I See a Red Door and I Want It Painted Black: Westworld, ‘Akane No Mai’

***Spoiler Warning:  Spoilers for Westworld through Season 2, Episode 5 follow. Spoilers*** Last week

Flipping from narrative to off-the-written-path narrative, “Akane No Mai” introduced the long-anticipated parallel park to Westworld:  Shogun World. In more ways than ever before, our heroines (and their accompanying menfolk) find their loops endlessly circling, spreading from character to character like some sort of specifically written virus … could it be the handiwork of a certain founder (Doctor FrankenFord, I presume?) is still infecting the Hosts?

As a clearly confused (possessed?) Bernard (Beach version, no glasses, white shirt) surveys the disturbing scene, Host bodies are dragged, piled upon each other and pulled apart for inspection. Strand calls for — when found — the Package (Peter Abernathy) to be brought directly to him, as Dolores plans her father’s rescue (aided by Angela’s timely torture).

Flurrying whispers invade the Jedi mind even as it’s learning tricks; Maeve has a new voice and just in the nick, discovers her growing powers (“Witch”) save lives, while surreptitiously, suicidally seizing others. With beauty and violence — and doppelgängersbots living out cribbed storylines — Millay and Co. (Hector, Armistice, saddled with Sizemore, Felix and Sly) work their way through Westworld extreme, step into the off-narrative with Madame Akane (Rinko Kikuchi) and her pseudo-child, Sakura (Kiki Sukezane).

Bluetongued allegories leave Teddy stunned as a cow when, after a meaningful (to him, at least) night with Dolores, his beloved orders a few adjustments made to her wayward lover. Across worlds, cortical leaking hits a non-Bernard Host, meaning a Shogun is injured — though not anywhere near as badly as he’s about to be. Grief-stricken, perhaps a harbinger of Maeves to come, Akane shockingly relieves the murderous ruler of his … head. With a glint in her eye and a new voice inside her head, the once and former Madame Millay takes up her sword for the next army coming her way, confident in the knowledge she commands herself.

Or, does she?

Is that just reflecting light in Maeve’s eyes, or is something deeper happening?

Deep Thoughts:

Episode 5 featured Rinko Kikuchi as Akane, Hiroyuki Sanada as Musashi, Kiki Sukezane as Sakura, Avery Wada as Daimyo, Tao Okamoto as Hanaryo, Taishi Mizuno as Koda, and every actor was excellent, but Kikuchi was simply breathtaking. Her every move was thoughtful and nuanced, and the decapitation scene was simultaneously one of the most impressive, horrific, gruesome and admirable things since Hannibal ruled that television dominion. I couldn’t look; I couldn’t look away.

Perhaps the best part was when the nearly beheaded Shogun stumbled toward Akane, then plopped to the ground.

The scenes where new characters repeated verbatim things our old friends used to say in Sweetwater were nearly as creepy for viewers as for Maeve, Armistice, and poor Clementine. The kid putting a beetle on that guy’s head was a copy of the Sweetwater kids putting a scorpion under a guy’s hat, and the robbery played out, as well.

Speaking of, kudos to Angela Sarafyan for that haunting moment when she mouthed along her words with her Mariposa replacement. Clementine is still in there, somewhere.

So, uh, Shogun World is new, and yet … not. It’s really just a different slant on Westworld, with much of the same dialogue and characters Westworld uses. Are the writers trying to tell us something? Are the Hosts not at all free; rather, simply playing out the same story in a different way? In particular, something’s been telling me that the dead Hosts in the lake — Bernard’s (or someone’s) “I killed them, I killed them all” massacre will turn out to be simply a different version of Wyatt’s Season 1 massacre.

As explained by Costa to Strand, the (damaged) Cradle appears to be where Hosts’ backups are stored, and a third of the bodies recovered through dredging are found to have no data — their “brains” “… more like they’re virgin, like they never held data to begin with than wiped clean. (“So we’ve effectively lost a third of our IP in a single sweep?”)

Tablet view of the Cradle.

Strand’s quote could be taken as an aside directly to the audience, now, couldn’t it?  “That’s quite a story he gave them, and one hell of an ending. How did all these disparate threads come together to create this nightmare? If we figure that out, we’ll know how the story turns.”

There’s poor, dead Teddy again.

And, poor Teddy is just too good a guy — Dolores knows this — so she’s having him adjusted to be … a killer asshole? (We presume.) Regardless of the fact that he might not “hold together”, Dolores knows the good guy won’t survive whatever’s coming.

Of course, there’s always the chance she’s just amping up his erection, no?

Here’s his tablet screen:

Speaking of Teddy … *ahem* …

Other than that spectacular butt, this scene fell flat for me.

Language matters; “That’s also why your vocal voodoo didn’t work on them. You spoke the wrong language.” Musashi and his warriors didn’t respond to Maeve’s command to lay down their swords merely because she spoke to them in English.

Not only can Maeve use Jedi mind commands on other Hosts, she can visualize a coming attack. Dolores might be the oldest, but Maeve is clearly the most powerful Host in the park.

Dolores speaking to Teddy about the blue-tongue disease — “How do you stop a sickness like that? One with wings?” — and the way she described it certainly sounded like what’s happening with many of the Hosts. Is it passing through the mesh network, or through Ford’s programming — part of the narrative? Dolores seems to think she knows how to stop the spread, and it’s not through Teddy’s kind method of sheltering and keeping the weak/infected away from the rest of the herd.

That Japanese pole weapon with a gnarly screw/barbed end is called a Sodegarami.

A ronin is a samurai who no longer serves a daimyo (feudal lord).

Ain’t no known asshole like Sylvester. And, Leonardo Nam and Ptolemy Slocum are still killing it as Felix and Sylvester.

Pain in the ass though he is, Sizemore does occasionally prove useful (King of Comedy) to Maeve and the group, providing a running (*cough*) narration, and helpful suggestions; “Snow Lake is her [Sakura’s] cornerstone. But, it also has an access point back to the tunnels. It’s our way out.” Additionally, see all his fabulous one-liners down in the “Great Lines” section; Simon Quarterman delivers every single one with perfect cheekiness and gusto.

What was that tablet/communication device he picked up, though? And what will happen when Maeve finds out he has it?

The device reads “Unable to connect.”

Is the dead ninja’s tattoo (Shogun) similar to these symbols (Bernard unlocking Peter’s file/Grace/Emily’s notebook)?

The symbols are also on the flags at the Shogun’s location, and appear to be different, but there’s something similar about them as well.

That carving of a cherry blossom that the Shogun had etched on Sakura’s back may have a dual meaning. Sakura is Japanese for cherry blossom. The tree also symbolizes life’s shortness (lasting but one day), and thus was woefully appropriate.

“Akane No Mai” means Akane’s Red Dance.

As visually appealing as this hour was, there were many moments that dragged and felt entirely empty to me. Despite the mirroring of narratives, I didn’t feel terribly compelled by Sakura, or even the relationship between Sakura and Akane. A lot of Shogun World felt simply like a display by the show, and if I have to be honest, a diversion. After last week’s deep dive into the secret Westworld goings-on, I wanted more digging. Yes, this was a beautiful hour. Yes, the actors were wonderful. I just don’t really care much about the Tailies Samurai — let’s get back to Lost, er …. Westworld proper.

Some of the fight scenes were shot in very little light, making it difficult to appreciate them.

Who is in Bernard? Who is Bernard, really? If everyone is a copy or a double, could that mean Bernard is Ford, Ford was Arnold, and everyone is someone else? I know, it’s an infinite loop.

Songs This Hour:

Ramin Djawadi, Paint It Black (cover of The Rolling Stones)

Ramin Djawadi  C.R.E.A.M. (cover of Wu-Tang Clan)


Great Lines:

Maeve:  “You know the old saying about knives and gun fights …”

Sizemore:  “Does the saying have a footnote about fucking lassos, then?”

Musashi about Maeve:  “Gag this one.”

Sizemore:  “Beautiful way to watch the sunrise, glistening off the intestines of the recently mutilated.”

Felix to Sylvester when Sly wonders if Felix can’t say something to stop the Samurai:  “I’m from Hong Kong, asshole.”

Sizemore:  “This is just the tip of Shogun World’s prick.

Armistice:  “This all feels a little too familiar.”

Sizemore:  “I may have cribbed a little from Westworld. Well, you try writing three hundred stories in less than three weeks.”

Sylvester:  “We’re human shields now?”

Sizemore:  “Welcome to Shogun World.”

Maeve:  “I know how this story ends.”

Sizemore:  “That’s not supposed to happen.

This is insane. Ninjas never show up in this story.

The Shogun’s army never comes into town.”

Hector to Maeve about Musashi:  “Say the word and I’ll skin him like a rabbit.”

Sizemore about Hector:  “He’s not supposed to be here. Who knows how seeing your own doppel-bot is gonna fuck with your cognition?”

Maeve to Sizemore:  “Mention my daughter one more time, and I will snap you like a stick.”

Sizemore:  “Like that ninja? He took one look at you … How did you do that? That was no voice command.”

Maeve:  “I think I’m finding a new voice.”

Sizemore:  “The odds of surviving here are the odds of fuck all.”

Sylvester:  “So, Maeve’s going to freeze all those assholes, and we’re gonna make off with that Geisha? We’re going to die.”

Sizemore to Maeve after hearing her story about the Guardian of the Three Princes gift:  “Did you just make that up right now?”

Dolores to Teddy:  “What you asked today, about walking away, making it on our own. Would you want me to say yes, even if I was only going to disappoint you?”

Teddy:  “I’m not some stranger, Dolores, coming from outside, looking for a pretty lie. I’ve known you my whole life.”

Akane to Sakura:  “Don’t worry. Great things lie ahead for us.”

Maeve to Akane:  “What if this new world holds the truth, and every story you’ve lived here is a lie?”

Teddy to Dolores:  “They build us to perform for them and for each other, and that’s over.”

Dolores:  “I wish there was another way, Teddy. But where about to go, Teddy, is no place for a man like you.”

Maeve to Akane:  “Akane, you are a true mother.

Some things are too precious to lose. Even to be free.”

Maeve to Sizemore:  “I told you, I found a new voice. Now we use it.”

Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis has been writing about the entertainment industry for ​over ten years, and is the ​Editor-in-Chief at Oohlo, where she muses over television, movies, and pop culture. Previous Senior News Editor at Pajiba, and published at BUST.

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