Television Westworld

Westworld: Kiksuya, Review

***SPOILER WARNING***

If you have not seen the eighth episode of season 2 Kiksuya 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.

After last week’s epic showdown at The Mesa it makes sense to take a step back and fill in some of the missing pieces that Westworld has to offer.

This week we’re treated to what amounts to a stand alone episode about the backstory of the Ghost Nation and in particular its leader Akecheta. You’ll recall that I’ve taken a few guesses about what Ghost Nation has been up to this season and this episode finally answers our most burning questions.

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PHOTO SOURCE: Westworld, HBO

Akecheta was one of the first hosts created for the park and was featured in the season’s second episode, “Reunion,” as a mystery man who helped pitch the Westworld concept to a skeptical Logan Delos. Here we pick up where we last saw Ghost Nation (they had just captured Maeve’s daughter). Ake tells her she has nothing to be afraid of and he begins to recount his story.

The tale begins in a beta version of the park where Ake and his tribe lived freely and in harmony with nature. He has a girlfriend named Kohana and life is pleasant. One day, Ake stumbles across the bodies of Arnold and Dolores, dead in Escalante. Nearby, he discovers the puzzle toy for The Maze. He becomes obsessed with the symbol, only to have his memory wiped when his narrative is rewritten and he is made part of the ferocious Ghost Nation tribe.

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PHOTO SOURCE: Westworld, HBO

Sometime thereafter, Akecheta turns up on the outskirts of the park, where he comes across Logan. Toward the end of the show’s first season, a young William (Jimmi Simpson) sent Logan out into the desert, tied to a horse, and this is clearly the aftermath. Logan has been driven half-mad by the sun, but his ravings — “This is the wrong world!” and “There’s got to be a way out of here. Where’s the door?” — unlock something in Akecheta.

Over time, the warrior begins to remember his previous peaceful life. When he tries to seek out Logan again, he discovers something else instead. It’s the massive construction project that William showed Dolores earlier in this season, the one built in the area now referred to as “The Valley Beyond.” Part of that project is a massive metal door set into the side of a cliff. In Akecheta’s mind, it is the door to the other world Logan was describing.

He also remembers the love he shared for Kohana and goes to try and awaken her. He succeeds but Kohana is found by Delos tech and is taken away to HQ for reprogramming. Once more, she doesn’t recognise Akecheta on her return and this causes him to leave the reservation.

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PHOTO SOURCE: Westworld, HBO

He searches for the real Kohana but can’t find her.  He eventually resolves to get himself killed. This, he thinks, will be the best way to look for her in the next world. He invites a couple of guests to stab him and is withdrawn to Delos HQ where, thanks to the poor security, he is able to wander freely around the HQ until he finds Kohana’s lifeless body in that big host warehouse they have.

There’s an important bit of narration when Ake talks about finding Koha in cold storage, standing alongside the other hosts who have been disappeared from the park for one reason or another. “That was the moment I saw beyond myself,” says Ake. “My pain was selfish, because it was never only mine. For everybody in this place, there was someone who mourned their loss, even if they didn’t know why.” In a similar vein, Maeve’s memories of her daughter are not, in this context, a glitch specific to her but are common to hosts whose lives are ostensibly wiped clean as part of their regular maintenance. Sadness would linger when those losses couldn’t be identified, like the throbbing of a phantom limb.

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PHOTO SOURCE: Westworld, HBO

From that point forward, Akecheta dedicates himself to revealing the truth, spreading the symbol for The Maze everywhere, and increasing the number of awakened Ghost Nation hosts. That is, until he runs into Ford who is working on members of his tribe.

Ford drops Akecheta into analysis, asking where he first saw the symbol. “When the Deathbringer killed the Creator,” he answers. He also tells Ford that he gave himself a new drive: to share “that there isn’t one world, but many. And that we live in the wrong one.” The symbol, Akecheta tells Ford, will help the hosts find The Door. Ford seems legitimately intrigued, and the host explains that he believes The Door is a passage to a new world, “and that world may contain everything that we have lost. Including her.”

Impressed, Ford offers a bit of foreknowledge to help Akecheta. “When the Deathbringer returns for me,” he tells the host, “you will know to gather your people and lead them to a new world.”

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PHOTO SOURCE: Westworld, HBO

In the meantime Maeve is on an operating table in The Mesa but her injuries are not being treated. Instead she’s being examined by a tech who calls for Hale. When she gets there she’s made aware of Maeve’s abilities. However, it turns out that Maeve is communicating with someone else as they speak. We then get the reveal that she’s using her daughter as a proxy to speak to Ake and he tells her that they’ll protect her daughter and that if she survives, to find them.

This was overall a great episode and a much needed change of pace. We’ve seen what living in the park must be like from the hosts’ perspective before, but Akecheta’s story still has power. Watching him stumble over Arnold’s experiment, seeing him piece himself together over time, and seeing how each new discovery only serves to bring him more anguish, is a tragedy with contours easy to predict but hard to deny. He lived a happy, contented life until he found the maze—and then, when the humans decided they wanted him more aggressive, he lost his happy life and became a murderous warrior with just enough self-awareness to know what he’d lost.

Diagnostics

  • The MIB survived last week’s onslaught. Here he’s caught by Ghost Nation until Emily shows up promising a fate much worse than what Ghost Nation could provide. What could that be?
  • Lee no longer sees Maeve as just a robot. He acknowledges that she deserves a better fate, together with her daughter
  • This episode explains how voice commands from Stubbs or Maeve never worked on Ghost Nation
  • All the props to Zahn Mclarnon as Ake who has been on the sidelines up until now. The acting was superb and it was amazing to see him suddenly command attention and trigger real feelings
  • Kiksuya means ‘remember’ in Lakota, an apt name for the episode

 

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