SPOILERS for Westworld Season 2 Episode 5 to follow.
Following the cliffhanger at the end of episode 3, Westworld has finally taken us to another corner of Delos’ island: the brutal and bloody Shogun World. We spend the majority of the episode following Maeve (Thandie Newton) in this world crafted from Japan’s Edo Period and these sequences bring the most thrilling and intense action the show has ever delivered. Almost every moment we spend in Shogun World is exciting due to the prospect of a new rich environment different to what we’ve been accustomed to in the past. It’s not all blood an murder (although there is a lot) as there’s an emotional character-centric story weaved throughout the episode that is somewhat effective. But we also spend some time back in Westworld with a few short scenes spread throughout the episode updating us on Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and her not as exciting journey.
The episode opens with a short update on what’s going on in the present with Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) still trying to get a grip on what’s going on and Karl Strand (Gustaf Skarsgård) trying to clean the mess that has become of Westworld. They’ve begun to remove all of the hosts out of the water and started checking the data stored in them. But whilst checking them they realise that a third of the hosts don’t have an ounce of data in them and on top of that their backups have been destroyed. This adds more to the mystery of what happened in the last two weeks, something I still have absolutely no clue about.
Dolores (Past – Sweetwater)
Dolores is continuing her journey to get back her father and exact her revenge on the entirety of the human race and she gets a couple of short scenes here and there throughout the episode. We see her arrive back in Sweetwater where we learn that her next objective is to ride the train out of the park to retrieve her father. Not a whole lot goes on with Dolores in this episode, she has a chat with Teddy and later that night finally after all this time gets to share a night with him, but as we see what happens next this may in fact be her saying farewell. It turns out that Teddy just isn’t quite cut out for the plan Dolores has to bring about her ideal world so Dolores makes the decision to make some changes. She has one of the Westworld technicians turn Teddy into the right-hand man she needs right now in a moment where it seems she is absolutely more Wyatt than Dolores. Teddy my man trying to do the right thing but Dolores ain’t having a bar of it.
And that’s all we get from her story in this episode, I’m really looking forward to seeing her destination but her journey just isn’t as compelling right now.
Maeve (Shogun World)
The majority of this episode is spent introducing us to Shogun World and it’s these sequences that make this episode one of the better ones this season so far. We find out what happened to Maeve and co. at the end of episode 3 as they are captured by Musashi, played by talented Japanese actor Hiroyuki Sanada, as well as a number of samurai hosts who escort them to Shogun World. On the way there we learn that Maeve in her “fully unlocked” state is able to understand and speak Japanese. Upon arriving in the main town which is reminiscent of Sweetwater just with an aesthetic matching the era we are greeted by an epic welcoming sequence. The Rolling Stones‘ “Paint it Black” begins to play with a cultural twist as a brutal action sequence begins to play out that may seem somewhat familiar to those familiar with Westworld’s Mariposa heist storyline. As it turns out, rather than building new storylines for the various parks Lee (Simon Quarterman) mentions that as people are lazy some storylines were carried over to other parks with minor changes. This means that Maeve, Hector (Rodrigo Santoro), and Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) all have Shogun World counterparts going through very similar loops with very similar mindsets.
After the thrilling action sequence we are introduced to Akane played by Rinko Kikuchi and Sakura (Kiki Sukezane) who’s tragic journey we see play out throughout the episode. As we already established, the storylines in Shogun World are also going off the rails and Maeve and co. make the most of this to agree to accompany the hosts to their destination as there is an exit to the park there. But before they can, that night they are attacked by ninjas and we get some fucking awesome ninja vs samurai action as Musashi gets to dismembering. But during the fight sequence the biggest twist of the episode begins to take form, as Maeve struggled to break free of one of the ninjas and utter a command for him to stop her desperation seemed to unlock something in her mind that allowed her to control the ninja host via thought. We already know from a previous episode that the hosts are connected via a mesh network so it seems that Maeve has just started to be able to tap into that network and communicate with other hosts without actually uttering a word. But before long the Shogun’s guard make their way to the town and before a fight could ensue they swiftly apprehend Musashi and Hector which allowing Maeve, Akane, Sakura, and Lee to escape.
Maeve and the rest of the escapees including Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum) and Felix (Leonardo Nam) are making their way to the Shogun where she hopes to be able to command them to give up their captive especially now that the majority of the king’s guard aren’t present. On the way Lee finds a Westworld technician’s tablet or communication device and no doubt he is going to try to use it at some point in the future… emphasis on the TRY. As they simply waltz into the compound and towards the Shogun, Lee points out that the Shogun is malfunctioning as he has cortical fluid leaking from his ear similar to Bernard. In an very clever and surprising turn of events it’s revealed that the Shogun (who is clearly aware of the ability for people to control his guard by voice command) has ordered his men to cut and mangle their ears to make them all deaf. That makes it technically impossible for them to respond to Maeve’s voice commands but luckily she’s just found herself a new voice.
Akane and Sakura’s storyline begins to come to a climax as these two who share a very close bond indicative of but a little stronger than the bond between Maeve and Clementine get ready for a performance for the Shogun. But before the performance can actually begin the Shogun goes up on the stage and straight up kills Sakura right in front of Akane. Akane, clearly distraught stays strong and goes forth with her dance in an elegant scene that stands out amongst all of the blood and murder that has lined almost every scene in Shogun World so far. Right at the end of her dance we go back to the bloody murder as Akane quickly makes her move and brutally decapitates the Shogun in a move that even somewhat shocks Maeve that her own counterpart had it in her. Right as Maeve and Akane are about to be decapitated as punishment Maeve unlocks the full extent of her newfound abilities and commands the entirety of the Shogun’s guard to start killing each other… YAY more murder. But they still aren’t out of it yet as the rest of the Shogun’s guard, presumably those who captured Hector and Musashi have come back and are charging on the compound as the episode ends.
I would have loved to see more of Akane and Sakura’s relationship fleshed out over a number of episodes but with everything else going on this season there probably isn’t time for that.
Akane No Mai delivered a fresh new experience to the series in the form of Shogun World which allowed the series to really delve deep into the brutality of this era whilst still depicting the beauty of this world. The integration of the samurai and ninjas led to a lot of bloodshed and insane action sequences that are some of if not the best we’ve seen in Westworld. The episode also spends a small amount of time going back and updating us on Dolores’ journey which aside from the final moment we spend with her is pretty dull. I hope her journey becomes more interesting soon because right now every other storyline including Bernard’s, William’s, and Maeve’s is infinitely more intriguing. But overall this is a fantastic episode which finally gave us a look at Shogun World, and I hope this isn’t the last we see of this park.