TL;DR – In a return to form we finally get to visit Shogun World though it is a bit more familiar than we thought.
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
One of the things that have changed in the way I look at media since I have been making this site is that over the years I have become more and more adamant about not watching trailers until after seeing a movie or TV show. There is something that has happened in recent years, which we talked about in our end of year awards, where big reveal that could have worked better as surprises get revealed in trailers. Well avoiding the trailers or not, there was no way to get around the fact that at some point in Season Two of Westworld we were going to take a detour into Shogun World after that Easter Egg in the season finale last year. Well at our halfway point today we finally get that moment and it is perfectly fine.
So to set the scene, this week is sort of the counterpoint to last week’s The Riddle of the Sphinx (see review). Last week I complained that the show had ignored two of the best plot lines so far this season well today’s episode is all about Maeve (Thandie Newton) and Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood). However, before all that, we open on the Two Weeks later timeline where Karl Strand (Gustaf Skarsgård) and his technician Antoine Costa (Fares Fares) have finished securing The Mesa and have started to catalogue just what the hell happened. As we discover that many of the hosts found dead in the park have had their memories wiped, and Bernard’s (Jeffrey Wright) story is sounding less and less plausible we take a moment to hover over the dead bodies and if you missed it all the way back at the end of Journey into Night (see review) things do not end well for Teddy (James Marsden). When we last left our two main characters, Dolores was hunting those responsible for capturing her father Peter (Louis Herthum) and Maeve was on her way to the homesteads where her daughter (Jasmyn Rae) is when they stumble across a fireplace and are attacked by a samurai. Now as per usual we will be looking at the episode as a whole so there will be [SPOILERS] ahead.
We will look at the two different storylines in a moment however, I want to take a moment to look at the story thread that unites and also defines both our leading characters, and that is the notion of love. Both Maeve and Dolores show a deep love for people, Teddy for Dolores, and her daughter for Maeve. Although, as we see in this episode both demonstrate that love in very different ways. Maeve sees in Akane (Rinko Kikuchi) the very same love she has for her daughter however when she sees that her prying is doing harm to Akane she backs off because she does not want to hurt her. While Dolores deeply loves Teddy, she also sees him as a liability because he won’t do the hard things she needs him to do and in the end, she kind of mind rapes him to try to control him. These two approaches are in almost opposite to each other and in the carnage that happens over the two week period, well I feel like these two will crash together at some point.
Ok well let’s take a look at what everyone is here for and take a trip to Shogun World and it is really cool. We discover that Shogun World is the newest addition to the parks and is designed for people who think that Westworld is too tame. Indeed, it is not clear if there were any guests here because besides some dead Delos security personal we don’t see any other humans besides those in Maeve’s team which now includes Lee (Simon Quarterman), Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), Hector (Rodrigo Santoro), Lutz (Leonardo Nam), and Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum). Well as they walk into town Maeve’s ability to control the host does not seem to be working any more but we soon discover a number of things, for one Lee really needs to broaden his story writing abilities. That being said, all of the stories are now running off the rails, and that Maeve might have more control than anyone ever thought. When it came to the design of Shogun World, I think they have generally done a good job as it did resemble a number of the places I have visited in Japan, and much like our little look at The Raj in Virtù e Fortuna (see review) it was nice to get out of the world of a western for a little bit. In this section we get a couple of really interesting story moments, like how the way the Shogun (Masaru Shinozuka) treats women as property in almost the same way that the guest treat the hosts or how a fight between a ninja and a samurai feels like something we have seen many times before but it might some of the best action in the series so far. It was also interesting to see Hector and Musashi (Hiroyuki Sanada) play off each other. Of course, the highlight of this story is the discovery that Maeve no long needs voice commands to control the hosts as she very literally deus ex machinas her way out of a bind.
On the flip side we have Dolores, and well I do have to say that I’m just not engaging with this side of the show as much anymore. For all of Season One Dolores was one the most interesting characters that were on TV, on the surface there was the simple daughter of a rancher persona, but underneath there was clearly something else going on, and this was before it was clear that we were dealing with multiple timelines. Indeed, one of the most iconic moments of the last season was when she killed Robert (Anthony Hopkins). However, in Season Two, and I say this with not seeing the whole season and who knows how that will play out, however, each episode I become less and less interested in seeing how her revolution is going to play out. She is not a revolutionary leader but more of someone who uses and abuses people to help her succeed, and frankly, I don’t want to see her succeed.
In the end, do we recommend Akane No Mai? Yes, we do. Indeed it might be worth the watch just for the Wu-Tang Clan cover, have I mentioned just how good Ramin Djawadi’s score is. This episode was a return to form after the last week’s mostly disappointing outing but at the halfway point of the season I’m still wondering if it will be able to bring to a conclusion everything it is setting up, and at this point, I am not sure.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Westworld
Directed by – Craig Zobel
Written by – Dan Dietz
Based off – Westworld by Michael Crichton
Created by – Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy
Music by – Ramin Djawadi
Starring in Season Two – Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, James Marsden, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Luke Hemsworth, Simon Quarterman, Rodrigo Santoro, Angela Sarafyan, Shannon Woodward, Ed Harris, Clifton Collins Jr., Tessa Thompson, Talulah Riley, Louis Herthum, Katja Herbers, Gustaf Skarsgård & Fares Fares with Anthony Hopkins, Ben Barnes, Neil Jackson, Jimmi Simpson, Oliver Bell, Giancarlo Esposito, Betty Gabriel, Christopher May, Zahn McClarnon, Peter Mullan, Jonathan Tucker, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rinko Kikuchi, Tao Okamoto, Kiki Sukezane, Jasmyn Rae & Julia Jones.