SPOILERS FOR WESTWORLD SEASON 2 EPISODE 8 TO FOLLOW.
I cannot believe how floored I am by this episode… Who’d have thought that an episode which takes a bit of a departure from the current story arcs developing late in this season would be one of the top episodes of the show to date. Westworld season 2 continues to deliver something that season 1 simply wasn’t able to… variety. The range of different episodes we have gotten this season in terms of tone, pace, and focus is incredible and that is exactly the case once again here. The episode titled “Kiksuya” focuses heavily on the backstory of Ghost Nation warrior Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon) who has had a mysterious looming presence over this entire season. There is a bit of content tying his story in with the other going-ons in Westworld in the present but the core of this episode is exploring his heartbreaking and awakening journey across multiple decades.
Maeve (After Mesa Hub fight)
Following Maeve’s (Thandie Newton) interaction with Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) at the end of last week’s episode Lee (Simon Quarterman) rushes her back into the Mesa Hub and convinces one of the technicians to make sure she doesn’t die.
Later into the episode she is put on some sort of host life support but not being entirely healed, and we get a very emotional scene in which it seems Lee finally understands what Maeve has been going through. This seems to be the first moment in which we Lee see’s Maeve as a person with emotions and values as oppose to a machine. It marks a major moment in his journey which has been filled with cowardice and comic relief all season. We do get another moment with Maeve but I will save that for later.
Akecheta (After Mesa Hub fight)
We catch back up with William (Ed Harris) who is barely surviving after being shot a few times in last week’s episode and is found by Akecheta. Akecheta mentions that he remembers William and takes him back to his camp where he simply leaves him lying on the ground, indicating that contrary to what I had thought a few episodes ago, maybe he isn’t protecting all guests.
We also see that Akecheta still has Maeve’s daughter (Jasmyn Rae) at the camp who to this day is nameless in the series. Through a brief flashback it’s clear that the two share a connection as he once gave her a rock with the maze motif we’ve seen so much of in season 1 etched onto it. Then he proceeds to give her his backstory and this is where the episode becomes astounding.
Akecheta (A journey through time)
We see that at some point in the history of the park he was once a part of a peaceful Native American in which he lived with his love Kohana (Julia Jones). One day he hears gunshots, gunshots we soon realise belong to the rampage we have become so familiar through the first season which left Arnold (Jeffrey Wright) dead at the hands of Dolores. This lets us know that Akecheta is one of the first generation of hosts going back to before the opening of the park. But this is where Akecheta’s journey begins as he makes his way into the saloon where he finds Arnold’s maze puzzle and the idea of this maze instigates his ‘awakening’. He begins marking the maze motif everywhere, talking about how he has found a new voice. But then right before the opening of the park Akecheta is reprogrammed and given a new role as a member Ghost Nation, a ruthless and lawless tribe meant to wreak havoc through Westworld.
But this doesn’t erase the memories of what he’s already seen as he still wonders about the maze and the presence of people whom he couldn’t kill. One day he wanders off to the outskirts of the park where very surprisingly he comes across Logan (Ben Barnes) stranded in the middle of the desert all burnt from the sun and losing his mind. This lets us know what we are shortly after the moment that Jimmy Simpkin‘s William sends Logan off naked on the back of a horse in season 1. He keeps rambling about an exit and a way out as his mind is clearly unravelling and this seems to have further awoken something in Akecheta. He takes a visit back to the tribe he was a part of in his old life and where he seems to remember his past memories she doesn’t. A bit of time seems to pass and with each day he becomes more awake and knowledgeable of what’s going on, carving out his own story.
One day he ventures back out to the outskirts of the park to try and find Logan and learn more about this ‘exit’. But as much time has past Logan isn’t there so he travels further out towards the edge of the park and that’s were he finds a new location being constructed. He witnesses some of the foreign structures including a large door where he recognises this location as “a passage to another world, a door”. Or as we’ve come to know it throughout this season… The Valley Beyond. This newfound discovery sparks something in him where he then goes to his old tribe and essentially abducts Kohana, takes her somewhere far and rids himself of his Ghost Nation paint in order for her to remember him.
“Take my heart when you go” – Akecheta
Akecheta gets her to remember him through his use of the best quote of the episode (due to its emotional weight in the story) and decides to show her the way out of this world which he had recently found. But it appears that between now and the last time he found ‘the door’ it has been completed and is hidden somewhere underground. He decides to live day by day with Kohana, that is until Westworld technicians tracked down Kohana, reprogrammed her, and filled her place in the tribe with another host. Once again he had lost Kohana and so went in search of her all through Sweetwater, Las Mudas, but never found her. He comes to terms with what he must do to find her, so he adopts his Ghost Nation persona again and has himself killed in order to be sent to the Mesa Hub. Inside the facility is where we and the technicians learn that Akecheta hasn’t been updated in 10 years as he’s managed to avoid death this whole time. When the room clears it appears that Akecheta (like Maeve is able to do much later) can simply wake from his sleep state and he goes in search of Kohana. It still baffles me how a host can roam the Mesa Hub without encountering a single person but he accomplishes this and finds Kohana down in cold storage amongst a number of other hosts.
There’s a great line in this scene about how his journey became less of a selfish or personal one once he understood that for every person in here there is is someone out there like him missing them. It’s an emotionally powerful moment that elevates his story greatly. Upon assumedly receiving an update he return back to Westworld and begins instilling his knowledge on other hosts awakening them too.
Then in a really cool sequence some light is shed on the scenes that we’ve seen of him hunting down Maeve and her daughter in their house. We learn that his true intentions here were to give Maeve’s daughter the truth, but their first reaction was one of fear which drove him away. He did stick around, mentioning that he spent his days keeping her safe, that is until William arrived and killed them as we’ve seen a number of times in a familiar flashback. This is obviously why Akecheta mentions how he remembers William upon finding him in the present.
Akecheta spent the next unknown number of years spreading the knowledge of the maze, and the door, until one day he happened upon his creator himself, Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins). Ford appears to be applying some finishing touches to his new narrative and we get a pretty damn awesome scene between the two. Ford mentions that he’s been keeping an eye on Akecheta and is aware that Akecheta has been watching him. Akecheta talks about how he believes there is a door leading to a new world and where Ford wonders where Akecheta first caught wind of all of this information he seems to allow Akecheta to continue with forming his own path, an act in line with Ford’s current intentions as we know them… or as we think we know them. This interaction also gives us another incredible quote from Akecheta:
“When the death-bringer killed the creator” – Akecheta
Ford then informs Akecheta that once the death-bringer returns, he’ll know to gather his people and lead them to a new world which is what we’ve been seeing Akecheta do this entire season. Then we cut a little further in time where Akecheta discovers the aftermath of the season 1 finale which left Ford “dead” and Dolores more than awake. So from all of this it seems that Akecheta isn’t protecting only guests as I thought may have been happening and he’s not acting under the control of Ford, another possibility earlier in the season. It seems he’s on an emotionally driven mission to give those who deserve it a chance to live on in a new life and he isn’t necessarily seeking vengeance against the humans.
Akecheta (After Mesa Hub fight)
Back in the present at Akecheta’s camp Emily/Grace (Katja Herbers) arrives after being left behind by her father. It seems that the reason Akecheta was keeping him alive is because he’d rather see him suffer as oppose to taking the easy way out. Emily/Grace seems to corroborate this and she takes him with her to subject him to a world of hurt.
Meanwhile, Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) makes her way to Maeve and we learn that Maeve can reprogram other hosts as she has managed to regain admin status, something no-one has been able to unlock since I guess Ford opened the place. She then makes the discovery that Maeve has been actively communicating with another host this whole time. That’s when it’s revealed she is talking to Akecheta who mentions to her that he will guard her daughter at all costs. This is very interesting because it seems as though she was probably listening in to Akecheta’s story this whole time and he probably knew. It adds another layer to the whole episode knowing Maeve has been essentially on this ride with us.
In the end this is a truly emotionally driven episode that is absolutely phenomenal considering it takes a departure from the main story arc so late in the season. It could have fallen apart, feeling like a waste of an episode but Akecheta’s story is tied into both season 1 and season 2 of Westworld so well it makes it an integral part of the show. It told a gripping, emotional story of the entire history of Akecheta from his life before the opening of the park all the way through to the present day. It also shows that even though Maeve and Dolores have been the ones we’ve been following through their awakening, Akecheta has been aware of what’s going on around him for just as long, if not longer. It also seems that by giving Maeve’s daughter the maze motif he’s the one who initially set Maeve on her journey of self discovery all those years ago.
This episode came at the perfect time in the season and it sets up a big final two episodes that will most certainly cover a lot of awesome content.