Westworld Season 2 Episode 8: New Wrong World Kiksuya

"Kiksuya" -- an episode taking place almost entire in Lakota -- tells another chapter in Westworld's bleak collection of tales of the inhuman treatment of hosts that aren't quite human.

The native tribes of America suffered the loss of their land at the hands of colonizers intent on owning the “new world”. Now the hosts of Westworld — arguably the native people in the metaphorical space of the AI mind — are having their own technological territory invaded by humans who are intent on looting the treasure of immortality for themselves.

The Man in Black (Ed Harris), felled by Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) last week, is discovered clinging to life by a member of the white-painted Ghost tribe who populate the furthest and thus least safe regions of Westworld. “Death is a passage from this brutal world,” the painted man tells him, “you don’t deserve the exit. And indeed a reprieve from death is what those at the helm of this theme park cum immortality bid ultimately seek.

In flashback, Maeve (Thadie Newton) loses herself in reveries of her daughter as she often does for comfort. But in this remembrance, she sees her daughter with a token from the Ghost tribe revealing the same map/maze symbol that represents the journey to consciousness for Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood). As she slips in and out of consciousness Lee (Simon Quarterman) wheels her to a medic and insists that she be saved, revealing Maeve’s mind control powers to the attendant as reason to prioritize her care.

The Wrong World

The painted man turns out to be Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon), the Ghost tribe’s leader. His backstory comprises the majority of this episode and begins in a time when his people did not wear the iconic white body paint. This was near the same era as Wyatt’s first massacre. Akecheta wanders through the murdered bodies of the hosts Wyatt left in his murderous wake. He discovers the maze/map carving, a shot of whiskey, and what appear to be Bernard’s glasses on a countertop in the bar. Captivated by the symbol, he feels compelled to draw it everywhere in attempt to understand it. But before he could make sense of the shape, Westworld’s engineers altered the “Akecheta narrative” fundamentally. Rather than a peace-loving pastoral existence, Westworld’s engineers re-cast Akecheta as a brutal murderer. Immersed in his new plot, he ravages the land until one day he discovers a vast desert. A land filled with those whose lives he was not allowed to take.

Newcomers

He comes upon the body of Logan. Naked under a tree Logan repeats “this is the wrong world.” In a rare act of compassion, Akecheta drapes a blanket over him, mulling over the phrase, “wrong world.” It awakens the consciousness in him to return to his old tribe, and even his former wife. He recalls his own previous incarnations, which become clearer and clearer in his mind, and searches the land to its furthest reaches, finally discovering the park’s boundary. “This is the wrong world,” he repeats.

He steals his former wife, Kohana (Julia Jones), from the village, and washes the paint from his body in the river. “Take my heart when you go,” he tells her, and suddenly she remembers how the phrase ends. “Take mine in it’s place,” she recites, and suddenly she too can see their past. Their romance parallels Dolores and Teddy (James Marsden)’s, with elements of coercion facilitating both their unions. But there is a gentleness to Akecheta and Kohana’s romance that Dolores and Teddy’s does not have. The hopefulness and optimism that Akecheta embodies in his search for the door out of Westworld does not live in Dolores. She has seen too much, been cut too deeply by the atrocities she lived again and again, the pain that she can now too clearly remember. Akecheta does not want to change Kohana, while Dolores is all too ready to alter Teddy fundamentally in service of her mission.

Ghost Nation Formation

Inevitably, Akecheta loses Kohana again to the powers of the park. He embarks on a quest to find her — aided in his journey by Maeve’s daughter — and upon returning discovers that even more of his family members have disappeared, replaced by different host models. “Ghosts,” he calls them, perhaps the first reference to the nascent “Ghost Nation”. The few remaining older hosts now speak legends about those who go “below” — to the control center where hosts are put back together when they die. After nine years of surviving in Westworld, Akecheta finally meets his demise in the park and awakens “below”. To a piano rendition of “Heart Shaped Box” he explores the space much like Maeve did in season one. He wanders through a naked, still, “on ice” hoard of hosts until her find Kohana who is to him dead. Devastated by her loss, he returns to the village and dedicates his life to sharing the maze/map symbol with others. He reveals that he was trying to share the symbol with Maeve’s daughter all along. Maeve herself unknowingly kept her daughter from the knowledge Akecheta was attempting to impart — the gift of consciousness.

Akecheta reveals that his tribe, by virtue of the knowledge he gave them, grew in their understanding. More and more of them became sentient, “awake”. Eventually he comes upon Ford (Anthony Hopkins), scalping members of his tribe who bear the maze/map symbol on their skin. Ford analyzes him, and discovers the extent of Akecheta’s knowledge. “When the Deathbringer comes for me”, Ford tells him, “You will know to gather your tribe and bring them to a new world.” Perhaps months, likely years later, Akecheta finds the body of Ford the night Dolores shot him, and knows that it is time to find the door. Which brings us to today.

It’s Time to Go

The Man in Black’s daughter arrives for him, speaking the language of the Ghost Nation. Akecheta confronts her, encouraging her to let them make her father suffer. But she assures them that her own way will be much worse, and they allow her to take him.

“I’ve always kept you safe, and I always will,” Akecheta tells Maeve’s daughter as Maeve herself lies bleeding on a table in the control center. Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) arrives, and the attendant reveals that Maeve’s “psychic ability” is actually part of a mesh network. She’s able to read data and do programming with her mind, this is how she was able to control other hosts and see into their minds. In fact, this whole episode she has been seeing into Akecheta telling this story to her daughter. When seen in this light, Maeve and Akecheta form something like parental figures for Maeve’s daughter and more broadly even for the entire host population. They both have a fierce need to protect the ones they love, and an unquenchable thirst for the truth. The Ghost Nation is now made up of all the awakened hosts in the park. But they are still split into factions. Will the group led by Dolores eventually meet up with Akecheta’s people? And how will the forceful personalities of Maeve, Akecheta, and Dolores mesh — both in the network sense, and otherwise?

Westworld continues Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Missed last week’s recap? Catch up here.

Kiksuya was written by Carly Wray and Dan Dietz and directed by Uta Briesewitz.

Photo and video credit courtesy of HBO.


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