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 is back very soon: 15 March 2020, to be precise, as revealed in a special date announcement teaser:
That's when the show's first episode will air on HBO in the US of course, so expect it to arrive in the US and other countries from 16 March.
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 3 whenever you want as the show airs, and the Entertainment Pass costs just £7.99 a month, with a 7-day free trial.
Now TV also often has the first two seasons of Westworld available to stream, though availability does vary, but at the time of writing both are available - check here to see what's available right now and watch it yourself.
Watch the trailer
HBO dropped the first teaser for season three just before the Game of Thrones finale, and it's a little bit different from what we're used to from the show so far:
The full Comic-Con trailer is a little more familiar though, with glimpses at just about all the cast as the show expands outside of the parks:
Then there's the Incite Anthem, a fictional ad for a tech company that seems to be setting up both plot for the show, and ARG promo campaign to run around the launch. It doesn't give much away, but the Incite website has an email sign-up that may lead to more clues.
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 three new (and very exciting) cast members confirmed. The first is Aaron Paul, of Breaking Bad fame. Thanks to the first trailer, above, we now know that he'll be playing Caleb, a human construction worker out in the 'real world' who's also caught up in crime, together with Master of None star Lena Waithe, one of the show's other major additions. It looks like they'll end up working with/for Dolores one way or another.
The third big piece of casting is French star Vincent Cassel, but for the moment we don't know anything at all about who he'll be playing. He appeared for a moment in the Comic-Con trailer, and looked like he might be playing a Delos exec, but we won't know for sure.
What's the story?
Right now, naturally we don't know too much, but we can speculate based on the second season finale, the trailers, 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 (presumably with the help of Aaron Paul and Lena Waithe's characters), while Bernard will likely be playing some sort of moderating influence on her, which could build into outright opposition as the season goes on. It also looks like Bernard will be returning to the parks to find someone to help take Dolores on - the trailer implies that might be Thandie Newton's Maeve.
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.”
That won't just be big cities too. Dolores will eventually find her way to the *real* west, and the show will explore the differences between the fantasy version and its near-future vision of the real thing.
“Part of the story plays out in the Western United States, and that’s a thematic through-line in the show — the American West as a setting and an ethos," Jonathan Nolan told Entertainment Weekly. "The idea of the West as a wild place, where just over the next hill or horizon there are no rules. On that thematic level, Dolores emerges to figure out what happened to the real West. And the answer is: We paved the thing over, and civilization eventually caught up with all those people who were running away from it.”
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 - it looks an awful lot like we'll be seeing Naziworld, which is exactly as grim an idea as we're used to from this show.
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).