It's easy to appreciate a straightforward hour of Westworld that offers a lot of explanation, finally introduces in detail characters who have been in sight since day one and even tosses in twist or two to the story we thought we knew.
That's what the backstory on Ghost Nation and Akecheta offered on Westworld Season 2 Episode 8.
Zahn McClarnon has been a favorite for a long time. His roles are usually complex and layered because McClarnon can be both menacing and compassionate at the same time.
Mathias on Longmire was one who kept viewers on their toes for the entirety of the series run, so it was a pleasant surprise to discover the importance of McClarnon's character, Akecheta, in the overall scheme of Westworld.
There were some twists that I didn't see coming.
The biggest surprise was how long Ake had been awakening. Arnold was working with Dolores in one-on-one awakening therapy sessions, but Akecheta didn't need anything similar when left to his own devices.
Interestingly, their narrative was fairly similar to that of Dolores and her father, and even Maeve and her little girl to a degree. They were all sitting ducks waiting for the outsiders to come and slaughter them without much pushback.
That's why he was pulled back and reprogrammed with the more dangerous look and storyline. It made the guests feel less haunted when they did the slaughtering.
Also like Dolores and Maeve, Akecheta had someone to love. His love for Kohana was deep and real. Like the others, he would do whatever it took to save her. It sounds so trite that love could make such a difference, but it is transformative.
That Akecheta was one of the first to stumble upon Dolores after she killed Arnold was a pretty big deal, and running into the maze answered a big question that William has been asking about for ages.
Not only did Akecheta after that run into Logan in the sand, but doing so proved a mere programming change couldn't make an otherwise good host into a bad one.
Logan's ramblings only further piqued Akecheta's interest in the world not feeling quite right to him. It was filled with what he called outsiders, and he thought it wasn't the world in which they belonged.
We thought the code was introduced upon our first watching the series, but either there was no code necessary (my thought) or something was written into the programming much earlier.
Ford always erred on the side of programming, almost to the point of annoyance. Even when speaking with Ake, he had to keep saying it was programming that allowed him to remember this or be curious about that. That's the difference between Arnold and Ford; only one of them believed in magic.
But it seems highly improbable that mere curiosity could have allowed for the belief in an outside world and sharing a symbol that would lead to a door and freedom from one world to the other.
All this time, it's been Ake putting the maze into the skulls of hosts, drawing it, painting it, spreading the symbol to give hope to his fellow hosts.
The way he talked about it was almost identical in wording to the way old William has always talked about it, leading me to believe the man who had been dodging bullets and surviving outside the realm of possibility is himself a host.
Yul Brynner was a host in the original Westworld, and the Man in Black has been seeking something only the other hosts have been keen on finding as gravely as William. There were other things he mentioned when speaking about his life outside and when talking about Delos that lead me to this conclusion, but we shall see.
It was heartbreaking when Akecheta found Kohana in the basement, but revelatory when he chose to leave her behind because his pain wasn't any better than anyone else's, whether they were aware they were missing or had someone to miss down there or not.
There are some incredibly beautiful moments that arise out of what could be far less. Take Sizemore's turnaround with Maeve.
I don't know if you can hear me, but I never meant for any of this to happen. You don't deserve this. You deserve your daughter. To mother her, teach her to love, to be joyful and proud. I'm sorry.Sizemore
At least striking up the conversation with the idiot tech gave Mave an opportunity almost to come alive. She's waiting for a moment to strike. She sees things through her daughter, hearing an incredible story from a man she once feared almost as much as the Man in Black.
That was another beautiful twist. Maeve always thought nobody was there to help or look out for her and help.
The ghost gave it to me. He said it's a warning. He said he'd be watching us.Maeve's Daughter
But she misunderstood the words her daughter relayed to her from Akecheta. I'll be watching you, and I'll be watching out for you have far different connotations.
He came by again and again, but she never knew that the kindnesses she had taught her daughter, the very ones Sizemore thought she deserved to be teaching her now, had already been instilled in the girl.
But on my darkest day, you helped me. You gave me the strength to keep going. You saw me for who I really was.Ake
She saw a man in need, and she helped him. For that, she had a protector for life. When she was taken, it wasn't to harm her but to protect her.
Ford once told Akecheta to gather his people and take them to the new world.
Was Ford so sure he would be killed by Dolores? Has he always hoped that everyone but Dolores would escape? What are the sides now, and how do you expect them to play out as the season draws to a close?
Did this installment surprise you? Which part? Share some thoughts with me if you have them!
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.