REVIEW: Westworld, S2 Ep8 – Kiksuya

Westworld S2E08 Kiksuya

Westworld delivers its most moving episode yet as we are shown the heartbreaking story of Akecheta and the journey he has been taking while everyone else has been wreaking havoc.

For the most part, Westworld has been focused on the actions of a few key players: Dolores, Bernard, Maeve, Ford, and the Man in Black. The action and violence has been non-stop and there have been many major twists along the way. But every now and then, there have been smaller, less chaotic episodes (like “Akane no Mai” and this week’s “Kiksuya”) that may not have added to the momentum of the main plot but have nevertheless revealed more about the world than bloody spectacles.

Westworld S2E08 KiksuyaAkecheta was the focus of this episode, which was a remarkable feat in that it was concentrated on the story of a POC and it was narrated for the most part in the Lakota tongue. Even the Shogun World episode did not have as much Japanese as this one. The episode is also driven by the powerful performance of Fargo‘s Zahn McClarnon. Akecheta tells his story to Maeve’s daughter, whom he has been trying to protect this whole time, even as his actions in the previous series were always framed as hostile, probably because of some racial bias programmed into Maeve, another insidious feature of Westworld that is also painfully realistic.

Westworld S2E08 KiksuyaFor the most part, the Ghost Nation has been an enigmatic part of the park, serving more as elaborate props to add more “color” and character to the era while always being portrayed by stereotypes. It’s always bothered me how some of the marginalized groups were accorded screentime on the show – women, some POCs, and hosts (in their own way), but never the Ghost Nation. But at last they are given the treatment they deserve and they turn out to be victims of Delos cruelty just as much as the other hosts, if not more so.

Akecheta begins life as a quiet tribesman until the powers above decide to up his aggression so that he can be a more exciting part of the park’s experience. He is always bothered by shadows and memories of a past life (“Kiksuya” being the Lakota word for “memory”) and he is one of the first to awaken. He even comes across a naked and distressed Logan who mutters about another world. Akecheta finds the symbol for the maze and is determined to share it with the rest of his tribe.

Westworld S2E08 KiksuyaHe finds his old love and even manages to journey to the “Valley Beyond” just as it is being built. But there is no joy meant for him in this story and his love is captured. He survives for ten years without being killed by any of the guests. But it takes “dying” for him to see her again and, like Maeve last season, he wakes up in a lab and comes face to face with the empty-eyed corpses of the discarded.

Westworld S2E08 KiksuyaAt one point, he even meets his “maker”, in an intriguing exchange with Ford, who speaks cryptically to him about the “Deathbringer” (Dolores), proving that Ford had been planning his death at her hands for quite some time. One memorable part of this conversation was the helpless look in Akecheta’s eyes when Ford asked for “analysis” and the host realized that, despite all he had learned, he was still powerless in the face of his master.

While all this was going on, we still had time to check on Maeve, who lay injured and un-repaired on a table in the lab. There was a touching moment between her and Lee Sizemore (of all people) where the latter realized that she did not deserve the suffering she had endured. One can doubt his sincerity since he was trying to convince the lab techs of the importance of Maeve’s code, but I think that the arrogant writer learned a thing or two about humanity during his time with Maeve.

Charlotte Hale learns about Maeve’s unique code and discovers that she is somehow communicating with another host. We discover that she has been speaking to Akecheta, who assures her that he will protect her daughter. There is some hope of a happy ending for them, after all.

The Man in Black somehow survived being shot, coming as a surprise to no one. And his daughter even dropped by to pick him up. It looks like we’ll learn more about his backstory in the next episode of Westworld:

You can also learn more about the Ghost Nation in this behind-the-scenes clip:

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