“Akane No Mai” finally gives our glimpse into one of the other parks – Shogun World – as Maeve continues her quest to get her daughter back. Elsewhere Dolores is still driven by her mission to retrieve her father and win her freedom.
We’ve just about his the mid-point of this season of Westworld and it really feels like a show that has properly hit its stride. Tonight’s episode, Akane No Mai, was almost entirely removed from the setting that we’re used to, as we finally explored Shogun World, but it just worked. It’s a bold move to (mostly) leave behind familiarity to try something new, but Westworld manages it with some style. The more the season progresses the more that I like it. It just has that balance of twists and turns with enough ambiguity to allow rampant speculation – just like Lost. I know it’s a comparison I keep making but it’s very much a compliment.
In “Akane No Mai” we again only follow two storylines – Maeve and Dolores. The more frequently this happens the more it emphasizes the similarities and the growing disparities between the two of them. Both of them seemed to be almost messianic figures in that they were awake and intent on freeing others. Initially, it seemed like Dolores might have the more lofty and admirable ambitions to wake up her people and carve out freedom, whereas Maeve was only intent on rescuing her “daughter”. However, as things progress in this weeks episode becoming increasingly apparent that it’s Dolores who has the selfish motivation, illustrated by what she does to Teddy. Maeve, on the other hand, goes out of her way to help Akane (Rinko Kikuchi) rescue her daughter, Sakura (Kiki Sukezane).
We’ve known for a while that there were going to be samurais in Westworld at some point after a bit of a tease in season 1. We also had a fair idea that there would be a number of other parks available for guests after we saw the India-themed park last week. Despite knowing that it was probably in the offing it was still really exciting to see Shogun World in action. There were a lot of really nice touches to help flesh out the park and make it seem tangible even with the short amount of time we spent there – there were ninjas, what more do you need?
It seems that Shogun World isn’t entirely original though, as Lee (you remember, the British chap tagging along with Maeve) has apparently cribbed a lot of the details of Westworld for use in Shogun World. We get a scene that is a complete recreation of Hector’s saloon robbery that we’ve seen play out countless times, complete with their own version of Armistice, dragon tattoo and all. It was good to see something so familiar but also new.
I get the distinct impression that despite us initially being sold on the idea that Dolores was the heart of the show, it’s actually Maeve who we should be rooting for. “Akane No Mai” sees her deviate from her ultimate goal of retrieving her daughter to help what is essentially her Shogun World equivalent. It produces some really good action scenes (cowboys vs. ninjas and samurai) and also some of the best moments of character development. I think the real triumph of “Akane No Mai” is that I really cared about Akane, Sakura and the Shogun World version of Hector, Musashi (Hiroyuki Sanada). Despite spending a relatively short amount of time with them it was genuinely jarring when Sakura was killed.
It also transpires that Maeve has a new power. As well as just being able to speak commands to other hosts, she now doesn’t even need to say anything. I’m not sure how, and neither is she, really, but she can simply will other hosts to do her bidding, which will definitely spice things up going forward.
In the other storyline that we’re following in “Akane No Mai” we also see Dolores continue her quest. There’s not really too much of note going on other than we learn that she’s intending to take the train back to the Mesa Hub, the central hub of the parks. That might not be too surprising; what is perhaps more shocking is that she’s prepared to do anything to get there and complete her goal. After a brief sexy-time interlude with Teddy, which quite frankly has been a long time coming, I thought that maybe Dolores was going to give up her pursuit of blood and ride off into the sunset with Teddy. Instead what she actually did was reprogram him on the fly, which is apparently very dangerous. I suspect that next time we see Teddy he’s going to be a lot meaner, and a lot more aggressive.
Westworld seems to be really building up a head of steam, I’m not sure exactly what it’s building to, but it is fast becoming one of my most anticipated shows each week. I’m kind of expecting the show to let me down at some point, as it cannot possibly answer all of the questions that it is setting up, but I’m definitely along for the ride.