Westworld: 2.05 Akane no Mai
This week's episode played like a Westworld greatest hits while also heading in exciting new directions. And what an episode it was, focusing on the two most mesmerising characters in the entire show; the fierce female leads of Evan Rachel Wood's Delores and Thandie Newton's Maeve.
For Delores, this was a big turning point in her character, realising that her love for Teddy was not enough to carry them through. After he willingly let Major Craddock go a couple of weeks ago - despite her orders - the cards have been on the table and not a even a trip down memory lane in Sweetwater or a talk of a future on the hills of Westworld could tempt her to give everything up for him.
I'm still intrigued by Teddy;s ultimate fate, cast in the pile of broken host bodies in the future narrative, but for now this appears to be the last we've seen of James Marsden's good natured cowboy. After a tender night of love making, Delores led Teddy to his doom, giving up her one true love to rewrite his code and make him into the warrior I presume she needs.
Meanwhile, audiences were given their first proper look at Shogun World and it was a wonderful mix or high drama and nostalgia. Armistace, Hector and Maeve found themselves confronted with versions of their characters as the episode played out a fantastic replay of the bank heist from the end of the very first episode - complete with a Japanese twist on the Western version of Paint it Black!
Shogun World had everything - ninjas, samurai, geisha, political intrigues and evil Shoguns - but Maeve was still the heart of the episode, discovering newfound abilities during the brutal ninja attack and using it to turn the enemy against each other in the episode's closing moments. There was also a fascinating relationship with her Japanese counterpart, Rinko Kikuchi's Akane, a woman with integrity, looking out for her own version of Clementine - Kiki Sukezane's Sakura.
The daring mission into the heart of the evil Shogun's army was exciting stuff and Masaru Shinozuka delivered a masterful, offbeat performance as the ruthless leader whose host body was deteriorating. Lee Sizemore continued to play off Maeve well, his own smug frustrations at the hosts acting beyond their original programming while playing earnest ally to her quest. I'm somewhat concerned for what she'll do when she discovers the radio he took from the corpse of the dead solider sent in to secure Shogun World.
And the closing act was superb, the shock of Shogun slaughtering Skaura and forcing Akane to dance to a gobsmackingly brutal murder at her hands as she hacked his head from his shoulders with one knife. Maeve taking control was thrilling stuff - that shot of her face as blood splattered around her was pure art - and I can't wait to see where her journey goes next; particularly if she has a Samurai army at her beck and call.
Akane no Mai was another superb episode, broadening the scope of the show while still setting up years of storytelling. The introduction of Shogun World, teased in the season one finale certainly didn't disappoint. If there's one minor gripe it's that it feels as if season two is only just getting going, but with the rich character exploration of the last few weeks and the wider world presented, I'm quite happy for Westworld to continue at this high standard into season three and beyond.