WESTWORLD Review: “Akane No Mai” Finally Takes Us Inside Shogun World

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“Akane No Mai” is the episode a lot of Westworld fans have been waiting for since the end of the season one: the oft-teased, highly anticipated trip to Shogun World.  Full of beautifully shot action, drama, and a genre-bent Wu Tang Clan track, “Akane No Mai” delivers on the hype.  If you need to catch up on last week’s episode, you can do so here.  Then continue on, but be warned that SPOILERS follow.

“Welcome to Shogun World”

Maeve and her gang are captured by the ronin Musashi (Hiroyuki Sanada – The Wolverine, Lost) and brought to a town that, as Armistice puts it, seems familiar.  The reason it seems so familiar?  Writing stories is hard, so Head of Narrative Lee has “recycled” some plots.  As a result we’re treated to a samurai-shifted replay of Hector’s season one robbery at the Mariposa, with Musashi in Hector’s role, madame Akane (Rinko Kikuchi) standing in for Maeve, and a dragon-tattooed Hanaryo (Tao Okamoto) doubling for the snake-tattooed Armistice.  While this deja vu is beautiful for us as the audience, being in the presence of their doppelgangers has some side effects for the hosts: even after the two sides join forces, Hector is so riled by Musashi he offers to skin him, and Armistice and Hanaryo get lost in the reflection of each other’s faces.  (When Dolores and crew return to the Mariposa, Clementine is likewise disturbed by seeing her replacement speak the lines she has said so many times before).

Armistice and Hanaryo Westworld

“I think I’m finding a new voice.”

When Akane spurns an offer to sell Sakura (whom she rescued as a child and raised as her daughter), she earns the wrath of the Shogun, but also the admiration of Maeve, who sees for the first time the kinship in her mirror image.  The Shogun sends ninjas to attack and Maeve is able to command a few of them to turn on each other before she is choked, cutting off her powers over the awakened hosts.  During the struggle, she finds a deeper power within herself to override her attacker’s mind without speaking.  Mentally commanding him to impale himself, she manages to free herself and stop the attack, but finds out that Sakura was abducted during the scuffle.  Instead of following her programming (to care only about herself), Maeve decides she must help Akane rescue her adoptive daughter, no matter the risk.

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Akane and Sakura prepare to dance for the Shogun, with his word that he will give Sakura back to Akane in exchange.  However, he does not honor the agreement and he kills Sakura.  Akane channels her grief into a graceful dance (set to an Edo-period version of Wu Tang Clan’s “C.R.E.A.M.”), before sawing the Shogun’s head off with a hidden blade.  In the chaos that ensues, Maeve is able to control some of the nearby hosts, but one is able to signal for the rest of the Shogun’s army to attack.  The episode closes on Maeve, armed with a samurai sword and her new voice, ready to take them on.

Thandie Newton as Maeve with sword in Westworld

“The weak and the infected”

Teddy asks Dolores to forget her quest to escape Westworld and to settle down with him somewhere in the park.  The pity on her face as Dolores realizes finally that Teddy is too too soft to survive her crusade is palpable.  In regards to his proposal, she asks him if he would want her to say ‘yes’, even if it was a lie.  He responds that he’s not some guest looking for a lie, he goes with her with his eyes open.  They make love and the scene is shot so tenderly it stands in stark contrast to the series’s many previous sex scenes, which are usually little more than business transactions between guests and hosts.  That tenderness is short-lived, though, and a determined Dolores has Phil manually change Teddy’s characteristics, despite his warnings that such extreme changes without a full reset could be hazardous.