TV Review: Westworld (Season 2, Episode 5)
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‘Akane No Mai’ finally delivers the long-awaited reveal of the Japan-themed park, which was hinted all the way back in the finale of the first season, and does it so amazingly.
Continuing on from the cliffhanger of the previous episode, Maeve’s ragtag group of survivors makes their way through the Shogun world, one modelled after the Edo period in Japan.
The world itself is much bloodier, as it was created for those guests who “found Westworld a bit too tame”. And it certainly does deliver, as within the first minute of our characters arriving in the camp, a man is decapitated, and Hanaryo, the Shogun equivalent of Armistice, makes clear what a badass she is with the bow.
But at its core ‘Akane No Mai’ is a story about empowerment and motherly love, albeit a slightly gorier one. Lee admits that he “borrowed” a lot of stories across theme parks in a weirdly relatable line, and explains how seeing your own doppelbot can lead to unexpected circumstances.
But where Hector is only suspicious of his counterpart Musashi, and Armistice gets stuck in feedback loops with Hanaryo, Maeve finds only solidarity and empathy, as she watches Akane’s relationship with her surrogate daughter, Sakura, who later gets taken and subsequently killed by the bloodthirsty shogun.
But what the episode expertly raises questions for is the nature of our humanity – where Lee constantly adheres to the preconceived narrative lines that he had given to the hosts, the awakened ones constantly break these choices and create new things.
It is also a tale of finding your voice taken to its quite literal extremes in usual Westworld fashion. While Maeve’s voice commands have been malfunctioning for some time now, we finally get a reason for that, and can only delight as we see her become more and more powerful as she learns how to issue commands to the Shogun world.
The end of the episode is an equally delightful and annoying cliffhanger as Maeve stands up against the whole army of the shogun, killed ever so dramatically by Akane.
Elsewhere, Dolores makes the equally heavy decision reprogramme Teddy, but where empathy is the cornerstone of the story in the Shogun World, there is nothing of the sort back in Westworld. We will see who
The music in this episode is simply breathtaking, with the familiar “Paint it Black” theme re-arranged to be more fitting to the vastly different Shogun world, as Hector’s heist plays out in Edo Japan, with Musashi robbing the geisha house.
New episodes of Westworld arrive weekly on HBO in the US. Sky Atlantic simultaneously airs Westworld for UK audiences every Sunday at 2am, with repeat airings on Mondays from 9pm, and episodes available on NOW TV.