Westworld: 2.08 Kiksuya
After the dramatic events of last week's episode, things took a surprise turn this week to focus on a more intimate narrative; that of the silent member of the Ghost Nation Tribe that has haunted Westworld since the very beginning. But Kiksuya was far from being a random filler episode, emerging instead as something altogether sublime, gorgeous and just a little bit special.
Far too often it is easy to take the dazzling cinematography and beautiful landscape of Westworld for granted. Stripped back from all the intense psychological dramas, bloodshed and character twists and turns, this episode showcased just how stunning this show looks; from the rolling grassy hills to the sun-kissed deserts, every moment on screen was sumptuously brought to life to tell the story of the lonely, tragic journey of Akecheta (Dan McClarnon) and his path from his made up world to ours.
What we saw over the course of the hour was not a man consumed by bloodshed and rage - indeed his violent actions were just part of a corruption of his character thanks to Ford's reprogramming. Akecheta was a man driven for the love of a woman Kohana (Julia Jones) and the loss of his family. Bigger still, was the revelation that he was like Maeve, self aware, only this time for more than a decade, haunted by his own past memories of a life he no longer had.
Even within the narrative of hosts gaining awareness and fighting back against the roles humanity had forced upon them, was a unique take on the persecution of Native American culture; a simple tribe with families and a wholesome community was not enough for the guests looking for thrills and adventure. Akecheta, like many of his people, was transformed into silent, bloody thirsty warrior purely for entertainment purposes.
Seeing Akecheta without his 'evil' makeup revealed a softer, wiser soul, brought to life with real passion by McClarnon, who popped out of nowehere and stole the series away from the rest of the cast with his intense, heartfelt performance. His manipulation at the hands of Ford's technicians felt crueler than anything we had seen before, that simple life he yearned for replaced by forced bloodshed. But it was his awareness of what was really happening that brought his story to life and delivered plenty of surprises.
Framing the narrative of the episode through his monologue to Maeve's daughter, we saw that the young girl was far from the victim we thought she was, just as Akecheta was not the villain. This was a man who was finally able to awaken his love to the truth, only to loose her, just as various members of his tribe were replaced with new hosts. In moments of great sadness, we saw reunite with a reprogrammed Kohana and then loose her as they searched for a doorway to the 'real world', while his long and weary search for her, accompanied by Ramin Djwada's stunning version of Kurt Kobain's Heart Shapes Box, saw him suffer pain and misery. Only Maeve's daughter offered him aid in his time of need.
After presenting a flashback over the course of two seasons, where Maeve and her daughter were attached by Akecheta and his men and then killed by the Man in Black, what was revealed over the course of the episode was that these were two separate occasions - that Akecheta was there to save her and it was only later where William, fuelled by the love for the bloody game, killed them.
This was a big game changer, setting up Akecheta as a hugely important player in the continuing series; like Maeve and Delores, he has entered the 'real world', choosing death in his continued search for Kohana and finding her naked and cold in the basement with the rest of the discarded host bodies, in what was the most harrowing moment of this episode. It was a pivotal turn of events and like many I'm sure, I am hopeful that this love story might have a happy ending; if there is such a thing as a happy ending in Westworld.
Kitsuya ended with a bloody Maeve being experimented on, still connected to the wider world - and Akecheta - in a way that no human, not even the ruthless Charlotte Hale - could truly comprehend. I've was worried for Maeve's fate now that her abilities have been discovered and she is under the control of her human oppressors once more. But this link to her former enemy turned ally could be really interesting. While I am intrigued to see where Delores and Bernard and William's stories go (William now back in the hands of his daughter), it's the journeys of Maeve and Akecheta that have me most excited for the episodes ahead.