“You only live as long as the last person who remembers you,” Akecheta, played by Fargo alum Zahn McClarnon, tells Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) at the midpoint of episode four. Sounds like wise words and that advice received some clarification in this episode: “Kiksuya,” directed by Uta Briesewitz.
The title of this week’s episode translates from the Lakota language as “remember.” The episode is almost exclusively the story of the Lakota tribe in Westworld and specifically Akecheta.
Here is a recap and as usual SPOILERS abound!!!
This episode is a rare one. We only see three real points of view. But the story itself is almost entirely about Akecheta and his past.
The first image is that of William (Ed Harris) crawling in the dirt toward a stream. In the last episode he had been shot by his own crew and was only saved from death by the arrival of Lee (Simon Quarterman) and a team from the Mesa. He seems physically spent and chastises himself to not die. Then, he appears to lose consciousness. Just when it looks like he is going to die just a few feet away from the fresh water, Akecheta rides up on his white horse.
After kicking him and verifying that William is still alive, he tells him that he doesn’t get to die and takes him back to the Ghost Nation camp. Maeve’s daughter is there and once he has left William with the other prisoners, Akecheta makes eye contact with her. She looks scared.
The point of view shifts to the daughter in her original narrative with Maeve (Thandie Newton). They are living the idyllic frontier life. Taking in the laundry, having tea, and playing with dolls. That changes when Maeve spots a stone with a painted version of the maze that was the impetus for the actions of season one. Her daughter tells her it was given to her by the ghost. That it is a warning and that he is watching over them.
The story shifts to Lee taking Maeve into the lab where we last saw Dolores’ father being worked on and the same technician who is overloaded with the task given to him by Hale (Tessa Thompson) tells him to take her to cold storage. Lee argues and reveals that Maeve seems able to send commands to other hosts. That gets the tech to look her over and forget the rest of his assignment.
Back at the camp, Akecheta goes to speak with Maeve’s daughter and tells her not to be afraid of William who she is staring at. Akecheta reveals that he knows she can see all her pasts, he can tell, because he can as well. That gives him the space to tell his story.
In flashback we see Kohana (Julia Jones), Akecheta’s woman, wake up and notice a wild flower on the furs next to her. She rolls over and sees her man getting ready to head out. This is before he was the fierce killer viewers are used to seeing. There is no warpaint or intense stare. They share a few tender moments before he heads out for the day. She uses the phrase, “take my heart with you when you go.” His response is “take mine in its place.” His narration gives the information that this was the last peaceful morning of his life.
He wanders from the camp of the Lakota and suddenly hears gunshots.
He makes his way toward them and discovers the church and graveyard viewers will recognize as the training grounds for the original hosts. As he continues walking he finds the recently shot Arnold (Jeffrey Wright) and Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood). He calls them the “Creator” and the “Deathbringer.” He notices the doors to the saloon are open and goes inside to find the maze game that belonged to Arnold’s son.
When he returns to his people, he is obsessed with the maze. He carves and draws it on every possible surface. He tries to discover its secrets but ends up in the lab to be upgraded. With Arnold gone, Ford is changing the narrative that will open the park. Akecheta says that he was reborn and returned “breathing fire.”
There are scenes of him killing white men with others of his tribe, now in the warpaint the viewer first saw him with. In the background are men he calls “those I could not kill,” guests of the park. He rides with his men and after giving them assignments makes his way into the desert on the border of his native lands.
While riding he comes across Logan (Ben Barnes), William’s brother-in-law who is near a dead horse and sits naked against a dead tree in the desert. In the first season, William sent him off naked on a horse to give himself time to make his moves to ingratiate himself with Delos. Logan is saying nonsensical things. In his delirium he tells the warrior that all the world around them is an illusion and that there is a way out. A door. His words that it is the “wrong world” spark something in the warrior that after he gives Logan his blanket to cover his nakedness sees him leave the newcomer behind.
He returns to his tribe and sees Kohana for the first time since his upgrade. She does not recognize him. The shock brings back his memories of his past life.
His narrative repeats and we see him kill the white men again and ride into the desert. This time Logan is not there to stop his forward progress and he eventually finds what was in the valley beyond that so many hosts have been seeking. The underground structure where they were created.
He rides back to the camp and in the middle of the night abducts Kohana.
He plans to take her to the valley beyond, but first he stops and washes off his war paint. She is fearful of him and he cuts the ropes that he used to bind her wrists and grabbing her hand places it on his chest and says the phrase, “take my heart when you go.” She looks utterly confused but with his paint gone and the narrative phrase spoken, she suddenly remembers him and says the response, “take mine in its place.” They are fully reunited and she agrees to go with him.
When he goes off hunting one morning, techs find her and as he watches takes her away.
When he returns to his people, she has been replaced. He begins to notice that others have been replaced as well. He searches for her for a long time. He fights to stay alive because he is scared that if he dies when he is reborn he will forget her again.
Maeve’s daughter saves his life once when he is close to death and, thus, starts his desire to protect her.
He speaks with a village elder who tells him of the legend of the “men below.” He realizes that the only way to find her is to let himself be killed. So his narrative starts up again and this time he gets one of the guests to kill him. He awakes in the lab after techs discuss his case. It turns out he is still running the original software version from the opening of the park. He has managed to stay alive and without being rebooted for a decade.
When they leave to let the update run, he awakes and makes his way down to cold storage where he finds Kohana. He is unable to wake her and tells the daughter that this was the moment “I saw beyond myself.” He returns to the lab to be put back in the park.
His new quest was to open the eyes of the other hosts, starting with his own men. He scalps his right hand man and draws the maze under his scalp so that if he is rebooted the brave will be able to remember the maze.
He says to the daughter, “In this world, it is easy to misunderstand intentions,” and then tells her he was not hunting her, but watching over her in those past lives.
The narrative switches back to Lee who is sitting with Maeve. He holds her hand and apologizes for his past work that led to this moment. He tells her she doesn’t deserve what has happened, she deserves her daughter. The tech returns and kicks him out.
Akecheta tells of meeting Ford who has stopped a hunt by other members of the tribe. They were attempting to kill a bear. Ford is checking them and finding the maze drawn in their scalps. He is not surprised to see Akecheta and tells him he has been watching him, as Akecheta has been watching Ford. Akecheta proclaims, “That there isn’t one world, but many. And we live in the wrong one.”
Ford responds by telling him, “When the deathbringer comes for me, you will know.” Akecheta returns to his camp.
Then, William’s daughter, Emily (Katja Herbers) shows up and takes her dad away from the tribe peaceably.
We see Akacheta find Ford’s body along with a large number of Delos execs the morning after the event that ended the first season. We find out at the end that through her daughter, Maeve and Akecheta have been talking this whole episode. He knew it was her and was promising to protect her daughter.
This was a beautifully shot and well directed episode. The fact that it was focused on the story of Akecheta almost exclusively was a welcome change from the three different views of Bernard or the constant time shifts.
This was a very strong story with incredible acting and emotion. Zahn was a revelation in this episode (but only if you hadn’t already seen him in Fargo). The scene where he finds Kohana in cold storage and a stripped down version of Nirvana’s Heart Shaped Box was playing was perhaps the strongest moment so far this season.
The big reveal this week was two fold. First, the many iterations of the maze were not planted by Arnold. It was Akecheta that kept it alive and so he is somewhat responsible for William’s unhealthy focus on the maze.
The second, is that Ford knew Dolores would kill him long before it happened. He was playing a longer game than anyone realized. It will be interesting to see where things go in the two episodes that are left this season. Next week we go to “The Vanishing Point.”