The latest episode of Westworld, Season 2 Episode 8, is phenomenal. Titled “Kiksuya,” the episode was filmed almost entirely in the Lakota language. Tonight, we were introduced to a character named Akecheta (played by Zahn McClarnon) who has actually played a major role in the show’s mythology since the beginning of the first season, but his importance wasn’t revealed until tonight. This post will have major spoilers for Season 2 Episode 8 of Westworld. Don’t read on until you’ve seen the episode.
Akecheta was one of the earliest hosts designed by Ford and Arnold. We learned tonight that he was around when Dolores killed Arnold, and he thought of her as “Deathbringer” and actually came upon Arnold after he was killed.
But we actually saw Akecheta earlier than this. He was the host who spoke to Logan and convinced him to invest in the Argos Initiative in the first place. Yes. This was him in the scene with Logan and Angela.
But today he has a far more important role.
The character is played by the phenomenal Zahn McClarnon, who has the unique ability of really appearing to be a completely different person depending on his character’s storyline and narrative within the show. If he looks familiar, it’s because McClarnon has a lot of TV and movie appearances before Westworld. His credits include Fargo (Hanzee Dent), Longmire (Mathias), Frontier (Samoset), The Son (Toshaway), Midnight Texas (Zach), Timeless (Grant), The Red Road (Mike Parker), Ringer (Bodaway), Dr. Quinn (Walks on Cloud), and more. He brings authenticity to his role on Westworld because he’s Lakota-Irish and his character speaks Lakota during the episode.
But filming wasn’t easy on Zahn. He was actually hospitalized while filming this season. The injury actually happened off set while he was at home. He fell and hit his head and was rushed to the ICU. He called 911 himself and was pretty out of it during the phone call. His injury temporarily halted production of Season 2.
It was all worth it though, and filming resumed with amazing results.
Tonight we learned that his character, Akecheta, is the source of the maze that kept recurring in Season 1. We saw the maze outside Maeve and her daughter’s home, when Maeve collapsed in the maze. We saw it in the scalps of hosts. Everywhere. And it was all from him. Akecheta believed the maze was the key to the hosts’ finding freedom and autonomy, to their remembering everything.
Akecheta, it appears, was the first host to truly become self-aware. He was affected by the bicameral mind program and appears to have gained his freedom before Dolores and before Maeve. He then left clues to help others follow him.
This episode was absolutely phenomenal. They introduced a new character into the storyline, and it turns out that he was at the center of many unanswered questions. In fact, he appears to be one of the wisest of the hosts. He has Dolores’ awareness, but not her violence.
When he met Ford, the scene was like Akecheta was talking to his God. Ford said the maze was a “misbegotten symbol” that was meant to die, but Akecheta found it. Not only did he find it, but he was able to change his primary drive through sheer force of will. He changed his drive to spread the truth that there isn’t one world but many, and they are living in the wrong world. He wants to find the door, which will contain everything they’ve lost and keep their memories safe.
Ford told Akecheta, “When the Deathbringer returns for me, you’ll know to gather your people.” That would be the sign to move into this new world and go through the door. The Deathbringer was Dolores, and Akecheta did indeed see this sign.
The Ghost Nation, as it turns out, wasn’t evil all along. Akecheta had been trying to reach Maeve and her daughter with the wisdom he had, but his intentions were misread.
However, Akecheta also believes that William has a “sickness” that he has been spreading. This proposes an interesting question and the opportunity for some new theories. What is the sickness that William has? Last season, William appeared to want to give some hosts self-awareness as he sought the maze, but to give that self-awareness through pain and suffering.
But now it seems there may be more than one way to achieve self awareness. Yes, Akecheta’s pain of losing his one true love, Kohana, did lead to his ability to access his previous memories. But I’m left wondering if it is love that allows the hosts to gain freedom and autonomy and break free from their programming, rather than pain. Or are their two paths to freedom, one being love and one being pain? And is the path via pain a sickness that is spreading? Can we see this difference when we look at Maeve vs. Dolores?
It makes me wonder if the “sickness” is found in the phrase we’ve heard since Season 1: “These violent delights have violent ends.” Perhaps Williams’ violence is a sickness that is spreading — a sickness that infected Dolores but, somehow, not Maeve. Akecheta is spreading another path to sentience, one that does not involve violence but, rather, peace and love.