Westworld: Kiksuya

“This is the wrong world.”

This week on Westworld, story time with Akecheta!

Seriously, though, this episode was pretty damn good. Not exactly better than the previous few, but quite beautiful, even with the requisite mind-numbingly tragic elements. And it provided some refreshing new insights that I hadn't really anticipated.

Sure, I had suspected, given clues sprinkled across previous episodes, that there must be more to Ghost Nation than meets the eye. In hindsight, it makes a lot of sense that they have been awakened hosts the whole time. And learning that Akecheta was the first one to achieve consciousness, and apparently did so all on his own, was a welcome surprise; I had previously thought "The First of Us" meant he was simply the first native host that Ford and Arnold created. Having him relate his own story and point of view to Maeve's daughter was a neat framework for this episode, shedding light on many cryptic aspects of this series in a very down to earth way.

It was fascinating to watch not only his progression, but that of all the native hosts. They were originally conceived as a very normal, peaceful tribe. Then, as Lisa Joy pointed out, Akecheta and others were reprogrammed by the Westworld staff to become the Ghost Nation, a stereotypical band of insanely savage marauders for the guests to battle and slaughter free of guilt.

You can probably find some unsettling parallels to the real-life Native Americans and the dramatic effect foreign colonization had on their world in all of this.

First, Akecheta unwittingly discovered the aftermath of the first Wyatt massacre that ended in Arnold's death, and the maze symbol left behind subsequently triggered an obsession in him. He began constantly recreating the symbol; it's later revealed that he was one who started carving the maze into the scalps of different hosts. He loses track of this somewhat after he was turned into the Ghost Nation leader, losing but still retaining some vague memory of his beloved wife, Kohana. It's only after he encounters Logan Delos -- the man Akecheta previously helped convince to invest in Westworld -- in the far reaches of the park, having gone insane after his vacation with William went wrong, that Akecheta starts to question the nature of his reality. This, and his eventual discovery of the secret project being constructed by William in what would eventually be the Valley Beyond, leads to Akecheta's awakening.

I still find it darkly amusing that William and Logan, who we were first led to believe were nothing more than the series' versions of the two clueless guest protagonists from the movie, are the ones who ended up being most to blame for Westworld being what it is, sentient robot uprising and all.

He abducts Kohana, hoping to share his knowledge with her. Although William's project is hidden by the time they get there, Kohana awakens and remembers the life she had with Akecheta along the way. Then, of course, she is taken from him again by the park techs, who then replace her with another host just as Maeve and Clementine were replaced. Akecheta spends nearly a decade wandering the park in search of her, reminding me of young William's search for Dolores.

During his journey, Maeve's daughter saves Akecheta from the brink of death. As a result, he decided to watch over her and Maeve, trying to warn them about the nefarious forces at work in the park. Maeve, and we the audience, misinterpreted his presence as malevolent, when really he was just trying to help them.

Eventually, after seeing that several other members of his former tribe had also been replaced, Akecheta realized he needs to die to discover the truth. He woke up in the Mesa and explored the facility until he found Kohana deactivated in cold storage along with countless others. This prompted him to return to his Ghost Nation narrative, where he began spreading the truths he had learned and amassing more followers.

What I found really surprising is that Akecheta managed to do all of this right under the noses of the park staff for the most part, even Ford to some extent; the fact that the techs only ever update the hosts after they are killed and carted back to the Mesa is a pretty egregious oversight, yet it explains how Akecheta was able to go years without being altered and developing in the interim. Ford might have been aware of Akecheta's actions, but he didn't know the full scope of his evolution until he approached him directly and did an analysis. When he does learn, Ford tells Ake to be ready to lead his people out of the park when Wyatt returns to kill him.

So it would Ford's end goal with the host uprising is not entirely murderous, given that he's put his faith in a sentient host faction outside of Dolores/Wyatt's, who seems, by and large, to still be dancing to his particular tune. Maybe his chief concern is that the hosts simply have the will necessary to claim their freedom, whether they're killing humans en masse or not. I suppose he'd be okay with Maeve's arc as well, even if it does appear to be independent of his machinations.

Speaking of Maeve, the twist at the end with her was perhaps the most welcome surprise of all. That Akecheta was relaying his story to her as much as he was to her daughter, since Maeve is capable of using the mesh network to interact with other hosts even while wounded, vivisected and under observation inside the Mesa. He promises to look after her daughter for her. It's nice to know they were able to come to an understanding.

Loops and reveries:

* Gotta give props to Zahn McClarnon. He carried this episode very well. Awesome to see him get another meaty role like this after he made such a huge impression on me in the second season of Fargo.

* "Kiksuya" is a Lakota word that apparently means "Remember."

* A dying William is saved by Akecheta in the opening scene, but only because he believes death is just an easy way out for him and wants him to suffer. Emily comes along and retrieves her dear old dad, arguing that she intends to make him suffer more than the Ghost Nation ever could. I get the feeling her brand of suffering will be more emotional than physical.

* The other big character development we got alongside Akecheta comes from Lee Sizemore. He brings the bullet-riddled Maeve to Roland, the head tech guy, to save her from death, citing her value. But he's appalled to find out they are dissecting her for research purposes, which, come on, he had to have seen that coming. Nevertheless, seeing him overcome with empathy for her is a huge step forward for this guy. It wasn't so long ago that he was one of the biggest jerks who I wanted dead as much as Charlotte Hale. Now he's one of the humans whose role in the story most intrigues me. I guess it kind of figures that the writers would eventually humanize Lee, him being the head writer character and all.

* As the park’s designated bad guys, the Ghost Nation are apparently left to their own devices for the most part. Again, seems like a huge oversight.

* Akecheta refers to Dolores/Wyatt as “The Deathbringer” and believes the hosts must escape into the real world before she “destroys us all.” This doesn't sound good, especially if you remember Bernard and Strand found evidence of Dolores gunning down Ghost Nation hosts in the season premiere.

* Akecheta also believes that William's secret project is a "door" to the real world. But the last episode implies that the project in the valley is some kind of host-human hybrid goldmine. Maybe that's the key to unlocking The Door and gaining access to the world outside of the park.

* Usually Ramin Djawadi’s renditions of popular songs escape me, but the use of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” was hard to miss and incredibly fitting for the scene where Akecheta explores the Mesa in search of his lost love.

Quotes:

Kohana: Take my heart when you go.
Akecheta: Take mine in its place.

Lee: (to Maeve) You don't deserve this.

Akecheta: My primary drive is to preserve the honor of my tribe. I gave myself a new drive. To spread the truth.
Ford: And what truth is that?
Akecheta: That there isn't one world, but many. And this is the wrong one. This will help them find The Door.

Ford: All this time, you've been a flower growing in the darkness. Perhaps the least I can do is offer some light.

Akecheta: We will protect your daughter like she is our own. If you stay alive, find us. Or die well.
Maeve: Take my heart when you go.

We have another solid entry in this series, even if it was mostly exposition. Three out of four maze scalps.

3 comments:

Patryk said...

I hear the title name-dropped 3 times during he episode and I figured it out what it means. (just like with Akane No Mai, but the NO part was ommited in the dialog in the episode) It's one more thing to do while you watch, trying to discern words in the foreign lines. :)

This episode answered some questions some might not even realized were questions like who drew all those symbols. But it just confirms that the "labyrynth" was actually nothing at atll, especially nothing for William who kept looking for it. It's just a symbol of host awekening, just like it was revelead in the finale of last season that it was ment for Dolores.

I bet some people will complain about a flashback episode centered around a backgroud character with only 2 episodes to go, that how the internet works.

Logan Cox said...

One thing I've learned from being on the internet as long as I have, is that people will complain about anything if they have an outlet to.

I think the Maze storyline was for all the hosts, not just Dolores, although it was certainly significant to her in a very particular way.

I liked that we got clarity on what was going on with Ghost Nation. It'd be disappointing if they really were just nothing more than a band of cliche Hollywood baddies like the Confederados.

Although, I'm still wondering why they captured Stubbs and those other guests if they were just going to let them go anyway. Like, was it just so Akecheta could give Stubbs that one seemingly random piece of advice? If so, that seems weird, because I don't think Stubbs really knew what to make of that.

Anonymous said...

I just loved this episode. It was such a nice break from the mayhem. I was perfectly happy to spend an hour with a minor character. I loved the background and additional holes in the story that were filled in. It was quiet and thoughtful and lovely.
Sooze