credit sting revealed something else entirely: a host version of himself, created far in the future, and working through the ruins of the park where he undergoes a 'fidelity' interview with a host version of his own daughter.
We don't know if season two will directly pick up this plotline, or simply leave it as a tantalising tease for what's to come, something the show can slowly build up to over the season (or even seasons).