Ed Harris Knows Westworld Season 3 Went A Little Off The Rails

"Westworld" has always been an intricate show in terms of plot. Its first season secretly moves back and forth in time as its lead, an android or "host" at an interactive Western-themed amusement park named Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), slowly begins to recall memories that were forcibly wiped from her mind. Dolores' journey parallels that of "The Man in Black" (Ed Harris), a sadistic human guest who's convinced there are untold secrets to the park that other visitors have yet to uncover.

Dolores' trek to gaining true sentience and agency is complex yet far from impenetrable. It also led viewers to make a weekly game out of trying to predict where "Westworld" was headed ahead of time in its first season, with some of the more popular fan theories — like William (Jimmi Simpson) from Dolores' past being a younger version of The Man in Black — ultimately proving accurate. In a seeming bid to stay one step ahead of the series' fans, show-runners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan almost went out of their to make season 2 more opaque and convoluted, perhaps to a fault.

That being said, even some of the fans who loved the mind games of the first two seasons felt "Westworld" vanished up its own butt in season 3. Harris didn't exactly love working on the season either, telling The Hollywood Reporter in April 2020 (back when season 3 was still airing), "I didn't like it. I still don't. But that's my problem." Two years later, not much has changed.

'I mean, it was confusing to me'

Timing, to be fair, wasn't exactly on the side of "Westworld" season 3. The season dropped just as the lockdowns went into effect in March 2020, a moment in which most of the show's fans were, of course, pretty frazzled and far from ready to navigate the series' latest narrative maze. Then there's the actual plot of season 3, which centers on an advanced A.I. machine, Rehoboam, that collects data on the general population in a bid to control the fate of human society and prevent it from collapsing in on itself.

Rehoboam, when push comes to shove, is a big allegory for data mining. It's an interesting concept taken in a vacuum, but it doesn't quite work as a natural extension of season 1 and 2's themes about free will and identity. The other big issue with season 3 is it tries to juggle several story threads featuring Dolores and other returning characters while also bringing in new players like Caleb (Aaron Paul) and Serac (Vincent Cassell), but in a manner that deliberately makes it hard to suss out how all these sub-plots are going to tie together in the end. The subterfuge works at times but as a whole? It ends up feeling like a lot of confusion for its own sake.

Harris, it seems, would agree with that assessment. "It's very interesting, because I'm not sure how the viewership has been going on the season 4 year, but I have talked to a lot of people that were into season 1 and 2, and then season 3 was very, very, confusing," the actor told Awards Watch in August 2022. "I mean, it was confusing to me," he added.

Where is my mind?

The Man in Black (or William, call him what you will) has an especially trippy time in "Westworld" season 3. He starts off the season suffering from recurring visions of his late daughter, whom he killed after convincing himself she was secretly a host copy of his real daughter in season 2. No sooner is he back to his malicious ways then he winds up being sent to a mental institution by Dolores (that is, a different host with Dolores' consciousness) and, thanks to some nifty future tech, has a group therapy session in his mind with other versions of himself who represent different parts of his identity.

Confused? Harris is right there with you. He admitted to Awards Watch this and other season 3 storylines "threw [him]," explaining:

"There were so many dimensions, and people could be anybody at any given time kind-of-thing. It was bewildering to me, but I just ended up just focusing on, okay, the Man In Black, this is what he's doing. This is what he's trying to do. Blah, blah, blah."

"Westworld" has never been afraid of taking wild swings, and that's precisely what season 3 is. It has its supporters for the same reason, with certain aspects of the season landing strongly enough to make up for the elements that miss. Season 4 even managed to build upon its foundation in compelling and unexpected ways ... at least until it fumbled the ball with its final episode and, in lieu of a season 5 renewal that may not be coming, potential series finale, as the show is sadly wont to do. But if this really is the end of the line for Dolores and the gang, maybe it's only fitting they went out with their reach exceeding their grasp.