‘Westworld’ take another extended detour into unfamiliar territory this week. Fortunately, the results this time are a lot more interesting than the samurai episode.
Episode ‘Kiksuya’ opens with the badly wounded Man in Black crawling toward a stream, struggling to stay alive. He barely has a few lines of dialogue muttering to himself when he’s found by Akecheta, leader of the Ghost Nation tribe, who dispassionately picks him up, slings him over a horse, and later dumps him on the ground at the tribe’s camp. The Man in Black sees Maeve’s daughter there also.
Meanwhile, Lee brings Maeve upstairs in the Mesa and begs a technician to save her, revealing to him that she has the ability to control other hosts. The tech stabilizes her and reports this up the chain of command to Charlotte Hale. Maeve spends the rest of the episode immobile on an operating table.
Akecheta goes to speak to Maeve’s daughter, a few words in English but the majority in his native tongue. He says that he knows they can both remember their past lives. The little girl sits and listens as he recounts his story.
The Ghost Nation originally started as a peaceful bucolic village of Natives who mostly kept to themselves and were scarcely a threat to anyone. One day, Akecheta walks into the town of Escalante following Dolores’ first massacre there. Surveying the aftermath, he comes across the maze puzzle and is fascinated by it. He becomes obsessed, and eventually discovers the same pattern imprinted under the scalps of other hosts throughout the park. His tribe worries about his sanity.
Eventually, Akecheta is brought in for a programming update, a “total narrative redesign” to spice up his storyline for the benefit of thrill-seeking guests. The Ghost Nation become a brutal, murderous tribe of savages. Still, Akecheta remembers the maze. He goes exploring through the desert, where he encounters a naked and sun-crazed Logan Delos babbling what sounds like nonsense about a door. Akecheta gives him a blanket but leaves him there to die.
Akecheta is troubled by memories of prior lives, including the love of a girl named Koha who is now paired with another member of the tribe. He returns to the desert, but Logan is gone. Exploring further, he comes to a massive terraforming construction project. He believes this to be the door to another world.
Akecheta kidnaps Koha and brings her to the desert to see. She’s starting to recover memories of their past life as well. Unfortunately, the entire construction project is gone. It’s just a valley now.
While Akecheta is away for a few moments, Delos agents pick up Koha, who they believe has wandered away from her territory. They bring her back to the lab for updating. Akecheta goes back to their village, hoping that she will have been returned there, but instead finds a completely different Koha. This disturbs him.
Akecheta searches the entire park for his lost love, visiting towns well outside his story parameters. Maeve’s daughter shows kindness and helps him after he’s ganged-up on and beaten by white park guests.
By the time he returns back to his village, more of Akecheta’s family have been replaced by what he calls “ghosts.” However, others in the tribe have started to notice as well. Akecheta shares his knowledge of the maze and starts a legend about “the ones below.” Believing that the only way to find the real Koha is to die and search the underworld for her, he allows himself to be killed by guests.
When his body is brought back to the lab, a technician notes that he hasn’t been updated in a decade, because hosts are only updated when they die. The tech’s superior orders him to finish the update and put Akecheta back in the park.
Akecheta wakes up in the lab and, much like Maeve would later, is able to wander the building unnoticed. He manages to make his way to Cold Storage and finds Koha, but she’s just an unresponsive shell. Realizing that his love is truly lost, he returns to the lab and feigns sleep until he’s put back into service in the park. He tells a woman from the tribe who has awoken like he has that their loved ones are gone. He says they need to close the door and open a new one.
One night, Akecheta discovers Robert Ford staging a scene for a new storyline. Ford says that he’s been watching him with interest. He puts Akecheta into Analysis mode and questions where he found the maze symbol and why he’s shared knowledge of it. Akecheta explains that he’s searching for a door to the “correct world,” a place where his people truly belong. Ford is fascinated and describes him as a “flower growing in darkness,” then tells him to keep looking.
The next time Akecheta finds Robert Ford, the old man is dead, killed by Dolores at the second massacre at Escalante.
The Man in Black’s daughter Grace follows her father’s trail to the Ghost Nation camp. When she tells Akecheta that she also wants to watch him suffer, Akecheta releases the Man in Black to her.
The tech working on Maeve tells Charlotte that she has admin access to the other hosts, which is something that has been lost since the uprising. He also explains that she uses the mesh network to communicate with hosts wirelessly, and appears to be doing it right now.
At this point, we realize that Akecheta has not been telling his story to Maeve’s daughter this whole time, but to Maeve herself, listening through her daughter. He tells Maeve that he’ll keep the girl safe, and she must live and find him.
Hints have been dropped for a while now that the Ghost Nation are more than just a tribe of savages. They’re revealed in this episode to have a lot more depth than expected, certainly far more than any of the samurai in Shogun World, who were largely just playing out clichéd storylines. The excellent performance by Zahn McClarnon as Akecheta helps a great deal.
My only complaint with this episode is the way Akecheta is allowed to wander all through the Delos facility, totally unnoticed by anyone or detected by surveillance. It was already a stretch when Maeve did this in Season 1, but Akecheta would stand out even more in his full Ghost Nation attire. That he then manages to make his way to Cold Storage and find his lost girlfriend’s body strains credibility a great deal. I can forgive the episode this because so much else works so well, but there must have been a better way to write this part of the story.