Season two of Westworld has hit its stride. Immediately following one of the most acclaimed episodes of the series, the show debuted Shogun world in a beautifully bloody episode reminiscent of a classic Kurosawa film.
Following up on a cliffhanger from Episode 03, Maeve & Co. narrowly escape the attack of Musashi, a Ronin warrior. He brings them back to the town where they discover that Shogun world follows the exact same narrative as Westworld. An Eastern instrumental cover of “Black Hole Sun” ominously plays through the town as we witness a shot-for-shot retelling of Season 01’s memorably badass Mariposa heist, Shogun style. What’s better than one artfully crafted heist scene? Two artfully crafted heist scenes, obviously, especially when the second is a bloodier and yet more beautiful callback to the first.
This time, the ronin warriors steal a safe from a geisha house. Maeve meets her dopplebot in the form of Akane, the head of the house played by the incredible Rinko Kikuchi. Akane doesn’t just share Maeve’s role in the narrative, they share each other’s personal stories. Mukashi turns out to be Hector’s dopplebot as he carries out the heist. There’s even an awesome, arrow-slinging woman with a tattoo on her face to fill the Armistice role. At this point, Sizemore admits to cutting corners with his writing due to time constraints.
Quick sidebar: Why does an entire system of narrative parks only have one writer? “Transformers: The Last Knight” had seven.
The entire episode plays out as an origin story for Maeve as she discovers powers latent within her coding. As the gang bonds with their dopplebots, one of Akane’s girls is taken captive by the Shogun. Although Maeve is anxious to find her daughter, she sympathizes with the woman who shares her story. When the shogun’s men attack, Maeve is unable to speak commands to the mesh network. This culminates in the awakening of her abilities to use unspoken commands as a telepathic power. She turns an entire shogun army against itself with her mind in a memorable scene that will make fans giddy for months.
The majority of the episode takes place in Shogun world as a delightful respite from the constant flash-forward, flashback, “is this now” storytelling of Season two so far. There are only a few, “meanwhile back at the ranch” cuts back to Dolores and Teddy. As Dolores prepares for war, she grows increasingly worried of Teddy’s timid, gentle side, until making the difficult decision of changing his code against his will. She dials his aggression and cruelty up to 100% and hopes for the best.
This duality between Maeve and Dolores presents a deeper meaning in an already artful episode. Dolores leads a tirade of violence against her once-oppressors, and even Teddy. On the other hand, Maeve declines an opportunity to reveal the nature of Akane’s memories, giving her the respect of her own story. Maeve reprimands Sizemore at one point, saying, “you can’t keep giving us people to love and then get upset when we do…I’m coded to care about nobody about myself but here I am willing to risk my life for someone else.”