Season 2, Episode 5: “Akane No Mai”
Directed by Craig Zobel
Written by Dan Dietz
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Riddle of the Sphinx” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Phase Space” – click here
Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) is still with Karl Strand (Gustaf Skarsgård) and his crew at the Westworld facility, as the place is cleaned up. There are dead bodies and hosts everywhere. Elsewhere, Maling (Betty Gabriel) is on the plains, looking into the situation out there, as well as deploying teams to seek out the father of Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood). Above all else, the clean-up team wants to try fixing the hosts so they’re usable. One technician finds about “a third” of the hosts are, essentially, “virgin.” Like new, blank slates, tabula rasa robots out there wandering around. So, how is that if they weren’t wiped clean? Are there new hosts being… born, out there?
We get back to Maeve (Thandie Newton) and friends, who’ve run into a samurai warrior called Musashi (Hiroyuki Sanada) in the snowy woods. Hector (Rodrigo Santoro), Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), Lee (Simon Quarterman) and the rest of them have been captured. Maeve tries talking things out, though that doesn’t exactly work out how she planned. They’re all brought back through the woods, witnessing murdered and disembowelled corpses littered across the landscape. What Lee figures out is the mess happening in Westworld is also happening here, in this world of samurai.
When they get back to a village, the group sees it’s basically a copy of Westworld and Sweetwater. “Paint It Black” plays in a Japanese-sounding rendition. Everything’s the same, it’s just Japan-style here. The samurai are all copies of the same characters – one woman, an outlaw warrior, as a tattooed face just like Armistice. This is Shōgunworld. Armistice winds up helping out her samurai counterpart, Hanaryo (Tao Okamoto), and is set free. This ingratiates our Westworld friends to the people of Shōgunworld. Now the hosts are all discovering their similarities instead of any differences.
“Even a snake can prove itself a dragon”
The image of a player piano’s roll slowing down, soaked with blood is a beautifully composite of old v. new, which is a large theme crossing over the entirety of Westworld, plus it’s a great symbolic commentary on the idea of technology crossed with flesh and blood humanity. We’re seeing the results of all this packed together in this wonderfully mad and violent series.
Out on the plains, Dolores and Teddy Flood (James Marsden) keep on moving. They’ve gone back to Sweetwater, where the place is stained in blood and full of bodies. Dolores wants to find her father, so she’s thinking of using the train for the next leg of their journey. She’s got big plans. At the same time, Sweetwater is a depressing reminder of how Westworld was “never home” for the hosts, only a prison. They see Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) and one of the other girls, still caught in their technological routine, trapped in a mental and existential cage. Ultimately, they’re still unable to be fully free unlike Dolores and Maeve and the rest.
In Shōgunworld, Lee tries telling Maeve they have to play along with hospitality amongst the Japanese and the samurai, in order not to offend anybody. Maeve’s pretty offended the “narrative bones” of her world were duplicated for this whole other world. It’s a shock to her already shocked system, seeing how little value her life has had programmed by men behind computers. Meanwhile, the plot’s going off the rails, just as it was in Westworld. Lee gets a front row seat to see exactly how much autonomy the hosts are realising they actually have beneath their wiring.
Like a dose of deja vu, Maeve sees visions of an assassin coming for the Japanese woman playing her role in the Shōgunworld narrative. Only they come for her and the others. They’re attacked, so Hector and Maeve fight, right alongside Musashi. Interesting enough, Maeve finds she can command some of these hosts, as well, turning some of them on one another. She can also speak Japanese fluently. Damn, she’s good!
But they don’t get out that easily. The Shōgun’s (Masaru Shinozuka) Army have arrived in town. Shōgun isn’t happy. He and his army stand up against the samurai and the Westworld group, the latter not standing much chance. At least, unless Maeve can figure something out. Can she?
“How do you stop a sickness like that, one with wings?”
Between them, Maeve and Lee are arguing over who or what is worth fighting for – he reduces hosts and their sentience to “just code,” whereas she realises it’s more than that. They’ve been created as people, but debased to machines – sex machines, to be frank, as it is sadly in the case of the young geisha they’re attempting to help protect. Maeve will protect her own, no matter what the cost. She won’t allow the humans to keep treating them this way. Not without a fight.
Maeve goes with Akane (Rinko Kikuchi) and a convoy to see the Shōgun. They bring a gold offering. They also see he’s leaking “cortical fluid,” he’s breaking down. He also heard about the witch, and so he maimed all his warriors, to protect them from “mystical commands.” Things have gone haywire, most literally. Although Maeve comes to believe that some things “are too precious to lose, even to be free,” after talking with her Japanese counterpart about their imprisoned existence.
Back with Dolores it’s a grim situation. She’s conned Teddy into a horrifying predicament, lulling him in with sex and the promise of love. They’re going to change Teddy, in order to make him “grow.” Ah, the tyrant of freedom, the white feminist in Dolores is coming out. Such a tragic scene.
In Shōgunworld, the geisha put on a show for the Shōgun himself. Only he stops them before they really get going, stabbing Sakura (Kiki Sukezane) to death in front of the crowd. He forces the remaining geisha, Akane, to dance. Simultaneously, Maeve has flashbacks to her ow stabbing, her demise once at the hands of the Man in Black (Ed Harris). And in the middle of the dance, the geisha cuts the Shōgun’s head off with one of the sharp pins in her hair. This puts Maeve and Akane before two executioners. Before Maeve turns them one each other, turning all the warriors against themselves. Whoa. She’s certainly found her “new voice.” BRING IT ON, SAMURAI! MAEVE’S GOT THIS.
Damn. Maybe my favourite Westworld episode to date, and Season 2’s been doing a fantastic job of upping its game in general from Season 1. Can’t wait for the next one. We’re getting bits and pieces of the truth slowly coming together, forming the real puzzle that was being hidden so mysteriously during the first season. Need more. Now.
“Phase Space” is next time.