Westworld S02E08 Review: “Kiksuya”

This installment reveals Akecheta’s back story and the origin of the Ghost Nation, while William’s and Maeve’s narratives inch forward. We know that Akecheta is one of the oldest hosts, because he and Angela approached Logan Delos more than 30 years ago, before Logan or William had visited the park. As a framing device, Akecheta tells his tale to Maeve’s daughter to assuage her fear.

In his first incarnation, before the park opened, he lived a “warm and easy life” as a member of a peaceful tribe. He was in love with Kohana (Julia Jones) and in harmony with the community. Then he found the maze left behind at Arnold’s suicide-murder tableau, and he became obsessed with the symbol, drawing it everywhere.

Kohana.jpg

Akecheta was given a new role as the park opened. “Something brutal, dehumanized. They probably want the guests to feel better when they’re kicking his ass.” Enter the Ghost Nation. They spent many years hunting and killing new foes, but Akecheta knew something was amiss. He was forbidden to kill guests, whom he calls newcomers, but he doesn’t know why.

He finds Logan suffering from sunstroke in the aftermath of William’s first visit to Westworld, 30 years ago. In his babbling, Logan says “this is the wrong world” and talks about looking for a door. Soon after, Akecheta recognizes Kohana from his past life while trading in the village, but she doesn’t know him.

In the parlance of Westworld, Akecheta had begun to question the nature of his reality. He started to sense the repeating cycle of Ghost Nation life. He searched farther than ever before, and finally he found a door to another world. Unwilling to leave without his love, he kidnapped Kohana and took her with him. Luckily she recognized him after he washed off his war paint. Whew!

Akecheta in Mesa

Before they reach the door again, Westworld QA workers take Kohana away. Why do they retrieve her but not him? Sure, she’s off her narrative loop, but isn’t Akecheta as well? He’s supposed to be ravaging hosts throughout Ghost Nation territory, not riding for days to under-construction areas of the park.

When Kohana doesn’t turn up back at home because she has been replaced by a new host, Akecheta commits suicide-by-guest to search for her in the world beyond death. He finds her in the hall of retired hosts, down in the Mesa’s older facilities. (This is the train platform with the globe sculpture where William and Logan arrived when the park was new. Akecheta finds Kohana in the decrepit version of it, which I believe places this in the recent past, perhaps a year or so before Dolores awakens and kills Ford.) He can’t save her.

Kohana in cold storage

He rededicated himself to spreading the maze symbol, kindling awareness in his fellow hosts. Eventually he crosses paths with Robert Ford, who quizzes Akecheta on his behavior. He says:

My primary drive was to maintain the honor of my tribe. I gave myself a new drive, to spread the truth … that there isn’t one world, but many, and that we live in the wrong one.

Akecheta is the only host, so far as we know now, who reached his own awakening without any impetus or guidance from Arnold or Robert. That’s quite an achievement! It also means other hosts may have that capacity.

Robert is suitably impressed, calling the host “a flower growing in the darkness” and offering some uncharacteristically non-cryptic advice: “When the Deathbringer [Dolores] returns for me, you will know to gather your people and lead them to a new world.”

The awakened and observant host discovers the carnage at the gala, including Ford’s corpse, and now we’re all caught up. Akecheta, working on his own initiative, has been catalyzing host awakenings and using these troops to capture (but not harm) humans, and presumably killing the hosts that can’t be recruited while searching for the door to a new world.

There are a few developments with William and Maeve, giving us a mini-update on the current state of affairs. Grace shows up at the Ghost Nation camp to claim her father. Speaking Lakota so he can’t understand, she promises the host that William will suffer more her way, they load him up, and she sets off. I wonder how she knew where he was. She had William’s black horse in tow, so it’s plausible she followed his horse to the town where he was shot and tracked Akecheta’s horse back to his camp. If she knows how to read tracks. I wouldn’t put it past her.

Meanwhile Lee tried to save Maeve by telling the tech guy Roland (Aaron Fili), “She can control the other hosts with her fucking mind!” He assumed she would be healed, but Roland wires her up to computers and examines her code base. Lee tearfully apologizes to Maeve for the unintended consequences of calling QA for rescue.

Maeve and Lee

As Mike Ehrmantraut would have told Roland, “No half measures.” It’s not explained why he leaves Maeve moribund and semi-conscious. Wouldn’t it be safer to pop out her control unit and examine it? That’s what he was doing with the other aberrant hosts. Anyway, Charlotte Hale notices that Maeve continues to communicate with other hosts via the mesh network, namely Akecheta, who tells her he’ll keep her daughter safe. My bet is she’s talking to others as well, perhaps nearby hosts in the Mesa, perhaps her trusted companions. We don’t know where Hector and posse are at present.

I’m glad I don’t assign scores in these reviews, because I’m ambivalent about this episode until we know more. It could be seen as a side story, a stalling tactic even, that takes us away from the major characters’ narratives. I caught myself starting to write, “I don’t know if this episode justifies its existence,” something I’ve seen more than once from the Old Country’s lazier analysts. As the urge to slap myself silly passed, I reconsidered.

It’s true this hour is mostly back story. It doesn’t tell us much of anything about what Akecheta is doing now that the park has become Thunderdome, but I guess it ain’t Westworld if they’re not coy about something. The framing device with Maeve’s daughter would work better if she were more developed. She doesn’t even have a name, which makes her seem more MacGuffin than character. (The role is listed in the credits as “Maeve’s daughter.”)

On the other hand, Akecheta’s self-awakening is revolutionary for the show’s lore. If he and his converts play a larger role in future events, this episode will seem less like an interlude.

Maeve wired up

Westworld‘s creators continue to develop a multicultural, multilingual theme this season, which has an air of allegory. During the first season, in broad strokes it seemed hosts were analogues to the powerless strata of society, while the guests represented the ultra-wealthy class who think they own the world. This season’s variation on the theme takes us to India, Japan, and a Native American nation. Perhaps this is the Tower of Babel story in reverse, as hosts from different cultures learn to speak each other’s languages and make common cause. Not to offend God, but to challenge the men who believe themselves gods.