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Westworld Season 3's big finale death isn't as final as it seems

Is this real? Or is Westworld, just being Westworld?

The Season 3 finale of Westworld really wants you to think a major character has been killed off forever. But, is this a giant fake-out, or is Westworld really serious this time?

When the premise of your show is all about robot Hosts who get new bodies made for them on the fly, it's tough to really know when someone has really left the series forever. And yet, in this particular case, the Westworld Season 3 finale might have found a clever way of making sure one character is actually not ever returning — even if the actor does.

Spoilers ahead for Westworld Season 3, Episode 8, "Crisis Theory."

Other than two trippy post-credits scenes filled with twists, the most valid storytelling thing that happens in Westworld Season 3 is easily the apparent "death" of Evan Rachel Wood's Dolores.

After being captured and pursued (more than once) throughout this season, Dolores' journey doesn't end in triumph but in tragedy. After catching her with Maeve's help, Serac starts eliminating all of Dolores' memories to torture her. This might seem a little silly, but from the perspective of what we know about Westworld, it's actually clever.

Because Dolores could easily get a new body (she manages to get into one that was in a sealed cased in this episode) the only way to "kill" her is by deleting her memories. If Dolores can't remember who she is, then she ceases to exist. So even though we've seen Dolores die before, by her final scene in "Crisis Theory," it feels like this is legit. She can't come back from this, because the memories of "this" Dolores — the original version and the mastermind — no longer exist.

Gone but not forgotten. Well, her memories were erased, so kind of forgotten.HBO

Dolores' personality has already been fractured this season. She made copies of her mind and memories and put those copy-brains into different bodies who look like all sorts of different people.

But as this episode makes clear, those copies don't really see themselves as faux-versions of Dolores anymore. Charlotte has made a new body for herself and sees herself as a new version of Charlotte. Otherwise, she would have made a new Dolores body for herself, right?

This is interesting only because, despite what happens to Dolores in this episode, you could make a case that there are so many copies of her out there that it doesn't matter what happens to her original copy at all.

And yet, it clearly does. In the first post-credits scene, Charlotte doubles-down on something Connells said earlier in the season these Dolores copies have diverged from what they were in the beginning. That means in Season 4, even if one of the Pearls containing Dolores' mind was put into another Dolores body and Evan Rachel Wood played that character, it would not really be Dolores. The real Dolores, the one who had all these specific memories and sacrificed herself to keep the location of "the Sublime" is gone.

The face could return. Some of those memories that were copied into the other Host duplicates could be put into other bodies. But the actual character of Dolores seems to have died. And if Westworld has any robot guts, it'll stay that way.

Westworld Season 4 is expected to start filming in 2021.