Westworld S02E05 Review: “Akane No Mai”

This is perhaps the straightest-shooting episode of Westworld yet. There is virtually no chronological trickery in this hour. We see a brief scene of Bernard in the latest period (notice he has no glasses), in which we get a couple new drips of intel, that someone destroyed all the host backups and one third of the dead hosts they recovered have blank/empty cortices. It’s implied that should be impossible. The rest portrays Dolores’s and Maeve’s contemporaneous stories.

Before stepping through plot developments, let’s take a beat to consider why these two threads of the story are presented side by side. After all, many characters’ concurrent actions could have been shown instead (e.g., Bernard, Charlotte, or Elsie). Maeve and Dolores are alike: they are fully “awake,” self-aware hosts, and they’re both leaders. Beyond that they’re very different, as illustrated in this chapter.

Maeve’s class takes an unexpected field trip to new reaches of the park, and Shogun World does not disappoint. No doubt it was designed to be more like a samurai movie brought to life than a recreation of Japanese history. Ruled by a capricious shogun, it is a place of intrigue, deception, and sudden bloodshed. I read that Akane No Mai has a dual meaning: “Akane’s Dance” and “The Crimson Dance.”

The samurai sure got the drop on Maeve’s militia. That’s disappointing, especially since they had a moment of warning from Lee yelling his face off. Are the Shogun World hosts raiding neighboring parks for captives, or did the daughter search party get lost? (Perhaps they took a wrong turn at Albuquerque.)

She tried to command them to stand down, and again it proves unreliable. Lee says later that it’s because she spoke in the wrong language. I don’t know; are we buying this? I can’t imagine the ronin taking Robert Ford captive because he failed to command them in proper Japanese. And oh by the way, all you hosts know tons of languages, albeit semi-consciously.

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Anyway, they witness their palette-switched sprites execute the same heist they used to pull on the Mariposa at a geisha house also named after the butterfly. Armistice’s warning to her dragon-tattooed twin earns their freedom, and Maeve strikes a truce with the geisha madam Akane (Rinko Kikuchi) and ronin Musashi (Hiroyuki Sanada).

The detente is short-lived, as an emissary from the Shogun demands the ruler’s favorite geisha Sakura (Kiki Sukezane) and gets murdered by Akane for his trouble. They all plan to flee to Snow Lake (where there’s an access point to the parks’ tunnels). Before they leave—NINJA ATTACK!

Alerted by Maeve’s new Spidey-sense, the Westworld refugees acquit themselves well. At last we see guns winning a knife fight. Meanwhile Musashi dispatches many assassins single-handedly. Maeve can’t try out her command powers in Japanese while getting choked, but eventually she enters a trancelike state and via mind-whispers makes the ninja impale his own face. The good guys win, but Sakura got kidnapped and now the Shogun is marching his soldiers into town. (Lee inanely observes the Shogun never does the things he’s now doing.)


The Shogun (Masaru Shinozuka) was probably programmed to be a mercurial bastard to begin with, and now he is leaking cortical fluid, making him even more unstable. He demands a dance from Akane in return for Sakura’s release. He has already scarred or branded her back with the image of a cherry tree. (Sakura means “cherry blossoms” or “a flowering cherry tree.”) Maeve’s compassion is stirred, and she offers to bring Akane and Sakura away with her cadre. She begins to reach Akane telepathically to awaken her, but Akane recoils, apparently afraid to lose her maternal relationship to Sakura.

The story plays out to a bloody end. The Shogun murders Sakura before her mentor and protector’s eyes, then demands his dance. Akane dances toward the madman, draws a hidden blade, and mangles his face and neck. Even for Shogun World, that’s a gory death. The soldiers move to execute them, but this time Maeve is calm as she telepathically commands them to kill each other and themselves.


These new powers were foreshadowed by Maeve’s name. Also spelled variously Medb, Meadhbh, Méabh, the name means “she who intoxicates,” cognate of the intoxicating beverage mead. In Irish mythology, Maeve was the Warrior Queen of Connacht, famous for her beauty, bravery, guile, ambition, strength, promiscuity, pride, and sexual prowess. It was said she used all these gifts to inspire fierce loyalty in her subjects and soldiers. In later Anglo-Irish folklore, which may or may not be related, Queen Mab was the ruler of the fairies.

Meanwhile, Dolores and Teddy have returned to their old stomping grounds. On the prairie where they used to discuss “someday,” he again suggests that they give up the fight and find a place where the two can be together. Dolores responds with a parable about the bluetongue outbreak that threatened her family’s cattle. Like her daddy, she favors eliminating the ill or weak to make sure the herd survives.

Teddy Dolores Mariposa

Back in Sweetwater, Dolores’s plan takes shape. The thing she needs here is the train. She aims to fix it up, storm park headquarters at the Mesa, and take back Peter Abernathy. While her crew is working on that, she’s thinking over what to do about Teddy. He earnestly intimates his feelings.

I’m not some stranger, Dolores, coming from outside, looking for a pretty lie. I’ve known you my whole life. Where we go, we go eyes open. Together.

The pair make love, certainly for the first time since awakening, perhaps for the first time ever. Teddy was always intended to be the losing suitor when the park catered to guests. Later that night, Dolores leads him outside and they finish the conversation. They agree, despite being scripted originally, their feelings and relationship now are real.

In the same breath, Dolores reveals her betrayal. “These past few days I’ve seen you so clearly, and I’ve seen you’re not gonna make it.” Oh no! She’s going to forcibly rewrite the personality of her best friend and lover. That is fucking heinous. And what does this mean for her earlier prediction? She told him, “I see it all now so clearly, the past, the present, the future. I know how this story ends. With us, Teddy. With you and me.”

This is quite a dark turn for Dolores. Even if she feels guilty and believes it is absolutely necessary, this is unconscionable. If she will violate Teddy this way, then how is Dolores any better than the humans who used hosts as props for their games? Does she think her ends justify the means while theirs did not?

So. What does all this tell us about the two most self-aware hosts, Dolores and Maeve?

Despite being originally programmed to care about no one but herself, Maeve undertook this misadventure through the park to find her daughter. Dolores had been programmed to care about Teddy, and despite questioning those feelings she believed they were real and true. Yet she betrays him in the name of necessity, presumably creating Aggro Ted, a ruthless version of Teddy more useful to her mission.

Maeve is motivated by love, while Dolores had love and cast it away. Hatred of her former oppressors drives her. Maeve feels compassion for other hosts; Dolores makes use of them. Maeve prefers persuasion; Dolores chooses violent methods. Maeve is trying to rescue a loved one; Dolores intends to conquer her enemies. Maeve’s goal is freedom; Dolores wants power.

I expect these two queens will come to conflict soon. That doesn’t seem like going out on a limb after this episode squared them up. “In this corner, Maeve, Warrior Queen, commander of cats and men, the Mistress Mariposa,” says the boxing-ring barker, “And in the other corner, Dolores, the Demon of Sweetwater, Wyatt the Destroyer.”

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Maeve has just found a new voice. Now she will use it.