Westworld: Akane No Mai

"Welcome to Shogun World."

Whereas last episode was an exceedingly brilliant head-trip, this one is just a suspenseful, action-packed delight.

As I was hoping, we are given a grand tour of Shogun World. According to Lee Sizemore, this park is inspired by the Edo period of Japan, when the country was ruled by the Tokugawa shogunate, and is specifically tailored for guests who find Westworld "too tame." Maeve, Lee and the gang are captured by a ronin samurai named Musashi.

It quickly becomes apparent to everyone that a majority of the narratives and characters in Shogun World are blatant copies of the ones we first saw in Westworld. Musashi and his female partner Hanaryo are alternate versions of Hector and Armistice, who carry out a bloody heist in the sanctuary town to an eastern version of "Paint It Black." Through them, we meet Akane and Sakura, geishas who mirror Maeve and Clementine; their relationship also reminds Maeve of her past life with her long-lost daughter. Despite being unchained along with the rest, the Shogun World hosts are evidently still going through the motions of their storylines until Maeve steps in.

While she is at first eager to find a way out and continue the search for her daughter, Maeve finds herself empathizing with her newly discovered counterparts. It also opens up a new door in her journey of self-discovery and empowerment. Not only does she join the similarly independent Akane in her quest to save Sakura from The Shogun, she also unlocks an incredible new ability. While meditating, Maeve finds out she can sense the thoughts and actions of her fellow hosts, tipping her off to the Shogun's ninja assassins. When one of the ninjas is about to strangle her before she can command him to stop, she discovers she doesn't need to say the words. She can command them with her mind; in the past, this is something only Ford has been capable of.

That's right, Maeve's telepathic now!

It may be even deeper than that. When bonding with Akane, it seems like Maeve was beginning to use her telepathy to unlock Akane's free will, which she isn't ready to fully accept. Perhaps Maeve is the light to Dolores' dark messiah.

We also revisit Dolores and Teddy, who bring their horde of hosts back to Sweetwater, now in ruins. Dolores has the train repaired and makes preparations to invade the Mesa. However, we mainly focus on her relationship with Teddy. Poor, sweet, innocent Teddy. Now that he's self-aware, his motivation is the same one Dolores had at the start of the series: to leave everything else behind and find a place to call home, to live together in love and in peace.

After a scene of passionate lovemaking straight out of an '80s movie, Dolores realizes that her feelings for Teddy are all true... which is a bummer, since she also realizes that Teddy is simply too nice of a guy to join her in her bloody revolution. She likens him to a plague-infected cow who must be burned to ensure the survival of the herd. As such, she has her enslaved tech Phil overwrite Teddy's existing personality to make him a more ruthless and obedient soldier in her army. She's warned that altering his mind so drastically without a full reset could be problematic, but Dolores argues that suffering like this will only help Teddy grow.

I don't know about that. It seems like history is really just repeating. Teddy was made to be a ruthless killer by Wyatt, which embittered him toward his insane leader, and "Wyatt" has made him into one again. I don't see this going well for either of them in the future.

Anyway, back to Shogun World. Maeve, Akane and friends go to confront The Shogun in the hopes of rescuing Sakura. Unfortunately, the Shogun has gone batshit crazy due to a leak of cortical fluid. He's got a penchant for mutilation and sadism. He agrees to return Sakura to Akane on the condition that the two dance for his amusement. As the dance is about to begin, the Shogun murders poor Sakura before Akane's eyes. Akane performs her elegant dance (to the tune of a Japanese instrumental rendition of "C.R.E.A.M." by Wu Tang Clan), which she caps off by stabbing the Shogun in the jaw and carving his head into two. And, wow, that might be the most hardcore thing I've seen in some time.

This is when things get epic. Maeve forces the Shogun's daimyos and samurai to slaughter each other instead of her and Akane. Then she grabs a katana and prepares for battle as a hundred samurai warriors charge up the hill towards the encampment. Something tells me they don't stand a chance against her.

I loved the hell out of this episode. Such a treat. This show just keeps upping the ante. I keep expecting it to misstep and it hasn't yet. I especially loved the casting for our new Shogun World characters. I've been a fan of Hiroyuki Sanada (Musashi), Tao Okamoto (Hanaryo) and especially Rinko Kikuchi (Akane) for quite awhile. I certainly hope that they stick around. Their interactions with Maeve's crew are a real joy to watch.

Loops and reveries:

* Two weeks later: Delos Security is dredging the dead hosts from the Valley of Death, which they are also in the process of draining. They are removing and scanning the robo-brains to find some clue as to what happened, but Costa informs Strand that a third of the hosts are "virgin", as if they never contained information to begin with. On top of this, The Cradle containing all of the hosts' backup data has been completely destroyed. Strand is increasingly frustrated with the lack of answers to the corporation's losses. I'm thinking the hosts found in the Valley of Death might be decoys, and that Dolores, Teddy and the other hosts we've been seeing are actually somewhere else. Maybe they all joined Maeve in Shogun World.

* According to Sizemore, all of the hosts have multiple languages embedded into their code, even if they haven't been granted access to them like Maeve. That’s another serious advantage the hosts have over most humans.

* How the Westworld hosts react to their Japanese counterparts was very amusing and telling. Maeve and Akane immediately respect each other, Hector and Musashi are hostile and distrusting, while Armistice and Hanaryo just seem incredibly fascinated.

* I like that Maeve is actually starting to treat Lee like a person, even if he doesn't afford her the same courtesy. Rather than bullying him the entire episode, she acknowledges his usefulness and expresses her frustration at the way he treats hosts instead of just adopting his indifference and applying it to all humans. It's another way of illustrating how much more evolved she is than Dolores.

* That said, I loved it when Maeve threatened to "snap you like a matchstick" when Lee brought up her daughter.

* Speaking of Lee, it seems like he's opening his mind a bit more as well. Though still a prick who may likely betray Maeve in the future, he isn't totally blind to the hosts' evolution. Damn it, Westworld! Stop giving all these assholes nuance! First Logan, then Elsie, now Lee. Who's next? Are we gonna find out Charlotte Hale isn't as rotten as she seems?

* Musashi is named after the famous real-life Japanese ronin Miyamoto Musashi, who wrote "The Book of Five Rings." He also appears to be modeled after Toshiro Mifune's character from Yojimbo, the classic Akira Kurosawa film.

* Maeve once again leaves Hector behind to fight her battles. I wonder if Hector will ever start to resent her for that.

* There's a very sad moment where Clementine encounters her replacement at the Mariposa Saloon and begins miming her scripted dialogue, clearly remembering who she once was despite her lobotomy. Poor Clementine, she's been robbed of her identity and now really is no more than a puppet, either to Dolores or Code-Ford.

* Speaking of the Clementine replacement, she and some of the other hosts in Sweetwater are still locked in their loops. Could this be a result of trauma from watching the town descend into a bloodbath without a standard reset?

Quotes:

Karl Strand: How did all these disparate threads come together to create this nightmare? If we figure that out, we’ll know how this story turns.

Hector: (upon meeting Musashi) What the hell is that?
Armistice: Looks like a dead man to me.
Lol, I love these two.

Sylvester: Captured by samurai cop-killers? Fuck me!

Maeve: You’ve plagiarized our stories, our identities.
Lee: It isn’t plagiarism! It’s… supply and demand.

Lee: If you’re wondering whether or not you can trust a Khanate, the question you should be asking is can you trust yourself.
Hector: You know who I don’t trust? Him. (glares at Musashi, who is basically Hector)

Lee: SHIT! NINJAS!

Lee: That was no voice command.
Maeve: I think I’m finding a new voice.

Akane: What’s happening?
Maeve: Freedom.
Akane: No... please!
Maeve: ... You're right. Some things are too precious to lose. Even to be free.

Four out of four impaled ninjas.

2 comments:

Patryk said...

It's not plagiarism if you copy from yourself. :)

So much action and fun stuff, apart from the Dolores stuff. Watching season 1 I would not bet that I'd want her to fail in the next season. She's at best just playing her Wyatt personality, at worst she's acting out Ford's true agenda. Raping Teddy's mind (in the same place William assaulted her?) deifnately is too much. Go team Maeve!

Logan Cox said...

I'm not sure where it was Dolores mind-raped Teddy; I assumed it was a butcher's shop, unless that rotting meat she had on display was a host and/or human corpse she skinned merely as an example. Which would be pretty messed up.

And yeah, I was a lot more invested in Dolores than Maeve last season, but now it's the complete opposite. I don't know if I want her to fail per se, since the humans (or at least Delos Incorporated) do seriously need to be taken down a few notches, but I would like to see her grow beyond the Western SkyNet phase she's in right now. With every new episode, she becomes no better than those she wants to self-righteously destroy.