The ads for this week’s episode of ‘Westworld’ looked epic and the network marketing promoted it as a mind-blower. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a pretty big disappointment.
We last saw Maeve and her crew two episodes ago, which left off with them being attacked by a samurai. Maeve, Hector and Armistice are confused by this but not particularly worried at first. They assume that a sword will be no match for their guns. However, the samurai doesn’t stop when Maeve attempts to command it and more sneak up from behind and lasso the whole group. Maeve is gagged.
While they’re being marched toward a village, storyline writer Lee conveniently explains what’s going on. He says that they’ve entered Shogun World, an adventure park for guests who found Westworld too tame. All of the robots there speak Japanese but, luckily, Maeve and her friends should have the necessary communication skills to do so buried in their code as well. The reason Maeve couldn’t control the samurai is that she spoke to them in the wrong language.
When they get to the village, it feels very familiar. Despite the feudal Japanese trappings, it’s laid out almost exactly the same as Sweetwater. In fact, after a few minutes it’s clear that the major characters there are modeled after them, and are playing out a brothel heist storyline they know all too well. The head bandit, Musashi (‘Twilight Samurai’ star Hiroyuki Sanada), is an obvious stand-in for Hector. Geisha madam Akane (Rinko Kikuchi) corresponds to Maeve herself. Even Armistice finds a tattooed bandit “doppelbot” and the two of them become uncomfortably fascinated with one another. Lee shrugs; when you’re required to write hundreds of storylines, a little plagiarism is inevitable.
During the height of the heist, the Armistice doppelbot frees the group and Maeve defuses the situation by speaking Japanese. She learns that a shogun is coming to town. He sends an emissary ahead, who offers to purchase a young geisha named Sakura (Kiki Sukezane from ‘Heroes Reborn’). Considering the girl like a daughter to her, Akane refuses and kills the emissary. Lee is shocked. That’s not how this storyline is supposed to go. The bond between Akane and Sakura reminds Maeve of her own attachment to her daughter. She becomes very empathetic toward them and offers to help even as Lee urges her to walk away. He just wants to get the hell out of there and move on toward a place called Snow Lake, which has access back to the park’s tunnel system. Maeve won’t leave.
That night, another storyline breach occurs when ninjas attack the village. Maeve, Hector and Armistice help fight them off. When one ninja grabs Maeve and covers her mouth, she discovers a new power and is able to command him to kill himself (by impaling his face on an arrow!) without even speaking. By the time the battle is over, Sakura is gone.
Lee continues to beg Maeve to leave, but she insists on going after Sakura. Posing as a translator, she joins Akane in a meeting with the shogun. Lee points out that the shogun is glitching and has cortical fluid leaking from his ear. When Maeve speaks, the shogun’s daimyo do not seem to hear her. Soon, the shogun reveals that he forced his men to cut off their ears so they could not hear the “witch” who defeated the ninjas. He has obviously gone mad.
The shogun demands that Akane dance with Sakura at a celebration of his rule, and forced Maeve to watch with him. As the performance begins, the shogun stabs Sakura in the gut, killing the girl. Maeve is distraught. Akane continues the dance alone. When she gets close enough to the shogun, she saws his head in half with a blade hidden among the needles in her hair. Maeve then uses her new power to force nearby samurai to fight and kill each other.
The episode ends with an army charging toward them. Maeve picks up a katana sword and readies herself to face them.
Back in Westworld
In the flash-forward storyline, the Delos militia mops up the mess in the Mesa command center. Hundreds of bodies are also dredged out of the lake we saw a few episodes ago. Bernard sees Teddy’s body on top of a pile. A Delos tech is confounded that over a hundred of the robots he’s examined have no data in their brains and no history, and all their backups were wiped.
Flashing back again, Dolores and Teddy return to Sweetwater. The streets are lined with dead bodies. Dolores orders that a train at the station be repaired. She has plans for it. They come across Clementine, who looks like hell. Dolores tells Teddy that she wants her daddy back.
The two of them ride out to Dolores’ homestead ranch. Teddy pleads with her to run away with him and start over fresh somewhere. In response, Dolores tells him a story about a plague that once tore through the cattle at the ranch. She asks how he’d have handled it, and Teddy says that he’d protect the youngest cattle and give the rest shelter. Looking at him like he’s a sweet-natured idiot, Dolores tells him that her daddy put down the whole herd. The only way to stop a sickness is to burn it out. She then says that she’ll consider his offer.
Later, Teddy tells Dolores that he’ll stick with her no matter what, even if she won’t run off with him. They kiss and have sex. Dolores tells Teddy that she loves him, for real and of her own volition, not just because she’s scripted to. However, she also pities him and says he won’t make it. Dolores orders some of her other followers to grab Teddy, saying “To grow, we all need to suffer.” The lab tech who’s now part of her crew then begins the process of overwriting Teddy’s code.
Samurai and ninjas are cool. The episode has a fair amount of sword-swinging and kung-fu action, and the image of Maeve wielding a katata is pretty badass. Sadly, that’s just about all there is to the episode. This side trip to Shogun World feels like a pointless distraction that has almost no bearing on the main narrative. About the only important development to occur is the revelation that Maeve can control other robots without speaking now, but even that just builds on knowledge we learned previously about how the robots are all wirelessly connected (which is how Bernard located Abernathy a couple episodes back).
Likewise, the Dolores and Teddy storyline doesn’t move forward very far either.
This isn’t an awful episode, but unless it’s setting up a full-scale samurai invasion into Westworld later (which could be possible, admittedly), it feels like a very elaborately staged piece of filler.