This week on Westworld, “Kiksuya” takes us on an emotional journey with the Lakota-speaking Ghost Nation. It begins in the current timeline, and then we get the backstory told through their leader Akecheta (known as Ake, played by Zahn McClarnon). Going into this episode, I was eager to learn about Ghost Nation but I have to admit I didn’t think it would necessarily be as exciting as getting an episode revolving around all of the current plots/characters. I could not have been more wrong as this was arguably my favorite episode of the entire series up to this point.
It begins with The Man in Black crawling to a stream with his gunshot wounds, telling himself he’s not going to die here. He isn’t able to go any further, but before dying he is found by Ake. He brings him back to their camp and tells him he remembers him and that he does not deserve to leave this cruel world behind. Ake then goes over to Maeve’s daughter, who he has at their camp, and he tells her his entire backstory.
It all started with Ake and his partner, Kohana, living happily amongst a peaceful tribe. They had a good life. One day Ake discovers Arnold shot dead in town and the scene of Dolores’s massacre of the hosts, and he sees the maze while he’s there. He becomes obsessed with it to the point where it seems to be all he thinks about. He’s then taken by park maintenance and given a new story. He’s now the leader of the Ghost Nation tribe, who are violent outsiders.
When he returns to his tribe, he comes across Logan! He’s delirious in the desert. This is after William sent him off on a horse tied up, a scene we saw in season one. “Where is the door? This is the wrong world,” he says to Ake. This triggers something in Ake which causes him to remember his past narrative.
He eventually ends up journeying to a far end of the park, where the Westworld employees are building something. He thinks he’s found the door and he goes back to get Kohana. She eventually remembers him, but he cannot find the “door” anymore where he once saw it. Park maintenance ends up picking Kohana up and taking her away, and she does not get sent back into the park.
After ten years of searching for Kohana, Ake says, “I had searched everywhere for love except on the other side of death.” He then allows himself to be killed and is taken to the labs, where the team is alarmed to learn that he hasn’t been killed in a decade. We hear the epic piano version of Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” throughout some of this scene. The lab workers attempt to update him, but when they leave his body there he wakes up and searches the building for Kohana. He finds her in the room with all of the decommissioned hosts. It is a sad, tender moment, one in which he realizes the truth of the hosts’ existence. He returns to where he was being “updated” and he’s returned to Westworld.
Ake also runs into Ford at a point along his journey. They have a conversation in which Ake explains how he believes there is a new world out there, and Ford explains that his purpose for building Ake was to have him be curious and look for meaning in this place. He offers him a hint, and says that when he dies, Ake will know to gather his people and lead them to a new world.
Ake then comes across a massacre, yet again, this one where Dolores killed Ford and the hosts start to take over. The purpose behind Ghost Nation is realized here: they wake up hosts and help them find their reality. Ake has been protecting Maeve’s daughter this whole time, or trying to, because he knows she has some form of awareness.
Back in the current timeline, Man in Black/William’s daughter shows up to the Ghost Nation camp and says she wants to take William. Ake tells her he wants him to suffer for what he has done, to which she replies, “We want the same thing but my way will be much worse.” He allows her to take William.
In the labs, Lee sits with Maeve, tears in his eyes, and tells her she doesn’t deserve this as she may die. She deserves to be with her daughter. He sincerely apologizes for everything. We find out that even while lying there, she’s been hacking into other hosts and rewriting their programming. At the end of the episode, she’s communicating with Ake, who promises to protect her daughter no matter what.
This episode is absolutely superb. It’s deeply emotional, and it has the heart that I believe Westworld has been missing. The mystery has been fun, but I haven’t truly cared about many of the characters. “Kiksuya” changed that and Ake may all of a sudden be my favorite character. The writing and execution of this episode was flawless. Loose ends were tied up, season two plotlines continued slightly with William and Maeve storylines, and we learned the backstory of Ghost Nation. Zahn McClarnon’s acting as Ake was top notch. This is my favorite episode of the series up to this point. Here’s to hoping the future episodes mix the mystery and heart as well as this one did.