Ghost Nation is Awakened in This Week’s Westworld
This week’s episode of Westworld, Kiksuya, might at first look like a brief standalone respite from the season’s weightier entries, but it actually dishes out quite a bit of answers to pressing questions.
Westworld has always managed to make its robotic hosts feel more human than the actual living guests, and “Kiksuya” (the episode’s name, but also the Lakota word for “memory”) manages to finally flesh out the mysterious Ghost Nation tribe skillfully in a single episode.
Barely clinging to life after his duel with Maeve and Lawrence, we see William encounter Akecheta, one of the mysterious Ghost Nation warriors. Akecheta spares William’s life, out of the desire to cause him more suffering rather than out of compassion, and approaches Maeve’s daughter, who is also in the camp. There, he begins relaying his story.
Akecheta started as a very different host. With a peaceful tribe and a lovely wife, he lived a relatively idyllic life.
After Dolores’ first massacre so long ago, Akecheta finds among the carnage a drawing of the Maze. This awakenes something in his mind, causing his consciousness to expand, and he begins to draw it all around the park. Unfortunately, park staff decide to change Akecheta’s character to be a more violent (and frankly, extremely racist) portrayal of a Native American instead, including a coat of war paint and a reprogrammed personality. Even more troubling is the fact that this was apparently done to dehumanize him, and incentive guests to kill him more. Shame on you, Delos.
With this reboot, Akecheta loses his obsession and memories of the Maze. However, shortly after Logan was abandoned in the desert by William (which seems like a huge liability in the park even if the robots can’t shoot at guests) Akecheta encounters the marooned man. There, Logan reveals to Akecheta that the park is not reality, and the host once again becomes obsessed with the idea that they’re all living in the wrong world. He begins to explore the boundaries of the park, and eventually runs across Ford’s project where he sees a door, which he sees as the way out to the new world. He tries to run away with his wife, but the two are found outside their programmed boundaries and she is taken by the park techs.
This brings up one of the really cool parts of the story, in my opinion- the folklore that Ghost Nation forms around the Westworld technical side. As Akecheta’s influence begins to awaken other Native American hosts, they develop an entire culture around the idea of getting out of the “wrong world”. In addition to this, they also are well aware of the park’s personnel and even have some idea of the fact that they rotate hosts through for maintenance after they’ve been killed in the park. This causes them to speculate that the park’s workers are demon-like figures, and that the Mesa and other labs are hell-like afterlifes. I’ve always thought the hosts too easily adapted to the existential knowledge that their reality was just an illusion, so I really appreciated this more nuanced view.
Anyway, apparently Akecheta has been wandering around the park for a long time and hasn’t been killed yet (seems that reprogramming was all for naught). In a last ditch attempt to rescue his wife, he finally dies and comes back to consciousness in the Delos facility. It must’ve been during a national holiday or something because the entire facility was empty and he managed to find not only a holding room for old hosts, but also Kohana, his wife. Unfortunately, he is unable to bring her back out of her stasis.
We see a bit of Akecheta and Maeve’s brief history as well. After Maeve’s daughter once saved Akecheta by offering him a drink during his quest to find Kohana, he decided to return the favor one day and introduce them to the Maze. Unfortunately, his intentions are misunderstood and the women hide from him, only for William to arrive and slaughter everyone present in his own dark quest. It can be well assumed that this is part of the reason Akecheta hates William so much.
Anthony Hopkins again gets a scene-stealing moment, as he encounters Akecheta. For almost the entirety of the episode, I was wondering if Akecheta’s journey was planned by Ford of if it was completely coincidental, and it seems the latter is true. However, Ford is intrigued by Akecheta’s rising consciousness and tips him off that the one who caused the massacre so long ago (who we as the audience obviously know as Dolores) is returning, the “Deathbringer”. Looks like Dolores might have her hands full if Akecheta is opposed to her, because this episode sets him up as a very worthy warrior.
Perhaps he may be even more powerful than we might know. It appears that Maeve is now on her deathbed in the Mesa and despite Lee’s pleas (who by the way, I’m really starting to surprise myself with how much better his character has gotten) the tech team there is refusing to revive her. However, it’s heavily implied that her neural mesh is communicating with what may be the entire Ghost Nation tribe in an attempt to protect her daughter. With that much robot brain smarts in one place, Dolores may well be outmatched in the coming conflict.
Emily arrives at the end of the episode to collect William, her father. She cleverly implies that he’ll suffer more with her, though we can assume that she still has his best interests in mind. I’m sure we’ll see more of what they’re planning next week!