My review of episodes 1-3 is HERE.
Altered Carbon is a wild cyberpunk ride through a dystopian future starring Joel Kinnaman as Takeshi Kovacs, a centuries old supersoldier, rebel, and former mercenary who’s been imprisoned and asleep for 250 years. The method of his imprisonment is the removal of his “stack” from his “sleeve,” meaning the disc which contains his soul and consciousness was removed from his spine and stored until a wealthy man who requires his services pays for his release. His stack is then inserted into a new sleeve, also known as a body, that his patron bought for him to use while Kovacs works the murder case he’s been hired to solve.
Everyone in society is fitted with a stack when they are very young, but new sleeves vary in price. Functional immortality using clones and backup stacks is fashionable for the very rich. Normal people hope that their stacks aren’t damaged when they die so that they can be brought back, and that they can afford a decent new sleeve. Neo-Catholics believe that being spun up in a new sleeve is a sin and vow to live only the single life span their original sleeve allows them. Overall, life has become cheap because it’s so easily replaced, and corporate decadence rules society.
Episode 1 begins with images of modern Kovacs before he’s revived, dreaming that he’s floating in water. The view of his body is interspersed with images of original Kovacs being intimate with a woman, and mercenary Kovacs showering intimately with another woman, or at least another sleeve (although they start out covered in blood). The future gets confusing at times, with all of the body hopping. We can see the stack insertion scar on the back of the showering woman’s neck. The floor of the shower is littered with stolen stacks.
In voiceover, a woman tells us:
“The first thing you learn is that nothing is what it seems. Ignore your assumptions. Don’t trust anything. What you see. What you hear. What people tell you. What you think you remember. We are Envoys and we take what is offered. Let experience wash over you. Absorb it like a sponge. Expect nothing. Only then can you be prepared for anything.”
The scene settles on merc Kovacs and his companion in a future hotel room. Kovacs lies on the bed and smokes while his companion cleans the stolen stacks. He crosses the room to look out the window, where there are two moons looming over a dense, futuristic cityscape. The woman wonders who the stacks are. She swears in Russian. Kovacs doesn’t care, as long as they get paid.
Woman: Have you always been such an asshole?
Kovacs: Every sleeve, every time.
The electronics flicker. Kovacs turns off the electronic window. He turns on his enhanced vision and looks into the hall. A tac team of 12 heavily armed soldiers is coming to arrest them. The soldiers bust into the room. A violent fight ensues. Kovacs and the woman have limited weaponry, but stand their ground. Thanks to Kovacs superior skill, they almost win, until reinforcement soldiers show up just in time to turn the tide again.
Female voiceover continues:
“Your body is not who you are. You shed it like a snake sheds its skin. Leave it, forgotten, behind you. Make it personal. It is you. You are the weapon. You are the killer and the destroyer. One thing I can promise you. Coming back from the dead is a b*tch. Every single time.”
Interspersed with the hotel room fight, we see modern Kovacs brought into a utilitarian lab facility. He’s packaged in a vacuum-sealed bag. A male lab technician wearing a hazmat suit and goggles tells the female technician in training to watch what he does. The trainee is grossed out by the thought of the process ahead.
The technician unzips Kovacs packaging and gooey liquid gushes out on the floor. The technician emphasizes that they need to decant this subject efficiently, as they have four more to do in the next hour. The technician tries to show the trainee how to remove the umbilicus, the breathing apparatus and tube that covers Kovacs face. Kovacs becomes agitated and writhes on the lab table. The technician says that this happens sometimes. It usually means that the subject’s last death was violent.
They try to move Kovacs to a chair to remove his umbilicus. He wakes up and punches the technician in the face. The trainee calls for help while Kovacs pulls out his own umbilicus, after rolling onto the floor. Several burly men run into the room and threaten to sedate Kovacs if he doesn’t calm down.
He takes one of the security guards down, and asks how long he’s been out. They look up his file and tell him it’s been 250 years. Then he demands a mirror.
Technician: There are no mirrors here. You need time to adjust to your new sleeve. You risk schism or a psychotic break.
Kovacs, um, strongly insists that they give him a mirror. They give him a shiny metal tray. When he looks into it, at first he sees his previous skin, an Asian man. He howls at the mirror as it shifts to his new face, that of a caucasian man. Kovacs drops the mirror and hides his face for a moment. The technician berates Kovacs for breaking his nose.
Kovacs calmly says that he hates getting shot, then asks where he is. When they tell him he’s in Alcatraz Prison, Bay City, he scoffs and demands to know what planet. They tell him he’s on earth. He stands up and asks where the shower is, then walks there on his own, completely naked and covered in goo.
After showering and dressing, Kovacs is sent to an orientation session with other newly resleeved prisoners. The orientation is interrupted by security taking him to see the warden.
“Welcome to Alcatraz. You’ve successfully completed your prison sentence. You may notice you are no longer in the body you arrived in. Now that you have paid your debt to society, you have been resleeved from our available inventory of prisoners. You may feel confused or strange. (Quell: After all, you’re not supposed to be here.) Disorientation, visual and auditory hallucinations, and even low-grade amnesia are normal. But don’t worry. This orientation will answer all of your questions. This is a cortical stack. As Protectorate citizens, we each have one implanted when we are 1 year old. Inside is pure human mind, coded and stored as DHF: Digital Human Freight. Your consciousness can be downloaded into any stack, in any sleeve. You can even needlecast in minutes to a sleeve anywhere in the Settled Worlds. A sleeve is replaceable. But if your stack is destroyed, you die. There’s no coming back from real death. So, avoid blunt force trauma to the base of the brain, and energy weapons fired at the head.”
“When you wake up, the world will not be what it was. And neither will you. They have forgotten who and what we are. Make them remember.”
Meanwhile, back in the merc Kovacs sleeve and the now destroyed hotel room, the woman’s sleeve is fatally injured and Kovacs is subdued. The leader takes his helmet off and tells Kovacs that he’s “under arrest for treason against the Protectorate. Working for the terrorist leader Quellcrist Falconer.”
Kovacs: “I didn’t work for her. It was more like an autonomous collective.”
(Monty Python made it into future space!!)
They toss a couple of insults and threats at each other, and Kovacs recognizes that he knows the team leader, calling him Jaeger. Jaeger goes over to Kovacs’ companion, whose stack is still viable. Kovacs says he knows that Jaeger has order not to kill him, so he should just take him in now. Jaeger asks who the woman is. Kovacs hesitates half a second, then says she’s nobody, just a local merc. Jaeger shoots her in the stack, causing real, permanent death. (Or appears to, anyway. Trust nothing and no one. First thing Quell told us.)
Kovacs was smoking in the merc body, and is already smoking in the new body. Some noir characteristics never change. The first thing the warden does is tell him to put out the cigarette. He does, and sits down.
The warden says, “You…File’s incomplete, parts of it sealed. What is here? Espionage, terrorism, crimes against the state and more murders than I can count. And when they finally arrested you, you gunned down your own partner in the stack. Report says she was shot from behind, so, along with everything else, you’re a coward.”
That pause after the warden says “you” is interesting. Kovacs looks startled when he hears that Jaeger framed him for the death of his partner, but he doesn’t say anything. When the warden asks if he has anything to say, he replies with a flippant remark. It wouldn’t do him any good to argue anyway.
Warden: “This is your parole document certifying that your DHF was shipped from Millsport Maximum Security Prison, received here intact, and sleeved in this body, which came equipped with military-grade neurachem and combat muscle memory. You’ve been provided with clothing and incidentals, as per the specifications of Bancroft Industries, which has leased you. As such, you are the property of Laurens Bancroft for the duration of that lease.”
Kovacs: “Property? What about my rights?”
Warden: “You don’t have any. Failure to comply with the terms of this parole will result in your immediate desleeving and return here, to serve out the rest of your term, which does not appear to have an end date. You’re going to screw up. Do something violent, hurt someone, kill someone. I know people like you.”
Kovacs: “There aren’t any people like me. Not anymore.”
“There will be places where they’ll wait, the people left behind. Wait to see their friends, lovers, children, parents come back to them, riding unfamiliar bodies out from digitized exile. They’ll look into the eyes of strangers, searching for a glimpse of the person they’ve lost.
Kovacs is taken to dress in civilian clothes then out to the front lobby for release. The lobby is full of people wandering, searching, and waiting. An older woman who’d been in orientation with Kovacs also gets up. She walks over to a young couple and says, “Mommy?” The young woman looks at her hopefully and says, “Cindy?”
Cindy’s dad looks over at an employee and irately asks what they’ve done to his daughter. She’s seven years old and was murdered in a hit and run accident. According to the law, she’s entitled to a free sleeve. The employee responds that free sleeves are whatever is in inventory. If they don’t like it, they can put their daughter’s stack back in storage, or pay for an upgraded sleeve. Cindy sobs that she doesn’t want to go back into the dark.
Another young woman perks up when she sees Kovacs. She introduces herself to him as Kristin Ortega, and says she’ll be driving him to the Bancroft residence. Kovacs is disgusted that they’ve put a little girl into the body of an older woman. Kristin repeats what the employee said, that for victim restitution, the state gives out the worst of what they have on hand. They lease out better sleeves for profit.
Appreciate the bodies you were born into, guys. At least you probably own them, free and clear!
Kovacs says they didn’t have that where he comes from. Ortega asks where that might be? But they reach the front door at that point, and the protest shown in the top photo on this page. The crowd chants, “Justice! Let the dead speak! No resleeving! Shouldn’t have come back!” Protesters get right up in Kovacs face to condemn him.
He and Ortega take off in the Bancrofts’ flying car. She continues to make conversation, including a lot of questions about Kovacs, as they drive.
Ortega: ” Spirit Savers and Afterlifers. 653 failed, and still they can’t stop yelling.”
Kovacs: “What is 653?”
Ortega: “Something about spinning up murder victims to testify who killed them.”
Kovacs: Why wouldn’t you spin them up if they’re witnesses to their own murder?
Ortega: “Archdiocese says you only get the sleeve you’re born with. Once it dies, they spin you back up for anything, even to identify your killer, your soul goes to hell.”
She asks Kovacs what he thinks, and he says that he thinks no one in the Archdiocese knows what it’s like to be murdered. He remembers back to watching his most recent partner being murdered by Jaeger. Merc Kovacs jumped up to attack Jaeger, but was shot in the chest, sending him to the floor. Jaeger demanded that he stay down. Merc Kovacs got up and ran for the glass bathroom wall, as the tac team shot him repeatedly. By the time he crashed through the glass he was dying. Merc Kovacs lay on the bathroom floor as he died, looking at his own reflection in a broken mirror. Modern Kovacs is haunted by his past.
Ortega asks modern Kovacs what he was in prison for. He gives her a vague answer, ending with, “Some people just need killing.” They discuss Laurens Bancroft, since Kovacs has never heard of him. Ortega explains that Bancroft was one of the first founding Meths. A Meth is one of the obscenely wealthy and powerful class who live like gods, named for the Bible verse Genesis 5:27, “And the days of Methuselah were 969 years.” Laurens Bancroft is 360 years old.
The car has been flying higher and higher as they’ve talked, surrounded by skyscrapers and giant holographic advertisements. Suddenly, it breaks through the cloud ceiling, where only the top few floors of a few buildings rise. Ortega says, “They call it the Aerium.” Kovacs is mesmerized by the Aerium. Ortega continues to pump him for information, but he doesn’t give anything up.
After a clumsy landing approach and a not quite crash landing, he finally gives her his name and tells her to look him up, just as she’s putting on a police badge. Bay City Police Lieutenant Ortega and Kovacs are met by Miriam Bancroft, Laurens’ wife, and his security team, who threaten to shoot Ortega for trespassing. Ortega isn’t threatened by them. Miriam asks why Ortega is driving the family limo.
Before she can answer, a Bay City Police car pulls up with Ortega’s partner Aboud and the Bancrofts’ son Isaac inside. Isaac was supposed to pick up Kovacs, but was picked up for drunk driving instead. Ortega borrowed the Bancrofts’ limo so that she could meet their mysterious new guest. Once she’s figured out who Kovacs is, Ortega throws a few intimidating comments his way, and tells him she’s not done with him as she leaves.
Miriam welcomes Kovacs to Sun House and brings him inside. The large foyer has an alien tree that’s a few stories tall, but very delicate. Kovacs thinks it should be in a museum because of its rarity and sacredness. Miriam says that she had it shipped from its home world because she has a passion for artifacts from the Elder Civilization. It’s the only Songspire tree on earth. At the ends of its weeping branches are glowing buds, similar to tassels. Merc Kovacs was wearing one of these as a pendant around his neck.
She tells Kovacs that no one knows what they were originally for, but on their home world the trees grow to be thousands of meters tall. He says he knows. He’s seen them, and thinks back to a time when he was with a group of people surrounding a tall Songspire tree in its natural habitat. Miriam realizes her mistake, and says, “Of course. Stronghold.”
Throughout this conversation Kovacs looks sad and lost, but he eventually grows desolate. It’s the feeling you’d expect from a man who’s lost everyone and everything, even his culture, time period and planet. But since he woke up he’s been surrounded by the mythology that he’s the last of the legendary and mysterious Envoys, supersoldiers of an earlier era, and a vicious terrorist, practically a mass murderer.
There’s been no time for him to feel his own feelings, until this brief moment when he’s suddenly confronted with a powerful symbol of everything he’s lost. And now he’s in front of a shallow woman who’d like to collect him along with the rest of her artifacts.
He follows her into the elevator and crowds into the corner, hunched in on himself with his arms crossed, very aware that his life is not his own. Like the Songspire tree, he’s been bought and paid for, brought to this world at great expense. Miriam either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care that his armor has momentarily failed him. She comes on to him anyway. People, like the sleeves they are housed in, are just another commodity to her.
Laurens Bancroft meets Kovacs in his study, which looks like Escher-designed architecture, with multiple levels of stairs, balconies, halls and smaller rooms off to the sides, becoming a confusing maze. Bancroft himself greets Kovacs from a balcony high above Kovacs’ position, then slowly makes his way downstairs, allowing himself to be distracted by his bookshelves and memories, making Kovacs look up to him, then wait for him.
When he finally stands in front of Kovacs, he hands Kovacs a handwritten, original book by Kovacs lover and mentor, Quellcrist Falconer. On the surface it appears to be a generous, if slightly insensitive gift, but it also sends the message that Bancroft owns EVERYTHING. He knows everything about Kovacs. He has bought Kovacs and his past, even the noble parts. There is no revolution for Kovacs to return to, because the Meths own it now, along with anyone left who fought for it.
Kovacs is momentarily thrown off kilter again, but then he’s done.
Kovacs: Listen to me. I spent this entire morning being well and truly f*cked around with, so, uh, let me be painfully clear. Some things can’t be bought. Like me. Now I didn’t ask you to bring me back into this world. In fact, I fought a war to stop people like you from happening. So, if someone doesn’t tell me right now what the f*ck this is all about, I might very well lose my temper. (Gives Bancroft back the book.)
Bancroft offers Kovacs a full pardon, a very generous line of credit, the Falconer book, the sleeve he’s wearing or a sleeve of his own choosing, and 50 million UN credits, if he takes Bancroft’s case.
Bancroft wants Kovacs to solve his own murder. He dramatically pulls down a cloth that had been covering one of the study walls to show that it’s covered in blood and brain matter.
At the police station, Ortega is beside herself as she wonders why Bancroft needs his own terrorist, especially a terrorist as gifted as an Envoy. Her partner, Aboud, reads up on the Envoys. They were able to absorb local language, culture and customs, and pass in almost any environment. Ortega adds that they could, “Infiltrate and manipulate computer systems, other people.”
Bancroft explains that Miriam found him in his study with his head vaporized by a particle blaster. There are no outside weapons allowed in the Aerium, but he keeps a particle blaster in a safe that only he and Miriam have access to. He’s aware that this looks like Miriam should be the number 1 suspect, but he trusts her and doesn’t think it’s her.
Kovacs asks how Bancroft is still here, if his head was vaporized. Bancroft explains that he uses full spectrum DHF remote storage back up. He has Kovacs look through a telescope to see his own personal military grade satellite. The satellite backs up a new copy of Bancroft’s consciousness every 48 hours. The next backup was due ten minutes after the murder, so he has no memories of the two days prior to the accident. Moments after his death, someone attempted to hack into his satellite feed.
Kovacs suggests that Bancroft tried to kill himself, and failed. Bancroft assures Kovacs that he wouldn’t kill himself. And if he did want to die, he wouldn’t fail. He’d be dead.
It does seem as though Bancroft has the money to pay people to make sure the job is done right the first time. Unless he’s trying to frame someone for attempted murder.
Kovacs: I don’t want your money or your pardon. I’ll take eternity on ice, thanks.
Bancroft insists that Kovacs take a day to reconsider. He suggests that Kovacs go into the city and remember what it’s like to be alive. And Quell’s book is Kovacs’ to keep, just like everything else listed in Bancroft’s contract, if he takes the job.
Kovacs sits at the top of a very tall dam and remembers his childhood with his younger sister Rei on his home planet, Harlan’s World. A hallucination of adult Rei, played by scifi staple Dichen Lachman, joins him. She asks him what he’s going to do. He laments that Quell was right. They lost the war, and the Meths own everything. He’s going to decadently enjoy his new sleeve for one night, then go back to prison and his eternal sleep. He throws Quell’s book into the water (in his hallucination).
Returning to the current real world, he keeps the book and wanders into the busy part of the city, full of brothels, tattoo parlors, street food, gambling halls, strip clubs, bars, and every other decadence imaginable. Certainly much more than my tame brain could come up with on its own. He runs into a man with a pink child’s backpack who offers him some “brain grease”, to help him settle into his new sleeve. Kovacs asks what’s in the bag.
Dealer: I got Stallion, Somno, Tetrameth, Veuron, Merge5, Stiff, Reaper. Oh, this is some epic shit.
Kovacs: Then, I’ll take it all.
Kovacs starts in directly on his plan to get f*cked up, and it doesn’t take long with that selection to help him. Seconds, in fact, with some eye drops. Eye drops are the drug of the future, according to current TV.
Kovacs wanders through the streets, taking in the holographic sex displays advertising local businesses. He’s taken with one in particular: “The Raven Hotel provides sanctuary to the weary traveler. Come, let us enfold you in the dark and delicate world of luxury.” It’s an AI hotel, run completely by an artificial intelligence, with an Edgar Allan Poe theme.
Before he can do anything about the hotel, he’s distracted by a holographic ad for Panama Rose Fightdrome, always live, never cast, with the most brutal combat sleeves. Holo fighters attack him. He fights, then they disappear, and he’s left having flopped to the ground in his drunken state.
Ortega appears out of nowhere and slaps a small device on the back of his neck. It’s a broadcast blocker, which stops Kovacs from seeing the holos. She says it’s a peace offering, then asks if he wants to get a drink. He says he’s fine on the ground, because he was right in that opening scene, he’s an *sshole in every sleeve. Virtually everyone he meets in this episode agrees.
She asks what he’s doing, and what Bancroft wants him for. Kovacs tells her that he’s apparently being followed, and Bancroft wants him to work on a case of hers that she screwed up. Ortega realizes that Kovacs is high- great detective work on her part, since he’s still on the ground- and starts to walk away. Kovacs calls her back.
He grabs his rainbow pink bag of drugs and reintroduces himself to her. They go for the drink she suggested at the strip club he picked out. The strippers are in their faces, ostensibly because he chose to sit close. Sleeves continue to produce hormones in storage so that the newly resleeved have a powerful need to get laid. He clearly had no intention of sleeping with a stripper, so the strip club was just to tease himself and give the audience the nudity it had missed for the last few minutes.
Kovacs says that he knows it was Ortega’s case because of Envoy Intuition: total absorb of everything around him without preconception or assumption. He sees the details.
She lists his accomplishments: Mercenary turned Envoy turned mercenary again. Sole survivor of the Battle of Stronghold. Known by the names Mamba Lev, One Hand Rending and Icepick.
Kovacs tells her he likes that one. She should call him Icepick.
Ortega: So why would you care what happened to Bancroft?
Kovacs: Who says I care about Bancroft? You don’t like him, though.
Ortega: He wanted me reprimanded when I couldn’t find his killer. Tried to screw with my career, which means with my life. And he’s still f*ckin’ doin’ it.
Kovacs: Are you saying you didn’t deserve it?
Ortega: I’m saying I polygraphed the wife at her own insistence. She passed without a twitch. Friends, enemies, people with opportunity and motive, and we always came back to the same thing. Laurens Bancroft locked himself in his study and blew his stack out.
Kovacs: And conveniently forgot that he’d be resleeved less than an hour later.
Ortega: Let me tell you what went over my desk the night Bancroft bought it: Four stabbings, ten shootings, three of which were RDs by the way. One sleeve kill. Oh no, not a sleeve kill. She was a Neo-Catholic dumped in the bay. So she can’t be resleeved. She was actually murdered.
Kovacs: As opposed to Bancroft, who was incompetently murdered.
Ortega: Are you a moron or just an *sshole? There’s no Bancroft case!
Kovacs is way better at interrogating someone without seeming like he’s interrogating someone than Ortega is. At least one of the other cases from the night Bancroft was shot will come up again.
He turns down the stripper who’s interested in him, but reminds Ortega of the whole thing about being hot and resleeved, accompanied by an invitation to join him. She turns him down. He leans in close to her, as if he’s going to say something sexy. Instead, he tells her that his Envoy Intuition is telling him that Bancroft absolutely believes that he was murdered.
Kovacs goes on to say that he turned Bancroft down and is going back into storage after a night of fun. He’s out of place in this world. He pays the tab for their drinks, and tells Ortega that he’ll be at the Raven Hotel if she changes her mind. Like everyone he meets, she tries to talk him out of staying at an AI hotel, saying they’re like stalkers. Kovacs thanks Ortega for her concern and leaves.
The Raven is in an empty part of town. The desk clerk, Poe, is pretending to be, yes, Edgar Allan Poe. He offers Kovacs every amenity and form of entertainment a hotel can offer, including some that probably don’t exist in this century. They reach an understanding that Kovacs wants private entertainment sent to his room that can provide variety, but nothing too elaborate.
Just as he’s about to pay using his DNA trace and the credit account at the Bank of Nations provided by Bancroft, someone sticks a gun up against his stack.
It’s Tahmoh Penikett, another scifi staple, this time playing a cocky hitman. He trash talks Kovacs and his own back up for a while, before shooting a rude member of his team. Poe insists continuously that he can’t provide guest amenities until Kovacs is fully registered. Kovacs just has to touch the pay screen. It’s clearly a giant hint. Poe eventually begins a countdown until Kovacs’ time to pay runs out. Who hasn’t been there, although usually people aren’t shooting at you.
Meanwhile, the hitman beats Kovacs up and mocks his Envoy Intuition. Kovacs struggles to get back to the pay screen, pushing the button just in time. The hotel unleashes firepower from the ceiling and the desk clerk, easily taking care of the thugs. It kills everyone, despite Kovacs asking it to leave the leader alive. Apparently AI hotels don’t like to be insulted. Seriously, the hitman called him a microwave.
Ortega and Aboud arrive momentarily, finding Kovacs winding down by having a drink at the front desk/bar. Kovacs tells Ortega that the thugs knew him by name. He reasons that there’s no one in this century who would want him dead that badly. They must know that he’s awake to solve the Bancroft case.
The hitman turns out to be Dimitri Kadmin, also known as Dimi the Twin, who works out of Vladivostok. He does a lot of work for the yakuza, the Japanese mob. (I’m thinking that maybe he’s a good contact for a mercenary like Kovacs, if Kovacs stays awake.) Dimitri has a habit of double-sleeving: Making an illegal copy of himself and downloading it into a black market sleeve. The penalty is real death.
Eventually they’ll catch the other copy of Dimitri and then he’ll be done. Ortega pulls Dimitri’s stack from his damaged sleeve. It’s been damaged as well. It gives an ID, but nothing more, so they can’t interrogate Dimitri.
Ortega gives Poe a hard time for going overboard protecting Kovacs. Poe says Kovacs is his first guest in 50 years. He’s getting the full service. Plus, the thugs were incredibly rude. Aboud points out that Ortega has shot people for less.
Kovacs and the cops argue for a minute over whether the hitman was after Kovacs for himself or because of Bancroft, then Kovacs gives up, grabs and kisses his rainbow pink bag of party favors, and heads up to his room. Ortega can visit him there if she decides that the attack on him was his fault.
As Kovacs rides upstairs in the elevator, he hallucinates snow falling. Or is it ashes? He remembers his original sleeve running through a burning wood with snow on the ground and ash swirling in the air around him. He’s alone. Is this the end of the Battle of Stronghold, of which he’s the sole survivor?
Once in his room, he sits on the floor and leans against a wall. He puts more drug drops in his eyes. Quell, played by Hamilton the Musical’s Renée Elise Goldsberry, appears as a hallucination, but also as memory and voiceover. She’s his world. His past and his current isolation are finally overwhelming him.
Quell: This enemy you cannot defeat. You can only drive it deeper inside you.
Kovacs takes a gun from his bag.
Quell: Is that really what you want to do with your only night on Earth?
Kovacs: I don’t know…How to be in this world without you.
Quell: I’m here.
Kovacs: You’re dead.
We see Quell consumed by an explosion of flames.
Kovacs: I don’t have to go back on ice. I…could just end it now. Make it stop. Blow out my stack. Make it all go away.
He holds a gun to the base of his skull. Quell appears next to him and speaks into his ear.
Quell: If you do that, it won’t all go away. Just you. Tak. (Urgently.)
He lets the gun fall. She holds his face.
Quell: 250 years is long enough. Move on.
Kovacs: Never. Do you hear me? Not ever.
Quell: Then do what you were born to do. What I trained you to do. Make things change.
Kovacs: By saving a Meth?
Quell: There’s more here than you’re willing to see. It’s not the threat. It’s the unanswered question. The mystery that needs to be solved. The box that needs to be unlocked. Envoys take what is offered, Tak. Take this chance. This is how you finish the mission.
Kovacs: Without you?
Quell: Finish the mission.
He gets up and stands on his balcony, looking out at the city.
The song The End, by Daughter, plays over the scene.
Tak gets a snake infinity tattoo that matches the one merc Kovacs had, and the symbol in the opening credits. Then Tak places a video call to Laurens Bancroft, and tells Bancroft he’ll take the case.
ScreenRant has a Guide to Altered Carbon’s Terminology.
Business Insider has a Guide to Altered Carbon’s Major Characters.
Miriam’s Songspire tree is growing in a spot that’s too small for it. Its branches are growing horizontally along the ceiling already, with nowhere else to go, almost like it’s sealed in a Psychasec pack the way Kovacs was. There’s caging and suppression going on by and within the Bancroft household.
The tree is symbolic of the freedom, spirituality and culture that have been lost in favor of decadence, commercialism, materialism, and
exploitation. Much of the Envoys’ power came from being deeply in touch with themselves and their senses, and not letting themselves give in to the siren’s call of the material world.
It’s clear that there’s still a need for the Envoys and their philosophy in this world. People crave something, and they don’t know what it is. He probably wouldn’t willingly choose to be a leader, but Kovacs appears to be the only person left with the direct connection to Quell that would allow him to confidently speak in her name. Bancroft passing Quell’s handwritten manifesto back to Kovacs almost seems to be a request for Kovacs to do that very thing, to try again to stop the Meths and save them from themselves.
Real death might be the last “real” thing left in the lives of the Meths, even though they never want to experience it themselves, making it endlessly fascinating. Both Bancrofts are collecting items from the dead, and coveting a man who’s died, whose culture and purpose have died too.
I don’t think this is what happened, but it’s conceivable that Bancroft shot himself so that he could briefly experience real death. Whoever found him could have tried to make his experiment permanent.
Distorted reflections and images of humans and faux humans abound in this series. No one is ever their true selves, even when they look at themselves, or share themselves intimately.
Quell is Kovacs’ Jiminy Cricket. In a much better package. Always let your conscience be your guide.
Bancroft’s murderer was very precise with their timing, and knew when the back up would occur. So, someone he has close dealings with, whether it’s family, a business associate, or a servant of whatever kind. Most of the people this man knows are probably on his payroll in some capacity.
Harlan’s World is 80 light years from earth, as watery as earth, has 2 moons that are either large as compared to ours or closer to the planet, and was settled by Japanese and Eastern European people.
While he’s high, Kovacs develops an accent/lets his native accent show through. I assume it’s supposed to be his natural accent, but that he hasn’t been using it on earth as part of his Envoy ability to blend in. He may be trying to get Ortega to be more comfortable with him and to let down her guard by reminding her that he’s also a person of color, despite what he looks like at the moment.
There are a few other times where I can discern a bit of an accent as well. It’s confusing, because the accent isn’t well-defined. Rei speaks the way Dichen Lachman normally sounds. It feels like the actor, who is Swedish, could be letting his own accent slip through. Maybe it will become more clear as we get to know him better in his previous lives, in his other sleeves.
It could be fun to play 6 Degrees of Scifi Separation using Dichen Lachman and Tahmoh Penikett as the starting points instead of Kevin Bacon. It seems like the two of them show up in everything, sooner or later. They were both regulars on Dollhouse, another body switching TV series.