REVIEW: Westworld, S2 Ep5 – Akane no Mai

Westworld finally introduces us to Shogun World and it was glorious. Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan clearly had a lot of fun designing and setting an episode in Edo Era Japan. The costumes, music, performances and action were all amazing but, in the end, they did not move the plot forward by much.

But, as IGN notes, the episode was more of style than substance. While it was great to be introduced to new characters like Akane and Musashi, their impact was diminished by the fact that they were mirrors of Maeve and Hector. I had also expected the episode to be mostly in Japanese but we still had scenes with Maeve and the others speaking English and the scenes with Dolores and Teddy. There was even a part at the beginning where Delos security discovered that some of the hosts did not have any data in them.

Westworld is clearly setting up the story for a comparison of Dolores and Maeve’s use (or abuse) of free will. Where Dolores is still in Wyatt mode and is determined to manipulate everyone to do her bidding, Maeve learns that true freedom means allowing people to make their own decisions, even if this means staying in an illusion (like Akane). In contrast, Dolores had Teddy’s aggression levels augmented because he was too precious for this cruel world. That is not going to end well.

After being captured by ronin samurai, Maeve and her group officially enter Shogun world and find themselves seeing a reenactment of Hectors’s robbery of the saloon which was a main event in the Westworld pilot. The sequence so identical to the original that IGN was even able to make a scene-by-scene comparison video.

This show that sometimes comes across as being overly self-important and this has frustrated some viewers. I haven’t reached that point yet but I can’t help but feel that this episode was another instance of Westworld being trying to be clever and a bit self-aware but ultimately lazy. Lee Sizemore admits that he ripped off the stories of Westworld for lack of better ideas and he might as well be speaking for the show’s writers. It’s not a very clever way of excusing lazy writing and lack of ideas though.

Why fix something when it’s not broke? And as fun as it was to watch the event play out like robbery Shogun Era AU, this diminished the impact of overall of the storyline. One does not really need to draw parallels between characters when they are the mirror versions of the others.

Westworld Shogun world1So, yes, of course, Maeve and Akane related to one another. But theirs was the most interesting relationship to come out of this whole thing. The episode was very much about mothers and daughters as Akane was willing to do anything to save her protégé, Sakura, who had been taken by the Shogun and his men. Maeve decides to tag along and while battling a bunch of ninja the Shogun sent to murder them all, she discovers a new power.

Turns out the hosts of Shogun World had begun to be awakened and Akane displayed her fierce protective mother side by murdering the messenger who tries to take Sakura away. Later on, after Sakura is brutally stabbed to death, Akane performs a deadly dance that climaxes with her killing the shogun with a hairpin. Bloodshed ensues.

Some people may find that this episode may show female empowerment because it shows female characters fighting back against their oppressors. While the point is valid based on that alone, it still doesn’t ring right to me that shows have to show female characters subject to torture and violence before they can “fight back”. This is made more egregious by the fact that the victims of this abuse are WOC.

The episode concludes with Maeve demonstrating the extent of her powers as she is able to mind-control the soldiers to kill themselves. She is even more dangerous than ever now that she has found her “new voice.” But how she chooses to use it will be an interesting journey.


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