Wednesday 13 June 2018

Westworld – This world was not my true home.

Westworld: 2x08 Kiksuya.

This is the wrong world.

A few episodes ago, Dolores insisted with all of her might that family and love were chains that kept the hosts from being truly free. She turned the man that she loved into a monster, merging him with someone whose values were opposite to the one that Teddy has always held true – because it was necessary for her battle. This episode turns this argument on its head, as it portrays how Akecheta of the Ghost Nation managed to gain consciousness without having the luxury of extended conversations with Arnold. The other way towards remembrance, or kiksuya, of past lives, is through precisely the kind of love that Dolores condemned as a prison. 
Akecheta had a peaceful existence in a community of friends and family, until he was repurposed for Lee’s brutal narrative. His beloved was taken from him, but the memory of her could never be truly removed. It’s a tried and tested romantic trope (remember Victor and Sierra, forever finding each other in Dollhouse?). Even when he was turned into a warrior, something so other that the guests would not just fear him, but also never hesitate to dehumanise him, he remembered his beloved, and yearned for her. His shallow reprogramming, which did nothing more than to increase his aggressiveness, without having any substantial thought about how his past life may play into this new existence, did nothing to change who he was as a person. 

At its greatest, this episode is about the very nature of empathy, and how those in power utilise the guests’ inability to empathise with a person who speaks a different language, and is made to look different, for their own purpose. Even Maeve failed to recognise Akecheta’s intention – warning them of the coming of those with true evil intentions – simply because she could not understand him, and misinterpreted him. 

The core of this episode – the idea of taking someone’s else’s heart, someone else’s love, and giving yourself in that way, and how that changes everything – is one of the most positive and un-cynical moments this show has ever had. Akecheta’s concern for Maeve’s daughter is genuine, and he regrets that he could not spare her the grief of losing her mother, once again. 
But he also became obsessed with the old game of the maze, the one that Ford attempted to literally scrub from memory. Years ago, he stumbled across Dolores’ killing of Bernard, and the pattern in the sand, and from then on, like an awakening, he carved and painted that pattern wherever he could. It became a virus, or a meme, even when the park repurposed him. It gave him an opening to receive the message, when it came to him in the most unlikely way (finding James Delos’ son in the desert, his crazed rambling about the fake world and real one, and a door between them). It allowed him to apply an interpretation that made sense, when his beloved was replaced with a ghost, with a person who had different eyes. And he realised what these people were capable of doing, when he managed to awake himself in the Mesa and found a whole roomful of ghosts who were all mourned, realising his grief was selfish because it was the everybody’s grief, a shared suffering at the hands of these newcomers. 

Eventually, Akecheta met Ford, who recognised something curios and interesting in him, enough so that he gave him a mission for when the Deathbringer (Dolores) would finally kill him as well. The mission is to find the door – except Akecheta has been obsessed with closing that door, to preserve his community, to make it impossible for others to destroy it. Or maybe he wants to cross over to the other world, which may contain all that has been lost, and he will lead all of his people there, and do damage to the humans that Ford so despised. It seems that Ford set more than one person on a course, and that some of these missions will eventually clash violently. 

And that mission may be one that he now shares with Maeve – whom Lee is trying so hard to save, arguing that her ability to send commands to other hosts is special. He doesn’t even realise what he is causing in doing that, that it make Dolores’ prediction – that they will use Maeve as a weapon against her own kind – come true. Charlotte Hale sees an opportunity, but it turns out that Maeve has been communing with Akecheta this whole time, through the eyes of her daughter. They share their awakening through a lost love. Take my heart when you go. 

Random notes: 

Rather mysteriously, when he is initially taken into the Mesa after deciding that death was the only way to see his beloved again, the tech in charge commands that he be updated (for the first time in nine years) and swiftly and quietly returned, as if there was some kind of greater purpose to him. 

Heart-shaped box probably is the best musical cue this show has ever done. 

The Man in Black is picked up by his daughter, who did bother to learn the Lakota language, and promises Akecheta that he will suffer more at her hand than he would ever at his. 

Lee says he’s sorry, which is nice, but also a bit late. 

It’s such a moving revelation that Akecheta was always only trying to give that maze to others, to help them comprehend their situation better, and Maeve wasn’t able to cross that barrier because she misunderstood. Her daughter knows that the true villain has always been The Man in Black, and all that he stands for. 

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