This is the wrong world.
After the explosive events of episode 7, “Kiksuya” is a more measured hour – one that surprisingly allows us to see the park from the perspective of Ghost Nation leader Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon). The episode title translates to “remember” in the Siouan language of Lakota, which is fitting, since the episode offers us a useful reminder of how deceptive our memories can be.
While episode 7 dealt with Bernard’s unreliable recollections, episode 8 challenges us – as so many of the best Westworld episodes do – to reexamine our own perceptions, just as Maeve is forced to do when it becomes clear that the Ghost Nation tribe is trying to protect her daughter, not harm her – and has apparently been attempting to do so for years.
While Maeve has only recently gained sentience, we discover that Akecheta broke out of his loop way back when Dolores killed Arnold, after seeing Arnold’s maze amid the carnage. His suspicions were confirmed when he came across a gibbering Logan Delos stranded in the desert, who warned him that “this is the wrong world.” Ake even stumbled across the mythical “valley beyond” while it was under construction, just like Dolores, and realized that there was a door that could lead out into a better world – one in which he believed his memories would be safe.
And, much like Maeve, Ake’s journey has been driven by love – after waking up his wife and planning to escape the park with her, she was taken from him and decommissioned, driving him towards a new purpose: to wake up the other hosts, drawing the symbol of the maze throughout the park – something that inadvertently drew the attention of the Man in Black, who didn’t realize that the maze wasn’t meant for him, and spent far too much time cutting a bloody swath through the Ghost Nation hosts as a result. “In this world, it’s easy to misunderstand intentions,” after all.
We also discover that Ake encountered Robert Ford before he died, hinting that Ford had been planning his Dolores-assisted suicide for some time. “When the Deathbringer returns for me, you will know to gather your people and lead them into a new world,” he assured Ake, which implies that the Ghost Nation leader probably won’t be thrilled that Dolores took it upon herself to kill his men, as we saw in the season premiere when Strand and Costa cracked open a Ghost Nation host and checked out who killed him.
Where does this all leave us? Not far from where we started, which is an issue that’s plagued most of Westworld Season 2. Two of the three timelines came together last week, which thankfully provided us with some answers, but with Ford basically possessing Bernard, and Dolores now in possession of “the key” that will no doubt unlock “the door” and allow her to access all the humans that Delos has been copying, it’s debatable that we needed a whole episode devoted to proving that the Ghost Nation tribe are actually the good guys, when that probably could’ve been explained in a couple of scenes (less artfully, sure, but still). This episode also reassures us that Lee Sizemore has a heart of gold under all that bluster, and that Maeve is now able to communicate with and reprogram hosts via the mesh network, but it still all feels vaguely like filler, even if it’s filler that’s beautifully acted and packs an emotional punch.
“Kiksuya” is undoubtedly refreshing for giving us an episode where almost the entirety of the dialogue is spoken in Lakota – something that’s almost unheard of in a mainstream series. And while the show never overtly tackles the parallels between the Ghost Nation and the indigenous peoples who’ve been oppressed by western colonialism for centuries (although writers Carly Wray & Dan Dietz do gesture towards it when the techs reprogram Akecheta to be more “brutal” and “dehumanized” so he’s “easier” for the guests to kill), it is indicative of Delos’ hubris that the Ghost Nation hosts are clearly an afterthought, since Ake managed to go unnoticed in the park for almost a decade after breaking from his loop. Here’s hoping we get to see even more of Ake in the final two episodes, since McClarnon’s nuanced performance is a standout of the season here, even if it would’ve been nice if we’d gotten his backstory a little earlier.