Television Westworld

Westworld: Akane No Mai, Review

***SPOILER WARNING***

If you have not seen the fifth episode of season 2 Akane No Mai and don’t want the show spoiled then please turn away. If spoilers don’t bother you or you have seen the episode then welcome.

At the end of season 1 team Maeve were storming through Delos trying to find their way out. Along the way they encountered a door with the initials SW on them. Once inside they saw samurai hosts and all other types of paraphernalia completely foreign to them. To the viewer this was a huge tease: there are more parks out there and we’ve only just scratched the surface.

Fast forward to this season and we’re first introduced to The Raj, another park but not the one we were teased. Finally, at the midway point we get our official introduction to ‘Shogunworld’.  We pick up where episode three left off with a samurai charging towards team Meave. After a failed attempt to control the samurai the group is tied and taken hostage. Lee fills us in on the name and that this world is based on Japan’s Edo period, “an experience expressly designed for the guests who find Westworld too tame.” We also learn the reason Maeve wasn’t able to control the samurai: she wasn’t speaking the right language but she is programmed to speak several so she can actually do it.

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PHOTO SOURCE: Westworld, HBO

Personally, I’ve been waiting for them to get here but I wasn’t sure how they would treat Shogunworld given our current age of political correctness. What they did was actually quite clever. It turns out to that some parts of SW are simply carbon copies of WW.

Armistice  notices it first: “This all feels a little too familiar.”  Soon, the similarities become unmissable. The town they enter isn’t just evocative of Sweetwater; it actually is Sweetwater, just transposed from the Old West and into Japan’s Edo period. Soon enough, a robbery plot breaks out around the Westworld refugees, and it’s an exact copy of the Mariposa safe heist portrayed in the show’s first season — right down to the shot selection, use of slow motion, and choice of cover song playing (The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black”). Only instead of leading the heist, this time Hector and Armistice are watching it all go down, as it’s carried out by a Ronin and a female assassin who are their SW counterparts.

There’s even a geisha, Akane, who is the Maeve counterpart. Maeve calls out Lee for plagiarism and he responds rather candidly: “you try writing 300 stories in 3 weeks.” Speaking of Lee he continues to be the much needed comic relief even if he is a weasel personified: “oh shit, ninjas!” and “Beautiful way to watch the sun rise, glistening off the intestines of the recently mutilated” were some of his best lines this week.

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PHOTO SOURCE: Westworld, HBO

But despite the jokes there’s something very interesting to the meta commentary happening here. It gives Maeve and the other hosts a fresh firsthand insight into how they’ve been manipulated over the decades. It’s one thing to be told that your wants and desires are solely the results of programming. It’s another to see that played out in real time by another host in the same role. And over the course of the episode, Maeve and Akane realize they both share common maternal instincts, which does something else: it lets them form a bond that transcends their respective origins.

The basic story is that the Shogun wants Sakura, one of Akane’s dancers. When Akane goes off script and refuses, ninjas are sent in the night to take her away. Maeve decides to help mount a rescue mission—not because any of this will immediately help get her closer to her own daughter, but because she relates to Akane and can’t bear to see the other woman lose something the same way she did.

Then we get a tease at a big reveal. During the ninja raid Maeve is continuously gagged (she’s called a witch by them on account of her abilities) so she can’t control them. She’s about to be killed by one of them but she thinks and starts speaking in her head inaudibly and the ninja proceeds to kill himself. It’s an incredible scene and surprising at first. Maeve herself is confused but is nevertheless intrigued.

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PHOTO SOURCE: Westworld, HBO

When the team go to rescue Sakura their plan backfires. The Shogun just kills Sakura anyway and forces Akane to dance for him. She does but kills him in glorious fashion (she essentially decapitates him). As she and Maeve face their death, Maeve once again starts speaking in her head and all of a sudden the shogun’s army starts killing each other. Easily one of the most thrilling moments of the season she goes on to tell Lee that “I’ve found a new voice and I’m going to use it.”

My guess is that she’s somehow tapped into the intra-host mesh network that we learned about earlier this season.  Either way it’s very impressive and is a game changer; Maeve is now a host with absolute control over all her kind. For now, it’s very cool but one can see how this could be manipulated down the road.

Speaking of which, in the B story this week we get Dolores and Teddy. Their team has managed to make it back to Sweetwater only to find it in ruins. The plan appears to be to restore the train and ride it into the mesa (the Delos command center). In the meantime Teddy once again professes his love for Dolores and says that they should run away together. She responds cryptically with a story of fly’s carrying disease back on the farm and after Teddy’s more compassionate solution (protect the herd until it passes) she tells him her father burned the herd to ward off the flies. She then answers his offer with a cold “I’ll think about it”.

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PHOTO SOURCE: Westworld, HBO

At night the two have sex together and they both confirm that their love is real. But then she takes him round the back and everything becomes menacingly clear. She gets other hosts to hold him down and she says

“There’s a storm descending, like the blue tongue when I was a girl. And if we’re going to survive, some of us will have to burn. …Where we’re about to go is no place for a man like you. …To grow, we all need to suffer.”

She then gets the programmer she captured to re-write Teddy permanently against his will. The scene was genuinely terrifying and highlights Dolores’ turn to the dark side.  It’s also sad and romantic in a weird way. She wants him with her, but optimized for her own purposes so that he won’t make her vulnerable or slow her down. And she’s willing to treat him in the same instrumental way Delos employees have treated them both for decades, reformatting him so that he’ll more neatly fit the story Dolores is trying to write for herself.

Great episode. We finally got to see Shogun World but more importantly we’re seeing different teams handling their ‘awakening’ very differently. Meave’s is very personal and centered around emotion/compassion versus Dolores’ militant revenge saga.

Diagnostics

  • the song that Akane danced to at the end was a brilliant cover of The Wu Tang Clan’s ‘CREAM’, RZA would be proud
  • Lee picked up a Delos phone along the way to the Shogun camp, that’ll probably come back to haunt him
  • Seeing Clementine hover over her replacement host in Sweetwater reciting the same dialogue was heartbreaking but well done
  • Strand is told by his tech that a 3rd of the hosts brains are empty (the ones from the lake). Not that they’ve been deleted but that nothing was ever there. Also the Cradle (the hosts backups) was severely damaged. Interesting, but this is just more teasing.
  • We got a gratuitous view of Teddy’s butt a la Jon Snow

Make sure to catch new episodes of Westworld every Sunday on HBO and keep it locked on TGON for all your news, reviews and analysis.

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