Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Westworld, Season Two, Episode Eight: Kiksuya

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I have to say that Kiksuya, is actually one of the most beautiful and poignant episodes of Westworld ever. For much of the series, Akecheta has been a background character at best. We've seen him through flashback apparently terrorize Maeve and her daughter, as well used as be utilized as a tool to get Logan to encourage his father to invest in the park itself. This week, Akecheta moves from a silent background character to one with a deeply compelling story of moving from being a simple robot to a sentient being trying to understand his world and to deal with the loss of his family and the woman that he loves. 

When we last left William, he was laying on the ground injured from his interaction with Maeve. William is crawling in the dirt towards the lake, determined not to die in the dirt. Akcheta tries to communicate with him in Lakota, but of course, William never bothered to learn the language. Akcheta switches to English and makes it clear that he remembers him.  William is the brought to the village by Akecheta.  William is naturally curious to know why he isn't being killed out right and is informed that death is too good for him. I have to say that after watching the numerous horrors he has inflicted upon the hosts, I wholeheartedly agree. 

Maeve's daughter watches the exchange between Akecheta and William and is clearly terrified. Akecheta approaches her cautiously, worried that she is afraid of him but as it turns out, Maeve's daughter has retained enough of her memories to realise that the one to fear is actually William and not in fact Akecheta.  Akecheta tells her that she has nothing to fear from William now and that he will protect her as he always has. In a flashback, we see Maeve's daughter hand Maeve a bloody rock with the maze painted on it, claiming that it's a warning from Ghost. 

The flashback changes and this time, it looks back into Akecheta's life in the park before it opened. Akecheta led a peaceful life surrounded by those he viewed as family along with his wife Kohana. This life however was not to be and came to an end the day he discovered the first massacre at the park - the massacre where Delores not only killed a lot of hosts but Arnold.  It seems that this was Arnold's failed attempt to ensure that the park didn't open. This is where Akecheta sees the maze for the first time and it makes an indelible mark upon him. Akecheta doesn't even have a chance to process exactly what has changed before he is brought in for reprogramming and the life he  knows is ripped from him. Akecheta goes from being a peaceful man, moving through the world and loving his family to a man who rampages and murders i.e. everyone except what he calls newcomers (read: humans) 

Akecheta lives out the cycle that he is reprogrammed to perform but his mind remains somewhat troubled.  It is a chance meeting with Logan that sets him on a path to find a way out of the park.  Logan, as we know, had been banished by William and Akecheta find him,  sitting naked and babbling to himself about wanting to find the door and the real world.  Akecheta pauses long enough to give Logan a blanket to cover his nakedness, promising that his kind would find him soon; however, Logan's words become the key to Akecheta's quest. Now Akecheta knows that the life he is leading isn't right and that there's a way to escape. It is then he remembers his wife Kohana. 

Back in headquarters, having delivered Maeve to the lab, Lee is desperate for her to survive. Unfortunately, the tech's only real concern is to get as many control units as possible from the huge pile of dead hosts which are a result of the awakening and high rate of violence. Lee is forced to argue that Maeve is different and can control the hosts with her thoughts, before beging the tech to look at Maeve's scans. This is enough for the tech to start working on Maeve and it's a gruesome sight given that we know from Bernard's visit to the cradle that hosts do indeed feel pain. 

Now determined to find a way out of Westworld, Akecheta heads to the valley beyond. The valley as it turns out is a huge canyon dug into the earth.  There seems to be a sort of elevator built in. Akecheta interprets what he sees as a path to escape but he decides not to leave until he can reunite with Kohana, even though she no longer remembers him. Akecheta returns to Kohana's village and he kidnaps her in middle of the night.  They ride the horse together and Akecheta pauses long enough to wash off the makeup - clearly a visual signal that he is putting aside the life foisted upon him by the rewrite. For the first time since massacre, Akecheta is himself again. With his makeup gone, it's time to approach Kohana again and let her know that she doesn't need to be afraid. Akecheta moves slowly and cuts the ropes holding her hands and she backs away in fear.  Slowly, Akecheta approaches and this time, he places her hand over his heart and says, "take my heart when you." This is the phrase that the lovers would say when they separate. It takes a moment but Kohana responds, "Take mine in its place."  This time, when Kohana looks into Akecheta's eyes, she knows him as her husband. 

Now that the lovers know each other for who they are, it's time to head towards the door, which unfortunately is buried under the canyon. Akecheta promises Kohana that they are going someplace their memories will be safe. Unfortunately, the techs catch up to Kohana while Akecheta is off gathering food.  Akecheta watches in horror as Kohana is loaded into a truck and taken away, as the techs wonder how she managed to get so far away from where she is supposed to be. Akecheta returns to Kohana's tribe believing that this is where the techs would have taken her, only to find a stranger in her place. Just like Maeve's daughter was given a new mother, Akecheta now finds a pale substitute in place of his love. 

Having struck out at the tribe, Akecheta wanders across Westworld looking for Kohana, hyper aware of his own vulnerability as he passes through places with extremely hostile hosts and humans. He is desperate to remain alive, fearing that death will mean that he will be erased and once again forget about the life he had with the woman he loved.  After clearly barely surviving another attack, he runs into Maeve's daughter, who greets him with kindness and water. Akecheta believes that this is the first time that he has been seen for who he really is. 

Having failed to find Kohana on his long journey, Akecheta decides to return to her village and this time he meets a woman whose son has been replaced.  Akecheta learns that the people have begun to speak about the place down below.  Akecheta finally realises that Kohana will not be found in Westworld and the only way to see her again is to die. This is similar to the revelation Maeve had about dying and increasing her power and awareness. Akecheta allows himself to be killed by a guest and ends up in the lab for the first time in ten years.

Lee is beside himself with the state that Maeve is now in thanks to him calling in for reinforcements. Lee makes it clear that he believes that Maeve doesn't deserve this and that in fact, she deserves to be with her daughter, teaching her how to love. Lee's moment of contrition is cut short by the arrival of the tech. It turns out that the tech did indeed find the code buried inside of Maeve to be useful but the ultimate decision as to whether or not Maeve will be brought back to full functionality will be up to Hale.  Things are not looking good for Maeve at all. 

Because Akcheta hasn't died in ten years, he actually needs an update which is going to take four hours to complete. Once left alone, Akcheta brings himself to consciousness and wanders around the facility to attempt to find Kohana. It's not long before Akcheta find Kohana in cold storage and she's absolutely unresponsive. Akcheta is crushed with grief, realising that his search has come to a cold and lonely end. It's only when Akcheta looks up and sees the missing son of the woman who first told him about the down below area that he releases that each person in cold storage represents someone who is mourning a loss, even if they don't understand why.

In the village, Akcheta tells Maeve's daughter about presenting the mourning mother with the braid of her deceased son and his new goal of spreading the maze to everyone. Akcheta now knows that he cannot get Kohana back and so his new goal is to ensure that the door is closed permanently so that no one else will experience the pain he has. This is why Akcehta began visiting the little farmhouse where Maeve and her daughter lived - he wanted to share the truth with them. Because of the world that they live in, his intentions were misinterpreted. 

This is when Akcehta had his faithful meeting with Ford, who was in the process of scalping one of the Ghost Nation members. after stopping the hunters in the middle of a bear hunt. The lights are bright in the scene making the viewer realise what an intrusion Ford really is in Akcheta's life. Ford begins to question Akcheta about the symbol of the maze that he wanted gone from his world and Akcheta remains silent.  Ford of course refuses to accept silence as a sufficient response to his direct question and puts Akcheta into analysis mode so that he force the exchange that he wants. Akcheta reveals that he first saw the symbol when the "deathbringer" (read:Delores) killed one of the creators. To Ford, this makes Akcheta, "like a flower growing in the darkness."  Ford does however take the time to warn Akcheta that the deathbringer will come again and that this time it will be to kill him. Ford suggests that Akcehta see his death as a signal that it is time to lead his people to a new world.

In the present, Emily has finally caught up with William and unlike her father, she has taken the time to learn the Lakota language. When Emily reveals that William is her father, Akcheta says that this means that she should be intimately aware of what kind of of monster her father is and  that William cannot continue to rampage through Westworld the way he has.  Emily suggests that William come with her because it will be a far more painful reckoning than anything Akcheta can do. Akcheta weighs Emily's words and decides to allow the father and daughter to leave together. 

Akcheta then returns to Maeve's daughter where he promises the child that he will always keep her safe. Back in the lab, the tech is explaining to Charlotte about Maeve's ability to communicate with other hosts and to reprogram them at will. Charlotte looks at Maeve's code and realises that she is communicating with a host right now. In the park, Akcheta assures Maeve that he will look after her daughter as his own and that she should find them if she survives. Maeve responds, "take my heart with you when you go." 

It's clear that the writers are telling the story of colonisation with Akcheta's backstory.  Akcheta had a perfectly peaceful life before the invaders came and then they took from everything that mattered, forcing him to be someone he is not protect his own.  This was particularly highlighted by the role of William in this exchange.  We know that William sees hosts as disposable, so much so that he doesn't even bother to learn Lakota, speaking like the language is just made up nonsense Ford created, not realising that a culture leaves in its spoken word. William takes whatever he wants without any thought of the wreckage he leaves behind.  In this scenario, William represents settle philosophy and its ongoing oppression of Indigenous people. 

I cannot help but wonder what Emily has in store for her father. It seems to me that her biggest punishment would be to pull him out of the game he has been so obsessed with and force him to deal with the real world. For William seeing the game to the end is his top priority, so much so that he was willing to abandon his daughter to pursue it. I hope that we will be allowed to some of Emily's displeasure before of course William escapes to finish his game. 

Ford's interaction with Akcheta and revelation that he's being watching him for awhile is reminder that Ford has been playing the long game, moving around hosts like chess pieces towards his ultimate goal. At this point we are no closer to knowing what Ford's endgame is.  Ford really is akin to a God who has abdicated his responsibilities despite his so-called plan to give hosts freedom. If Ford was truly watching Akcheta then he saw his pain and his confusion and chose to do nothing about it. It would have been nothing for Ford to assure that Kohana and Akcheta were reunited but he kept them apart for his own wicked ends.

I must admit to being somewhat surprised by Lee's change of opinion. When Lee called in reinforcements it's because he was tired of pursuing Maeve's goal of find her daughter and he simply wanted out of the game and to live in safety. Until the moment when he begs the tech to save Maeve, I didn't actually believe that he cared about her one wit. Lee may be a writer but it's clear that his tech knowledge is nil otherwise he would have been able to save Maeve himself.  Now that the decision is left of to Hale, things do not look good for Hale. I swear I will spit my dummy out if Maeve is killed off. 

There are only two more episodes left until the end of the season and it's clear the writers are working themselves around to the big finale. The preview from the next episode suggests that William is going to get the same treatment that Akcheta had this week. I wonder if this is a bid to humanise William and make him less monstrous?  I believe it will give us a chance to look behind the curtain and Delos. At what point, William is even shown with a gun to his head.  It makes me wonder if the writers are trying to absolve William of guilt in order to lay the responsibility firmly on Ford's shoulders/