Westworld Episode 8 Kiksuya Recap

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Westworld Episode 8 Kiksuya Recap

About 20,000 years ago, ancient people crossed the Bering Land Bridge into the Americas. This was tens of thousands of years before people elsewhere in the world were establishing religions that attempted to explain humanity’s purpose on this planet. These native people spent thousands of years establishing their own place in the universe, some of which eventually became the Lakota speaking cultures of South Dakota, whose history dates back to 900 CE. In some of the ancient Lakota myths, there is an afterlife called the happy hunting ground where animals are plentiful and the weather is beautiful.

Westworld’s eighth episode, “Kiksuya,” explores the history of the park’s Ghost Nation, telling the story of the Lakota-speaking Akecheta, whose existential awakening came 30 years ago (in the show’s timeline) in search of a lost love.

It’s a story that puts the search for meaning in a different perspective. Akecheta’s search is framed like a spiritual quest, where a lonely warrior wanders the plains searching for the truth. As the park was first built, Akecheta (played by a romantic and powerful Zahn McClarnon) was part of a peaceful tribe. He had a partner named Kohana (Julia Jones) and happiness, until he came across Dolores’s massacre of the hosts. There, he saw the maze. It’s an image that, like some sort of QR code, re-programmed his brain. He became obsessed with it, so he was taken by park maintenance and given a new story: as the leader of the outsider tribe Ghost Nation.

Except when Akecheta returned—as the painted, ass-kicking man we’ve seen so far in this series—he came across a man in the desert. This man was Logan, whom we saw William abandon near the end of Season One. “Where is the door? This is the wrong world,” Logan said to Akecheta. The words triggered something inside Akecheta. Suddenly he knew everything was wrong, and he remembered his past narrative, including Kohana. “I heard a new voice inside my head,” Akecheta narrates.

Having woken up, the man journeyed to the end of the park, where he saw the Westworld employees terraforming the land. Thinking he’d found the door, he went back to Kohana and took her away from the tribe. She, too, eventually remembered him, and together they went back to the “door,” but it wasn’t there. Noticing something was wrong, the Westworld staff drove out and picked up Kohana and took her away. But not back to the tribe.

Akecheta spent a decade searching for Kohana. But, he says, “I had searched everywhere for love except on the other side of death.” So he allows himself to be killed. He’s taken to the Westworld labs (cue the somber piano cover of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box”), where the crew realizes that he hasn’t been killed in a decade. There, they try to update his system, but he wakes up and searches for Kohana. Miraculously, he finds her—only to realize she’s been decommissioned, and to see the truth of their existence.

HBO

It’s an isolated story that in itself would have made an incredible short film. Taken on its own, Akecheta’s tragic life plays out like a sci-fi novella mixed with native mysticism. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking, especially McClarnon’s performance when seeing the decommissioned Kohana.

Having realized what happened to his love, he spent the next 20 years waking up other hosts and bringing them into Ghost Nation. During that time, he also kept an eye on Maeve’s daughter, who he knew had also achieved a sort of sentience. That’s why he was coming for her in Maeve’s nightmare.

Akecheta’s spiritual journey also takes him face to face with his creator, Dr. Robert Ford. He’s been watching Akecheta and tells him of the maze, “This was a misbegotten symbol an idea that was supposed to die, but you found it.” He then explains to him, that he built him to be curious and look for meaning in the world and that, “When the deathbringer returns to me, you’ll know to gather your people and lead them to a new world.”

HBO

So, again, Akecheta came across a massacre, and again it was Dolores holding the gun. But this time, Ford was dead. And it became time for Akecheta to lead his people to a new world. This, we learn, is the purpose of Ghost Nation: to wake up hosts and help them find their reality. Akecheta tells this story to Maeve’s daughter just after finding a near-death William where we left him last episode. He wants revenge just as much as Maeve, her daughter, Dolores, and every other host in this park. But, before he can watch him suffer, William’s daughter shows up on horseback, explaining that her father is her burden. When Akecheta tell her he wants William to suffer, she explains, “We want the same thing but my way will be much worse.”

It’s not a total bottle episode, as a little bit of Maeve’s story is interspersed with Akecheta’s. She’s been taken by Lee Sizemore to be fixed up. A science guy opens her body and runs an analysis. But when he calls in Charlotte Hale, they learn that she’s been wirelessly hacking into other hosts and rewriting their programming. In fact, she’s still doing it—and she’s currently communicating with Akecheta, who vows to protect her daughter.

It’s unclear if Maeve will survive by the the end of this episode. But “Kiksuya” does manage to give a voice to a culture that hasn’t yet earned the chance to speak on this show. Throughout two seasons, the Ghost Nation tribe has functioned as a mostly silent, somewhat problematic native menace. And it’s a depiction of native culture that unfortunately has been common in Hollywood. But this season of Westworld, as actor Hiroyuki Sanda explained to me, is working to show those underrepresented cultures.

Finally, Ghost Nation, and the Lakota-speaking tribes they represent, has a voice in this show—and it’s one that’s romantic, beautiful, and necessary.

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