Functioning almost as the standalone episode of the season, “Kiksuya” explores the story of Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon), the Ghost Nation warrior who has shown up intermittently throughout the season as a background player in Maeve’s old narrative with her daughter. However, this episode reveals that he has been the protagonist in an equally dramatic and emotional story of his own.
Spoiler Alert: The following discusses plot points from Westworld episode “Kiksuya” written by Carly Wray & Dan Dietz, directed by Uta Briesewitz.
Older William/MiB (Ed Harris) opens the hour, broken and bloody, crawling to the river in defiance of his mortal wounds. It’s there that Ghost Warrior Akecheta finds him, kicks him awake and drags him to his camp. Once there, the warrior catches Maeve’s daughter (Jasmyn Rae) observing him, so he joins her and gently tells her the tale of his own journey in the park, from a peaceful native in love with his soul mate to the war painted figure sitting across from her.
In the Delos lab, Lee (Simon Quarterman) demands that one of the last repair techs still on the job works on Maeve’s (Thandie Newton) potentially mortal physical injuries. He also demands a data strip of her code since she is ‘special’ and can control other Hosts with her mind.
“Kiksuya” is one, if not the best, episode of Season 2. And it’s not because of its surprising twist reveal about Maeve throwing her consciousness into her daughter’s body to listen to Akecheta’s story. No, it’s because this episode actually made me care about a character in this world again. Akecheta’s beautiful story of love, loss and noble purpose was a master class in clear, concise and emotionally satisfying storytelling by writers Carly Wray & Dan Dietz. They accomplished in one hour everything that has been missing all season, a character to genuinely connect with in this park.
Major props also go to actors Zahn McClarnon and Julia Jones (Kohana) for selling the connection and love between the doomed Hosts in the span of a few key scenes. It reminded me of when Lost sold the audience on a legitimate romance between Sawyer (Josh Holloway) and Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell) in just 45 minutes. On paper, that was a story turn that any fan would have argued wasn’t plausible. But it was proof that if you get the right actors to bring it to life, you can get immediate emotional investment like Westworld pulled off in this episode.
This hour also gave the audience a full narrative and I, for one, drank from it like a woman in the desert. Yes, for some, the fun of Westworld is to create theories upon theories about what a red ball in a clear box, or a blurry cut in Bernard’s narrative might mean in relation to the whole story. But for me, all of that is tiresome when there’s no emotional investment. So, this episode providing Akecheta’s epic arc from a peaceful tribesman and lover, to a reprogrammed blood-thirsty warrior, to a sentient Host with a singular purpose to be reunited with his love reminded me that this show can still make me care for the inhabitants of the park, and the series.
The fact that we discover at the end of the episode Maeve can use the mesh network to command the actions of other Hosts was a cool explanation for what we’ve witnessed her do since Shogun World. However, the revelation that Akecheta was telling his own tragic tale of loss and love to Maeve, not her daughter as we all assumed, didn’t suddenly make the episode more special. That was just a classically executed Westworld story twist, and a well-crafted one to boot. The real twist of importance for me was how much I thought about the story of Akecheta and Kohana long after the credits rolled.
As a TV freak, I love a great character redemption arc. The aforementioned Sawyer on Lost, or Wesley on Angel, or even Spike on Buffy are some of my favorites. But Lee’s weak weeping over Maeve’s dissected body is one of the most-hollow representations of a redemption arc I’ve seen in a while. The character up to this episode has proved to be a self-preserving snake, who also remains a cypher aside from his early moments of showboating ego, or this season’s whining and sniveling as he’s dragged around by Maeve. We know nothing more about him, his own goals, or life outside of the park. He's not even close to being three-dimensional. That being said, do I buy that Lee finally witnessing the devotion Maeve has for her daughter, which has motivated all of her actions this season, is the thing that made his absent heart finally tick? No. When he burbles over her prone body that she doesn’t deserve this life that he helped callously orchestrate, or the loss of her daughter’s awareness, and apologizes, my cold dead heart screamed, “Nope!” And that's a sad waste because so many characters were desperately begging for a great redemption arc to invest us in this show, but the half-hearted execution of Lee’s has been a huge failure of the series.
And I've got to ask, how was it possible for Akecheta to wander the inner sanctum of the Delos lab and not be seen by even one lab tech or security guard? Were they all in some kind of mandatory all-hands meeting? And how did he get to the room with the decommissioned Hosts without any help? No wonder this place is falling in on itself.
Things to Ponder ...
William’s daughter, Emily (Katja Herbers), arrives to collect her wounded father from Akecheta and his collection of sentient Host warriors. The Ghost Warriors want to heal William so they can make him hurt worse for the sins he’s committed in the park, and upon its Hosts. But she promises them that she wants him to hurt worse. Guess there is some potent unfinished father/daughter business she is determined to work out with him, and do it by her own rules.
It was fascinating to see the meeting between Ford (Anthony Hopkins) and Akecheta play out. Obviously, Ford was focused from the start on his favorite creations, Dolores and Maeve. He observed them under a proverbial microscope for every change and flicker of sentience, but at the same time, there were other Hosts like Akecheta literally finding their own path to awareness. To discover that, to paraphrase Ian Malcom, ‘life will find a way’ in the park, even when Ford wasn’t looking, was quite a revelation. Akecheta literally kept himself ‘alive’ for a decade so his code and new awareness wouldn’t be wiped, and then spread that awareness to others of his kind and made a new tribe.
What did you think about this unique episode?