Gird your loins, kids, this is the torture episode. Tak’s in the virtual reality torture chamber for much of the episode. Though it was difficult to watch, it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, based on the warnings. The Outlander season 1 rape/torture episode was much, much worse. Maybe I’ve just seen too many seasons of creatively dragging entrails on The Walking Dead. Which isn’t to say this episode isn’t violent, gruesome, and, you know, tortuous. But it’s not very different from what we’ve already seen on Altered Carbon.
The real torture is in the emotions that the characters suffer over the course of the episode, especially in Tak’s flashbacks. We learn more about his life, his relationship with Quell, and how heartbroken he still is. We also get to see more of Ortega’s personal life, and begin to discover why she’s so interested in Tak.
So. Probably the most disturbing part of the episode is the Wei Clinic, an interrogation facility which specializes in “extracting data from unwilling subjects”. Torture is such an ugly word. The facility is large, clean, brightly lit, fully staffed, organized, and obviously part of a larger organization with franchises or branches. There’s a routine and a schedule for
torture extraction sessions. The Nazis would be jealous.
Tak is in room 5, so there at least five interrogation rooms. His room holds him, plus Alice’s body. Her body is being dissected by high tech devices in the background over the course of the episode. It’s never clear why, unless I missed it. Maybe it’s being filmed for voyeuristic purposes. Of course it’s also there because when violence is done to Tak, it must also be done to a woman. Yes, the body is naked, and Tak is fully clothed in the real world, partially clothed in VR.
The episode begins with the clinic manager, Mr Phillips, checking in with the two technicians assigned to Tak’s “procedure”, Al and Miles. He reminds them that they need to finish on time for once and leaves them to it. The torturer is already on his table and ready to go. Miles tells Al that he’s going to ask out the piece of *ss in payroll with the… [makes gesture like he’s carrying a large melon in each arm in front of his chest].
Al stops him, reminding him that they taught him not to talk about women that way during sensitivity training. Miles retorts that he’s just expressing his appreciation for the female form. What’s wrong with that? As they’re talking, the camera moves around behind their work area to show Alice’s body, naked, bruised, still in her hooker make up, about to be sliced open. I’m sure they’re appreciating the female form by dissecting her as well.
They turn on the VR simulator. Tak appears in a run down room, wearing only pants. The man who kidnapped him appears a moment later. Tak asks who he is, and the man says he’s the one asking the questions. The torturer holds up his hand and requests a chain, which immediately appears. Actually one of the technicians sends it to him. The program is a bit low tech, since the torturer can’t control the entire thing from inside.
As he attacks Tak, the torturer explains the condition of Tak’s VR body: no neurochem, no combat conditioning, no reflex aggression, slowed reaction times, limited strength and stamina, weakened bones. So, a normal person’s body.
He breaks Tak’s arm as he mentions his bones. He’s been beating Tak with the chain as he talks, herding him toward a lab table. Now he throws Tak onto it. The lab technicians monitor their progress using an injury and pain chart.
Vernon finishes watching the surveillance footage he downloaded from Sun House, but is frustrated because 3 hours are missing from the record of the night before Lizzie was found in the alley. Well, that’s convenient. Vernon wants to talk to Lizzie, but Poe says that, while she’s making progress, she’s still not ready yet.
Poe is deadly serious about this, as in Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve, Dia de los Muertos dead. Tonight is the big night, and he adores the holiday’s traditions, the history, the way various cultures come together. Vernon rudely tells him that holidays are about people and families, something an AI couldn’t understand.
Poe describes cycling in and out of insanity during his decades of loneliness. Then he suggests that Vernon apologize to Tak for being such lousy back up at the party. Vernon gets defensive, and somehow flips that around into accusing Poe of being a stalker. Actually, a stalker is just what Tak needs right now. Poe is generally more helpful than Vernon, truth be told. Vernon’s Spidey senses must kick in though, because eventually he insists that Poe turn on his Oni location program.
As the torturer repeatedly asks who he works for, Tak is sent into a memory of Envoy training. The Envoy recruits, including Rei and Tak, sit in a group outside in a forest and listen to Quell’s instructions. She explains that if they’re captured, they’ll be tortured.
Quell: “Assume nothing. Only then can you truly understand what you’re dealing with.”
She continues by telling them that in VR, you can be tortured to death in the worst ways, over and over. No conditioning can prepare you for that. The mind perceives all pain the same, virtual or real. Eventually, you’ll either break or go insane. Envoys learn to use the mind’s reactions to adversity, such as hallucination, displacement or retreat, as moves in a game.
Back in current day VR,
Ryker Tak’s starting to look pretty scratched and bruised. He mumbles and gets torture guy to lean in close, then head butts him. The guy insists that Tak is someone named Ryker. Tak insists he’s Ava Elliot. Torture guy tells Tak that he was clever to wear his tracker in his broadcast blocker, but they’ve removed both, and the building blocks tracking signals. Tak didn’t know that he was being tracked by Kristin. He is, once again, a much better interrogator just by showing up than the official interrogator.
Ortega’s police data guy, Mickey, examines her Oni party footage. He specifically looks for signs of the Asian man she saw lurking, who Aboud couldn’t see. The guy doesn’t show up in the footage, so Mickey writes a program to specifically look for data distortion and air displacement in the area where Ortega saw the ghost. Sure enough, both are found. Somehow, the ghost got the Oni to not see him. That’s cutting edge technology. If the man can scale it up to satellites, surveillance cameras, etc. he could disappear from all footage, everywhere.
That gets Ortega wondering if the ghost could be connected to the Mary Lou Henchy case, since neither she nor her assailant have shown up on any footage, anywhere. Mickey says he’ll try to come up with a program to search for sequential cascades. He complains that inventory is all over him about a missing Hawkeye tracker. Ortega decides the conversation is over and quickly leaves.
Kristin calls her mother once she’s leaves Mickey’s desk. Alazne is deep into cooking for the family’s Dia de los Muertos celebration that night. She and her brother are quarreling about which cheese their mother used in her chiles rellenos- oaxaca or pepper jack.
In the background, a very loud, very violent criminal is being dragged in. He has a shaved head and is covered in tattoos. Kristin tells him to be quiet so that she can hear her mother on the phone. He insults her and her mother’s honor. She whips out her cattle prod and tazes him unconscious. The other cops leave him on the floor as they take off for their holiday. Ortega tells them to clean up the mess, but they’re off the clock.
She tells Alazne that she’ll get some oaxaca on the way home and hangs up. She gets the skinhead onto a table, presumably with his stack removed, and starts to leave, then turns to give him a calculating look.
Torture guy is moving up to pliers. He’s continuing the same line of questioning, adding in a question about why Tak was asking about Lizzie. The face that torture guy is wearing starts to wear off though, revealing his favorite sleeve, and his identity as Dimi the Twin. Dimi thinks that his “brother” must have been lured to the Raven to be murdered by Ryker. He won’t believe that Tak was the assassination target.
Tak tells Dimi that where he comes from personality frag is another word for insane. Dimi doesn’t care that his sanity’s been questioned. He just wants revenge. And now he wants to know where Tak is from.
Back in flashback, Quell asks her students if any of them know the story of Iphigenia Deme. Tak looks slightly sick.
Quell: Iffy Deme was a great fighter on Adoracion. The Protectorate sent CTAC to pacify the planet. Her family was slaughtered. Iffy was captured, tortured. She died a hundred deaths. They thought they had broken her.
Tak: And then she asked to see the top brass, said she’d only confess to them. She got the top 17 CTAC officers on planet into a room with her, in the real. They didn’t know she’d been surgically implanted with enzyme-triggered explosives. The enzyme was fury-related.
Quell: When they were all around her, waiting for her to betray her fellow rebels, she let herself get angry. She turned the room and the surrounding 50 square meters into ash.
Tak: Her last words, strapped to the interrogation table, where they’d raped and killed her over and over again, “That’s f*cking enough.”
Quell and Tak stare at each other a moment.
Quell: In VR interrogation, they control the construct. I can teach you how to manipulate virtual in ways they will never anticipate, because they won’t even believe it’s possible.
She sends them to the VR table to prepare to practice.
Quell whispers to Tak: No one knows about Iffy. All the rebels were killed. The only ones who would remember what happened-
Tak: Were the interrogation team loaded in from offsite.
Quell: She was my friend.
Tak: I should have died with her.
Quell: Why didn’t you?
Tak: They sent me out. Not high ranking enough.
Quell: You were just their bloodhound, trained to hunt us down.
Tak: You knew what I was when you let me in here. Is it different because you can put a face on one of the dead?
Quell backs away from Tak and says, “See you soon,” to the group as she turns on the VR simulator. Rei has listened intently to their entire conversation.
Dimi asks Ryker who got him out, and why they wanted him to go after Dimi, because there’s no way Ryker is capable of taking out Dimi on his own. Tak asks who Ryker is. Dimi says, “Wrong answer,” and shoots him in the head. The technicians restart the program, so Tak is alive again in VR.
Kristin is shopping at an outdoor market for cheese. The skinhead is with her, and is now speaking kindly to her, with a Spanish accent. He tells her to get queso valladares because it melts the fastest. Then he tells Kristin that she’s too thin and asks if she’s eating enough. Skinhead is now Kristin’s abuela, spun up to celebrate the holiday with family.
Al and Miles ogle Tak’s Nemex weapon, mock his pink backpack, and are frustrated with his high pain tolerance. They have places to be after work, and they need him to break so they don’t have to work overtime. But the immolation program is next, and that generally works.
Dimi wakes Tak up with the children’s rhyme, “Wakey, wakey, eggs and bakey.” What he really means is gas and a blow torch. As he covers Tak in gasoline, Dimi asks again who hired Ryker to kill his brother. Tak says that Dimi tried to kill him. Dimi doesn’t believe his brother would bother. Ryker was arrested for RD’ing (“real deathing”) a CTAC officer. He’s due to come up for trial soon. Ryker should get at least three life sentences. Dimi planted to evidence himself to make sure of it, since it’s not easy to take down a cop.
Tak pretends he’s losing it for a minute, then swears at Dimi as Dimi lights the gas on fire. Tak burns. Virtually, but real to his mind.
Kristin and Abuela arrive at Kristin’s apartment. Alazne, Abuela’s daughter and a staunch Neo-Catholic, greets them at the door. Abuela gets a kick out of showing up in Skinhead’s body and shocking her conservative daughter. She continues to stretch her boundaries throughout the episode, as being in the body of a big, tattooed criminal frees her to do things she felt weren’t appropriate for her to do in life.
Alazne thought that her mother’s stack was coded as a Neo-C and couldn’t be spun up, but Kristin tells her that Abuela renounced the Neo-C belief before she died. Kristin says that renting a sleeve for the holidays and spinning up lost relatives is what everybody does. Alazne is scandalized, and prays for both her mother and her daughter’s souls.
Current Tak wakes up back in the VR chamber, with Dimi still holding the blowtorch. In flashback, original Tak wakes up to his VR torture training. He’s in what I think is his childhood home, chained to the wall, up high enough that he’s hanging, with several Praetorian guards watching. Quell explains that the program pulls subliminal memories of trauma. This is someplace he felt trapped.
Quell: The first step is how we experience helplessness. What do you do when you can’t get out?
Tak breaks out of the chains and takes down the guards. Quell asks what he’d do next. “They control the construct. They just send more and you’re still here.”
She fights him hand to hand until he’s back in chains.
Quell: “You have to beat the player, not the game. There are some things you can’t kill your way out of.”
In real life, present day Tak is pale and shaking. The techs marvel again at his pain tolerance.
Meanwhile, Kristin is for once ignoring the Hawkeye tracker in favor of her family, just when tracking Tak would do some good.
Aboud arrives at the Dia de los Muertos party, bringing a pie. Kristin asks about the ghost program. Aboud says Mickey will be working on it over the weekend, since he doesn’t have a family. Kristin says that not everyone is as lucky as she is, while several children run and laugh through the apartment, and Abuela comes over to say hello.
Aboud’s jaw drops as he sees whose body Abuela is in. Abuela is loving the whole thing. Now everyone is telling her that 5 drinks is enough, but that body probably routinely downs more than a 6 pack in one go. It’s not her old lady body that could only handle a drink or two.
Abuela: “Please, your father, he was the true believer. I only went to church for a little blood of Christ, if you know what I mean. (Alazne: Mom! There are traditions here! You are a bad example to the kids.) Me? The traditions that tell you to live without love? You think this is a good thing? It’s f*cking tragedy is what it is. Maybe we should only get one body. But then, you have to enjoy it, huh? Not feel trapped every minute of your life. Con permiso, I have to pee. (Leaves the table.) Hey guys, I’m peeing standing up!”
The kids have been giggling through Abuela’s entire speech. Their father jumps in to remind them that God gave them one body, and if they use another after dying they’ll never get into Heaven.
Kristin says that it’s hard to believe in a god who won’t let murder victims tell the world who did this to them. Aboud says that they just want to help give victims some peace by bringing their attackers to justice. Kristin’s uncle is firm in his belief that the dead should not speak, no matter what.
They begin to talk about God and miracles. Kristin feels the stack technology is a miracle.
Kristin: “Didn’t God create the explorers that led us to the Elder ruins and the metal for stack technology?”
Alazne brings up the devil, saying he can lead people to damnation the way God leads them to salvation.
Dimi’s currently using the blowtorch to burn off parts of Tak’s body, starting with his legs. All we see are the cauterised stumps that stop above his knees.
Quell: The pain will be without limit, the interrogator without mercy. It is a universe of suffering. There will seem to be no end. Accept that it will never stop. Scream your way through it, or cry, or bleed. Let them think they have begun to break you. Remember only one thing. (Tak: What’s that?) An animal in the forest is caught in a trap. It will flail, bite, snap, try to escape, gnaw its own leg off. You Are No Animal. You Are An Envoy. You Aren’t Trapped, You’re Waiting. Your enemy is not the interrogator. Your enemy is despair. They control the construct. Wait, find the weakness in your enemy, and then get to the next screen. You should know there’s nothing I won’t do, nothing, if it will save you.
Tak: What if I can’t be saved?
Quell: We are patient. We wait. We endure. We find the weakness and then we strike. Even if it is only to destroy the weakness in ourselves.
Dimi decides he’ll use the blowtorch on Tak’s left arm next, but his session is going into overtime, and it’s time for the shop to close up for the day. Dimi wants authorization for additional time and protocols. Given that it’s also the start of a holiday, nobody is okay with this except for Dimi. The manager has Al and Miles pull Dimi out of VR.
It’s time for Abuela to go back to wherever sleeveless stacks go. She says goodbye to the family, but Alazne refuses to speak to her. After everyone else leaves, Aboud stays behind to speak with Alazne alone. He hugs her from behind. They seem very close. The conversation switches between Spanish, English and Arabic.
Aboud: Sometimes we must realize that faith evolves as we do.
Alazne: Is it evolution, using the work of aliens, to extend our own lives? Are we even God’s creatures any longer? Why am I asking you? We don’t even believe in the same God.
Aboud; But we both believe in the soul. And so does your daughter. Cut her some slack.
Alazne: When did this world get so complicated?
Aboud: When God put people into it.
When Dimi comes out of VR, he complains that the clinic’s torture programs aren’t strong enough. He needs more time and better programs. Phillips insists that there’s nothing wrong with their programs. Dimi says, “So you want me to believe this man can’t break?” The manager replies, “Everyone breaks.”
Then he offers Dimi a new program from Beijing called Hellminth Code that’s so powerful that it left the last victim with a psychotic break. Al and Miles look like Christmas just came early. Dimi is fine with that. He goes back into VR, while Phillips rushes to take an important call from “HER”.
Could SHE be whoever ordered the dissection of Alice? Maybe a jealous Miriam, Prescott, or someone else who has something to do with Ava and Lizzie Elliot? Were they looking for something possibly hidden inside her?
Dimi returns to VR carrying a metal box. Tak plays scared and twitchy. Dimi asks again who hired Ryker to kill him. Tak doesn’t answer. Dimi takes a 2 foot long, thin lizard out of the box and holds it over a slice he’s made in Tak’s shoulder. Tak stops him and agrees that he’s Ryker, but says he doesn’t know who hired him to kill Dimi.
Quell: Convince him you are broken. He believes you are the one in the trap. Use that. Hallucination, Displacement, Retreat.
Dimi doesn’t believe Tak. He drops the lizard on Tak, and it crawls inside his body.
Dimi: You’re lying. You play dumb with me all you want, but I know that the kind of firepower that came after me means this is something big. And the fact that you won’t roll on this guy just means that you think he’s more dangerous than me. You’re wrong. I am what you need to be afraid of.
Dimi holds another lizard over Tak’s face.
Quell: Take what is offered, and use it.
Tak appears to be losing it, then accepts that this is happening. Dimi drops the lizard down his throat.
Abuela and Kristin have a heart to heart back at the station. Abuela misses her lost love, Kristin’s Abuelo. One of the only things they ever disagreed about was religion, so now he’s coded Neo-Catholic, and she’s not. Maybe he’s up in Heaven, and she’ll never be. Then Abuela asks if they have any confiscated drugs hanging around the station that she could try. She’s never done drugs before.
Quell: Take control of the construct. Delete the chain.
Tak: Delete the chain.
In the flashback, he deletes the chain and drops to the floor.
Quell: Delete the Praetorians.
Tak: Delete the Praetorians.
The Paetorians disappear. Quell looks excited and hopeful.
Quell: Excellent. But it won’t be that easy with me.
Tak: Yes it will. I already know your weakness. (Quell: Really?) You let the other recruits out faster.
Quell: You have more to pay for.
Tak: Or maybe you have more to prove. About how much you don’t care for me.
Quell: I don’t care about you.
Tak: I think you’re going to show me how to break out of the simulation next.
Quell: Focus on what you care about most in this world, with every atom of your existence. Rip yourself open, and you can rip a hole in the virtual world. That is how you get back to the real. That is how you get to the next screen.
They kiss. After a minute, Quell drops the knife she’s holding, which makes her come to her senses. They’re jolted back into the real world.
The other recruits are waiting for them, teasing Tak about how long he took compared to them. Tak says he’s a slow learner. Quell says he was sloppy. He points out it worked.
Quell (to recruits): I could kill you where you stand…All of you! Escaping the construct is not enough by itself. When you get back to the real, that’s your one chance. You have to be ready.
She kept him longer than the others because he’s better than the rest, and could get further- the others probably weren’t deleting Praetorians yet. But also because she wants to push him to succeed, to make sure he’s able to survive. They recognize the scary level of fierceness and determination in each other. She’s trying to give his internal fire a direction.
Quell (to present day Tak in VR): Let him believe you are weak, until the moment he discovers you are not.
As Dimi reaches down to get another lizard from the box, Tak breaks the straps that bind him to the table, and gets down. He falls to the floor, ending up kneeling. Quell’s image kneels in front of him as he reaches a hand into his chest, through skin and bone, to pull out his still beating heart. Tak holds it out in front of him in two hands, offering it to Quell.
Tak: Take it. It’s yours. From the moment I met you, it’s yours.
Quell (softly, but urgently): Takeshi, get to the next screen.
Dimi asks who Tak is talking to. Tak and Quell lean their heads together for a moment, the way he did with Rei as a child, then he disappears out of VR.
I’m just going to need a moment. 😭😭😭 Discuss amongst yourselves. Is Renée Elyse Goldsberry incredibly lucky with her leading men, or just extremely lucky? Or, discuss the opposite with regard to the men who get to act opposite her, if you’re so inclined. Let’s all thank the casting director, anyway. OMG, the chemistry.
Okay, we’re back.
Tak wakes up in the real, to the technicians racing around frantically because he stopped his own heart. Alice has been butchered as thoroughly as the tiger at Laurens party, to the point of having organs strewn on the floor and filling up large containers. Tak sheds a tear for her. Dimi yells for them to get Tak back into VR. Quell is waiting for Tak to make his next move.
Tak starts spinning. He tells the techs they’ll be RD’d if they put him back in VR, because he’s not who they think he is. If they think about it, they’ll know he’s telling the truth. Has Ryker ever been offworld? Can he stop and start his own heart? They’ve kidnapped and tortured a CTAC officer. Now CTAC are going to hunt down the entire crew and kill them and everyone they care about.
Dimi asks what CTAC was doing in Licktown. Tak says there’s a biopirate operation moving stolen military inventory out of places like Jack It Off. He promises to let the one who lets him loose from the table live. The other two will be killed by the Corps until they’re really, really dead.
As soon as one of the techs gets one of his hands loose, Tak swings around and grabs one of his guns from the next table, where his backpack is still sitting. He shoots the strap off the other hand, grabs the other gun, and kills everyone in the room. People have started running in by this time. He shoots most of them twice, once to put them down, then a second time in the stack. Al tries to save himself by saying he just works there. Tak doesn’t hesitate to shoot him next.
Tak packs up his Hello Unicorn backpack and leaves, killing everyone in the facility the same way on the way out. I like to think it was for Alice. At the entrance, he runs into Vernon with spinal apparatus guy from Jack It Off, who sold him out and killed Alice. He kills that guy, too. Vernon, who really is spectacularly bad back up, says he promised the guy could live. Vernon is very brave though. He gives Tak back his Oni and notes that Tak’s covered in blood. Tak says it isn’t his. Tak’s also carrying Dimi’s latest head, presumably to preserve his stack.
Over at the police station, Abuela is as high as a kite and loving it. But she doesn’t want to be brought back in another sleeve next year. She’s ready to let go of life.
Abuela: I think it’s time for me to go, my darling. No matter how long you live, you never finish. You have to let the world continue. Accept that death is part of life. Please, my love. Don’t bring me back again. Okay? Please?
Once Abuela and the sleeve are back where they go, Ortega gets the call about the massacre at the Wei Clinic. Kristin gets to the scene, and sees the dead guy from Jack It Off. She realizes Tak was probably involved, and asks Hawkeye to locate him. Hawkeye can’t, because the tracker is still inside the clinic building with its signal blockers. Once she’s inside the building, Hawkeye picks up the signal and leads her to Dimi’s headless sleeve. She’s relieved that it’s not Tak’s body, then it hits her that he must be the shooter.
Kristin goes straight to the Raven and up to Tak’s room. Poe and Vernon watch her go by, claiming they have no idea where Tak is. Vernon seems to be living in the lobby of the Raven now, where he can be close to Lizzie. He’s a devoted dad.
Tak has sensibly saved his shower for the end of the episode, because Vernon was right, that really is a lot of blood. Poe lets Kristin into the room, but keeps the bathroom door locked, so she stands outside and pounds on it. Tak comes out with a towel around his waist, which is practically like being fully clothed in a three piece suit and tie for him when he’s post shower. He has Dimi’s head resting on ice in the room’s ice bucket, and reassuringly pats it with his hand as he walks by.
Kristin tries to take control of the conversation as soon as Tak comes out of the shower, but he ignores her questions. Instead, he asks how long she’s been tracking him, and if she knows his sleeve. He’s realized that she was already aware of what the sleeve was doing long before she knew who he was. She jumps in and says she was following him because he’s so dangerous, and points out what he just did. He says he deserves a medal for shutting the torture clinic down. Which, seriously, any sane person has to agree.
He asks who Ryker is and says that the only thing that makes sense is that she was tracking Ryker, not Tak. She tries to deny it again. He stands close to her and grabs the knife from her belt. He opens it up and stands across the room from her.
He makes a cut in his chest and says, “Still don’t give a sh*t?” She replies, “No, stab yourself in the d*ck for all I care.”
Tak tells her that Dimi kept calling him Ryker. He asks again who Ryker is to her. She says Dimi’s crazy. Ryker’s no one.
Tak circles her as they talk. Then he makes a big cut in his forearm. She’s been getting nervous as the conversation has gone on. Now she admits that she and Ryker worked together. But says it was nothing more.
Tak prepares to slit his own throat. He draws a few drops of blood, then Kristin grabs his hand and begs him to stop. She begins to cry and promises to tell him everything.
He’s still the best interrogator on this show. Tak probably has a right to know about Ryker’s history at this point, given that the guy has enemies who are coming after him. Nobody else could have survived that torture session, and Kristin dropped the ball on protecting the sleeve.
So, that episode was an emotional rollercoaster. And, next episode, we undoubtedly get to hear about Kristin’s heartache. She’s not desperately trying to keep that body in one piece for nothing. It was obvious that she wanted to throw away the key to the cell in episode two, until she could get Ryker the cop back in his own body.
Tak is in the sleeve that belongs to wrongfully imprisoned Ryker the cop, who’s in prison because Dimi framed him for killing a CTAC officer. Ryker’s due to go to trial soon, and likely to get a life sentence. But we don’t know why Dimi wanted to take down Ryker so badly, or why he was paid to.
And Dimi said that the amount of firepower used in the attack at the Raven meant it was about something big. The other Dimi was using Tak’s name during that attack, not Ryker’s, and didn’t seem to know Ryker, since he didn’t know what size Tak would be. The Dimi’s must have lines of cloned stacks that have branched off from each other at different times, so they don’t all share the same recent memories.
But also, someone really wanted Tak dead. Did they want to stop the investigation, or is it an old enemy? With black market clones and stack backups, you could live forever and stay under the radar. Any of Tak’s enemies could still be around. Or friends who think he betrayed them, like someone who believed Jaeger’s lie about Tak killing his own partner in episode 1.
This episode serves as a counterpart to episode 3, in which the violence was for sport, and the party was for show, with attendees who didn’t like or care about one another. Everything about the event at Sun House was meant to bedazzle and impress, but missed the mark miserably, because its audience either had already done and seen it all, were there to work or climb socially and didn’t have time to enjoy it, or were beyond caring about that kind of materialism.
In episode 4, the violence, though largely virtual, was for a very real, dangerous purpose, with the promise of more to come. Then it spilled over into the real world, as Tak avenged Alice’s death and shut down the facility. The violence and the deaths became real.
The Dia de los Muertos party was a family event amongst people who love each other, with a close family friend invited along. The food was traditional, the conversation was intimate. Kristin and Laurens both have large families, but he forces his family to stay with him and do his bidding, while the Ortegas argue and disagree, but keep loving and trying to understand each other.
We also end up with two very different takes on the wisdom of age, between Laurens’ insufferable arrogance aimed at Tak in episode 3, and the gentle wisdom shared by Kristin’s abuela in episode 4. We see so few regular middle and working class families on this show, who aren’t overly exploited or overly decadent. It’s reassuring to have them turn up occasionally, doing something normal, to prove they still exist in this otherwise bleak universe, chugging along with common sense and hope.
I didn’t write about the tiger that was on display and being carved up for the guests to dine on at Laurens’ party in episode 3, because it didn’t seem central to the plot and it was too disturbing for me. But the tiger is paralleled with Alice’s body in this episode, so I need to mention it now.
Both are displayed, dissected, carved, consumed, and left with their bloody body cavities splayed open and abandoned, forgotten, once their abusers are done exploiting them. They are trophies, proof of power over. And they are trophies of the same man, even if Alice’s ultimate dissection wasn’t done on Laurens’ order. He is a symbol in real life and in the show’s universe, just as surely as Alice and the tiger are. He was her abuser at Jack It Off.
Besides relating animal abuse to the abuse of women, the tiger also represents Laurens relationship with Tak. Laurens doesn’t view Tak as a person, but as a powerful plaything that he can challenge himself with, then have killed when he’s done with it. Locking horns with Tak, the legendary last Envoy, is much more interesting than knife fighting or making more business deals. But Laurens is ultimately certain that he’s the more evolved creature, just as he is with the tiger.
Kristin could build a nice little illegal side business in renting out sleeves from temporarily imprisoned criminals over holiday weekends after everyone else at the station has gone home for the day. It sounds like it’s a popular time to rent a sleeve for a short term, they can probably be hard to come by and get expensive.
Matt Biedel was amazing in this episode as both the Skinhead and Abuela. So was Martha Higareda, and everyone else who acted opposite him.
How FABULOUS are Poe and the Raven’s entire holiday look? I would absolutely hire him to do all of my holiday decorating. Bet he’s great with Christmas lights.
It was referenced in episode 2, and it’s made more clear in this episode, that Tak has been both the torturer and the tortured. Tak said in episode 2 that he was good at what he did for the Protectorate because he’s capable of anything, while in this episode, Quell says there’s nothing she won’t do to find him and get him back. Then he literally takes his heart out of his chest and gives it to her. They’re, um, kind of an intense, devoted couple.
Laurens had no idea what he was talking about when he suggested he loves Miriam more than Tak could have ever loved someone, which has been obvious all along, but this episode also showed the difference between what they’ll do for each other. Tak and Quell will die for each other, and probably have. Laurens wants to possess Miriam like an object, and Miriam’s wishes appear to be beside the point. Mostly she doesn’t want to lose access to the money and she wants to protect her children.
Photo Credit: Netflix