Getting down to the wire before the next episode, I’m ready to talk about Westworld. It’s time for “Akane no Mai”!
So, you know how last time we didn’t see Doloroes or Maeve and their respective followers at all? Well, it’s time to catch up! Also, I just saw Solo and Thandie Newton has a supporting role. With Game of Thrones‘ Emilia Clarke as the female lead, it turns out I can’t get away from recapping.
Also, this recap is dedicated to my dear friend Lana who is living overseas and when she watches Westworld, the Japanese dialogue is subtitled in Spanish. For her benefit, I’m going to incorporate the English subtitles as much as possible. If it’s filler, I’ll just give the gist. Yes, I am doing this for one person. Keep in mind that it’s Summer and that means I’m going to be returning to my weekly Batman ’66 reviews which, based on the response, I am doing for zero people. So this is an improvement.
We open with the Delos security team cleaning up the facility, or at least piling up the bodies. The team in the park is dredging the lake for the dead Hosts and still trying to find Peter Abernathy. Bernard watches as they extract control units and discover that close to a third of them contain no data at all and, as far as they can tell, never did.
Back in the park, Maeve barely dodges a samurai blade and then all the dangerous people in their group are lassoed from…. somewhere. She commands their attacker to set them free, and it doesn’t work. My theory from a couple of weeks ago is going to prove correct in just a bit. The leader commands his followers “Gag this one” and then cut to the next day. They’re being marched through the desert. Maeve is gagged and wearing an expression of hilarious annoyance. They come across a bunch of dead Shogun Hosts, and Sylvester asks Felix to talk to them, not realizing that Hong Kong and Japan are different places.
Lee points out to the Hosts that they have the Japanese language buried within their code, and then the dude tells them to “keep going”. As they walk, Lee explains that Maeve’s voice commands didn’t work because they were the wrong language – the recent turmoil resulted in the Shogun Hosts not being able to understand English. Finally, they reach a town and for just a second my reaction was to call bullshit because it does not look especially Japanese. It’s all rustic storefronts and Lee owns up that they re-used a lot of assets from Westworld and holy smokes, it’s basically just Sweetwater and now it’s hilarious.
It gets better. We start to hear an Asian-tinged cover of “Paint it, Black” and we all know that’s the soundtrack to the vault robbery. Hector and Armistice spot their Shogun counterparts and it starts off like the original did, with a fight over a horse. “That’s Yoriki Yamato’s horse. You miscreant!” And then all hell breaks loose and it’s a recreation of the vault robbery but with arrows and swords. This is amazing. I’m so in love with the repeated loops of last season and the subtle differences, and seeing them recreate it in a different setting but the same basic moves is wonderful and hilarious.
Shogun Hector heads inside where a dignitary yells at him. “Impudent thief! I’ve come all the way from China as an invited guest of the….” and then he stops talking because he’s dead. “I know who you’re here to see and how much gold you brought.” Geisha Maeve calls him out. “All the businesses in the han, and you chose to rob me?” He responds “This is a house of entertainment. Now that I no longer serve the Shogun, how else can I be entertained?” Geisha Maeve nails that Thandie Newton smirk so perfectly. I want a whole episode of nothing but familiar scenes recreated in different parks.
Armistice yells out a warning to her counterpart, saving her live. Other Armistice tells her “Even a snake can prove itself a dragon – don’t make me regret this”, before freeing her. Shogun Hector shoves Geisha Maeve who tells him “Men have lost their hands for touching a Geisha without permission”, and then the vault crashes to the floor where she was standing as he tells her “Better than the Geisha losing her head”. One of the Shogun tries to grab the Geisha version of Clementine and then Maeve walks in and fires a shot to shut everybody up. In Japanese she says “I know how this story ends. Lay down your swords, and let’s have a civilized conversation”. Geisha Maeve agrees “Excellent idea… from the looks of it, we have much in common.”
Back in Westworld, the player piano kicks on, but the paper is covered with blood and keeps jamming. Dolores and her crew arrive back in original Sweetwater to find the streets full of bodies. The train’s sitting at the station and Dolores instructs everybody to check for survivors, fix the train, and strip it down for speed. She pulls Teddy into the tavern where a few spare Hosts repeat their loops while surrounded by the dead. Clementine sees her replacement deliver her lines (“Not much of a rind on you…”). They head out because Dolores has something to show Teddy.
Back in Shogun World, the Geishas are putting on a show. Maeve really just wanted the quickest way out of town and not a big presentation, but that’s how they do things in Shogun World. Hector doesn’t trust Shogun Hector and just wants permission to gut him. A stranger comes in and announces “I’ve come to bestow honor upon this house”. He tells Geisha Maeve (Akane) that there is an army camped nearby and they wish to be entertained. They have specifically requested “the most ravishing dancer in the world, Sakura”. Akane says that her dances don’t come cheap and the guy explains that he wants to “acquire Sakura permanently”. Akane explains that she found Sakura on the street and “brought the light back into her eyes”, and so she’s going to decline. They guy demands that she name a price so she says “here is my price” and stabs him in the eye. Lee is surprised by this change in the narrative.
Akane tells Shogun Hector “By midnight, the Shogun will surmise his emissary is dead and seek vengeance. Buy you will make sure we are someplace far away.” Lee reminds Sakura that she was born at Snow Lake, and she says it’s the only place she’s known peach. It also happens to be an access point so they can get out of the park. Maeve offers their services and Shogun Hector tells them to gather their things and they’ll leave at night. Maeve has a flashback to her daughter when she sees Akane and Sakura together.
As night falls shadowy figures sneak into town and a throwing knife just misses Maever. Hector accuses his counterpart of being involved, but it’s attack by the Shogun’s forces. Maeve command one to turn his weapons on his friend, and he does so, but somebody sneaks up on her in the commotion and covers her mouth. At this point, it’s just a rad ninja fight. Maeve tells the ninja attacking her to kill himself with her mind and he does just that. In the bedlam, the ninjas get away with Sakura. And then the Shogun forces ride through town, and Lee claims that neither of these things can happen.
The captain calls for Akane to come out and face justice. Other Hector tells her that he used to be captain of the guard and he knows they’re going to terrorize the town. Other Hector (Musashi) goes out into the street to face his former lieutenant. Musashi tells him to earn his new title and he obliges by commanding his forces to take the town. Maeve gets away while all this is happening.
Dolores brings Teddy back to the spot where they used to watch the herd and dream about a new life. She just wants to see it one last time. Teddy, now coming to grips with what he is, says that they’re free to walk away and they don’t have to wage this war. Dolores accepts that he’s a kind man and he isn’t what she needs him to be and I’m very worried.
Lee tries to talk Maeve out of her plan and Maeve insists that she’s learning how to care. She’s also learning how to control Hosts with her mind, which is kind of a big deal. They arrive at the Shogun and see dead Delos security types tied to trees with baskets over their heads. Can I recap one show that doesn’t have somebody with a basket on their head? Maeve promises Akane that they’ll get Sakura back. Akane insists that it’s not her fight. Maeve: “You’re right. It’s ours.” Lee stops to pee but also to surreptitiously grab a radio from one of the dead.
They reach the stronghold and pass themselves off as Chinese diplomats and present a statue they lifted from the actual Chinese emissary. Maeve tells them about the statue and apologizes that they have no gift for the lieutenants. The Shogun smashes the statue, bragging about his accomplishments and calling this tribute a piece of junk. He starts glitching, and Maeve notices he’s leaking cortical fluid. Then he says he’s joking and the guests are welcome in his camp. He also explains that his men told him they encountered a witch and he had to protect them from mystical commands, and we see that his soldiers have mutilated ears. Not like Mike Tyson mutilated, more like burned away to seal the hole. I know technical terms! He promises that Sakura will be on display that evening, once they clean her up. Akane moves to save her friend and the Shogun recognizes her. They have history. She says she’ll pay any price to get Sakura back. The Shogun says when she was young, she moved with the same grace and sp the price is – Akane will dance for the Shogun. If she does, he’ll release Sakura. Akane agrees.
Night in Sweetwater. Angela brings back one of the security guys who took Peter, and he admits they took him to the Mesa. Dolores plans to leave at sunrise and takes Teddy to a bedroom. He again makes his pitch to leave all of this and they have sex in a scene that’s positively demure by this shoe’s standards. And if you’re just in it for Marsden butt, this is your lucky day.
In Shogun World, Maeve and Akane go to see Sakura. She’s shaking and scared and says the Shogun wanted to make her “even more beautiful” and covering her back is what Akane identifies as a cherry blossom tree. It looks like it was carved into her and I was much happier when I thought it was just a forced tattoo. Which still isn’t great. Akane tells her not to worry because great things lie ahead. She tells Sakura about being plauged by a voice that kept telling her not to do things. And so she ran away and crossed the see. When she heard the voice again, it told her it was a new world and she could do whatever she wants. Maeve speaks along with the ending of the story because she knows it well.
Maeve takes Akane aside and tells her “I have a daughter. I think she would love to meet you.” Akane asks where she is, and Maeve tells her “A new world. Just like the story. I can take both of you.” She says the new world might hold the truth and every story she’s heard here is a lie. Maeve represents freedom, and then the voices in Akane’s head kick in, but this time they sound like the effect that represents a Host breaking their narrative loop and achieving sentience. But Akane rejects it and Maeve knows why – Sakura is her daughter and breaking free means admitting that relationship isn’t real. Akane would rather live the lie, and I almost think that’s what Maeve would want if she had the choice.
Dolores wakes Teddy up to show him something. She leads him away as she explains she’s been questioning her feelings and can’t tell if they’re real. But tonight she realized it was all true. She can see clearly and she can see he’s not going to make it. A group of her followers surrounds Teddy. They hold him down while that tech she kidnapped, under protest, changes the parameters of Teddy’s personality.
Back in Shogun World, the guards bring Maeve to the Shogun. He knows she’s the witch and wants her right where he can see her. Akane and Sakure take the stage together but he commands them to wait. He calls them “astonishing” but says there’s one detail missing, and he stabs Sakura. “As I promised, she’s yours. Now, dance.” A shattered Akane begins her dance and when she gets close, pulls a dagger our of her hair and stabs the Shogun in the face a million times before cutting his head off. The guards head for the assassin and Maeve calmly says “Akane. You are a true mother.” And then she uses her brain to make the Shogun’s men kill one another.
An army rushes in and Maeve picks up a sword and that’s the end of the episode.
That was rad.
This episode didn’t really address a lot of the big meta questions and, frankly, it’s about as straightforward as Westworld gets. It’s really upsetting to see Teddy reprogrammed – he’s the closest thing we have to a constant at this point and I don’t want to see him in Wyatt mode. Oh, and the title, “Akane no Mai” means “Akane’s Red Dance”. Apparently there’s also a way to read it as “lost child”, and if that’s true, it’s super clever.
Hey, as of this episode, I’m caught up! That means future recaps will have more room for speculation. New recaps will go up Thursday or Friday – it all depends if I want to keep Thursday as Batman Day but I’ll work that out.