REVIEW: Westworld – “Akane no Mai”

westworld-review

The following is a spoiler-filled review of the fifth episode of Westworld: Season Two – Developed by Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy

In the fifth episode of the second season of Westworld (“Akane no Mai”), Maeve (played by Thandie Newton) and the rest of her group meet the hosts of Shogun World and participate in a not entirely unique storyline. Dolores (played by Evan Rachel Wood) and Teddy (played by James Marsden) discuss their relationship. And two weeks later, Strand (played by Gustaf Skarsgård) gets new information about what has happened to the hosts found in the flooded valley.

Although this episode opens with the ‘two weeks later-timeline,’ wherein Karl Strand is told that the hosts found in the valley have been, essentially, wiped, cleaned — what have you — this episode is mostly interested in following Dolores and Maeve. But before I get to those characters, let’s talk briefly about the importance of the Strand scene.

That the found hosts’ cores are clean and without any trace of their original identities means that Delos IP is lost (especially because, I believe, they also mentioned that the backups have been destroyed). I have previously discussed how I think there is a chance that Bernard-two-weeks-later isn’t actually our Bernard, but actually some other host whose core identity has been placed in him to get out of the park. That may be Dolores, Maeve, or someone else. I definitely think this opening scene suggests that host cores have been switched out and, perhaps, but in other bodies. We will have to see if there is any truth to this. Now, let’s talk about Dolores.

This is the episode that finally explores Dolores’ feelings about having seen Teddy opt not to follow her orders. She simply cannot trust him. Nevertheless, she looks for some counterargument, which, I think, is why she has that conversation with him about the infected cows. She thinks the only option is to remove and destroy the ‘cattle’ that are ‘sick,’ whereas Teddy believes that one should do all things possible to help those that are weak. Teddy doesn’t really ever realize that their discussion is about him, which is why he is completely blindsided by Dolores’ decision later in the episode.

His identity is eventually overwritten, which is really an almost kind punishment considering the fact that Dolores would usually just mow you down, shoot you, and deem you unworthy. She and Teddy do have one last night together, but her convictions are clearly defined and that, unfortunately, means there is no room for Teddy. This was a major step for the show — and for Dolores — but we all know that it is the secondary storyline in this episode.

“This is insane. Ninja’s never show up in this story.”

We finally got to see Shogun World. This is something we have all been wanting to see for the longest time. A couple of weeks ago, we saw how a samurai was attacking Maeve and her group, and now we got to see exactly what happened. There are so many incredible things about this episode, and one of them is that Westworld hired genuine Asian movie stars for this episode.

Hiroyuki Sanada is such a believable and convincing samurai that whenever he was on-screen I would rather want to follow him than any other character in the series. Another genuine movie star is Rinko Kikuchi — playing the title character of this episode, Akana — and it was great to see her too. She got to play a geisha who killed a shogun, which is an excellent role for her to play.

A lot of care went into designing this episode and Shogun World as a whole. The production design is impressive, the costume design is stunning and it feels true to the Edo era that they are apparently trying to replicate in Shogun World, even though I cannot say that I am an expert on feudal Japan. And do not be fooled by the fact that Sizemore just lazily inserted identical storylines in Westworld and Shogun World — it is a direct reference to the way that the team behind The Magnificent Seven transferred Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai and remade it for American audiences.

The attention to detail in Shogun World was so nice to see, and, a part of me, wishes we could just see an entire season in that park from the perspective of guests. Speaking of which, although we do see Delos soldiers dead, I don’t think we actually got to see guests in Shogun World, which I thought was strange.

To be perfectly honest with you, I think that “Akane no Mai” may be my favorite episode in the series thus far. I am certainly someone more interested in the immersive parks than the revenge-plot that Dolores is at the center of, which is why I was just smiling whenever we got to see Shogun World. I really hope we get to stay in Shogun World for a little while, or that Maeve gets to add Kikuchi and Sanada’s characters to her team.

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For my reviews of the previous episodes in the series, click here.

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen

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