WARNING: Spoilers for Westworld Season 2 Episode 8, "Kiksuya".
Westworld Season 2 has been a rough ride, but with Episode 8, "Kiksuya", it finally delivers something a great episode akin to the quality of the first season. The episode saw the theme-park-run-amok thriller step far out of its well-worn comfort zone, diving into a multiple-decade long remembrance (in Native American language Lakotan, "Kiksuya" means "remember") of lost love and broken reality that finally began to line up the countless dangling threads.
That Westworld Season 2 has been a disappointment is well documented. At points, it's felt like Jonathan Nolan has taken Reddit theorists cracking the secrets of Season 1 so to heart he wanted the second set of episodes to be utterly impenetrable, but beyond purposeful slieght-of-hand, the entire show stumbles as a tricky second album suffering from lack of planning. Despite being "awake", the robot characters feel less well-defined than when they were on programmed loops, filling narrative positions rather than letting their arcs tell the story, while an obsession with non-linear storytelling - multiple timelines were the twist of Season 1, but are so prevalent in Season 2 that less than halfway through we were dealing with a dozen at once and in Episode 6 a new aspect ratio had to be introduced just to keep things clear - has created mystery and confusion where there needn't be.
What's remarkable is that "Kiksuya" deals in many of these problematic aspects, yet does so with such emotional foresight that the prior missteps are nowhere to be seen. We're going to look at what Westworld finally got right, how it reshapes preconceptions of the season, and whether this marks a proper turnaround.
- This Page: How Episode 8 Corrects Westworld Season 2's Biggest Mistakes
- Page 2: Can Westworld Season 2 Keep This Quality Up?
Episode 8 Reverses Some of Westworld Season 2's Biggest Complaints
The episode centers on Akecheta, the stoic leader of the enigmatic Ghost Nation played by Zahn McClarnon who's skulked in the background of Westworld Season 2. In telling his story to Maeve's daughter (actually Westworld's Neo seeing through her progeny's eyes), we go all the way back to Logan Delos' first discovery of the hosts (where Akecheta was a stand-in assistant), through his early, happy times in the park until Dolores' murder of Arnold, a reprogram to become a ruthless killer around the time of Logan and William's dark visit to the park, then a decade-long pilgrimage to try and find The Door at the heart of this season's mystery, a repeated run-in with Maeve and her daughter, and finally becoming part of Ford's new narrative.
It's a sprawling episode that touches on story threads from across all of Westworld so far over a period of thirty or more years, and yet it never feels needlessly complex thanks to the centering of every reveal or connection being through Akecheta's perspective. We know why Logan was gibbering in the desert or what the Man in Black was really doing when he attacked Maeve, but the episode frames everything from the warrior's point of view, keeping the focus on how it impacted him. This is an episodic approach to television storytelling that is rarely attempted in the Peak TV age but when done right - see every episode of The Assassination of Gianni Versace - it works as both a standalone hour and a bigger whole.
What's so remarkable is how Akecheta's journey is counter to one of Season 2's biggest problems. The sheer gonzo premise and constant wrongfooting of Westworld meant that half the characters - and most of the ones we were supposed to empathize with - had their memories reset every few days and could even have their personalities completely reprogrammed wasn't a problem in Season 1, but now we're meant to buy into them as autonomous beings it's got conflicted. Dolores is her old persona, Wyatt, and neither all at once (it was only this week that her position as the show's villain really became solidified care of Ford), meaning there's no way to lock onto her.
The ambiguity is a key theme of Westworld, but it's started getting in the way of the story. With Akecheta having lived for decades in the same consciousness, we have the purest journey of the entire show condensed into a single hour.