After a couple of fairly lacklustre episodes, Westworld season 2 returns to first season form with a beautifully-told story about a character - and a people - which have been woefully underused so far. Kiksuya mostly ignores the central cast and the main storyline to focus on the Native American Hosts who have appeared throughout both seasons, but have never been the focus of the show. Episode 8 tells the painful tale of Akecheta and his people, from their birth during the park’s beta testing right up until Dolores’s rebellion, and it’s a captivating and emotional ride which will remind you of the dizzying highs of Westworld season 1. Superbly written and incredibly well-acted, Kiksuya proves once again that season 2 is at its best when it ignores Dolores in favour of new characters and worlds we’ve yet to explore.
Note: From here on out there are specific plot spoilers for Westworld season 2, episode 8 - Kiksuya.
Given the shocking lack of development of Westworld’s Native American characters up until this point, it’s surprising that the show hasn’t come under fire for its lack of representation. Although the Native American Hosts have been a part of the world since the beginning of season 1, they have remained nameless victims or villains in the park’s twisted game of cowboys and indians. Until now, that is. Kiksuya goes some way to redressing the series’ imbalance by retconning the Native Americans’ involvement in the early days of the park, the beginning of season 1, and season 2’s current storyline, and whatever the reason for the showrunners waiting until season 2, episode 8 to focus in on these characters, it still makes for one hell of an episode. Akecheta recounts his sorrowful tale as he achieves consciousness after Arnold’s death, repeatedly finds and losses the love of his life, and even discovers the back rooms of Westworld where he learns the truth about the park. He then spreads this knowledge throughout his community making the Native Americans perhaps the most independent and well-equipped Hosts in the park. In fact, Akecheta’s story will make you wonder what the hell Dolores has been up to all these years?!
It does raise some questions about how he was able to manage all this undetected, which is explained away by the simply fact that Akecheta and his people were treated as unimportant and often overlooked - perhaps an all-true comment on the role of Native American communities in our society today? Putting aside this minor plot hole though, the episode is so rich in compelling, personal storytelling that you’ll wonder why this is the first time we’re seeing it. Especially, when there’s little-to-no time left in the season to include more. And trust me, you’ll want more. Whether you’re watching Akecheta saying a sorrowful farewell to his love to take up a more important mission, or breaking the terrible truth to his tribe knowing that he can’t bring their people back, Kiksuya is an hour of beautiful, painful storytelling that you’ll never want to end. This is where Westworld shines; when it focuses on individual stories rather than the mishmash of conflicting characters we’ve come to expect from season 2.
The other, fairly minor story thread of episode 8 deals with Maeve who has been brought to headquarters by Sizemore who demands that she’s saved because of her unique code. Or, more accurately, that’s the reason he gives the techs. You can tell that he almost instantly regrets his decision to ‘call for backup’ as he watches Maeve blood-splattered and lying helpless on a gurney as a tech cuts and stitches a way to keep her breathing with no regard for her discomfort. There’s something about seeing such a strong character like Maeve in this vulnerable situation that’s incredibly powerful, and it’s the trigger Sizemore needs to see her (and the other Hosts) as people. By the end of the episode, he’s sobbing over her telling her she deserves to mother the daughter they programmed her to love and it’s a welcome step in the character’s narrative arc which shows just how far he’s come. For Thandie Newton’s part… well, there are few actors who can do what she manages in this episode. Lying almost motionless with little-to-no dialogue and still acting her ass off, every emotion she goes through is written in her eyes proving why she’s one of the best things about this show.
"Wish you wrote an entire season for Akecheta" - Fans react to Westworld season 2, episode 8
Kiksuya is definitely one of the highlights of Westworld season 2 and much like episode 5, Akane no Mai, it works because it focus on new characters and their own heartbreaking journeys of self-discovery. For better or worse, season 2 is at its best when it replicates the emotional stories of its first season and I’ve started to wonder if there’s really anywhere for this show to go once its original secretive premise has been demystified. With just a couple of episodes left before the season finale, episode 8 is a much-needed reminder why we root for the robots in the first place and it’s a shame it’s (probably) come too late to be weaved into the ending. Sadly, it’s looking like we’ll be left with a Dolores-centric and ultimately unsatisfying conclusion come episode 10, but for now, Kiksuya is TV at its best.