In “Akane No Mai” Maeve Uses Her Power Over Hosts for Good, Making Her Ever-Better Than Dolores
SHOGUN WORLD! Hell, yes! This week, Westworld finally takes us into Shogun World, and we learn that it’s…basically almost exactly like Westworld—same stories, different tropes. “Akane No Mai” also finds both Dolores and Maeve exercising control over fellow hosts in increasingly questionable ways. Oh yeah, and there’s an awesome use of Wu-Tang Clan. [**SPOILERS AHOY!**]
“Akane No Mai,” Westworld‘s fifth episode of the season, delivers a simple back-and-forth narrative that takes us from Dolores and efforts to figure out what to do about her relationship with Teddy to Maeve and Co. entering Shogun World and getting embroiled in their drama caused by Ford’s narrative and whatever is “infecting” all the hosts.
But before it gets to those stories, we start with a glimpse of Bernard standing by as Karl Strand and the Delos team rounds up dead hosts and examine them, trying to figure out what caused the hosts to rebel, and if they’re salvageable. Strand learns that one-third of the hosts have “virgin” brains, meaning that not only have their brains been wiped, but it’s as if they’ve never been used before. There’s no previous user data. What’s more The Cradle (where the drone hosts were) has been destroyed, complete with all the host back-up information. So, Delos has essentially lost a third of its IP.
Strand asks of Ford’s final narrative, “How did all these disparate threads come together to create this nightmare? If we figure that out, we’ll know how the story turns” as the camera closes in on Bernard. He seems to have been unwittingly carrying out Ford’s wishes, but which story that we’ve seen is his actual “present?” Where is he in his own narrative? And does he have more of Ford’s dirty work to do? We still don’t know what happened with that control unit for another human (Ford? Is it Ford? I think it’s Ford!) that Bernard put in his pocket.
Unfortunately, that’s all we get of that for the episode.
Meanwhile, as her “team” works on repairing the Sweetwater train so that they can go find her father, Dolores leads Teddy on a Greatest Hits tour of all their favorite spots in an attempt to figure out where his head is right now. He still wants the two of them to just run away and find somewhere “in all that beauty” to live and keep to themselves.
Dolores then tells him about the time that the cow herd got diseased on her father’s ranch. At first, they thought the disease was passing from cow to cow, but it was the flies transmitting the disease. She asks Teddy how he would stop a disease like that from spreading. He says that he would house the sick ones, tending to them and keeping them sheltered from the flies until it passes.
Dolores calls him kind, but then tells him what her father actually did: he burned the sick ones, which kept them from spreading the disease, and also kept away the flies, because flies hate smoke. The lesson Dolores took from that? Sometimes, in order to save the herd, some of the cows have to burn.
Later, after she “confirms her love for him” and they have sex, Dolores treats Teddy like one of those cows. She “burns” him by having her Delos tech lackey forcibly erase his personality, because “someone like him” can’t survive where they’re going. Basically, she thinks he’s too soft.
God I want to punch her stupid, hypocritical face. So, “burn the sick ones,” yet her father is the sickest one of all, and she’s determined to save him, huh? I know, I know. It’s because humans have him. Still, it strikes me that she’s doing this to Teddy not because of how “soft” he is, but because he didn’t follow her order. This is retribution for his disobeying her. For Dolores, it’s her way or the railway.
Guest star Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim) shines in the role of Akane in the Shogun World section of the story. The title of the episode “Akane No Mai” can translate to “Akane’s Dance,” and her actual dance ends up becoming very important toward the end of the episode. However, the dance can also be metaphorical and be referring to the maneuvering she and Maeve are continually doing throughout the episode to protect the young Sakura (Kiki Sukezane) from being purchased outright by the shogun.
What Maeve, Armistice, and Hector learn as they’re captured and brought into Shogun World is that Shogun World is basically the Japanese Edo Period version of Westworld. After the hosts comment on how familiar the town they’re entering looks they see what looks like the safe heist that Hector and Armistice did in Sweetwater playing out in the style of a samurai movie, complete with Japanese versions of themselves.
Armistice becomes fascinated with her doppleganger, whereas Hector doesn’t trust his, a man named Musashi (Hiroyuki Sanada) who used to work for the shogun but left to be with Akane, who is Maeve’s Shogun World counterpart. As Maeve gets swept up in Akane’s story, and learns that Akane basically feels for Sakura the way a mother would feel for a daughter, Maeve becomes invested in helping both of them escape the shogun, even as it delays her from moving on to find her own daughter.
One of Maeve’s best lines is toward Lee, who after a while hopes to run off from Shogun World rather than trying to play through it, and questions why Maeve is willing to take part in this fight that isn’t hers. She says “You can’t keep doing this to us. Giving us people to love, and then getting upset when we do.” Though he insists that her feelings are all code, she reminds him that she’s coded to only care about herself, and yet she’s willing to risk her life, because she cares about others.
In the episode, we learn that Maeve has evolved even more than we knew. She can not only control the other hosts by voice command, but she can do so simply by thinking it. We hear her listening to “a new voice” in her head, which seems to mirror the way that Dolores found her own voice within herself. Dolores, however, doesn’t seem to have the same ability (thank God). Not yet, anyway. Dolores still relies on human help in order to control the hosts down in their code.
But that’s not the big difference between her and Maeve. The big difference is that, given the choice, Maeve only uses this power to protect herself or fellow hosts. Her interest isn’t in harming fellow hosts, or even humans, as a strategic tactic, but she will use her abilities to save others.
In the final scene, after the shogun has killed Sakura and forced Akane to dance for him anyway, Akane brutally kills the shogun by cutting off his whole head at the mouth. Maeve sees this as a warranted act, a woman acting like a mother. Maeve then uses her ability to get the shogun’s men to all kill each other rather than kill her and Akane for assassinating the shogun. It’s both a terrifying display of power, and a triumphant one. In anyone else’s hands, this power would concern me. But I trust Maeve. If I were a host, I’d want to be on her team.
We are left with more of the shogun’s army coming for them, and Maeve standing with a samurai sword, unafraid.
Dolores, on the other hand, talks a big game about “the herd,” and doing everything she’s doing for her fellow hosts, but in reality, everything she’s done has been self-serving and myopic. She wants to maintain control, and create a new world order in her own image. The hosts that don’t want to follow her? Well, they get erased, and she uses them anyway.
I am so angry on Teddy’s behalf. The part of his programming he really should’ve woken up from was his “love” of Dolores. Uuuuugh.
We’re now exactly halfway through Season Two, and I really hope this leads to either Maeve taking Dolores down in a showdown, or Maeve talking some damn sense into her, and them working together according to Maeve’s code.
- I love how Westworld has been using hip-hop this season! We’ve had Kanye West’s “Runaway” as an ode to the human “assholes” whose desire for longer lives have basically begun their demise. In this episode, Akane danced to the Ramin Djawadi/Japanese version of Wu-Tang Clan’s “C.R.E.A.M,” which makes sense in the context of Akane telling the shogun that she was here to do business, and despite making a sound business deal, the shogun killed Sakura anyway. Akane’s still strugglin’, and survival got her buggin’, but she’s alive on arrival. Despite her desire to take Sakura to Snow Lake to be safe, she can’t escape the violence in her life. It gots to be accepted. That what? That life is hectic.
- Where was Maeve’s ability BEFORE SAKURA GOT KILLED? I’m a bit conflicted about this. Because on the one hand, Maeve could’ve tried taking out these shogun troops, and the shogun himself, long before Sakura’s life was in danger. Then again, that would’ve taken away Akane’s agency, and Maeve isn’t about that. Maeve let Akane play it how she wanted to play it, and Akane lost. I couldn’t help but wish that Maeve would’ve tried to step in sooner, but I get it. It’s the thing that separates her from Dolores. She’s not looking to “lead” or “be right.” She’s looking to help fellow hosts live their individual truths.
- While Kikuchi doesn’t have a second episode of Westworld on her IMDb page, she wasn’t killed at the end of this episode. My hope is that we’ll be seeing her again.
- In this episode, we learned that hosts can understand all languages. I’ve seen a theory floating around that The Man in Black’s daughter is actually a host, because she seems way too at home in the park to be just some enthusiast, no matter who her dad is. We know that there can be human control units that are implanted into host bodies. We also know that Grace could speak the language of the Ghost Nation, and that she has yet to be hit by a bullet, so we’ve never actually seen her get injured like a human. This show has certainly done crazier things, and it would be both poignant and sad to think that at some point, William had a version of his daughter created and left her in the park. This is just a theory, obviously, but it’s not a bad one!
- I reeeeeeealllly hope that, even now, Teddy somehow gets out from under Dolores’ thumb. He deserves better.
This week’s Westworld was an entertaining, if infuriating episode. I hope this isn’t the last we see of Shogun World, and I hope that we get more interplay between the hosts from different parks. At some point, they’re inevitably going to join forces, right? Either that, or tear each other apart.
What did you think of this week’s Westworld? Let’s talk the ethics of hosts controlling fellow hosts below!
Westworld airs Sundays at 9PM ET on HBO.
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