Recap: 'Westworld' season two, episode 8 – love and heartbreak in 'Kiksuya'
Prior to "Kiksuya," Westworld seemed content to treat its subject matter as an intellectual exercise.
As much as I loved the story, the world, and its myriad of philosophical nooks and crannies, I was never truly invested in the actual characters. You could chalk this up to the fact that the characters were designed to represent common wild west tropes. You’ve got the calculating madam, the innocent rancher’s daughter, the cutthroat bandit, the good-guy cowboy… the list goes on and on.
That also applied to members of the Ghost Nation, who were programmed to be these tropey bloodthirsty savages. They were programmed that way to further dehumanize them in the eyes of guests. It’s as un-PC as can be, but it makes sense, given that the whole point of this park was to reveal the basest tendencies of guests.
Love and Loss
All of that changed in “Kiksuya” (Lakota for “remember”). In this story of love, heartbreak, and faith, Westworld finally gave us a character to love: Akecheta, the leader of the Ghost Nation.
Akecheta is a first-generation Host, and one of the first Hosts to achieve consciousness. During the alpha phase of the park, Akecheta was part of a peaceful tribe, and happily married to his wife Kohana.
Before going out on hunts, Kohana would tell Akecheta to “Take my heart when you go” to which he answers “Take mine in its place.”
During one of his trips, he hears gunshots. Akecheta follows the sound of gunfire and finds the scene of Arnold’s murder, as well as the massacre of hosts. He also finds the maze that belonged to Arnold’s son Charlie, and becomes obsessed with its symbolism. Akecheta begins copying the maze on anything he can find, including pelts, stones, and on the ground. While Dolores was the main focus of Arnold, it’s interesting to note how his actions had indirect consequences on other Hosts, including Akecheta.
Right before the park opens to the public, Akecheta is pulled out and reprogrammed to become the violent and aggressive leader of this new group of natives, called the Ghost Nation.
But due to negligence on the part of the park technicians, Akecheta retains his memories. Even while playing his part in the Ghost Nation narrative loop, he still pined for Kohana, who was assigned a new husband.
Akecheta also encounters a naked and rambling Logan in the middle of the desert (this scene happens after the events in Season 1 where William ties up Logan and sets him off on horseback).
“This is an illusion,” Logan tells Akecheta. “This is the wrong world.”
There’s something biblical about encountering a rambling madman spewing words that could be interpreted as having quasi-religious significance. The fact that these words came from Logan, one of the most profane and vulgar characters in the show, makes it all the more enjoyable.
Akecheta also finds one of the park’s terraforming sites, and concludes that that is the world beyond his own. He kidnaps Kohana and tries to take her to the site. During their journey, he washes off his Ghost Nation warpaint and reveals his true identity to Kohana.
At first, she doesn’t recognize him but when he tells her to “Take my heart when you go,” a light goes on in Kohana and she answers “Take mine in its place.”
While out hunting for food, Akecheta loses his love yet again. The park technicians found Kohana, and took her back to headquarters. Akecheta goes on a quest to find her again, but his search proves futile.
He concludes that Kohana was taken underground. And since the terraforming site was already covered-up, he has one only one remaining alternative. In ten years, Akecheta was never killed, but this time, he willingly lets a guest shoot him. He gains consciousness in the park maintenance room where he is being patched-up.
It’s a scene that’s reminiscent of Maeve’s own journey to awakening. She knew of this other place, this other side to her world, and was aware that dying (repeatedly) was her only way to access it. It’s a common MO among religions, and it’s fascinating to see this concept ported over into Westworld. In many ways, Kiksuya is a case-study for the birth of faith and religion.
While previous episodes were about revolution and personal struggle, this one tackles suffering, and how we attach greater significance to it as a coping mechanism. It brings to mind a line Robert Ford spoke in The Bicameral Mind: “I'm afraid in order to escape this place, you will need to suffer more.”
Akecheta eventually finds Kohana in cold storage, along with the other decommissioned Hosts. During this scene, he has his greatest epiphany: he isn’t alone in his pain. For every other Host in this room, there are grieving friends and loved ones out in the park. He makes it his goal to awaken the rest of the Hosts, like a Native American bodhisattva.
With all these awakenings going on, I can’t wait to see how the show reconciles the different motivations of our main Hosts! – Rappler.com