Altered Carbon Season 1 Episode 5: The Wrong Man Recap


Kovacs: “When everyone lies, telling the truth isn’t just rebellion. It’s an act of revolution. So think carefully when you speak it, because the truth is a weapon.”

Tak and Kristin spend most of episode 5 dealing with the aftermath of Tak’s torture. She tells him the story of how her partner and boyfriend, Elias Ryker, ended up on ice. They find a way to spin up the stack from Dimi’s disembodied head. Poe gives them a tip that begins to pull more of the disparate strands of the separate cases together. They grow closer to each other as they work together and learn they can trust each other.

And Captain Tanaka brings on disaster, just like I knew he would.


Mary Lou Henchy balances on a platform above the clouds, then loses her balance and falls.

Elias Ryker has tied up a government bureaucrat in a deserted warehouse. He questions the man about her death, asking if she fell, or was pushed, or jumped? Elias says that from that height, the impact with the water would have killed her. But the bureaucrat claims he knows nothing. Elias punches him, hard, in the face. Then Elias puts drops in his eyes. He says that Mary Lou had never been a Neo-C before, but when they went to spin her up after she died, her coding had been changed.

The bureaucrat suggests she kept her conversion secret, but Elias says she wouldn’t have kept it secret from him. They grew up together.

Ryker: You’re a senior sys op, interplanetary record and coding. You got root access to the entire Protectorate database.

Sys Op: I’m just a systems tech. I don’t handle religious conversions.

Elias: But you didn’t do a religious conversion. You faked her code.

Sys Op: You can’t fake religious coding on a stack. What the h*ll do you want from me?

Elias: How did she die? How did she die?

Sys Op: Oh, God, I don’t know.

Elias threatens to shoot the Sys Op in the stack, just as Kristin enters, pointing her gun at Elias. She tells him to put his gun down.

Joel Kinnaman is doing some new and extra wild, crazy, out of control faces in this scene.

Elias: There’s no witness on Mary Lou’s conversion, no personal statement, no four levels of f*cking protocol, just his office writing the recode.

Sys Op: I don’t know what he’s talking about.

Elias: Someone runs you, and you’re going to tell me who.

Kristin: Hey, think about this. CTAC doesn’t handle religious coding. That’s domestic systems jurisdiction. They only touch DHF when someone’s shipping between worlds and I don’t think Mary Lou ever got close to jumping planets. The reason why he has no answers is because what you are talking about is not real. There’s no conspiracy. Just a dead friend. And you and me.

She takes Elias’ gun from him as he moans and pulls at his hair. Then she cuts the Sys Op’s ties and tells him to run. Elias falls to his knees. Kristin holds him as he says, “She’s all alone in there.”

Tak isn’t happy to just find out now that he’s wearing the sleeve of Kristin’s boyfriend who was also a crooked cop. Kristin tells him she has trust issues and a conflict of interest, as in she doesn’t trust Tak, and if he doesn’t solve the murder case, he goes back on ice and Ryker’s sleeve goes safely back into storage.

They argue back and forth, saying basically the same things at each other- people are shooting at him because they think he’s Ryker, and a lot of people have reasons to want to kill Ryker. She knew this, so she’s been trying to protect him. But there are reasons why people might be shooting at Tak as well: because he’s a terrorist/Envoy, because he’s working on the Bancroft case, or because of whatever Dimi’s involved with.

He tells her that Dimi 2 was torturing him because he thinks that Tak is Ryker. He thinks Ryker killed Dimi1 because Dimi2 framed Ryker for killing a CTAC officer. But Dimi1 wasn’t after Ryker and didn’t even recognize his sleeve. He was after Tak.

Kristin gets the important part- Ryker was framed by Dimi2. Tak says that Ryker’s conspiracy and Bancroft’s murder are connected. She wonders how, so Tak tosses her Dimi’s head and tells her to ask him. And she thought he never did anything nice for her.


Poe and Vernon are squabbling over whether Lizzie has improved enough for Vernon to visit her yet, when Kovacs comes out of the elevator. Vernon decides that Kovacs should act as mediator, and asks him to intervene with the megalomaniac of a hotel.

It’s the wrong time to ask Kovacs to act like a person- not sure there’s ever a right time. He turns around and tells them both to back off. He doesn’t have time for them, he’s not friends with them, and he’s only doing what he needs to do to gain his freedom. Poe tries again to talk, but Kovacs shuts him down. He doesn’t want to hear from Poe until Poe has useful information for him. Poe looks sad and concerned.

So, I’m getting that he came out of his interactions with Kristin with a slight sense of betrayal. If you can’t trust the cop who was dating your sleeve, who can you trust?

Once Kovacs is gone, Kristin comes out of the elevator, carrying Dimi’s head, She gets to the front door, then thinks better of carrying the head the way it is. She turns and wraps the head in what turns out to be an antique linen cloth from a nearby table. Poe is having a bad, bad day, and splutters that he hopes she intends to have it dry cleaned. AI hotels get no respect.


Tak takes out some of his frustrations on the Bancroft security staff when he arrives at the Aerium. Miriam stops him before poor Curtis is damaged beyond repair, and offers him a drink and a trip to a private island for an orgy with her clones.

First, Tak asks where Laurens is. Miriam says that he’s gone to the Old City to minister to the masses. She offers to have Tak driven over, or he could be her very, very special guest for a while. Miriam wonders if he enjoyed what they did together? When Tak says it seems like a long time ago, she says it was the night before last.

Tak: “I’ve been in virtual for a while. Busy screaming and dying.”

Miriam tells him that she wants him to drop the case. She says it firmly, rather than the gentle, enticing tone she usually uses. She offers to double whatever Laurens is offering him and to buy him a new identity anywhere in the Protectorate along with a new life. She promises that Laurens would never find him.

Miriam: My husband dragged you here, and he locked you into a deal you had no choice but to accept. Do you really think he’ll set you free?

Tak: That’s what the lease says. I expect him to honor it.

Miriam: Mmm, honor. He threw you into a fight pit. When you learn the truth, the only possible truth, that Laurens pulled the trigger, that he was weak and he gave up, he’s a coward, he won’t forgive you for that. Your freedom, that thing you want so much, he’ll make sure you never see it. You have no idea what he’s capable of.

Tak: You’re terrified.

Mirriam: He will want someone to punish. And my family means everything to me. Laurens will not allow what he loves to grow and change. Our children, he’s trapped them in kind of a benevolent dependence forever. And when a Meth says forever, it isn’t hyperbole.

Tak: So you’re afraid of what he’ll do to all of you.

She says that she believes in reward rather than punishment, then tells him about her private island that not even Laurens knows about, with a full cloning facility. Sometimes she lets her clones out to play with each other. He could play too, for as long as he liked, and when he was done, she’d give him his freedom.

Tak tells her that he’s not there to save her. She says that she’s offering to save him. He should think about it, but not for very long. They’re running out of time.

It’s dark and pouring rain. Kristin takes Dimi’s head to a back alley. She crouches next to a storm drain and pulls out his stack, then tosses the head into the water in the drain. She calls Mickey and tells him that she has another secret job for him.


Officer Levine, a beat cop, stops to buy coffee at a street kiosk. Ghostwalker pays for it, then chats up the cop. Levine is wearing a ring with a religious symbol. Ghostwalker asks if Levine is a believer.

Tak goes to the Old City, where he’s told access is restricted, but is granted access because he works for Bancroft. The guards try to give him gloves so that he doesn’t get infected, but he brushes them off. They tell him prolonged skin contact with the inhabitants will lead to death.

When he finds Laurens, Tak asks if Laurens put him in Ryker’s sleeve just to harass Ortega. Laurens says that, “You needed an effective sleeve, she needed to be taught some respect.”


Tak says that it seems like a childish move for someone Laurens’ age. Laurens says Tak can’t possibly know what it’s like to be his age. Tak says he would have chosen a younger sleeve. Laurens goes on and on about how the men who get the most respect are the middle aged father gods who’ve fought many battles and had many children. As he talks he walks through the walled village he’s visiting, hugging and touching people. They are very poor and downtrodden, and call him “city father”. He is clearly beloved here.

Tak notices that Laurens is infected and it’s spreading fast. He asks if it’s a bioweapon. Laurens explains that a contagion bomb was accidentally detonated, killing thousands within hours. These are the descendants of the survivors. They were left as carriers in hundreds of walled camps. Tak asks why he doesn’t truly help them by buying them new sleeves. Laurens says, “Are you saying because I can’t fix everything, I should fix nothing at all?”

That sounds very noble, except that he could wipe out this man-made plague and end their suffering. That’s well within his means. He’s not solving anything by personally handing out chocolate occasionally. He talks about the sacrifice that he makes, to walk amongst them and touch them when no one else will, as if he’s Jesus among the lepers. But he’s not healing anyone; he’s not inspiring them with the Kingdom of Heaven; he’s not even offering a message of hope or sacrificing anything beyond a sleeve. All he’s doing is showing them them he won’t desert them the way everyone else has, even though he could permanently save them.


But, of course, helping the people isn’t the point. It’s to make himself look like a benevolent god (more on that later), and to maintain the loyalty of his bioweapon. The people won’t accidentally explode like the bomb, as long as he keeps them convinced that their situation is reasonable given their circumstances, and that he loves them. But he can send one or all out into the world, wherever, whenever he wants a plague, and say that they escaped.

Laurens: I give them something to believe in.

Tak: It’s just another display of power.

Laurens: Then you have misunderstood me. For power, true power, is hidden, like a mammoth sea creature, just beneath the surface of the ocean. Nothing but the faintest of ripples. I’d love to debate the finer point with you, but I’m going to cast out soon.

Moments later, he’s needlecast away, just as he’s dying, with his face nearly unrecognizable from the plague. Tak walks away in disgust. But Laurens knows that kings and gods keep their power by the will of the people on the ground. They have to make themselves legends, one way or another.


At the station, Kristen asks a beat cop to bring her coffee. It’s the Ghostwalker in Levine’s uniform. Then she hands Dimi’s stack off to Mickey. She wants him to spin it up in virtual so that she can question him about Ryker off the books, but he can’t do VR secretly. He’d have to spin Dimi up in the real. Kristin agrees. Mickey sarcastically says he’ll just go ahead and do that, while also listing everything that could go wrong. Kristin agrees he should just do it.

Tak slinks back into the Raven, and sits down at the bar looking contrite. Vernon is sitting alone at the bar drinking, also looking contrite. Tak takes the bottle and pours himself a drink, saying, “So, you’re stealing his liquor, now?”  Vernon replies, “It’s only stealing if you get caught. You see any cops here?” That was “I’m sorry” and “I’m sorry, too” in “Tough Guys Who Don’t Talk About Their Feelings,” language, in case you missed it.

Aboud, who is standing in the doorway, clears his throat and asks if it’s a bad time. Vernon and Tak look at each other. Now that they’ve gotten away with another crime together, they’re firmly best friends again. Vernon grabs his stuff and leaves, while Aboud joins Tak at the bar for a “friendly” chat about Aboud’s dead best friend’s daughter, Kristin Ortega.

Or at least Aboud says he was going to make this a friendly warning, but he doesn’t like the look of amusement on Tak’s face, so he changes tactics. Kristin’s been torn up since Ryker got into trouble, and seeing Tak in Ryker’s sleeve is just making it worse.

Aboud: Ryker and Kristin, they were close. After he went down, she came apart at the seams. She believed she was responsible, so she convinced herself he was set up. But the man had demons. (Tak: And enemies.) You know she’s been paying his sleeve mortgage? And on a lieutenant’s pay, that’s not an easy thing to do. She never figured on an overbid like Bancroft pulled. It was terrible. I know what you are. And I know that men and women in harm’s way grow closer. Promise to treat her with decency and fairness. And whatever this insanity with Bancroft is, you keep her away from it.


Tak: So what’s my word worth to you?

Aboud: Then I’ll make my own promise. Hurt her, and I’ll kill you.

When Tak questions whether Aboud can keep his promise, Aboud stands up so that he can loom over Tak. Tak, in a show of respect that Aboud probably doesn’t recognize, lets him. Aboud makes the usual hurt her, I hurt you threat. Tak says, “I’m not here to save anyone.” Aboud says,”Not even yourself?” And walks out. Tak looks down in silence.

Poe pops up to inform Tak that he’s come up with useful information that he got from Madison, the AI who manages Fightdrome. Is that Maddie, who’s enslaved by someone? Is Maddie enslaved by Carnage?

Kristin returns home in the dark and the rain. She takes a shower. Martha Higareda’s nudity clause must have expired, or now Kristin has guilt to wash off. She touches her sleeve scar, then hears gunshots and her mother yelling.

She rushes into her living room to find her mother firing at Tak and calling him an abomination. While she talks her mother down and takes the weapon, Tak says, “That explains everything.”

Alazne goes back to her cooking, chopping vegetables in a VERY threatening way. Best mom ever. No crooked cop/Envoy abomination is getting near her little girl on her watch. She doesn’t care how tough and amazing her daughter is. Abominations are a whole different thing and Kristin doesn’t take the devil seriously like she should!

That look might kill an Envoy. If not, he’d better watch his back as long as the knife’s in her hand.

Kristin and Tak banter back and forth a bit. He enjoys the sight of her in nothing but a towel. Then Tak tells her that Madison says there’s footage of Bancroft at Fightdrome the night he was murdered. Kristin says that there is no footage of Fightdrome. People pay a lot of money for once in a lifetime fights with the assurance that they aren’t recorded. Tak says to trust him, then remembers that Ryker and Kristin were partners.

At Fightdrome, Tak asks if Ryker had any particular patterns he should copy. Kristin says that she usually did the talking while Ryker stood there and looked angry. Tak says he can look angry. She tells him to cross his arms. His does, and hunches, self-consciously tries to look broody.

Carnage, the owner of Fightdrome, comes into the room and is delighted to see “Ryker”.

Carnage: So the rumors are true. You’re back from the rack and riding your old skin. How’d that happen. Lieutenant?

Kristin: None of your business, Carnage. Is that a new synth sleeve? Thought the whole point was that you could arrange the face into whatever you want.

Carnage: It is. And I did.

He briefly rearranges his facial features. Kristin starts to walk further into the building, but Carnage stops her, saying it’s private property. Kristin tells him that they know he records his fights. And they know Bancroft was there the night he died. They want to see the tape.

Carnage insists that he build his brand on never broadcasting and never recording, but gives up after a minute. He lets them in when Kristin threatens to get a warrant. It would ruin his business for it to get out that he has recordings.

They walk down a long hall full of cloned fighting bodies, ready to be worn for fights. Carnage explains that he’s stocked up for some exciting events that are coming up, including a humiliation bout featuring classic and modern subjects.

He changes the subject to trying to find out the name of the person who talked about his recording set up. Kristin says it was a data rat that dug something up, but refuses to give him anything more.


Tak stops to stare at the cloned body of his last sleeve before he was sent to prison. Carnage notices and starts selling.

Carnage: Hot rod Envoy flesh with all the modern accoutrements. Taken from DNA harvested on Harlan’s World. You like it? Yeah, I can tell. I found a single cloning facility in Edmonton willing to stitch together something ancient and illegal for a one-time bloodletting. Cost me a king’s ransom to grow him, but people love the classics. Would you like to see it fight? Would you like to see it die? Or maybe you’d like to wear it. This old thing’s worn out. Come back Friday. I’ll put on a private show.

Tak looks overwhelmed, confused, and angry throughout this. He’d definitely like to have the sleeve back, but not at whatever cost it would take to get it from Carnage.


Ortega pulls Tak along before he can blow his cover.

It turns out that Carnage is recording on old-fashioned videotape, so it can’t be hacked. The recording shows Isaac watching the fight calmly. Laurens rushes in and furiously beats Isaac up, looking drugged and as if he wants to murder Isaac. He’s yelling something at Isaac that can’t be heard.

Carnage takes out the tape and says, “There, I’ve given you a free show, which is more than anyone else alive has ever gotten from me. Show’s over.”


Really? No one else alive knows about the recordings? Or at least no one has seen them, preserving his brand and promise to his patrons. They remain as potential blackmail material and proof of events, in the case of serious injury or death to someone important. Carnage looks unhappy as they leave.

Outside, Tak tells Kristin that he can read lips. Laurens was repeating, “You’re not me, you never will be.” Kristin says that Laurens attacking Isaac would give Isaac a motive, but it doesn’t explain how Isaac got into the genelocked safe to get the murder weapon.

Kristin pulls a cigarette out of Tak’s mouth and tells him she was trying to get Ryker to quit.

The next stop is Isaac’s place, which looks like it could be part of the Aerium, but almost every building on this show seems to be made from molded concrete, so who knows.


Kristin debates getting a search warrant, but Tak shoots out the lock on the door before she can decide. Once inside, she turns off the security alarms with her Oni, since they call the police, and she is the police. I knew they’d work well together, after they got over all of their posturing and mistrust.

The house is nearly empty inside, aside from a bed and some artwork that’s in the process of being sold. Kristin notes that the art is all real.


In the bedroom, they find emitters on the wall that play videos of Laurens in various meetings and activities. Tak realizes that Isaac must be using them to study his father so that he can impersonate Laurens. Kristin notices a locked door in the corner. She “Kovacs'” it by kicking it in.

Kristin: Wow. Portable 3D bio-organic printer. Do you have any idea how illegal and expensive these are? The cell mass you need to print is just…Even Bancroft slow grows his clones. This must have cost Isaac everything he had.

Tak: Guess we know why he was selling art.


They go over to a lighted storage unit and wipe away the condensation from the glass. It reveals a clone of Laurens.

Kristin: Bancroft.

Tak: The Japanese didn’t deal with Bancroft in Osaka. Bancroft wasn’t Bancroft. It was Isaac. Japanese told me they’d been dealing with Bancroft for months, then Bancroft closes the deal in less than 48 hours. Doesn’t let Isaac use an older sleeve, keeps him young so no one takes him serious. But if Bancroft dies, the kids get nothing. So he can’t die.

Kristin: Isaac didn’t have to compete with his father. He could be his father. Replace him. Take every thing he had.

They realize they’ve solved the murder case. Isaac shot Laurens so that Laurens would forget discovering that Isaac had impersonated him. Isaac could unlock the genelocked safe by wearing his father’s clone.


Then Kristen asks, “So how does it feel…To be a few a few hours a way from freedom?”

Tak doesn’t answer. Reality comes crashing down around him.

Neither looks happy, but he might just equal The Winter Soldier for silent depth of tragic, tragic suffering manpain that must be comforted. I didn’t think anyone could rival Sebastian Stan in that department.

She goes to call the evidence in.

Kristin: I need a team for a gene-mat sweep and transport for an unlicensed sleeve. 3-D printed. Yeah, might as well pick up the printer, too.

Tak’s voiceover as the police collect evidence:

“Finding truth is more than a search for data. It’s an excavation of self. You have to keep going, no matter where it takes you, because nothing can stay hidden forever.”

Tak has dug so deeply into himself for the truth, that he develops stigmata. Tak has learned to bleed on cue to help him get girls into bed. Tak’s knife cuts from that morning have opened up again and are artfully dripping down his arm under his sleeve and onto the floor. Kristin takes him home with her to patch him up.

Tak’s pain bleeds out onto the Bancroft floor while he silently accepts it. 😉

When they get to Kristin’s apartment, she hands him a bottle of liquor and tells him to take his shirt off. Now he’s happy again, since clearly she’s not abandoning him anytime soon. 😇 She takes out some kind of medical laser wand and tells him it’s going to hurt. He gives her a look like he appreciates the fact that she’s getting kinky already.

Her mother isn’t in the house, for once.

She runs the laser wand over his knife cuts to heal them. He says she must have stitched up Ryker a lot too, and she agrees that someone had to. Then he uses the age old come on of asking her to tell him about Ryker’s scars. It is a unique twist, to have her tell him about the scars on his own body, but I’m still deeply disappointed that Tak couldn’t come up with something better.

The bleeding on cue was at least creative, if gross and OTT. I’m going to hope that he could do better if it hadn’t been such a rough 3 days. Surely Quell expected more. I’m also going to quote the seduction, but only because it has the type of details that can come back later and become important.


Tak, pointing to shoulder scar: Where’s this from?

Kristin: Dealer in the Mariposa District, high on synamorphesterone. It’s a male aggression enhancer. They call it Stallion. Guy killed half his family by the time Ryker got there. This is what it took to save the other half.

Tak: What about this one?

Kristin: Steel-tipped boot with a toe blade. Right Hand of God martyr. Resisted arrest in New Haight.

He caresses her hand.

Tak: When you look in my eyes, what do you see?

Kristin: They’re not your eyes.

Her puts her hand on the side of his face.

Tak: What about this?

Kristin: That one’s from me. I forget why, but you deserved it.

She caresses his face, but then turns away.

Kristin: This is a mistake. When I look into his eyes, I see you looking back at me and it’s been a long time since someone looked at me like that.

Tak: I’m sorry I’m not Elias.

Kristin: Just shut the f*ck up.

She jumps into his lap and kisses him.


They end up in her bed, having lots of what looks to be very satisfying sex. Then they take a long nap. Let’s all just take a moment here to enjoy our thoughts. The beginning of the sexy times may have been cliché, but the rest looked like it deserved a high grade.

They were both looking for a connection that was more than physical, and were drawn to the things in each other that reminded them of the people they were really missing and couldn’t be with. It’s bittersweet, but the best either was going to do under the circumstances.

Kristin wakes up first, and gets Mary Lou Henchy’s stack from her desk. She wakes up Tak and hands it to him. Kristin reminds Tak that Ryker had interrogated the CTAC officer that he was framed for murdering. In flashback, we see Ryker and Kristin in bed asleep, while there’s pounding on the door, and men yelling for Ryker to open up. Ryker gets his gun.

Tanaka and Aboud storm in, announcing that Ryker is under arrest for the murder of Leonid Kye Harris, senior sys op and CTAC administrator. Kristin gets upset. Aboud tells her to calm down and stay out of it. Ryker says he didn’t kill anyone. Tanaka says he shouldn’t mind coming in, then.

Ryker becomes more agitated and points the gun at Tanaka, saying, “They got to you. They get to everyone.” The situation escalates. Kristin tries to calm Elias down. She says, “Look at me. If this is a mistake, you have nothing to…” Elias goes cold and lowers the gun. He just keeps staring at her and repeating the word, “If??” She’s betrayed his trust at his lowest point. He let’s them take him away, yelling at her, “How could you not f*cking believe me?”


In the present day, Kristin shows Tak photos of the murder victims that Ryker thinks had counterfeit Neo-Catholic conversion coding. Tak realizes right away that there would be a big market for ensuring that one’s murder victims couldn’t testify. Kristin hopes Mary Lou’s coding can be reversed eventually so that they can find out the truth.

Then Kristin tells Tak about the Ghostwalker and shows him a futuristic police 3D sketch. Ghostwalker and Dimi are her only leads on Mary Lou’s case. Tak understands that Ghostwalker may have been able to use his technology to cover up the evidence surrounding Mary Lou’s murder as well as his own existence.

Tak: Ryker’s case, Bancroft’s murder, Ghostwalker. They’re connected. (Kristin: Yeah.) But they f*cked up. (Kristin: How?) Because they haven’t killed me yet.


Mickey calls Kristin into the station. He’s spun Dimi up into our favorite skinhead’s sleeve. Matt Biedel gets to take a crack at playing Dimi the Personality Fragged Twin.

Dimi mostly talks trash and waits to be broken out, but he does have a few interesting things to say. Dogs can be put into humans and speak a little if you heavily tranquillize them. Which means people bring back their pets in new sleeves, too.

Then Dimi gets poetic: “Limited vision. Where is the voice that said altered carbon would free us from the cells of our flesh? The visions that said we would be angels. Instead, we became hungry for things that reality could no longer offer. The lines blurred. You want to know who I work for? The people who understood that, who used it to become wealthy beyond words in the only currency that truly matters: the appetites of the immortal.”

Ortega pressures Dimi for a name, but he prattles on about the difference between reality and VR, while Tak tells her that Dimi is stalling and she needs to blow his stack out. Tanaka and others can be heard in the distance, searching the station for her and Dimi. Dimi tells her that VR leaves you with the false impression that you’re in control, which is chilling.

Tanaka rushes in with a couple of regular cops and rescues Dimi. His righthand man, Aboud, is with him and throws Tak out, after blaming Tak for dragging Ortega into it. REALLY? Dragging her into working on the case she’s been following for months?

Tanaka doesn’t even know who’s in skinhead’s body. So why is he so worked up then? She’s not allowed to interrogate a suspect? Surely they all bend the rules occasionally? Aboud gets in another shot at Ortega, saying that she partnered up with the Envoy and he played her. Huh? How does he get that Tak played her from this conversation?


Ortega argues with Tanaka that she needs to ask Dimi more questions, and suggests every possible way she can think of, as they walk through the station. Finally Ortega convinces Tanaka to let her ride down in the elevator with Dimi to continue to question him. Aboud says he’s going, too. Tak isn’t invited, of course.

Ortega, Aboud, Dimi, and ONE police guard get in the elevator. The guard is half Dimi’s size, and all Dimi’s restrained with are loose handcuffs with his hands bound in front. This doesn’t seem like it should be standard procedure, with a huge perp who’s so dangerous, but no one questions it. There were two cops holding onto Dimi until they approached the elevator. What happened?

As the elevator doors close, the guard looks straight at Tak and smiles. It’s Ghostwalker. Tak screams for Ortega, but it’s too late.


Let’s just try to get through this fight, okay? This is the most brutal fight we’ve seen so far, since it’s in such close quarters, with no escape and an attacker who’s intent on vicious murder. It’s not played for fun and excitement. Aboud and Ortega are outmatched and desperately trying to survive.

Once the elevator doors close, Ghostwalker asks the room, “Are you a Believer?” the same way he asked Officer Levine. So that’s his “I’m about to kill you” tell. Then he pulls out a horrific weapon, a handheld metal rod with two levels of claws forming cups, that he jams into Ortega’s shoulder and pulls back out. It slices out an octopus-shaped chunk of her flesh. She’s bleeding profusely from the wound but she keeps fighting.

Meanwhile, Dimi and Aboud are fighting. Ghostwalker gets Ortega in the hip with his weapon and maybe other places that I missed. She fights back and tries to shoot him. Dimi throws Aboud up at the ceiling. Aboud’s head breaks through glass and he’s left unconscious on the floor. Ghostwalker tells Ortega that he appreciates her spirit, but it’s time to let go and give up. She bites his wrist.

Eventually, she’s too wounded and can’t get up again. Ghostwalker starts saying prayers, getting ready to shoot her in the stack. Aboud wakes up and realizes what’s about to happen. He throws himself over Ortega just as Ghostwalker fires. Aboud takes the shot in the stack.

Ghostwalker kneels down beside Ortega, points the gun at her stack, and says more prayers. Then he pulls the trigger, but he’s out of bullets. Before he can grab the other gun, the elevator opens at their floor and Dimi forces him out. They escape.

Tak races up and down the stairs of the building, trying to catch the elevator. He misses it when Ghostwalker and Dimi get out, but catches it when it finally stops the next time. He sees that Aboud is dead and Kristin is dying, so he picks her up and tells everyone to get out of his way. He rushes out of the station with her.


Whatever Aboud’s flaws may have been, he was a good man who threw himself in front of a bullet for Kristin.

If you want to beat an Envoy, use a nonstop elevator in a tall building. However, this will not work if you are fighting even an average superhero in the MCU. I’m waiting for Tak’s spectacular hall fight. (Marvel Cinematic Universe joke)

There has to be some big reveal coming eventually about Tak’s age, given the faces he makes every time Laurens makes a big deal about how wise and old he is.

I don’t trust Miriam. Why would she trust Tak enough to tell him about this super private island? Why is time running out? We know Laurens is murderous, arrogant, and generally violent, but has she been the recipient of that side of him? How many times did he kill her before she made him switch to prostitutes?

It seems clear that Miriam hates Laurens, and it was probably dangerous for her to have that conversation. But this could also be a little cat and mouse game that she and Laurens like to play with each other and a toy. Her whole thing could be an act. The gods are known for toying with mortals that way.

On the other hand, she’s tried to get Tak to stop his investigation every time they’ve been alone together, using reason, fear, bribery, sex and money. She’s pulled out almost every tool at her disposal, short of murdering or blackmailing him, and we don’t know who’s behind all of the shots taken at him. Miriam is trying to hide something big, and is desperate to keep it hidden.

She revealed quite a bit about herself in that conversation, both her methods and motives. She’s devoted to her pack of 21 children and wants more for them than Laurens is willing to allow. He holds all of the power and all of the respectability, as well as the controlling interest in the wealth. Protecting her children, especially from their brutal father, is her motive.

Miriam is willing to break the law in any way she wants (“uncounted are my sins”) because, like Clarissa and Laurens, she feels Meths are gods who are above he laws of man. She’s willing to play the temptress, engaging in long term negotiations to slowly break down her target, dangling the bait over them until they succumb, even though they thought they wouldn’t.

She uses as little violence as possible, and, unlike Laurens, doesn’t get her hands bloody. Instead, she uses the traditionally female weapons of sex, drugs/poison and trading in information and favors. I will be surprised if a network of informants doesn’t turn up eventually.

She’s squirreled away considerable resources of her own and has amassed enough power and respect of her own to keep her personal holdings from Laurens, but not enough to topple him or leave him. And not enough to set up any of her children on their own. Yet. She’s actually more clever than Laurens, but this is still a male dominated society, so his head start keeps him in power, for now. She’s Catherine de Medici, plotting and planning, always living to fight another day, the power behind the throne, who WILL see her children rule.

This all puts Miriam and Tak, who understands the need to protect people from abusive men, in an interesting position. Especially with Kristin in the mix, who doesn’t relate as easily to abuses of power or people, and who still believes in the ability of the law to protect people. Tak, like Miriam, is capable of doing whatever needs to be done, though he’s trying to put moral limits on himself. He won’t succumb to Miriam’s enticements, other than possibly the escape hatch of a new life, if he sees no other choice.

Miriam insists that Laurens pulled the trigger on himself, but that still leaves the question of why. Laurens has an obsession with death, and loves to watch others die, kill others himself, and even die himself, if his plague performance is anything to go by.

He’s also obsessed with seeing himself as an actual god rather than a person, and living out stories of father gods from classic mythology. He believes himself to have untold, godlike power, only showing the tip of the iceberg publicly. That begs the question of just what he has hidden, the way Miriam has her island.

Laurens keeps the plague carriers around in part to have true worshippers on hand whenever he needs a fix. He’s set himself up as a death god, not a god of life. He could have been any kind of god he wanted to be for those people, and he chose to be the god who reminds them that they carry death.

He lists the gods he’s modeled himself after as he walks among his worshippers, and says that they’ve all fought many battles. But what physical battles are there for a Meth to fight? What challenges does Laurens have left at all? He’s set everything up so that no one can challenge him. There are no real emotions, because everyone is bound to him by his wealth and power. There is no real challenge, because no one would dare to openly cross him. It’s all polite whispers and cold smiles, meaning he also can’t trust anyone.

His mental health is slipping, Miriam is right about that. It’s possible that he’s succumbing to personality frag or something similar, or to psychosis from living for too long in a gilded prison of his own making. He toys with death in himself and others, the way serial killers do, because real death is the only excitement left in his world, the only thing that still feels real.

Which still doesn’t solve the case, but does mean that there are a lot of people on the ground who have reasons to hate him, along with his wife and children.

Someone is taking prostitutes and illegally recoding them as Neo-C just before or after murdering them, so that they stay dead. This could be so that they can’t talk, but it also means that the murderer achieves real death without having to blow out the stack. The murder can be more creative and interesting for a serial killer, and leave a pretty corpse. (Mindhunters really warped my thinking about murder.) Ryker was in the process of figuring out the conspiracy, so he was framed and put away for life.

Tanaka came to Ryker’s house personally to arrest him, then came with the Ghostwalker to pull Dimi out of questioning. He’s on the take, if not in the mob. Last time Hiro Kanagawa was a police captain, he was a zombie on the take in iZombie. The guy just can’t be trusted. Someday, he’ll play a beloved, honest to the core, religious leader or something and I won’t know what to do with it.

The CTAC agent said that you can’t fake religious coding, but that sounds ridiculous. We’ve seen just about everything that’s illegal and supposed to be impossible done already on this show. The simple matter of changing a line of code should be ridiculously easy. The recoding conspiracy is probably what Ava Elliot, the hacker, discovered that got her (wrongfully) imprisoned. She was attractive, too, so there’s the additional motivation to use/sell her sleeve after putting her away.

It must be a curse to be born with a perfect body and a beautiful face in this world.

The events of episode 4 must have left Tak feeling cleansed of the sins he brought with him into this sleeve, because he doesn’t shower this episode. There’s very little blood, until the end, and that’s Kristin’s fight. Maybe the VR torture was enough punishment for his previous partner’s death and the pain was enough to focus his thoughts. Maybe reliving his training with Quell and renewing his vow to her is enough to recenter him in some way.

But he did also gain enough information to put pieces of the puzzle together. He’s not as blind and confused as he was when he started out. Tak does throw a lit cigarette into Miriam’s reflecting pool. Does that mean that his guilt can’t be used against him any more? Is he going to burn down the Bancrofts’ empire using their secrets?

Instead, Tak’s discoveries reveal that Kristin didn’t support Ryker when he was right about the conspiracy. She believed the lies about him and didn’t fight his wrongful imprisonment. She’s the one who spends the episode in the dark rain, in the shower, throwing Dimi’s head into the storm drain. But no matter what she does, she can’t get clean. She ends the episode covered in her own and Aboud’s blood, near death.

Her connections with people mean everything to her, and to realize she betrayed Ryker like that leaves her consumed with guilt. She’s just too practical to show it on the outside when there’s work to be done. Her blood spills onto Tak when he carries her out at the very end. For once he’s bloody because he’s trying to save someone he cares about instead of his own violent actions.

Tak’s “What’s my word worth?” question to Aboud has two potential meanings. Aboud chose to take it to mean that Tak was asking to be paid, just as Kristin would have up until the midpoint of this episode. But the other interpretation is “Do you believe that I’ll keep my word?” Which can be broken down into all kinds of interesting thoughts, like, Did he really want to know if Aboud thought it was possible for him to be trusted with Kristin’s safety? Or if Aboud thought he was capable of being honest and trustworthy, essentially a good person? Did Aboud at least think he was capable of making a deal and sticking to it? Tak respected Aboud enough to let Aboud have his say, without Tak even hurrying him along. Part of him would still like to have the approval and respect of a father figure who’s a decent man.

After spending the first half of the episode loudly telling people that he wanted his freedom, and nothing and no one else mattered, Tak was terrified when he was actually faced with the prospect of it in the second half. He doesn’t want to be alone, and he has no place to go. Without being buried in the case, he flips like a switch right back where he was when he was sitting against the wall in his hotel room, suicidal because he doesn’t know how to go on without Quell and the mission.

He needs anchors in this world. Right now, his sleeve is confusingly giving him Ryker’s life to deal with, and Ryker is very anchored. I think there’s part of him that would consider taking over that life if Ryker couldn’t be freed.

But I don’t think he’s meant to be so domesticated for long. Ryker is essentially a small town cop on his way to being a family man, and Tak is used to thinking of and working with the bigger picture. He’s used to more independence than a city cop would ever have. Tak needs a strong partner, that’s very clear, and some form of loosely organized network/pack, but he’s still a rebel and independent contractor at heart.

Kristin seems like she needs more than what she has in her current situation, but I don’t think she’d ever leave her family, especially her mother. It didn’t look good for Aboud at the end of the episode, so her father figure and her Abuela are probably gone, and her boyfriend’s in jail. If they kill her mother, too, I’m going to grab Alazne’s knife and gun and have words with the showrunner.

Kristin is the smartest and most talented person in the police station, but she’s been held back by being the former chief’s little girl, and by her trust in the system. Will she end up deciding that she needs to move on to a place where she’s more respected and there’s more room for advancement, or will she end up in charge at the police station? Assuming she survives the attack. We’re not even going to discuss them killing off Kristin.

The only thing that Dimi said during interrogation that seems important was the poetic part.

“Limited vision. Where is the voice that said altered carbon would free us from the cells of our flesh? The visions that said we would be angels.”

Tak reacted when Dimi said this part. It meant something to him. Dimi quoted the title of the show, too. Interesting that he’s the one who got to do it.

Then there’s the second part:

“Instead, we became hungry for things that reality could no longer offer. The lines blurred. You want to know who I work for? The people who understood that, who used it to become wealthy beyond words in the only currency that truly matters: the appetites of the immortal.”

He told them who he works for, just as much as if he’d given them a name. It’s the coalition of underground immortals who run the illicit businesses that cater to Meth’s illegal, depraved tastes. So, Carnage, who arranges private, one time only fights that are guaranteed to stay private. And Jack It Off, where you can go as far as you want with the girls, including real death with Neo-C coding so that the victim can’t testify. The Wei Clinic was probably another one. Anything the Meths would be willing to shell out extra money for, so that they could do things however they wanted without worrying about getting caught.

Those business people have been so successful in catering to Meths that they’ve become a group of superrich underground immortals themselves. Ryker was getting too close to important secrets, so they had Dimi get rid of him.

I wonder if Aboud was being paid off by somebody, just like Tanaka. He’s done the same kinds of things as Tanaka to stop Kristin’s investigation and discredit Ryker, he’s just so kindly that you don’t want to see it that way. But he was standing right next to Tanaka when Ryker was taken in and when Dimi was handed over to Ghostwalker. He fully supported Tanaka’s bad decisions. I want to believe that he was just a by the book cop who was trying to keep Kristin safe (which is clearly true), but I can’t get the image of him standing right next to Tanaka out of my head.

I might have gotten a little carried away with the screencaps this time. This show is so visual that it’s tempting to turn recaps into photo essays. I love the visual language of Altered Carbon so much. Thank you for reading all 8,100 words if you’ve made it this far!


Photo Credit: Netflix

2 thoughts on “Altered Carbon Season 1 Episode 5: The Wrong Man Recap

  1. Love your recaps! I normally dislike spoilery speculations in reviews, but yours are so well-thought out and well-written that I look forward to them.


  2. Thank you! You’re my first Altered Carbon comment! I enjoy speculating, but I don’t know how spoilery it ends up being. I’m wrong way more often than I’m right! I think I’m probably really wrong with this show, since it could go in so many different directions. Even when we think we’ve been told the truth on the show, so many of the characters lie that we could find out in 2 seasons that something we thought was settled from this season was a lie.


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