Delos’ operation determines that about 1/3 of the hoard of floating Hosts they discovered in the lake have blanked control units. That means essentially 1/3 of their IP is now lost. Meanwhile, in Westworld, Dolores and Teddy come to an impasse in their relationship. And in Shogun World, Maeve’s party meets their sister park alternates who experience the same stories in an even more violent existence.
Spoiler Alert: The following discusses plot points from Westworld episode “Akane No Mai” written by Dan Dietz, directed by Craig Zobel.
A dismayed Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) – sans glasses – observes the tech examining the piles of waterlogged bodies fished from the lake. Many of their control units are alarmingly virgin meaning there’s nothing going on in their memories or code.
Maeve’s party mistakenly entering Shogun World gives the audience the first opportunity to experience an alternate park. As it turns out, Lee (Simon Quarterman) is a hack in all ways as he admits that he just repeated the storylines in Sweetwater and amped up the brutality and violence to make an Asian version of Sweetwater and the Mariposa. They end up getting immersed in the “Army of Blood” storyline which is basically the “Safe Stealing” story in Sweetwater, with heavy deviations due to the problems going on in all of the parks. Maeve sees herself in the geisha madam Akane’s (Rinko Kikuchi) story with her protégé/daughter figure, Sakura (Kiki Sukezane), and proves that the Hosts have independently formed illogical emotional attachments outside of their programmed code.
Dolores and Teddy return to Sweetwater with her inner circle of Hosts in tow. With the decimation of the uprising still filling the streets, they find the train that traditionally brings customers into town damaged and idle in the station. She tasks her followers to make it operational so she can use it to go find her kidnapped father. In the meantime, the duo travel to the ranch for one last look, and a very long story from Dolores about how back in the day, her dad handled a potentially fatal outbreak that threatened to wipe out the herd. From that, Teddy asks her one more time to run off with him and make a new life. She says she’ll think about it. They return to town, make love for the first time, and then afterwards, Dolores takes Teddy to the barn where she shows him the carcass of a cow and basically tells him he’s the infected cow. She can’t take him along with her, as is, and reveals the Delos tech, on her command, who reprograms Teddy against his will.
Seeing a brand-new park certainly infused the series with a burst of fresh visuals with the lush production design of Shogun World providing a rich landscape for the eyes. The costume design was also stellar from Maeve’s floral kimono to the leather work of the Shogun Army and its warriors.
It was also wonderful to see actors Rinko Kikuchi and Hiroyuki Sanada take point as the protagonists of their park, despite the ultra-violent and depressing nature of their narrative. Watching Kikuchi as Akane essentially play out Maeve’s familiar narrative, yet make it feel fresh and deeply emotional in the span of less than an episode reminds me that more Western casting directors need to hire this woman. Watching her shift from madam to vicious assassin to heartbroken “mother,” and then avenging angel against her tormenter in the last seconds was thrilling. Woman knows how to wield a deadly hair pin in a manner I never need to see again, but there was precision revenge in that deadly act. While she rejected Maeve’s invitation to come with her, I can only hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Akane.
And hello to Maeve’s new power of being able to mentally control Hosts and have them do her telepathic bidding. She dabbles with it when she’s being choked to death, and then unleashes it, with seemingly no effort, to wipe out the Shogun’s Army, and likely the backup Army we see run towards them in the last frame of the episode. It’s been a long time coming for a payoff to Maeve’s own code being enhanced. Sure, we know she’s extremely cunning and intelligent, but to now know she’s got extra with a cherry on top makes her a lot more interesting.
There’s something unsettling about finally giving the show a huge infusion of diversity with Shogun World, but then also highlighting and accentuating the brutality of the culture like that’s all that defines it. Yes, the point of the parks are to allow clients to play out their often darkest fantasies, which the show implies is abhorrent. And yes, we see some stellar humanity in Akane and Sakura but everyone else from Musashi (Sanada) to the Shogun are reduced to killing machines. To just allow murderous acts to represent the history of the Japanese culture is reductive, and problematic.
Poor, Teddy. That poor dude was programmed with way too much of a heart, and way too much loyalty for Dolores. Both got him nothing in the end. He says he really saw Dolores when they were together for the first time. Did he, and that spooked her to do what she did? Or, was Teddy’s heart, which he freely gave to her in both body and soul, just simply too much of a liability for her goal? In the end, he was still the sacrificial lamb.
Things to Ponder ...
While the mass “death” of the Hosts discovered in the lake initially seemed like it was just a repository for those caught in the uprising, the revelation that many have been wiped now poses the question that this could be the outcome of some high tech cyber espionage? We don’t know much about Delos’ competitors. We certainly know the investors are always looking at the bottom line, so could it be that this conveniently timed massive loss of IP is the work of competitors essentially kicking Delos when it’s already down? Could there be moles in the park? Or, is this just the work of Ford and his bigger game? Did he thin out his Host herd to focus on executing his end game?
When we see the Shogun leaking fluid from his ear like Bernard, that gives us confirmation that this isn’t a unique circumstance just happening to Bernard. It’s also making the Shogun Host unpredictable which begs the question if these “alpha” Hosts are only susceptible to this breakdown or should all of the Host be very worried this is coming for them too?
Having Hosts meet their alternate park personas, like Armistice (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) and her Dragon lady double was an interesting idea. They say all of us have a double in the world, and for Delos to have actually baked that into their parks (even if it’s from Lee’s laziness) introduces another spoke to the identity exploration. If the park Hosts are literally playing out the same lives, then how they choose to depart from their stories and codes will be even more fascinating. Are they like AI twins?
Who will crossover from Shogun World with Maeve back into Delos? Should anyone, or is her search party for her daughter getting far too big as it is?
How did Shogun World rank for you?