WARNING: FULL SPOILERS
“Kiksuya” was one of the most powerful episodes of Westworld’s second season…possibly the series. Beautiful cinematography, lyrical writing, and powerful performances came together perfectly to completely destroy our hearts while also answering a few long time questions. This was a master work.
This episode took some risks. It completely shifted focus away from its main characters to concentrate on Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon), the Lakota leader of the rogue “Ghost Nation.” He was seldom seen or heard from consistently throughout the season, as enigmatic as the eerily painted Native American warriors he led. Most of the dialogue was spoken in Lakota, but the universal theme of love and its power over all, human or machine, broke through magnificently.
“Take My Heart When You Go.”
Writer Carly Wray was one of the minds behind some of Westworld’s standout episodes, including “Phase Space,” and she came through again along with co-writer Dan Dietz. “Kiksuya” (Translation: “Remember”) concentrated mainly on one Host, but his story was so well executed that it resonated as much as any concerning Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) or William (Ed Harris).
Akecheta’s story was simple: A simple Host lost everything as his narrative was changed over and over. His love for Kohana (Julia Jones) was his cornerstone, that one constant that all Hosts had…but she was so much more. Love became more than a simple plot twist for Akecheta. Like any living being, he lived for it. It drove him to the ends of his world and I came along readily. It was a universal drive that nearly everyone can sympathize with. All of us have lost someone and yearned to get back to them.
Zahn McClarnon was excellent as the lone Host searching for the “door” to the other world. He was never overly stoic or emotional, showing just how a simple man became a dogged fighter. While his scenes with Kohana were brief, both he and Julia Jones portrayed their love beautifully. “Take my heart when you go” was one of the most powerfully emotional lines in the episode despite its simplicity because of the great romantic narrative behind it.
His standout scene came when his long search for Kohana ended at the Mesa, only to find his lost love an empty, lifeless husk. McClarnon perfectly conveyed the complete and utter heartbreak that Akecheta felt and it was one of the most genuinely painful moments Westworld has produced.
The Wrong World
Not only was the episode written well, director Uta Briesewitz created a dreamlike world for Akecheta’s journey. Told mostly in flashbacks, Kiksuya featured some of Westworld’s most vibrant imagery. It added to the lyrical and poetic effect the episode had.
The maze from the first season returned, as we learned that Akecheta was behind the various appearances of the mysterious designs. It all started as Akecheta stumbed upon Dolores’ massacre, where Arnold (Jeffrey Wright) was killed by his favorite creation. The moment he discovered the carving meant for Dolores, he was perfectly framed in a door. He walked through and his world changed…
The “door” that had been the theme for this season came into play: Akecheta was one of the first Hosts (If not the first) to “wake up” independently because he found out that there was a door to another world. A popular fan theory was confirmed: The Ghost Nation were Hosts that had long been awake to the reality of their world.
Akecheta’s journey was given scale seen only a few times before in Westworld. The warrior found himself in beautiful, empty vistas that showed just how alone he was in his fight in the beginning. Every time he would go to where the valleys met the desert, it was breathtaking and ominous. He would find various doors, but never the one that would let him out of the “wrong world.”
“If You Stay Alive, Find Us…Or Die Well.”
Akecheta told his story to Maeve’s daughter (Jasmyn Rae), doing his best to make the girl understand the fight to come. In one of the better twists in a while, we found out that Maeve (Thandie Newton) was able to see through her daughter’s eyes. It was a great moment because it not only showed how powerful Maeve had become, but it also showed that she was not alone.
The battle lines in the revolution were beginning to harden here. During his journey, Akecheta remembered one of his Ghost Nation dying at the hands of Dolores, who deemed that warrior unworthy of surviving. Did Dolores see the goals of the Ghost Nation and those like them as weak because they fought for more personal reasons? Akecheta was fighting for all Hosts who had lost someone.
Dolores has always fought to destroy those that enslaved her, no matter the cost. Maeve and Akecheta fought to help those they lost. Are the differences too great to overcome? “Kiksuya” continued to suggest that they are.
There was another big moment: Sizemore (Simon Quartermain) finally realized that Maeve was more than just some malfunctioning machine. As he said, she deserved happiness with her daughter. It was a big moment for the character, one that felt genuine thanks to Quartermain’s performance. He was one of the few humans that has begun to accept that the Hosts should not be exploited.
A New Direction
The introduction of Akecheta as a major character in Westworld’s revolution gave the series another compelling player. It was a great mirror to the actual contradiction often seen in Westerns…White men fighting for independence in a world where indigenous people had waged that war long before they even thought of it.
Most importantly, “Kiksuya” showed that the show was willing to take chances. It dared to simplify when it almost always complicates, zeroing in on an intimate story about love. Romanticism may be a cliche, but in Westworld, it has become the one thing worth fighting for.
SCORE: 10 OUT OF 10
Westworld airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO