Saddle up! But beware potential spoilers in this review, which will discuss elements of the episode.
If you were hoping that we’d spend the entirety of Akane No Mai in Shogun World, you might be disappointed by the trips back into regular brand Westworld. But there are some vital plot points doled out this week, so it’s a worthwhile check-in with Dolores and co. We do, however, start with the Delos QA team clearing up the flooded valley and its dead hosts. They discover that someone – you can guess who – has wiped many of the hosts’ brains. The humans are trying to figure out how the story turns from here, and the camera tellingly zooms in on Bernard, who happens to be staring at the body of Teddy. Hhhm… It’s not exactly the biggest push for the story, but it is at least a nudge.
Talking of moving the story along, there was a fear that Maeve arriving in Shogun World would be a side trip that did little to help on that front. Fortunately, there is indeed some movement and plenty of compensation elsewhere too. Turns out that Shogun World is essentially a Japanese take on Westworld, albeit, as Lee (serving as the show’s Basil Exposition right now) explains, one suited for people who find Westworld’s level of gore and violence “too tame”. And boy, is he proved right later.
The mirroring of narratives (even down to a version of Paint It Black on the soundtrack) is fun one to explore, with Maeve finding a literal soul sister in Akane (Rinko Kikuchi, usually found cancelling the apocalypse in the Pacific Rim movies). A similarly spirited character, if not as free as our badass former madam, she quickly shows off a spine of steel when she dispatches a Shogun’s emissary in brutal fashion. Kikuchi does great work here, showing Akane’s vulnerability along with her ability to make the tough choices. Shogun World is a beautifully realised place, with as much attention to detail as Westworld itself.
It’s also a place where Maeve discovered a new power, with her “psychic” ability to control other hosts. So she can now tap into the communications and data mesh network that all hosts share. It’s a healthy leap for her, and also made for some impressively violent action towards the end as she ordered the Shogun’s troops to slaughter each other. And from the looks of it, Maeve will still be journeying through Shogun World next week, so we can look forward to more.
We also visited with Dolores, Teddy and the rest through the episode, who had made it back to Sweetwater. Poor Teddy had both the best and worst day of his life as he and Dolores sleep together and then she has his noggin forcibly reprogrammed. Her big metaphor about the cow infection wasn’t exactly the subtlest line the show has used, but it was effective. And did you catch Dolores picking up her own can from the street? Nice callback to her old narrative, there. Evan Rachel Wood is having fun playing the vengeful Terminator Dolores, though she needs a few more shades.
Akane No Mai was a fun diversion and offered some visual and character interest, and while it didn’t quick match up to last week’s grandstanding, it’s good to see the team expanding the world even further. The clever (well, lazy on Lee’s front) mirroring of the parks worked on different levels and Shogun World is a place we’re happy to explore further.
1. Should ninjas be around in that time period? Unlikely, but it’s a theme park, people. They just want people to see cool things.
2. What might Lee do with that walkie talkie he snagged from the dead QA trooper? We’re sure he wants to use it to call for help, but woe betide him if Maeve senses it.
3. What is Dolores doing to Teddy’s brain? The tech’s tablet readout suggested she was wiping out his compassion and empathy. So expect a much different Teddy next week.
4. Why did Dolores wipe the hosts brains? We’re still waiting for that detail to arrive, though it could be so they can’t squeal on her through downloads.
5. If Dolores and co. are taking the train to the Mesa, what’s to stop Delos’ team from meeting it with a hail of bullets? Surely they’re going to realise that it’s been taken over by unauthorised people? Perhaps Dolores and co. can fool the system?
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Westworld airs on HBO in the US on Sunday nights and Mondays on Sky Atlantic in the UK