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Westworld Season 02, Episode 08: Everything we loved about “Kiksuya”

This post contains all the spoilers. This episode contains all the feels. Be warned.

Westworld continues to step up their game this season with another fan-favorite episode entirely built on character. Setting aside multiple timelines, hidden symbols, and red herrings, Kiksuya is a beautiful and heartbreaking love story told from Ghost Nation Akecheta’s point of view. It isn’t just a great episode of Westworld, but television in general.  Here’s everything we loved about it.

“Take my heart when you go.”

Julia Jones in Westworld (2016)

Most Westworld fans treat the show like a game. It’s a puzzle to figure out or, more appropriately, a maze to solve. But the show wouldn’t work if it was just an activity. We need to feel for the characters. We need heart. Kiksuya’s devastating love story following Akechata’s search for his past-narrative wife of cuts to the core. Starting in happier times, before Akechata dons the Ghost Nation makeup,  he wakes up next to his loving wife.

“Take my heart when you go,” she says.

“Take mine in its place” he replies. And we all swoon.

Soon after his blissful, romantic morning, Akechata stumbles upon the maze and achieves consciousness. Although Ford and Sizemore wipe both of their memories to start a new narrative, Akechata never forgets his wife or the love he has for her. He finally tracks her down in an equally moving scene of reunion, only to have her taken away by a tech team. He even follows her into the Mesa, only to discover he can’t bring her back from cold storage. His tear-filled goodbye to her is a devastating conclusion to an epic romance  – which is really saying something considering we had no idea who this guy was before the episode started.

Gorgeous cinematography

Zahn McClarnon in Westworld (2016)

Slow and sprawling landscape shots create a grandeur to his quest. The showrunners have cited Terrence Malick as a visual inspiration for this episode, and it shows. This episode is poetry.

Most of the episode is in “Lakota” language.

Zahn McClarnon in Westworld (2016)

Following “Akane No Mai” this is the second almost entirely subtitled episode of the show in a season that focuses heavily on themes of power and oppression. The show already took the gamble of having a heavily narrated episode in a different language, let alone a language that only 6,000 people in the world speak. It was the perfect way to hang a spotlight on an underrepresented people group, not just the characters in Westworld but in all television and film. While we have been trying to figure out which of our favorite hosts are most “human” – the most beautifully moving, human story was hiding in the background the whole time.

The emotional payoff.  

Zahn McClarnon and Jasmyn Rae in Westworld (2016)

One could argue the story of Akechata is so singular from the plot it could have come out at any time. One would be wrong. The show needed to build to this kind of emotional episode and earn its moving moments. Many viewers were initially skeptical of investing in the characters because they were Hosts and not “real people.” The writers have spent the last two seasons convincing us that Hosts think, feel, and experience life just like humans. As Maeve told Sizemore, “you can’t keep giving us people to love and then get upset when we do.”

In this episode, Sizemore finally comes around to the idea that Maeve (and all Hosts) could be capable of love and compassion, telling her that she deserves to be with her daughter. If Sizemore is on board, we should all be on board. This payoff raises the emotional stakes for all of the hosts and plays perfectly into the themes of oppression by giving a once-disregarded group of characters their own profoundly moving emotional journeys.

 

The reveal

Image result for kiksuya westworld

Akechata spends most of the episode recounting the story of the maze, his consciousness, and the loss of his wife to Maeve’s daughter. There are a few cutaways to Mesa techs operating on a dying Maeve, with Sizemore begging them to save her. The end of the episode reveals that Akechata wasn’t really talking to Maeve’s daughter, but actually Maeve herself. Even while she was dying, she used her Host-network-super-telepathy to communicate with him. We don’t know the fate of Maeve, but we do know that Akechata has promised to keep her daughter safe. The two former enemies now share a deep bond, saying the same words that take on new meaning, “Take my heart when you go…take mine in its place.”

The emotional experience of watching this episode makes the sometimes confusing, highly cerebral exercise of previous episodes completely worth the ride, and only raises the emotional stakes as we enter the end of the season.

What did you like about Kiksuya?  Share in the comments!

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