Westworld’s largely non-linear plot structure is one of the reasons the series stands out amongst a sea of other high-quality dramas, but it can work to the show’s detriment when not handled effectively. This leads to the only negative aspect of this week’s episode as it kills almost any momentum that the series built up in ‘Les Ecorches’.
In the previously mentioned episode the plot took a huge leap forward as the series many story threads began to wind together for the big finale, and with all that built up anticipation this episode decided to largely be set in the past. In terms of pacing it may not have been the smartest move, but the Westworld team managed to craft an emotional episode that further elaborates on the show’s central themes.
The main story focused on Akecheta — the leader of the Ghost Nation — and his doomed romance with another host, Kohana. It was told by Ancheta to Maeve’s daughter in an attempt to recollect her own memories. This lead to a heartbreaking story of loss, but also one with an underlying current of hope for a better future. Seeing Akecheta struggle to rebuild his past life and ultimately failing due to Delos’ machinations was tough to watch, but also underscores how ‘human’ the hosts have become. They were programmed to feel love for certain hosts as per their programming, but regardless of how often their minds are altered those past memories continue to persist. Kohana was taken away from him by the Delos employees twice and in both cases she was treated as an object.
It can be said that humans are becoming less essential, and that in the long term they are unimportant and easily replaceable. These hosts, like Kohana, are removed when they are no longer useful, easily replaced so as to not hamper the park’s various narratives. The company is using living being which they create and treat them like house-hold toasters and after seeing how Delos treats its guests, this train of thought is not much of a stretch. As for the hosts, despite showing signs of sentience they company still intends to destroy or reprogram them all. Sentient being are constantly stepped on in favor of ‘progress’, and the hosts are an excellent way to explore the exploitation that helps run our world.
The only continuation viewers were given of last week’s eventful episode was some brief time spent with Maeve, which was not as effective as it could have been. There was a lot of potential in the brief amount of screen time that was allocated for her but it felt starved for screen time. Maeve’s capture was a pivot point for the series’ storyline and it does not get very much attention, with her inclusion feeling almost like an afterthought. If not for Maeve, then at least use the screen time to make Lee’s change of heart a little more convincing. Lee’s emotional realization feels forced, as nothing during the time he spent with the hosts gave the impression he was becoming more sensitive to their position.
William’s also in ‘kiksuya’, and for the life of me, I cannot seem to fathom why that seems to be the case. He’s proven, with exception of those moment spent with his daughter, to be the least compelling part of Westworld. Hopefully the game he’s been playing is connected to the larger scheme Ford’s hatched, or they kill him.
In terms of the over-arching plot this episode finally introduces audiences to the gate and possibly reveals the truth about the mysterious valley the various hosts are searching for. This is what Dolores is seeking, a gateway that can take them to the real world, or at least the one their creators originate from. It will no doubt play a role in the remaining two episodes of the season as the hosts finally penetrated the park’s interior working in ‘Les Ecorches’.
The Ghost Nation has appeared sparingly this season, but ‘Kiksuya’ reveals what role they’ve been playing in the series, and it fits into Ford’s larger plan that was teased in ‘Les Ecorches’. Akecheta was witness to the aftermath of Dolores’ murder of the original hosts and refers to her as the ‘deathbringer’. He wants to leave the park before said deathbringer can cause the remaining hosts more harm, something that was encouraged by Ford — who even told Akecheta when to gather his people. This episode may have provided one of the last puzzle pieces.
Despite Dolores’s somewhat noble intentions, she is just as much a threat to her fellow hosts autonomy as the humans — I mean, she is the ‘deathbringer’. Maeve is also willing to undermine her fellow hosts, though for her it is about self-preservation or to awaken said hosts. Akecheta is very similar to Maeve, though he wants to help all the hosts that have felt the same pain, that of losing a loved one. He is however, not above vengeance as he wishes to make the William suffer, similar to how Maeve rather than running, stayed to try and kill the Man in Black. It seems that all the hosts believe in the same thing but their biggest obstacle in the need for revenge against the humans.
Ford in the previous episode described humans as beings capable of cycles of violence and he wished the hosts would represent something better. This is put into question as the hosts repeat their creators’ mistakes. One other factor in this equation is the large capacity to love that the many of the hosts have shown, even Dolores. Love is ingrained in each one of their memories, such as Maeve and her daughter’s (newly awakened) feelings towards one another. A central question this season has been what the difference is between the hosts and their human makers, and the answer get progressively less simple as the series continues.
Before this review concludes I would be remiss if it failed to mention the outstanding performance by Zhan McClarnon. His portrayal of Akecheta was amazing, portraying the character’s outward calm and the contrasting inner turmoil. Julia Jones also provides an excellent performance, and her chemistry with McClarnon helps convey the pain both character’s feel.
‘Kiksuya’ was a troubled, but deeply moving episode of Westworld that adds new layers to the show while adding further emphasis to the old.