Tak’s voiceover: “What we believe shapes who we are. Belief can bring us salvation or destruction. But when you believe a lie for too long, the truth doesn’t set you free. It tears you apart.”
This episode picks up where episode 7 left off. Tak is reeling from the discovery of what his sister has turned into, or possibly always was. He can’t take in the fact that Rei is confessing to killing Quell, the love of his life, and the rest of the Uprising rebels, who had become the family he never had. Even worse, he can’t accept that it was premeditated murder, done in cold blood with no remorse.
Tak: Quell and the Envoys were our family. How could you kill our family?
Rei: They were just soldiers. You and I, we’re family. Our lives will be better now.
Tak: When everyone I ever loved was taken away from me? Do you know what that did to me? What I became?
Rei: I tried to find you.
Tak: How hard did you look?
Rei: And then you got yourself caught by CTAC. They locked you up so tight no one could get to you.
What Rei did to the rebels was horrible and unforgivable, but Tak was about to lose everyone anyway, by Quell’s hand. He clearly hadn’t faced that, and thought they’d pull out some daring escape at the last minute. Quell thought of Tak’s “family” as expendable soldiers, just like Rei. She was just nicer about it because she needed their loyalty. Rei internalized some parts of Quell’s lessons better than Tak did.
Tak questions why it took Rei 250 years to get him out of prison. She says it would have been forever if she hadn’t figured out how to manipulate Laurens into freeing him.
Yet later in the episode it takes her about 5 minutes to get Ava Elliot freed. Is Tak really that notorious after 250 years? And would it be that hard to quietly bribe or blackmail the necessary people, even if he is? Or is this another lie? With Rei, the safest course of action is to assume everything that comes out of her mouth is a lie and a set up.
Tak asks why she watched him and even talked to him while wearing other sleeves. She claims that she knew he wouldn’t trust her right away, especially after Dimi attacked him.
But, why wouldn’t he trust her? As far as he knew, she was an innocent victim of CTAC, and Dimi had nothing to do with her. He should have been thrilled to find out she’d survived.
More lies. She wanted to find out where his head was at before she approached him.
Rei claims that she had to step in and reveal herself when Dimi2 was about to RD him and Ortega, but that was a show. She could have sent Leung, or her army of henchman, or simply threatened or bought off Carnage.
She arranged that situation so she could swoop in as the hero and surprise Tak at his most vulnerable. Tak will say it later in the episode: These reveals are more convincing in groups. Convince the crowd, convince the man. She probably paid Carnage for the privilege of saving the day, and made some sort of promise that Carnage’s recording set up wouldn’t be revealed.
Tak asks what she wants from him, and she answers that she just wants him to see her as the sister who loves him and would do anything for him. He wonders how destroying the Uprising benefitted him. She replies that the Uprising was already doomed. Quell had brainwashed them all to fight and die for nothing.
Rei: I was the only one who was going to take care of us.
Tak: So what did they pay you? Backups? Money? Clones?
Rei: All of them. And none of it mattered unless I could get you back.
Tak reaches for a sword and holds it to Rei’s throat. She doesn’t try to stop him.
Tak: I loved her.
Rei: I know. But she was going to get you killed. Kill me, if that’s what YOU need. I’ll come back for you, Big Brother. No matter what, I’ll always come back for you.
Tak drops the sword. He leans his head forward as if he’s going to touch their foreheads together the way they always have in times of closeness, but stops himself and walks away. Rei stands stock still, looking fiercely proud and angry, but determined. That last bit about always coming back for him was both a reassurance and a threat.
This last part of the conversation has a certain amount of truth to it. She does believe that Tak is the one person in the universe who is hers, whether he wants to be or not. She will do anything to keep him alive, but she’ll also ruthlessly punish him, and anyone else who she perceives as coming between them.
Later in the episode, Quell will say that the best lies have the truth woven through them. That’s another lesson that Rei learned well in creating her lies. It needs to be applied to anyone potentially involved with the conspiracies on this show.
Ortega, still bloody from Fightdrome, makes her way back to the police station. At the entrance she finds local reporter Sandy Kim inflating the Fightdrome story to make it sound like Ortega was fighting by choice and is a corrupt cop. Prescott stands nearby, watching Kim and waiting for Ortega. It’s clear that Prescott is feeding Kim her information. A drone brings Kim another message.
Ortega asks Prescott why Laurens is still harassing her, now that she believes he was murdered. Ortega asks who Prescott is really working for and where Kovacs is. She threatens to supoena Prescott. Prescott threatens Ortega back, telling her that she’s already lost so much, isn’t it enough? It’s time for Ortega to walk away from this case.
Ortega heads inside the police station. Between her appearance and how quickly she’s returned to work after the attack, everyone stares at her. Tanaka asks her what she’s doing there. His injuries are already healed using expensive medical treatments. She’s angry because there’s no missing persons report on Kovacs. He calls her into his office to talk privately.
Once there, they continue arguing. Ortega needs answers to all of the dangling threads of her case, more of which seem to pop up everyday. Tanaka wants her to go home, take paid leave until the Fightdrome investigation is done, and drop the whole investigation into Ryker’s conspiracy theories. Otherwise the people who pay Tanaka on the side will have her killed.
She threatens to expose his corruption. He tries to get her to see that they won’t let her, but she’s determined. Tanaka gives up on Ortega, and tells her she has 15 minutes to clean out her desk and leave the building. He can’t protect her anymore, and he won’t let her take him down with her. She scoffs at the idea that he’s protected her so far.
Tak and Rei continue to talk about his anger toward her and whether she deserves forgiveness, or if what she did is even something that should require forgiveness. Tak feels that their mother instilled them with better morals than this.
Rei eventually gives up on trying to get him past his anger, and moves on to her real purpose. She needs him to close the Bancroft case so that Laurens will stop digging into what happened that night. She didn’t kill him, but she did dose him with Stallion, the male aggression enhancer. It was difficult to drug him, and Tanaka made sure that the drug didn’t show up on the post-mortem paperwork.
Rei actually gave Laurens something he’d always wanted while he was dosed with Stallion, but he wasn’t very appreciative. None of that is the issue right now, though. Tak just needs to convince Laurens that he’s not in any current danger. Frame someone if necessary. No one is completely innocent, so it doesn’t matter who.
Tak asks what happens if he refuses. Rei pushes a button on her Oni, and Mr Leung appears. She says that she didn’t want to have this conversation yet. Meaning she’d hoped to wait a day or two before she started threatening him, and the people who are important to him, with the gruesome death that Leung specializes in. She really is a loving sister.
Tak is shocked to see Leung, and wants her to confirm that he works for her. Rei explains that she’s become a titan of industry, with businesses that involve the weaknesses of the flesh. She has interests that need protecting.
Tak wants her to give him a straight yes or no answer, and she never does. That’s interesting in that Leung sees himself as her worshipper and servant. Maybe he’s more part of her cult than he is her employee. Or maybe he’s one of her children. That would help explain his unswerving loyalty. If Miriam can have 21 kids, Rei could do the same.
Or maybe Leung is Rei, double and cross sleeved. That would be the safest answer, since he has such intimate knowledge of her business and personal dealings. Like Dimi, it makes sense that she would really only trust another version of herself. But for Rei, it’s useful to have that version be a man. Maybe she turned her other self into a replacement brother, but this one acts the way she always thought Tak should.
Rei reveals that she owns the Wei Clinics. “Information extraction is a very lucrative market.” She claims that she didn’t know Tak was being tortured, and would have stopped it if she had. Either a lie, or she’s not very omniscient for a goddess. She threatens to use the Hellminth Code torture program that was the program of last resort in episode 4.
Rei: These people you’ve become so attached to, Vernon Elliot, Kristin Ortega. To me, they’re fireflies, each a tiny spark whose beauty lies in how quickly it’s extinguished. Convince Bancroft the case is closed. Or your friends will go into one of my other clinics and they won’t come out until they’re quite, quite mad.
Tak: I’ll need a dipper.
Tak was seeing ashes falling during her firefly speech, just like at Stronghold. She turns everything that’s beautiful and loving to ashes. In trying to protect her own, she has to ruin everyone else’s.
Rei must agree to the dipper, because Tak and Leung end up in an elevator together. Everyone but Leung is pretty sure it’s too soon to be putting Leung in another elevator with a main character. That’s why Rei did it of course. She’s all about the implicit threat. Leung doesn’t bother to leave the threat implicit.
Leung: Are you a believer?
Nooo! Tak’s not back to fighting strength yet!
Tak: I believe you’re my sister’s bitch.
He’s not going down any more quietly than he did with Jaeger in episode 1, while he was wearing the Byron Mann sleeve. I’m so proud. 😇
Leung: You do not show her the proper respect.
Tak: What is it with these Meths and respect? They’re just a bunch of rich *ssholes who don’t look their age.
Any aristocrat knows that you need the respect and fear of the peasants. They have to believe you can crush them at any time, or they’ll rebel. Since the peasants always outnumber the aristocrats, they will win if they all join the rebellion.
Leung stops the elevator. Tak jumps to high alert.
Leung: You misunderstand me, Mr Kovacs.
Tak: I know better than to trust you in an elevator. 👏🏽 🥂
Leung: Throughout history, we have prayed to gods. Pleaded for their mercy, begged for their protection. Avatars of sun and sky, blood and war. The God of Abraham or Muhammad or Christ or Krishna- all were silent.
Tak: Just attack me, please. It’ll hurt less than listening to this.
Leung: For the first time in human history, when we pray, they answer.
Tak: They’re not gods, no matter how much they listen to their own propaganda.
Leung, practically shaking with religious fervor: Their power is absolute, and they never die. What else would you call them?
Tak, pointing to Leung’s forehead: Has anyone ever told you that you’re really f*cked up in there?
Leung: You are the brother of a living god. Blessed to share her bone and blood. You will someday realize the holiness of She Who Endures. Until then, your obedience will suffice. (Tries to hand Tak a hood.) Put this on your head. (Tak refuses.) Your sister doesn’t want you to know our location. I have been told that you obey or others die. Whom should I kill first?
Tak takes the hood with a sick look on his face.
It’s interesting that Rei qualifies as a god, but Tak’s blood relationship to her, longevity, ability to evade death despite CTAC hunting him, and reputation as an Envoy aren’t enough to confer godhood onto him as well. Money and the power it brings are essential parts of the equation. Answering prayers through heroism or working toward societal change don’t count. People want the big, splashy gestures that only money can buy, even if they are ultimately meaningless.
Rei wouldn’t need Leung if her power really was absolute. She wouldn’t need Tak’s help either.
Ortega, who literally can’t follow a direct order even if it will save her life, clears out her desk then goes to Mickey’s office. Mickey’s not happy to see her, since he values his life and his job. But it turns out that she hasn’t cleaned up yet because she has Rei’s blood on her hand and she wants Mickey to do a gene-mat (genetic material) typing for her so that she can try to identify the woman who took Tak. Mickey is reluctant, but Ortega talks him into it. While he’s taking the sample, he reminds her that they could do the test in the OrgDam lab. She replies that she can’t trust them, or anyone except for him.
She also convinces him to do a facial recognition scan for Tak while she changes into clean clothes. Mickey finds Tak in the crowd outside of the Psychasec resleeving facility in the Haight. Leung is there, too, but doesn’t show up because of the Ghostwalker technology. Ortega races out.
Tak and Leung are waiting for Ava Elliot to be released. A guard brings out a newly resleeved man, telling them he’s brought their rerun. The guard tells Leung to tell his boss that he’s done doing favors. Leung replies that Mr Hemingway will decide when the man’s debt is clear. Guessing that will be never.
Tak says that they brought the wrong person. The dipper is supposed to be a woman in her 40s. Leung says that Rei told him to tell Tak, “She is not running a charity for your strays.” Ava has been cross-sleeved in a man’s body, supposedly because that’s what was available. In reality, it’s out of spite and so that Rei doesn’t have to worry that Tak will fall for another woman who might take her place in his affections. The cross-sleeving is probably safest for Ava for now, truthfully. Rei hates other women.
Tak explains to Ava that he’s taking her to Vernon and Lizzie, and that her family is basically okay. She’s upset about being cross-sleeved, but wants to see them. At that moment, Ortega comes into view. Leung pulls out his death weapon and points it at Ava’s stack, ordering Tak to get rid of Ortega. Tak says that he’ll drive Ortega away, so long as Leung backs off, too. He’ll do what Rei wants, but he’ll work independently. Leung agrees.
When Ortega sees Tak, she runs up and hugs him. He remains stand-offish, telling her Ryker’s sleeve is fine. She tells him that she was worried that he was dead. He tells her he’s fine. She asks why he’s at Psychasec. He says that he’s trying to get rid of Ryker’s sleeve, but Bancroft’s blocking him because of his grudge toward her.
Ortega knows that he’s not being straight with her and asks if this has something to do with the woman at Fightdrome. At first Tak says that Rei was nobody important, then he says that she’s someone who actually cares about him. She’s the one he’s been looking for, and he found her.
Tak tells Ortega that whatever was going on between the two of them is over. Kristin argues that she doesn’t believe him. He cuts her off, saying he’ll make sure she gets Ryker’s sleeve back, to have some dignity in the meantime. Tak returns to Ava and Leung. Kristin’s upset, but gives up for now and walks away.
Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be Will be) is playing on the radio as Vernon watches Lizzie practice knife throwing. Vernon is still bitter that his little girl, the brutally murdered prostitute, has lost her innocence by learning to use weapons. Poe explains, again, that empowering her may help her feel safe enough to join the real world soon. The priorities of the middle class continue to baffle me, in every reality.
Poe greets Tak and Ava at the door as they arrive at the Raven. Poe was worried about Tak because he’d been gone so long. Ava sees Vernon and rushes over to embrace him. She’s still sleeve-sick, so it looks especially bad from Vernon’s perspective. Vernon bats Ava away, asking if “he’s” drunk. Ava tells Vernon that it’s her. Vernon tells Tak he’s got some explaining to do.
Tak explains that he needs a dipper. They need to run a hack involving subverting security protocols and injecting code. He figured he’d get Ava out, but things didn’t go completely smoothly.
Vernon accepts that it’s really Ava in a man’s body and they have their reunion. Poe is totally into the romance of it. Ava looks around for Lizzie, and Vernon says that he needs to explain a few more things.
They take Ava into Lizzie’s VR suite. She and Vernon stay hidden and watch Lizzie practice her hand to hand skills. Both are sad at the way their little girl has had to toughen up. Ava is despondent that she wasn’t there for her family during such a difficult time. When Lizzie takes a break in her practice (and Poe tells her she’s become formidable) Ava rushes out to see Lizzie.
Lizzie recognizes her mother immediately, despite the change in body. She doesn’t seem to notice the change, sensing something’s different and but deciding it’s Ava’s hair. Given that Ava has a beard now, that’s absolutely true. Ava laughs with nervous hysteria at Lizzie’s easy acceptance of her. When Lizzie sees Vernon, she accepts his presence and they share a family hug. 😂
Tak’s voiceover: Sometimes belief isn’t about what we can see. It’s about what we can’t.
He watches the reunion on the TV in the lobby, happy that at least one family is relatively okay.
Lizzie decides to show off what she’s learned while she’s been living in
the matrix VR. She manifests a gun in her hand, and tells them that Eddie (Poe) figured out how to do time dilation for her, so that months in VR is only days in the real.
She suddenly turns and fires several times at the Jack It Off sign, expertly destroying it and sending the remains crashing to the ground. She tells her parents that she hates that sign. Symbolic destruction of the place that allowed her to be murdered, and destruction of her own pink, softer, feminine side, which she thinks made her weak and easy prey.
Back in the real, Vernon wonders how Lizzie recognized Ava. Poe explains: “There are a variety of species that do not rely on visual cues to find their own kind. The star-nosed mole, for example, is utterly blind, yet has no difficulty finding its mother…”
Tak cuts him off, but that might be important later. Metaphorically speaking, obviously. Who are the mothers? Miriam, Ava, possibly Rei, Alazne, Abuela, Mary Lou Henchy’s mom. Will motherhood come up again in relation to one of them?
It’s a similar question to the one Tak asked in episode 5: “How do I know you are who you are? Before stacks, yeah. A face is a face. But now? Could be anyone in there.”
It’s part of the ongoing theme of identity, and understanding what it is that makes us who we are. What is the significant, irreplaceable part of us? What is it that makes our loved ones want us above all others? Can that even be defined and quantified? Copied?
Ava and Vernon are fretting over the changes Poe’s treatment has brought on in Lizzie. In a world where the personality is the only constant, are you still the same person after a major personality change? Ava blames Tak and thinks he’s destroying who Lizzie is.
Tak: Someone did that already. She’s shattered. Whoever she was is dead.
Ava: What am I supposed to do with that?
Tak: Same thing she did. Adapt. Because my sister will do way worse than kill you if I don’t close the Bancroft case. And I need you on this run. I need all of you.
Vernon: I wouldn’t get too excited.
Ava: What does this run involve exactly?
Tak: Lying, stealing, breaking the law. If we’re going to pull this off, we’ve got to get our hands dirty.
The scene changes to the Elliot’s workshop. Tak dumps a pile of dead stacks on the counter in front of Ava and Vernon. It’s the Envoys who died at Stronghold, stolen from the museum exhibit. He explains that they died from Rawling virus, and he wants Ava to recreate it. Ava is reluctant to recreate such dangerous malware, but Tak brusquely reminds her that if she doesn’t, she’ll go back on ice.
Poe meets one of the other AIs for a poker night. Dick, who runs Prick Up, is one of the most anti-human AIs, and treats Poe with disdain. He pushes Poe to include Lizzie in the bet. Poe protests, but Dick insists. Poe uses infected poker chips, which he’s careful not to touch. When Dick collects his winnings, the virus spreads through his system, quickly shutting him down.
Vernon and Ava tie up some loose ends, collecting data and images, then creating the documents and videos Tak needs to present as evidence to convince Laurens of his story. Ava isn’t sure she wants to go through with ruining someone’s life, but they don’t really have a choice. Then all that’s left is for Tak to sell the lie to Laurens.
As Miriam escorts Tak up to Laurens’ study, she makes one more pitch to get him to give up the case and leave with her. The sex island offer is still open. She’s impressively ballsy about keeping her secrets, and must have a fast getaway vehicle.
Tak has invited a group of people worthy of an Agatha Christie novel. Miriam and Isaac, the scheming wife and son. Curtis, the head of security who sleeps with the kids and knows the family secrets. Captain Tanaka, the corrupt cop. Oumou Prescott, the family attorney who wants to be their equal. Laurens himself, one of the only people who had access to the murder weapon. And Laurens has invited Clarissa, who suggested he hire Tak. She isn’t what she seems, and is guilty of countless crimes.
Let’s hear Tak’s story:
From the beginning of this case, the details just didn’t add up. All the evidence said suicide. It was neat, tidy, perfect. Nothing real is perfect. Someone wanted the world to believe you killed yourself. But how could you possibly bring down Laurens Bancroft? (Tak turns on a projection from his Oni.) This is a VR jack in called Prick Up. It specializes in simulated rape and murder. It’s the last place you visited before you died.
Laurens: I’m not overly familiar with this particular establishment.
Tak: And yet there you are. (Video created by Ava plays.) Prick Up was a trap, set up just for you. Captain, check in with your cybercrimes unit.
Tanaka: Yeah, do we have any reports on a place called Prick Up? I’m looking for anything. Okay. Alright. Thanks. Sir, Prick has shut down.
Tak: Are you going to tell him?
Tanaka: The core was destroyed by Rawling virus. Prick Up went insane, The AI core melted.
Tak: You were infected. Your download at Psychasec was clean. So your stack needed to be contaminated by direct contact, which means VR ‘trodes.
Laurens: This is absurd.
Tak: Here’s the next interesting thing. Prescott knows everything about what happened in Osaka.
Prescott: I was with Mr Bancroft. That’s no secret. I often accompany him as counsel.
Tak: You forgot to mention that he was furious with his son when he returned. Put a beating on him at Fightdrome. You wore a blonde sleeve in Osaka, right?
Prescott: I wear a variety of sleeves. It’s part of my travel allowance.
Tak pulls out a sleeve rental and repair receipt: This one?
Prescott: Yes, but what’s all this?
Tak: It’s a bill for damages, signed by you. Damages for the sleeve being strangled and raped.
Laurens: I’ve never seen this invoice.
Tak: Because Prescott handled it.
Prescott: This is ridiculous. Complete fiction.
Miriam: Laurens, what is going on?
Laurens: Not now.
Tak: Why would she pay damages on a work sleeve herself? Because she lost access to company funds. What’s the only way that could happen?
Laurens: If I fired her.
Prescott: Mr Bancroft, you can’t possibly be taking anything he says…
Tak: The women you like to hurt all have something in common. They look like Prescott did that weekend. Like your wife.
Prescott: He wants to get rid of me. He’s trying to replace me.
Tak: Did he rape you? Or did you come on to him because you saw his anger as an opportunity for leverage?
Miriam: After everything this family has done for you.
Prescott protests her innocence loudly and repeatedly, throughout the conversation, until Miriam threatens her.
Tak: Whatever happened between the two of you in Osaka, you decided to fire her over it. Who knows your habits better than anyone? She knew that when you’re this angry, you’ll find the nearest VR dive where you can kill as many blonde whores as you want. All she had to do was time your arrival to Prick Up for the viral strike. See none of this was supposed to look like murder. It was all supposed to look like just bad luck. Malware racing up your needlecast into your satellite backups and destroying them. When you got home, your internal contam alarm was screaming. You had to stop your backup from going through. You didn’t have much time. It was all supposed to look like Bancroft went crazy, his backups were shredded, and he killed himself. But you outsmarted her.
Laurens: Right. I must have faked the needlecast. Pretended I’d done the backup so you just killed me too soon.
In fake flashbacks, we see Laurens trying to shoot himself to stop the viral backup, then Prescott intervening. She taunts him while he suffers from the virus. After she sees his eyelids do the typical backup eyelid flutter, she helps him shoot himself in the head.
In the present day, Miriam wants Prescott escorted from the house. Tanaka starts to arrest Prescott, but Bancroft stops him. He swears everyone in the room to secrecy. Then he tells Prescott that he’s going to ruin her. She’ll be stripped of her license to practice law and everything she owns. He’ll make sure that no Meth will ever hire her and that she never leaves the ground again.
Prescott stares at Laurens, then looks at Miriam for confirmation. Miriam stays silent, with her head held high. Prescott gets hysterical and starts babbling. Just before she’s dragged out, Miriam rushes over, gets right up in Prescott’s face and squeezes her mouth shut, saying, “You stop talking.” Like you’d do to stop someone from saying too much or revealing a secret.
Everyone leaves the room but Clarissa(Rei), Tak and Laurens. Tak asks Laurens for his payment and his pardon. Laurens muses that his great mystery turned out to be nothing more than his own weakness and Prescott’s greed. He leaves to make the arrangements for Tak’s compensation.
Rei says that she thought he was trying to outmaneuver her by inviting so many people to the reveal, but she realized that wasn’t it at all. He says that reveals are more convincing when they’re done for a group. Clarissa says Tak “played them well,” then leaves.
Once Rei is gone, Tak has a conversation with the Quell in his mind. Those are becoming fewer and fewer as time goes on. She congratulates him on his win, on getting Laurens to believe his story. Tak disagrees, arguing that Rei won, he just followed orders.
Quell: How do we practice deceit? We rip the truth apart and reweave it into the lie. Nothing is more convincing.
Tak: People talk about Envoy intuition like it’s magic. It’s not. It’s a pull at the back of the mind. A scratch inside your skull that won’t go away. It’s the details.
Kristin wanders the streets, mulling over everything she’s learned and everything that’s happened. Tak left an open tab for her at the hospital, so she’s gotten healed and cleaned up. She calls Mickey to check his progress. He asks about Tak, and she tells him that Tak was a jerk to her, so she thinks something’s wrong. Mickey tells her that Tak could just be a jerk.
Mickey got a hit on the gene-mat typing. It’s for a Psychasec vault, but it’s not registered to any account. Technically, it doesn’t belong to anyone. He sends her the information. Then he tells her that he’s really done this time. He needs to protect his job and his future, and that means cutting her off, since she won’t let go of these conspiracies.
Next Kristin turns to Gus, the Psychasec tech who was working in the Bancroft vault the day Laurens was murdered. Kristen knows him because she picked him up last year for a misdemeaner sleeve-jack in Licktown. Psychasec never found out about it, so the charges must have been dropped. Gus says he had the records sealed. Kristin threatens to expose him to Psychasec and get him blackballed from ever working in the industry again if her doesn’t help her. She wants him to take her to the Pychasec vault that matched the blood on her hand.
Tak climbs up to look through Bancroft’s telescope, remembering that Laurens looks through it when he’s troubled. He resets it to the position it would have been in when Laurens died, to see what Bancroft would have been looking at before the shot was fired. It’s the upscale satellite brothel that Poe mentioned in episode 1, Head in the Clouds.
Suddenly, everything falls into place, and he understands the truth, or at least the gist of it. The clues: Head in the Clouds; Rei saying she’s “become a titan of industry, dealing with the many weaknesses of the flesh;” Dimi saying, “We became hungry for things that reality could no longer offer;” Laurens saying, “I have a line that I am very careful not to cross;” Miriam saying, “You have no idea what he’s capable of;” Rei saying, “Being high on Stallion may have affected his judgement;” Kristin saying that Stallion is a male aggression enhancer; Rei saying that she, “Gave him what he always wanted;” Vernon saying that Lizzie told him that Laurens told her he needed her; Miriam saying that Laurens would want to punish someone if he didn’t like the story Tak came up with, especially if it pointed to suicide; Neo-Catholics protesting resleeving.
So Tak has figured out that Rei owns Head in the Clouds and that’s where Laurens was that night. Stallion lowered his inhibitions and increased his aggression enough that he did terrible things that he would never normally do. His victims were some of the prostitutes with fake Neo-C coding. Rei and Miriam both don’t want Tak or Laurens to know what happened. However much power and influence Rei has, Laurens still has more. He’s still the father-god, while she’s the god of sin and lies. She’s Lilith, pushed to the side as not good enough, and forced to endure and survive any way she could.
Quell asks Tak if he understands how he wove his lie from the truth. He once again looks sickened by the whole thing.
Laurens comes back into the room, saying that Tak’s payment has been processed. Then Laurens puts his official seal on the pardon and hands it to Tak. As he does, Laurens says, “If you speak of this to anyone, I will have you killed. Permanently.”
Tak says that he enjoyed working with Laurens, too, and leaves.
Gus brings Kristin to the unregistered Psychasec vault. He lets her inside, but closes her in, alone, as soon as she recognizes the clones as the woman who took Tak. Kristin tries to call Mickey for help, but he doesn’t respond.
One of the clones awakens and breaks through the glass window to her pod. One by one, they all join the party. Kristin shoots most of them in the head before they take more than a step or two. Why don’t they slide the door open instead of breaking the glass, you may ask? Obviously it looks much cooler for a naked Dichen Lachman to leap through a glass window over and over, than it does to tamely open a door, even if it does ruin the element of surprise and injure the clone before she even starts fighting.
This isn’t just about Rei fighting with her
obsession’s boyfriend’s brother’s latest flame. It’s about good vs evil, family vs friends, swords vs bionic arms, youth vs age, the old making way for the new. 😜
Oh look, there’s a new pile of naked and bloody dead women. Geez, we were doing so well with that. It’s been since episode 4 and Alice’s dissection. The irony is, I’m almost certain that Rei created the rest of the dead and battered women. Here, she has no care for her own body either, torturing it more than necessary, using glass as a weapon instead of the hand to hand methods that we saw Quell use to disarm Tak and DeSoto.
Rei hates women, and hates herself for her own female weaknesses most of all. She hates that Tak, who she thinks is ultimately inferior to her, had to save her from her father. She hates that they were separated because of gender, with him going to be a powerful CTAC soldier and her becoming a slave, probably a prostitute. She hates any woman who had the opportunity to choose the high road, when she was forced to do terrible things to survive. She hates the female body that made everything happen the way it did. But she learned how to use a female body as a weapon, whether it’s a child’s body or an adult. She has a powerful need to destroy other women and happy families, particularly if Tak gets anywhere near them.
She’s not necessarily trying to win this fight, though if she’d be fine with it if she did. But she doesn’t actually want Kristin dead yet. Rei is Killing time until she can get the little girl clone in place, wearing Kristin out so that she’s not thinking clearly. The little girl is a distraction so that she can capture Kristin. Remember, Rei likes to torture people, and likes to use loved ones as leverage. If she kills Kristin, she loses her as leverage. She wants to have Kristin under her control, not dead. Then Rei can toy with her like a cat with a mouse, and make Tak watch.
Kristin takes the bait. She fights off the clones, one by one. Her bionic arm and gun trump a naked Envoy who probably doesn’t do much real fighting anymore and just cast into each sleeve moments before. When the clones are all dead, the vault door opens again, and she sees Rei’s little girl sleeve crying in a corner in the hall. The little girl complains that she’s cold and has been left alone.
Kristin goes over and reaches out to her, telling the girl it will be okay. If Kristin hadn’t fought the clones first, she might have questioned the sudden presence of an abandoned child in that particular spot, but everything happened too fast. The screen goes dark.
The look that Prescott gave Miriam before Prescott gave up hope wasn’t meaningless. Her hysteria could have even been an act. The entire reveal was a show to give Laurens a story he could live with more easily than he could live with the truth, and it worked on that level. But there are still multiple conspiracies going on that we’ve barely scratched the surface of, and Prescott is part of some of them. Chances are that her allies won’t actually let Laurens strip her of everything. They’ll find a way to make sure she keeps working isn’t thrown in the gutter with nothing to her name. Maybe she’ll just need to keep a lower profile with a new identity for now.
The pardon just allows Tak to use his real name. Without it he could disappear in a new sleeve with a new name, as Miriam suggested. The real pardons that he needs are from himself and from Rei.
But Rei wants to be in complete control of his life, and already has been for quite some time. She won’t allow him to be close to anyone but her, especially a woman, or to have a life separate from her. She has the resources to bloodily enforce her will, as she did on Stronghold.
By trying to save anybody, Tak is going against his CTAC training. His training was to fight and carry out his orders, but saving particular individuals didn’t seem to play into it at all. Quell also constantly reminded her recruits that locals are expendable, and that most or all will end up dead by the time the mission ends. She was building the Uprising toward suicide missions all along, so she wasn’t even ultimately concerned with keeping the Envoys alive. CTAC, as a military organization wasn’t interested in keeping soldiers alive if sacrificing them was a more efficient was to do the job.
Tak has no idea how to run missions with the safety of the team as a priority. He doesn’t even know how to protect his own sleeve very well. Then you add in the Meths, which Rei has become, who see anyone but other Meths as expendable. (“Fireflies whose beauty lies in how quickly it’s extinguished.”) Even the yakuza, who raised her, were no better than CTAC or Quell, except that they offered the option of rising in wealth and status if you were talented and ruthless enough. Almost no one in this world cares about keeping powerless people alive.
Their capitalist society is geared toward demanding sleeve replacement as often as possible, and shelving the stack if the person can’t afford it. Since people still have kids, there’s always new customers for sleeves, and new sleeves available to be stolen from the powerless. So— people are going to die.
Rei has already taken out everyone Tak ever cared about. She has their father’s murderous, possessive temperament. She’s also a product of abuse and betrayal. She was trained to be nothing but ruthless. She both sees Tak as the only person who’s ever truly loved her and sacrificed for her, and as the person who’s profoundly betrayed her twice. She’ll keep giving him chances, but she’ll keep him on ice in between, and keep killing anyone he pays attention to that’s not her.
Rei’s all about power and control, plus I suspect she’s a secret hoarder. She collects alternate clones. I think she’d also collect the sleeves and stacks/backups of people Tak cares about. She’d keep them as trophies, possible leverage and occasional weapons. Like putting Janus the rapist in the snake, and secretly recoding her employees as Neo-C, she likes to have Goddess-like power over life and death circumstances even more than Laurens does. She likes having people think of her that way as well.
While Rei is a great fighter, I suspect she’s not quite at the level of Tak and Quell. Her talents are in manipulation and calculation, predicting rather than intuiting. She’s lost with an unpredictable enemy that she can’t gain control of.
Quell and Tak walk into fights with no preconceived notions, basing their strategies on whatever the current enemy’s style is, adapting and adjusting to their enemy by paying attention to everything in the environment and being willing to use it. They develop a flow with their surroundings and their enemy, allowing them to excel anywhere, with any style.
Rei has a certain style and is so superior in the use of it that it works on almost everyone. But she needs to be able to get control of a situation quickly, and to understand her enemy well enough to predict their actions and reactions. Abused children often become so good at reading people that they’re practically psychic, as they watch the dynamics of their households so that they aren’t taken unawares when things go sideways. Rei would have started with that, then honed it further with the yakuza and the Uprising.
Like most narcissists, she’s a natural at manipulation, and will have only gotten better with her centuries of practice. So she starts with those two talents, plus her fight training, and goes in expecting people to behave according to her cynical expectations of them. When someone doesn’t fall for her manipulations, or react according to her predictions, she’s on uncertain ground, and a fighter who also has superior skills, or, y’know, a bionic arm, can beat her.
Like so many of the Meths she’s been alive so long that she thinks she’s invincible, so her ego also makes her overconfident. It’s also interesting that she didn’t seem to know about Kristin’s arm. The gaps in her knowledge are fascinating, and show, once again, that she’s using preconceived notions of what’s important. An Envoy using intuition would want to know everything, and wouldn’t ignore Kristin’s arm replacement.
Interesting that Rei recognized Tak in Tanaka’s body, and Lizzie recognized Ava, while they were in virtual, but Tak didn’t recognize Rei in VR, and didn’t think she was familiar when he ran into her in the real in other sleeves, either.
Miriam and Isaac were so happy with Tak’s alternative murder solution. They are still hiding something big that they’re terrified Laurens will find out about.
Laurens also accepted the solution even though it was dubious. He seemed to find it less than satisfying, and probably instinctively knew it wasn’t the truth, but what he really paid Tak for was to set his mind at ease that he wasn’t weak enough to choose to shoot himself simply to forget bad memories. Forgetting on purpose also means there could be blackmail material out there, like the real fight between him and Isaac at Fightdrome, that he doesn’t know about.
Tak was so caught up in his romantic haze and loving the life he was living with the Uprising that he didn’t think through the ramifications of Quell’s plans and teachings. Once they went through with their mission, CTAC would have known their was a base on Harlan’s World and would have hunted the rest of the rebels down. Quell loved Tak, but she loved the mission more, and one of the few things she said to him after their night together was to remind him of when the mission started.
Quell and Rei were more alike than Tak wants to admit. But Tak is in the process of rejecting some of Quell’s lessons. He’s moving away from seeing individuals as dispensable in the service of a larger goal, and questioning her goal to limit life spans.
In the beginning, Quell wanted Tak and Rei to join the Uprising for exactly the reasons she said- they had inside information about the Protectorate and organized crime, two of her biggest obstacles. Quell never outright lied to them. She just omitted parts of the truth, talked around the difficult parts, and romanticized it.
She rarely let her calculations show. That’s the part of Quell that I find unforgivable. Her cause was just and people would have legitimately wanted to help her if she’d been honest with them all along and brought them in on the planning, but she wouldn’t share power. She didn’t trust anyone.
Had she trusted Tak and Rei more, things might have been different. For one thing, there might have been a way to accomplish her goal without a suicide mission. But she wanted to be a martyr, so she didn’t want to change that.
All of the amoral people are obsessed with Tak because he’s that rare person who’s incorruptible. His core of goodness and morality remains no matter what happens to him. He might forget about it for a while, and he might not always act on his morals, but he always knows the truth of what’s right and wrong. Some of the amoral people think standing next to him will redeem them, while some find the idea of corrupting the incorruptible overwhelmingly enticing. Others sense his steadfast loyalty and need to protect, and want it to be theirs, like Rei.
Rei wants him back again, of course. I think she knew where he was the whole time they were separated, just like she did when he got out of prison in the present day. She was holding a grudge, so she refused to reveal herself, and watched him suffer. She didn’t think he’d be self-destructive enough to let himself be captured by Jaeger.
In the present day, I suspect she got him out for the specific job he just did, because no one reeks of sincerity like an honest man. She knew that Laurens would ultimately trust Tak, and it’s imperative that Laurens doesn’t find out the truth.
She might have also hoped that he would replace her Hemingway persona and take over for Dimi and probably some of Leung’s tasks. Dimi and Leung both tend to get too murderous too quickly, whereas Tak can control himself but still perform the same violent acts. Hemingway seems to be mostly an enforcer and administrator, which Tak has the intelligence to do, and as her brother she hoped could trust him with the inside information and responsibility. Before Tak was arrested, he’d fallen back into his CTAC persona, so Rei probably thought he’d be fine with her businesses.
Laurens has his plague city, Miriam has her island of sex clones. What does Rei have? Leung calls her She Who Endures. Is there an organized group that worships her and fulfills her desires? Does she have a tribe of children that she’s raised as followers who will never betray or leave her, but Tak will always be the one who got away?
Rei lied about not knowing Tak was being tortured, and that she would have gotten him out if she’d known. In episode 4, the torture episode, the branch manager had to get special authorization to keep torturing Tak after hours and to use the new Hellminth Code program.
The fact that they had someone who couldn’t be broken should have alerted her to the fact that it was Tak. Actually, she should have already known he was there, because she was keeping tabs on him. But the manager left after telling Dimi about the Hellminth Code to take a call from a VIP referred to as “HER”. Obviously Rei checking in on their progress with Tak, and he wasn’t pulled out after that. He was in the program until he pulled himself out.
Rei allowed him to be tortured as part of her revenge, and to further test her new program and its weaknesses. Maybe she was considering using torture to break him down mentally until he was susceptible to brainwashing techniques. She didn’t know that Quell took his VR lessons further than the others.
Rei’s ownership of the Wei Clinic also provides a possible explanation for the dissection of Alice. Alice was a woman Tak cared about, and was willing to fight for. Rei was triggered by watching Tak gather together the beginnings of a group of people to replace his Uprising family. Rei wants to be the only woman he’ll fight to save and the only person he cares about. She needs to be his first and only choice at all times, like she is with Leung. Rei wanted to make an example of Alice, so she had Alice brutally butchered in full view of Tak like a disposable piece of meat. Alice was the first of Rei’s warnings that she’ll kill anyone Tak cares about.
Ava seems like a talented enough hacker to break the fake Neo-C coding, or even the real Neo-C coding. Then they could quietly spin up a few people to answer some questions. Where has Matt Biedel gotten to?
Rei’s clone vault is at least 8 stories high, with several clones on each level.
Finding out that Gus, the Psychasec tech that Ortega coerced into letting her into Rei’s clone vault, can be bought off, opens up a world of possibilities for who could be using whose sleeves. That’s the missing link I’ve been waiting for to explain how Naomi can use Miriam’s sleeves, how Isaac cast into Laurens’ clone in Osaka, and how Laurens presumably went into storage for the day. It makes any number of sleeve swaps possible, all done within the supposedly secure Pychasec facilities.
Why hasn’t someone invented the Mr Fusion Home Backup Device- Backs Up your whole family while you sleep!? And when they talk about cell mass for the portable clone printer, they mean something like a dead sleeve that can be broken down and remade into a new one, right? Shouldn’t everyone be able to easily download themselves into their devices as a backup, and recycle their old sleeve into a new one, so that it’s not that hard to come back? Or are they using some kind of gelatinous goo made from seaweed as cell mass? That also doesn’t seem like it should be expensive.
Satellite backups should just be for extra security. We can backup every device we carry in our primitive day and age to multiple places, including our computers, external hard drives, and the cloud. Why can’t they wirelessly back themselves up in hundreds of years? Wouldn’t that be the first thing you’d want to do with your brain? Even if it’s illegal, people would get around it. It’s literally the difference between life and death. If they’re casting places, the external digital version has already been created, so it’s not hard or expensive.
If it’s illegal to recycle a body into a new sleeve and print your own, which is what Kristin said when they found Isaac’s printer in episode 6, then that’s so that the corporations and government can maintain tight control of sleeve sales. So there would be a motivation to let the sleeve die at home, secretly, and an underground market for sleeve recycling into a sleeve that looks exactly like the old sleeve.
Isaac had his clone printer and storage pod in an unused bedroom. A sleeve replacement business would be easy to run out of a backroom. Kristin made it sound like it’s the cell mass that’s expensive, but that’s not an issue if the customer is providing it. If I’m wrong about the source of the cell mass, then that’s another business that needs to be explored. The Elliots and Poe need to get on this as soon as season 1 is over. Prescott is also apparently looking for work and pretty smart. And the police can be bought off.
If I were a Meth, I’d have clones and backups off the grid in underground bomb shelters in multiple areas around the world and in the sky, to protect against sabotage and natural disasters. I’d have them set up similar to a missile silo, with a system that has contact with the outside world that’s separate from the actual clone and backup storage, but nearby, which could easily transfer the message to activate the clones. Backups would be hand delivered and tested, on a less frequent basis than the satellite backups by a very limited group of trusted personnel. If they had to be used I’d lose a little time, but I’d know the backup was secure.
Being a Meth requires endless paranoia.
Photo Credit: Netflix