Emmy episode analysis: Thandie Newton (‘Westworld’) finds her voice in ‘Akane No Mai’

Thandie Newton returns to the Emmy race thanks to her fan favorite character Maeve Millay on HBO’s “Westworld.” This is her second Best Drama Supporting Actress nomination after losing last year to Ann Dowd (“The Handmaid’s Tale”). The role previously earned the actress SAG and Golden Globe nominations, and a Critics Choice Award win. Newton also won a BAFTA for “Crash” (2005). This year, Newton has submitted the episode “Akane No Mai” for Emmy consideration.

Maeve and her companions are captured and dragged into Shogun World, which closely mirrors the storylines found in Westworld. Maeve discovers her usual Jedi-like commands only work in this world if she speaks in Japanese, which she switches to at Sizemore’s (Simon Quarterman) urging to befriend the local madame, Akane (Rinko Kikuchi). Akane murders the emissary of a Shogun, who desires her daughter Sakura as a slave, thus embroiling Maeve in a war. When ninjas invade the brothel to steal away Sakura that night, Maeve taps into a deeper form of power and silently commands a ninja to kill himself.

Maeve later accompanies Akane to the Shogun’s outpost to rescue Sakura. The Shogun agrees to give the girl back if Akane will perform a dance alongside her daughter for him. Maeve later watches Akane try to comfort Sakura as they prepare, suffering flashbacks to when her own daughter was stolen. Before the duo can begin to dance, the Shogun runs Sakura through with his sword. Akane performs her dance, but quickly produces a hidden dagger and decapitates the Shogun. As his army is about to execute Akane and her “witch,” Maeve again uses her newfound power to command the warriors to kill each other.

Though the men in the camp all die, another army rushes toward Maeve. Sizemore is terrified, but Maeve simply picks up a nearby sword, ready to use her “new voice” to combat them all. Will Newton win her first Emmy for this robot savior? Below we discuss the pros and cons.

PROS

The script demands that Maeve not only perform the bulk of her lines in Japanese, but also speak the language confidently since it would be embedded in her hard drive. Newton rises to the challenge and delivers her lines with aplomb as if it were her native tongue, holding her own against her Japanese scene partners. It’s a masterful execution of what was surely a daunting task.

Maeve was the breakout character of “Westworld” because she has a strong rooting factor. Newton continues to keep this aspect alive thanks to a determined performance that mixes raw emotional heartache with moments of epic badassery. Audiences cheer for her at her highs (psychically creating all-out war) because they’ve seen her at her ultimate lows (painful reminders of how she failed to protect her daughter). Voters usually need to love the character they’re voting for, so Maeve’s triumph in this episode is a major boon to Newton’s odds.

CONS

While Newton certainly gets to emote on a grand scale, some voters may feel that Maeve’s big scene with Akane ultimately belongs to Kikuchi. We watch Maeve reliving her pain since Akane’s storyline intentionally mimics Maeve’s life, but it’s Kikuchi’s Akane who must comfort, fight for, and ultimately lose her daughter in the episode.

Like any installment of “Westworld,” the script delves headfirst into existential questions of sentience and free will. This provides compelling moments, such as when Maeve berates Sizemore for not realizing that her code has evolved into real emotions. But there’s a chance the heady dialogue could be confusing or off-putting for some viewers.

PREDICT the Emmy winners now; change them until September 17

Be sure to make your Emmy predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before winners are announced on September 17. Be sure to also predict winners for the Creative Arts ceremonies slated for September 8 and 9. And join in the fun debate over the 2018 Emmy taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our television forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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