Was Maeve Mind Controlling Her Daughter On Westworld?

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
The second season of Westworld has been a difficult ride to love with your whole being, as opposed solely your brain, which can certainly appreciate all of the mental gymnastics necessary to create TV’s most puzzle-obsessed series. That is, until the HBO epic gave us Sunday night’s beautiful, sweeping gem of an episode, “Kiksuya.” Amid gorgeous shots of the sci-fi epic’s titular park and a mythology-heavy love story, viewers finally learn the much-needed backstory of the Ghost Nation native tribe and its leader, Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon). It was a near-perfect hour of television, save for one nagging question that remained until “Kiksuya’s” final minutes: why in the hell would Ake, an adult man who has suffered through over 30 years of tortured robot existence, feel the need to tell his entire bloody, sexy story to a wide-eyed child like Maeve’s daughter (Jasmyn Rae)?
As we learn in the episode's last sequence, the answer to that question is that Akecheta was also sharing his woeful, Orpheus-tinged tale with not only Maeve’s little girl, but with Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton) herself, who was bleeding to death and ripped open somewhere in the Westworld mesa. Now it’s time we figure out how in the robot hell that happened and what it means for the Westworld season 2 endgame.
The first thing we need to understand here is that anything Maeve does is possible thanks to the mesh network all Delos Destination hosts run on. Fans were first introduced to the technology in the season 2 premiere, “Journey Into Night,” as Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) and Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) try to track down “the package,” also known as Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum). Peter was the key to protecting The Cradle of all the hosts’ backups. While Peter, his Cradle-related encryption, and the Cradle itself are no more, at least the frenzy around them cleared up some important questions around the mesh network.
“All hosts have a subconscious link to the closest hosts around them,” Bernard explains to Charlotte. “It lets them pass basic information to one another, like ants in a colony.” The best part of the mesh network is, if one knows what they’re doing, they can have one host send out a request for another host’s location. Then, host by host, the robots will query each other until they locate the host in question. It seems Maeve, who has been coming into her Neo-ish powers all season, did just that to track down her daughter.
If you take a step back from staring at Westworld season 2 in an attempt to unspool its many baffling mysteries, you’ll see the entire 2018 arc has been dedicated to Maeve learning how far her Jedi-ish powers can extend. In “Journey,” she verbally orders a rogue, cowboy-ish host to go fight the Delos paramilitary forces currently trying to stifle the robot rebellion. Obviously, it works.
Maeve continues to successfully use that power throughout the season, until the integral “Akane No Mai.” During the season 2 turning point, a Shogun World ninja host chokes Maeve during a fight, keeping her from uttering a single command. With Maeve’s life on the line, she manages to order the ninja to kill himself… all with the power of her mind. Viewers see Maeve’s eyes roll to the back of her head, like she is experiencing a very aggressive operating system update, and then all of a sudden, we hear “dreamlike whispering,” to quote HBO closed captioning. Seconds later, he bangs his head into a sharp object sticking out of a wall. We’re supposed to realize Maeve managed to speak to the ninja telepathically, causing him to off himself immediately.
While no one in “Akane” scientifically explains how Maeve is able to mind control another host without words — her sole response is, “I’m finding a new voice” — the concrete answer is the mesh network. As Bernard says in “Journey Into Night,” the magic of the network is that it’s silent, and subconscious — there is no vocal communication needed. Maeve, for whatever reason, is simply the only individual who is currently able to tap into that wordless network for her own designs.
As we learn in “Kiksuya,” her designs this time around are, as usual, trying to find her daughter. With Maeve dying in the mesa, tormented by the knowledge her child was supposedly just abducted by the Ghost Nation, it’s no surprise she would use her ability to manipulate the mesh network to track down the person she loves most. The only real question Westworld leaves hanging is whether Maeve purposefully “queried” her way into locating her daughter, to use Bernard’s language, or she took a subconscious journey to find the child. Either way, all of that effort brings Maeve to the Ghost Nation camp, where her daughter and Ake are speaking,
To understand how Maeve was able to not only locate her daughter, but apparently communicate through her, we need to really listen to Westworld technician Roland. As he tells Charlotte of Maeve late in the episode, “[She was] reading [hosts'] code. Changing their directives. Seeing through their eyes.” Maeve’s ability to converse with Akecheta through her daughter is only the most natural evolution of the abilities she has been perfecting over eight episodes. And, it's unlikely Maeve's daughter will be the last host's “eyes” that the desperate mother manages to see through thanks to her overall mastery of the mesh network.
Now that we all fully comprehend how Maeve and Ake are able to speak over miles upon miles through one poor, traumatized little girl, let’s tackle the why of the whole thing. Essentially, as Akecheta tells Maeve’s daughter, and therefore Maeve, he avoided death for nearly a decade just so he would continue to remember, and hopefully find, his lost love Kohana (Julia Jones). Because this is Westworld, that goal wasn’t easy, and, on the hardest day of Akecheta’s bloody journey, Maeve’s daughter saved him from the brink of death. Due to that small act of kindness, Ake became forever indebted to the little girl and her mother, swearing to protect them. Unfortunately, due to Ghost Nation’s villainous reputation in Westworld, which is itself rooted in the racism of Western movies and American history, Maeve originally recognized Ake’s interest in her family as a threat.
The three-way heart-to-heart in “Kiksuya” finally clears up that incorrect assumption, officially assuaging any fears Maeve has about Ghost Nation holding her daughter. The group isn’t going to hurt the little girl — they’re going to “guard” her at all costs. That is why Ake’s parting words to Maeve, whom the mesh network has seemingly informed him is dying, are, “If you stay alive, find us. Or die well.”
With a mere two episodes left in this season, it seems we will find out which fate Maeve will meet soon. Let’s all just keep our fingers crossed that sunny-sounding first option, of Maeve reuniting with her daughter and an entire army of allies, doesn’t occur in the darkest way possible: the super robot finding the Ghost Nation, and her child, under the nefarious direction of Miss Charlotte Hale. After all, the Delos executive now knows Maeve is the last being alive who can control the mesh network.
If that doesn’t sound like a breakthrough Charlotte wouldn’t use to its most wicked, company-saving ends, nothing does.
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