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‘Westworld’ Ep.2.08: “Kiksuya” Gives Ghost Nation the Story They Deserve

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“Kiksuya” is the episode Westworld desperately needed. While the show’s depiction of ShogunWorld left us a little wanting, episode eight of season two expertly fleshes out the story of Ghost Nation. So long reduced to peripheral characters of the show, “Kiksuya” rightfully centres Ghost Nation and their leader Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon) as major players in the Westworld universe. Let’s dig into the main themes of the episode.

Westworld Finally Undoes The Hollywood Myth

In many ways, Westworld’s previous treatment of the Native Americans reflected the way the Western has created a myth of America that is so often focused around the pursuits of white men, and reduced the Indian to an exotic “other”. This whitewashed fiction, proliferated in hundreds of revisionist movies, elides the rich reality of the West, which was far more diverse than any Hollywood movie really gave it credit for (sorry, Kevin Costner). For a long time, it seemed that Westworld, for all its intense metafictional leanings, was going to uphold this status quo; only giving Ghost Nation a skin-deep portrayal. In “Kiksuya,” the circle has been broken, and Ghost Nation can emerge as a force for good, accompanying Meave as they fight against Dolores, who has now been dubbed “The Deathbringer.”

We follow Akecheta as he moves from a relatively peaceful existence towards becoming a brutal warmonger. It shows that the movement towards higher consciousness is not just reserved for a select few, but has moved throughout all parts of the park. He is an intriguing prospect, somebody who has managed to survive at least ten years in the park without dying — watching as it moves from a quiet world to one characterised by bloodshed and savagery. It reminds us that the park, like the American West, has people far older than the ones we are shown, and while it does lean ever-so slightly into the cliché that Native Americans are naturally so much wiser than their Western counterparts, this is done with enough respect to finally make Ghost Nation an integral part of the show.

Kiksuya, Westworld

His journey towards woke-ness is triggered by searching for his loved one Kohana (Julia Jones) only to see her discarded within the hellish, empty world of a laboratory. With shades of Orpheus’ journey into the underworld, Akecheta’s journey is suitably moving, making him a great companion for Meave moving onward.

What’s clever about this episode is the way the story is told — through flashbacks and voiceover — becomes the instalment’s final revelation, as Charlotte realises that Meave can communicate with other hosts hundreds of miles away. Although ostensibly a “character” episode, it still sets up the inevitable showdown at the end of the season, giving Meave — previously the only character we could truly root for — another ally to help her in her fight.

And speaking of allies:

Will Sizemore Join the Hosts?

In many ways, Lee Sizemore is like a miniature Ford. Ford may be the grand architect of the entire park, yet Sizemore has also got a stake in the host’s fates. Previously in charge of creating narratives for the hosts, he is slowly becoming more and more invested in his creations. He seems to see a part of himself in the robots he has made, as after all, don’t all writers insert a little of themselves in their own characters? His friendship with Meave feels like the best team-up of the series as it is the only one between host and human (so far) built upon mutual admiration and a shared purpose.

His plea to save Meave, still riddled with bullet holes from the previous episode, is not merely a ploy to access her superpowers, but seems to stem directly from the time they have spent together. What exactly he has in mind here is hard to fathom, but its likely he’ll figure out his purpose once Meave returns to form.

This is in marked contrast to William, also recovering from multiple gunshot wounds:

Kiksuya, Westworld

The Man in Black Still Doesn’t Get it

One of the most telling things we learn about William in this episode is that, despite hanging out at the park for most of his adult life, he still can’t speak the Lakota language of the Native Americans. He is emblematic of colonialists who move to another country for the better part of their lives but never bother to engage with the actual people who live there. Without knowing what these people are talking about, he can blissfully assume that everything is about him, once again showing how the myth of the West constantly centres around the same types of people.

I argued for his death last episode — giving us a real shock in a show so light on genuinely surprising plot developments — but it seems that he may still prove some purpose here. In “Kiksuya,” he is granted yet another reprieve when his daughter appears and tells the tribe that she will inflict upon him a far worse pain than they could possibly give.

It doesn’t seem like she has physical torture in mind. My bet is that she will pull her father out of the park and make him confront his real self. For an addict such as William, tearing him away from the one thing that allows him to neuter the pain of real life will be worse than any oblivion he seeks through courting death in the park. As an emblem for the way most people sees the West, his journey towards self-enlightenment could provide the Man In Black with a surprising redemption narrative. As it stands, its all to play for in episode nine!

As far back as he can remember, Redmond Bacon always wanted to be a film critic. To him, being a film critic was better than being President of the United States

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