“Akane no Mai” opens with Karl Strand telling the Delos team to find and bring Peter Abernathy to him. One underling tells him that a third of the hosts they’ve analyzed don’t have any data to pull. In Shogun World, things don’t go Maeve’s way as she and her friends are tied up and driven into town. Lee tells her that Shogun World was designed for people who think Westworld is too tame. The group quickly realizes that Maeve, Hector, Armistice and more have equivalent hosts in Shogun World. The storyline even plays the same way, as a man and a woman with a facial tattoo rob a geisha house. Dolores and Teddy show up at the Mariposa and tell their followers to fix the train. The old Clementine sees the new Clementine in her role and saying her lines and is utterly confused. Lee tells Maeve that if she’s wondering if she can trust Akane, her Shogun World equivalent, the question is if she can trust herself.
A man shows up and tells Akane that Sakura, one of her girls, has been requested by the Shogun. She informs him that Sakura isn’t for sale, and when he presses she kills him. Lee says that isn’t supposed to happen, but uses the opportunity to recommend that they all flee to Snow Lake, an access point to the tunnels. Maeve finds that her commands don’t seem to work on the Shogun hosts, but when ninja arrive and attack she is able to control one of them using only her mind. Sakura is nowhere to be found, and the Shogun’s army comes into town to exact revenge. Maeve takes Akane and sneaks away, leaving Hector and the ronin to fight the samurai. Teddy asks Dolores to leave the fight and join him in the fields to make a home. Dolores tells him a story about the time her father had to burn infected cows to keep the herd alive, but says she’ll consider his plan.
Maeve, Lee and Akane arrive to the Shogun’s camp and pose as visiting dignitaries, but he quickly recognizes Akane by her devotion to Sakura. He says she can have Sakura provided she performs for him with Sakura, an offer she accepts. Angela brings a human to Dolores and he reveals that Peter is being held at the Mesa. Dolores wonders if Teddy would want her to accept his plan even knowing she would disappoint him. He says he’s not a stranger and he knows her. Akane and Maeve discover that Sakura has been tattooed and now her back bears a bloody cherry tree. Maeve wants to take the women to the real world, but Akane is overwhelmed and asks her to stop. Dolores tells Teddy she’s just decided that her feelings for him are true and not just programming. She then alters Teddy’s code because she’s afraid he won’t make it through the war as he is. The women prepare to dance for the Shogun, but before they can begin he kills Sakura. Akane kills the Shogun and Maeve orders the men to kill each other.
I have to say that, while I enjoyed “Akane no Mai,” it didn’t really wow me like Westworld usually does. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but my jaw never dropped throughout this episode; I wasn’t really all that surprised by anything that happened with either Maeve or Dolores. Actually, I’m relieved if anything because I was pretty sure Dolores was going to kill Teddy. Reprogramming him is disturbing and shows that she values her cause over her love, but it’s not surprising at this point.
I liked the interactions between Akane and Maeve a lot. While I would have liked to see something entirely different in Shogun World, it actually makes sense that Lee got burnt out and just re-used an old storyline. Although her main quest is to be reunited with her daughter, I can’t help wondering if seeing Akane and Sakura together makes her miss Clementine. Maeve always acted as a sort of surrogate mother to Clementine and watched out for her, and she must miss her a lot. She was noticeably distressed last season when Clementine was replaced. Speaking of whom, the scene where the lobotomized Clementine sees her replacement is excellent too. It’s just a small moment, but man, that’s messed up. It must be so surreal for (what’s left of) the old Clementine.
This season seems to be alternating between the story threads involving the male and female leads. “The Riddle of the Sphinx” was all about William and Bernard, while “Akane no Mai” focuses on Dolores and Maeve. In a way it makes one anxious to see the other characters, but unlike Trust, for example, Westworld handles this well. There’s always so much going on, and usually a couple of truth bombs are dropped so you don’t feel bored or disinterested. This show manages its subplots expertly and nothing feels like dead weight. Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton absolutely carry this episode, and as the audience we feel for every decision — even the unlikable ones, like what Dolores is doing to poor Teddy. Can this guy ever catch a break? He seems to be this show’s perpetual whipping boy. I’m really curious to see how he turns out, and James Marsden has done a great job playing the typical nice guy so far. I wonder if his new iteration will be something more akin to Hector, or even William.
In season one I found Dolores more sympathetic than Maeve, but this year they seem to be drawing an interesting contrast between them. Dolores has been hardened by her experiences and consciousness, while Maeve wants to protect and help other hosts like Akane. Dolores sees the other hosts as tools of her revolution, but Maeve is interested in survival and protection. Westworld really creates a lot of complex feelings about its characters, and I’ve never enjoyed being confused so much. I hope it doesn’t end any time soon, but at the same time I can’t wait to see what becomes of the farmer’s daughter and Madam of the Mariposa. Their methods are as different as their roles in the park, and in a way they’ve switched places this season.
All the actors are absolutely on fire in “Akane no Mai”, especially our leading ladies. The set pieces are absolutely beautiful and Shogun World did not fail to meet my expectations; I hope we see a lot more of it going forward. The music is amazing as always, and the dialogue consistently clever. This isn’t one of the better episodes overall, but I enjoyed it nonetheless and I just can’t wait for more.