Warning: This post contains Westworld spoilers.
Thanks to Ford’s dramatic retirement plan—total Westworld sabotage—it’s time for a new god in town. A working gun might be useful, but experience may just be the key to ruling Westworld. So who’s closest to taking over in Season 2? With another mass murder down and both of the park’s founders dead, one thing’s for sure: the hosts are now primed to inherit the earth (or wherever this story takes place).
But in this artificial town, there are no safe bets, except that knowledge isn’t necessarily power. As developments seesaw and hopscotch, a girl can really get to know herself and close in on the center of the maze only to have some professional life-ruiner drop her right back where she started. In view of the facts on the ground, the ten characters below are the players who will compete to rule Westworld next season, ranked from faintly possible to most likely to succeed.
Write to Ashley Hoffman at Ashley.Hoffman@time.com.
10. Charlotte Hale
Dolores likely put and end to this extremely smooth but shortsighted operator in the massacre that closed Season 1. Charlotte ignores the Man in Black’s warning and likely had too much hubris to survive. Interestingly, she popped into Ford’s office to tell him his time was up, so it stands to reason that she had his life’s work backed up and smuggled safely out of there. If she made it out of the worst beach party ever alive, she’s not totally powerless against the hosts in Season 2. But although no one really knows what that Tarot deck at the Pariah orgy’s cool-down area is trying to tell us, Charlotte’s desire to take control seems most likely out of the cards for now.
9. Lee Sizemore
In the Olympics for trivial grievances, competition on this show was stiff. You’ve got the Man in Black, who spent three decades trying to be a real winner after a machine ghosted him, and Sylvester (tagline: “that’s just my face”) who couldn’t stand to see Maeve treat him like the second-string nothing he was. But this tantrum thrower would come out on top every time because of how well he demonstrated the lengths to which a hack will go to feel important. He was going to take over for Ford because he excelled at living on the ends of Charlotte’s puppet strings, and he may have been able to hide from the rebellion—but it looks like a long-shot for this weasel.
8. Peter Abernathy
On the other hand, this part-time menacing Shakespeare-spewing cannibal, part-time ultra dedicated farm dad loves the stage. “By most mechanical hand, I shall have such revenges on you,” Peter warns early on, gloriously emanating beams of loathing at the always mildly amused Ford. Now that Lee has loaded him up with enough bot data to duplicate Westworld, he could either become a super-host or just completely lose it.
If Armistice is the host with the coolest moves, Lawrence is the runner-up. A criminal slinging two narratives with an endless supply of comic relief? No doubt that he stays. We know he’s the kind of casual revolutionary leader whose smirk and general nihilism made him an amusing player during crucial artificial battles. But in the real human vs. robot war, we may be more likely to see this host in a supporting role. Cool, sure, but maybe “El Lazo” isn’t Westworld god material.
Felix? But why? And how? Also why, though? How could the creators pull a move so unexpected as to choose this desperate-to-be-useful bird whisperer? One word: joy. He took such selfless pleasure in bolstering Maeve’s rise to power. He’s a hero’s helper of the best kind. Even if he might be one of the least loyal employees, we’d better recognize he’s a rising star who’s quick with an update. Supreme A.I. queen Maeve is due back, and she’s forever endeared to him, so even if he might be more of a background player, humans would be wrong to underestimate this sly android ally.
5. Elsie Hughes and Ashley Stubbs
These two share a ranking because they’ve often uncovered truths while in each other’s presence, even if Elsie was the true talent. But didn’t the show drop the nervy coder like a bad habit? This recording on the show’s official site hints otherwise. A close read of the series also strongly suggests that Stubbs might have been capable of taking out those Ghost Nation “fellas” who ambushed him. Even though the show clearly favors robot rule every step of the way, these tough cookies stand a chance to rule a human-dominant world order.
Clem is the ultimate “thoroughly unexpected” warrior, to quote Charlotte Hale’s management handbook. The fact that Clementine promptly smashed the tech’s head after he brutalized her was easily one of the most satisfying oppressed-oppressor switcheroos of the series. Not to mention, she appeared to gun down the Man in Black, fulfilling his lifelong quest to be a very brave little loser. Don’t sleep on Clem.
This. Woman. The mom-turned-madam’s seemingly self-motivated escape action was the most invigorating arc of the show. She laughed in the face of death, blazed past anyone who tried to say her bomb-laced spine would keep her enslaved, and dispensed stellar advice. When she’s finally about to bust out, she chooses her daughter over the freedom she set herself on fire to find. (We see proof that Ford is the one who made her escape plot happen, not Maeve, but Westworld co-creator Jonathan Nolan confirmed that this was the first ever real decision she has made.) Ford-engineered or not, she can make the hosts do whatever she wants, and on top all that, she assembled a powerful army of hosts to help fulfill her mission.
Support: That army includes two key chaos controllers, Hector and Armistice. Hector is a compliant and excellent recruit who gets his machine gun right in time for the Christmas Die Hard episode of Westworld a.k.a. “The Theory of the Bicameral Mind.” But Armistice. That Armistice. In park-mode, she played a criminal leader in her own right, and most recently became the world’s most charming warrior to ever commit murder by spite-finger-choking, a rare and especially well-executed punishment. Post-credits, she rips off her own arm in a scene that makes James Franco’s 127 Hours look like a very small deal by comparison. Maeve’s chances look good.
Next in line is mild-mannered Bernard. With the park’s founders thoroughly dead, Bernard’s the host with the most technical knowledge. On top of that, he’s now in possession of a V.I.T., the maze throwback toy Ford gives to him in what is either a transition of power or just general screw-with-the-host fun. He’s got the unspeakable grief factor down, positioning him to be a close second to Dolores. That is, if the grief doesn’t weigh him down first.
It’s been one rocky ride for this farm girl. Since she learned to trust the “voice within” that both Arnold and Christina Aguilera have always preached about, she finally realized her destiny and transformed from victim to killing machine, extinguishing her creator and slaughtering fancy real people at Ford’s redemption party.
She might even be more evolved than your average human, which brings us, sadly, to the fact that anyone can be rolled back—even a maze master. But Dolores is the clear frontrunner because, with several lifetimes’ worth of brutal memories stored up, it would seem her sentience is here to stay. She’s already shooting up a storm, leading that inevitable uprising just as Ford knew she could, but as co-creator Lisa Joy confirmed, she alone decided to do it. Bonus: she’s got O.G. host Teddy as a partner in crime, making her more primed than anyone else to reign over Westworld when the show returns.