Title: Westworld: “Kiksuya”
Air Date: June 10, 2018
Check out our reviews of previous episodes from season two here:
- Episode 1: “Journey Into Night”
- Episode 2: “Reunion”
- Episode 3: “Virtù e Fortuna”
- Episode 4: “The Riddle of the Sphinx”
- Episode 5: “Akane no Mai”
- Episode 6: “Phase Space”
- Episode 7: “Les Ecorches”
This is kind of a tough one to talk about. “Kiksuya” seems like it shouldn’t have worked: it was entirely centered on a character we’ve barely seen before, it was entirely exposition, and it didn’t really solve any mystery or move the “big plots” forward at all.
That said, I think you could easily argue this was one of the most powerful episodes of Westworld to date, one of the most entertaining, and possibly the best episode they’ve shot. “Kiksuya” reminded us of what is so strong about Westworld by reveling in the humanity of its non-human characters, and it gave us some powerful emotional beats to take with us into the final two episodes of the season.
The central character of the episode was Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon), who we have seen in his “Ghost Nation” persona a few times, but has also appeared as one of the “original” hosts in a few different ways. Most recently, we saw him back in episode two, “Reunion,” alongside Angela (Talulah Riley). They were the two who met Logan Delos (Ben Barnes) in the bar and administered the test where he tried to identify who the hosts were. Again, Westworld showed its ability to cast amazing actors, as McClarnon had to entirely carry this episode, and generally did it without even speaking English. It was a wonderful performance, and one that would have cost them dearly if he was not up to the task.
Previously, we had thought that Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) was the first host to truly awaken. It now turns out that Akecheta was, as he awakened before Dolores even existed – his awakening began the day Wyatt (Dolores’ previous character) murdered Arnold (Jeffrey Wright) inside the park. He discovered the maze carving and has since been placing it throughout the world, including scalping hosts and putting it underneath their skin. When he later encountered Ford (Anthony Hopkins), Ford told him that he was never meant to find the symbol, and that it means nothing. Again, one of Westworld‘s central ideas is the search for meaning, not blindly following the meaning you’re assigned. So this is either a miscalculation by Ford or, more likely, one of his many smoke screens.
That wasn’t the only reveal/callback we got this episode, though! We also find out that it was Akecheta who found Logan after William (Jimmi Simpson) sent him off naked into the desert. We find out that hosts have to die to have their operating system updated, and Akecheta operated in the park for almost a decade without that happening. Finally, we also saw just how powerful Maeve (Thandie Newton) has become, as she was sort of “possessing” her daughter the entire time so Akecheta could speak with her. That final reveal was hinted at a few times with his word choice throughout the episode, but it still made for a banger of an ending when Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) was trying to figure out what was happening.
As I said, the reason “Kiksuya” (translation: “Remember”) worked so well was by showing us the humanity inside the hosts. Akecheta’s cursed search for his wife Kohana (Julia Jones) was tragic and heartbreaking, his conversation with Ford was revealing, and his interaction with different types of people inside the park was a stark reminder of how most people see the hosts. We also saw something similar from Lee (Simon Quarterman) after he saw how Maeve was being treated. He held her hand and screamed through tears at the technician because he was “supposed to fix her.”
And then Hale entered and did not recognize a shred of humanity in Maeve, who we have learned through the past two seasons has more humanity than the all the people at Delos put together.
“Kiksuya” made a few bold choices that paid off extremely well: we knew an episode that only really follows one character (give or take a few scenes) could work, but centering it on a character we knew nothing about was a bold move that worked very well. Having the story also helped mask the dreaded “Westworld monologue full of big words” that the show tends to employ a bit too often: can you imagine reading one of Ford’s seven-minute Shakespearean musings? Ugh, no thanks. By having it subtitled, it’s like the writers were forcing themselves to be succinct and powerful, and it worked just as they wanted.
“Kiksuya” did not seem like it served the greater plot of Westworld too much, although there is a possibility that more of it it could come into play in the final two episodes of the season. However, this will probably go down as one of the most moving and impactful episodes that the show has to offer. Next week looks like we will pick up some of the threads with William (Ed Harris), who is now unwilling riding with his daughter, Emily (Katja Herbers). We also know that the Ghost Nation is going to keep Maeve’s daughter safe until they are reunited. Chalk up yet another group headed to the Valley Beyond.
Verdict: “Kiksuya” was a remarkable episode of Westworld. Zahn McClaren’s performance was incredible, the focus and pacing were expertly done, and the cinematography probably made for the most beautiful episode of the show to date. It may not have pushed the true narrative forward that much, but it told a wonderful story and reminded us of the best parts of Westworld.
- Fantastic lead performance
- Trimmed focus and scant dialogue made for compelling storytelling
- Emotional and powerful
- Beautiful cinematography
- Didn't seem to tie into season two's central focus