It’s time for Tak and Rei to work out their sibling rivalry issues. In episode 9, Tak got Rei to confess to driving Laurens to temporary suicide, which solved the bulk of the season’s mysteries. But there are still a few new revelations in this episode, along with the big, season-ending battle between the good guys and the bad guys, which everyone takes part in.
Kristin climbs the stairs to her brother’s apartment. She finds him lying dead on the floor, just as Leung left him. She reaches for her gun, but doesn’t have it, so she picks up a candlestick and follows the sounds of gunshots to the boys’ room. There she finds the boys both dead, laid out on the floor in a growing pool of their own blood, partially hidden behind a couch.
She drops the candlestick in shock and starts to panic, but then she hears her mother’s voice. She searches the house until she finds Alazne, who falls into her arms, bloody and dying. As Alazne is dropping to the floor, she warns Kristin, “He’s behind you!”
Kristin turns to find Leung and his evil death tool. He says, “You defy a god.” He repeats it a few times, even though he disappears, as she screams, “Where are you?”
When he reappears, he backs her up to a wall and forces her arms above her head and against the wall, without touching them. Kristin realizes she’s in VR, saying, “This is a construct.” Leung tells her that it’s all real, and her family is dead. He filmed the murders for her to relive, and has been making her go through it over and over. Each time he wipes her mind clean and starts again.
She goes through the scenario over and over, like she’s stuck in a time loop, until Leung finds out what’s happening to Rei in the real. Then he disappears completely from VR, leaving her alone in a blank matrix. She screams to be let out.
Leung and his goons run into Rei’s quarters, surrounding Tak and wounding Vernon with a knife. Rei pulls the knife from Vern’s leg to use as a back up weapon to the gun she now has. Her gun is the only one on board. Tak fights to break loose from the goons, but Rei stops him, informing him that their batons hold enough electric current to kill him from only a few seconds of contact with his stack.
Rei checks the status of her backups, and finds that they really are compromised. She blames Ava, but Tak is quick to try to deflect the blame over to himself. Rei agrees that he’s also broken her heart. She orders Leung to kill Poe and bring everyone else to her.
Tak asks her to listen to him, planning to talk her out of being so extreme with her revenge. She refuses, telling him that he’s never listened to her. She asks why she should listen to him? He’s always made all of the decisions, no matter what she wanted, now it’s her turn. (That’s stretching the truth a bit. Usually he hasn’t had a choice, or she willingly deferred to him.)
Ava, Mickey and Poe mill around the Raven and fret about what’s happening in Heaven in the Clouds. Leung busts in and turns on an electron destabilizer that begins to shut down Poe’s systems, starting with Poe’s sensors and defenses, then moving on to his avatar. Poe’s begins to turn into shiny black dust.
Poe moves his consciousness into VR with Lizzie, insisting that he send her onto the array immediately so that they can’t find and kill her. She refuses, saying she knows her way around and what she’s doing now. She doesn’t need to run away. She wants to be sent to the sky, to Head in the Clouds. She’s already seen what happens. Salvation. Death. Retribution. Poe asks in what order she sees them?
As Poe and Lizzie talk in virtual, Mickey decides to play hero in a completely out of character way and grabs at the gun of the goon standing in front of him. Leung turns and almost casually shoots out Mickey’s stack. THIS IS NOT OKAY.
Leung was just hoping someone would try something. We’ve already seen how murderous Leung is and how much Mickey hates violence. Why character assassinate Mickey with such a stupid move when he’s been so smart up until now? If they needed him to die, okay, just find a better way to accomplish it. But I don’t see what difference his death made, anyway. It’s just one more gratuitous death to thin the herd.
Lizzie is successful in convincing Poe to send her up to be an angel in Head in the Clouds as his dying act. Poe’s consciousness is split between the hotel lobby and Lizzie’s VR suite during this conversation:
Lizzie: You gave me so much. Whatever it means to be human, Eddie, you are.
Poe, to Leung: You don’t deserve to be called human, you despicable creature.
Leung: And you are a dead machine walking.
Poe to Leung: Then I will see you in H*ll.
Poe to Lizzie: I’m sending your mind to Head in the Clouds. Be careful, Lizzie.
Lizzie: You shouldn’t be afraid for me. You should be afraid for the monsters.
Her stack goes black, and her avatar beams up to the that great big brothel in the sky.
Poe still has some last words, as he lies in Lizzie’s VR suite letting go.
“And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul,
From the soul of the beautiful…”
Annabel Lee. It’s a quote from Edgar Allan Poe’s last poem, of the same name. It’s about his lost love, a beautiful young woman from whom he will never truly be separated. Hmmm, maybe Lizzie isn’t the only one who just got sent up to Head in the Clouds. Poe would be injured and in need of repair, so he’d stay hiding in solitude for a while, somewhere in a corner of Lizzie’s new stack. Maybe Lizzie can perform psychosurgery on him in season 2.
With Poe and Mickey both gone, Ava is left alone with Leung and his henchman. She somehow holds it together as he pulls Lizzie’s dark stack from its receptacle and tells her that it’s dead, the person inside gone forever. Then Leung leads her out of the Raven.
Lizzie uploads into a synth stored in the corridor near Rei’s quarters. She’s still adjusting to her new body, when a lecherous guard discovers her. He assumes that she must be one of the regular prostitutes, who’s in the synth because her boyfriend wanted to try it out. The guard promises not to turn her in for using the synth body, if she lets him rape her and she pretends to like it. Lizzie remolds the synth’s body and its features so that it looks exactly like her birth sleeve, then snaps the guard’s neck. Seems like a reasonable compromise.
She looks through the outfits stored in the corridor and finds a pleather and chains number that she likes. Then she heads out to find the action. On the way, she finds a customer bodies deep in the Iridium Experience, and decides to help him experience the full nature of his sexual desires, on the house, by virtue of a knife through the stack. That combination therapy really did work wonders. Lizzie keeps the knife, for luck, and continues on her way toward Rei’s quarters. I think she somehow got Envoy training while she was in virtual.
Tanaka oversees the crime scene investigation and clean up of the Ortega household. Prescott shows up and talks her way in, insisting that Tanaka see her. She tells him that she’s trying to become a decent human being again, and she thinks he still has a core of decency, despite being on the take. Prescott knows where Ortega is, because she knows who has Ortega. All Tanaka has to do is ask Prescott for the information.
I knew Prescott was in on the evil-doing on some level. She seemed especially close to Clarissa, Rei’s alter ego that’s an art and antiquities dealer, like they were good friends or lovers. If Prescott knows who Clarissa really is, then it’s either common knowledge, or they are quite close, and Prescott knows more than Laurens.
Tak pulls Kristin out of VR. She’s relieved to see him, and melts into his arms, until she sees that Rei and Leung are in the room. Then she comes right back to life, ready to tear them both limb from limb for killing her family. Rei slaps Kristin, then Leung drags her over to kneel in a row with Vernon and Ava. Tak is begging Rei to spare their lives, saying he’ll do anything Rei wants. She tells him he has to choose which one he’s going to RD first. If he doesn’t, she’ll kill them all.
She holds out a gun loaded with one bullet. She says, “It’s time for you to evolve. transformation is always painful. But I changed to make myself stronger. You can too. All you have to do is pick one.” Rei continues, explaining that real power consists of cutting away the things that make you weak. She wants Tak to find that power within himself. Tak refuses. Instead, he holds the gun to his stack and demands Rei let the others go. She doesn’t think he’ll go through with it.
Kristin uses her eyes and facial expression to beg Tak not to kill himself and wreck Ryker’s sleeve. Tak tries to subtly tell her it’s okay, then fires. The gun isn’t loaded. Rei tells Tak that she not stupid enough to give him a loaded gun.
Rei: You’d risk your life for them? You think you love her, don’t you?
Kristin: I can’t stand this f*cking *sshole.
Rei: Right, you’re hopelessly unavailable and doomed to die. (To Tak) You really do have a type.
She threatens to kill them all, again, and Tak says he’ll stay with her, just the two of them, like it used to be. She’s mollified, and has the hostages sent out, telling Tak that she’ll save them for him to execute later, just for fun, when he finally becomes as detached from reality and amoral as her.
But anyway, Lizzie is busy (ha! rhyme not intended!) wandering the halls, waiting for her parents and Kristin to appear. They do, being marched somewhere unpleasant by Leung and the goons. Vernon spots Lizzie hiding around the corner, and starts a fight. Lizzie jumps in, proving that her VR ninja skills absolutely transfer to being inside a synth in the real world. Vern tells Kristin to go back for Tak. Leung follows Kristin. Vern and Lizzie take out the rest of the goons, mostly Lizzie. Her parents are impressed. Maybe that whole “learning how to defend herself to feel empowered” program wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
Rei gets ready to take Tak’s eye camera out and kill Ryker’s sleeve, like she’s wanted to do all along. She must have really hated Ryker. But first, Tak and Rei have a chat.
Rei: I’m a Meth. We take what we want, when we want.
Tak: Like the Ortega children?
Rei: They were raw material. A means to an end to get the respect I’m owed.
Tak: They were kids, just like we were.
Rei: You think I wear this because I miss her? I don’t miss her. I hate her. Mom was weak. She deserved to die. I keep this as a reminder, never to be like her.
Rei: Don’t call me that. I’m not that pathetic little girl any more. I killed her, and became something stronger…I’m going to show you how much I love you.
Tak: I’m sorry for all the times I failed you.
Rei: I’m going to eat you up…Hold him still.
Kristin shows up just in time, and throws a knife at Rei. Rei dodges it, letting one of her goons take the hit. This show loves knife throwing. Tak joins in the fight. Kristin and Rei fight each other, while Tak fights the goons. Rei throws Kristin out toward the hall.
The Elliots go to the ship’s engine/utility room and prepare to kill the ship by flipping three master power relays at the same time. Since all of the ship’s systems run through those relays, if they are all down, the ship will lose altitude and crash. Each Elliot chooses a master switch, and they all pull their switches at the same time. You’d think something that important would need a key, or a password, especially with Rei’s level of paranoia and the fact that it’s up in the sky.
The power goes out all over the ship, including Rei’s quarters. Emergency systems come online. A firewall falls between Kristen and the room Tak and Rei are in. Kristin is unable to break through it. Tak finishes off the last of the goons just as Rei grabs the gun and fires at him. She misses, blowing a hole in the side of the ship instead.
Leung catches up to Kristin on the other side of the firewall. Now it’s Leung and his death tool against Kristin and her arm on one side of the wall with Tak and Rei on the other side. Both fights are vicious. The gun ends up getting knocked through the hole in the side of the ship and sitting on the edge of the floor, about to fall overboard. Tak and Rei each grab a sword and attack. Tak tells Rei, “No more dead children.” Rei tells Tak, “I’ll kill you before I let you put me in a cage.”
Leung slams Kristin’s head into a wall, then lets her drop to the floor, stunned. He tells her that Alazne prayed to God as she died. Where is her God now? Kristin says that Leung will be meeting God soon, and crushes his lower leg bone with her new arm. Then she tosses him against the walls several times, and stops to pick up his death tool. Leung gets up and tries to run away, running straight into Tanaka.
Tanaka pulls out his weapon and holds it on Leung. Leung questions why Tanaka is doing this, since Rei owns him. Tanaka responds that she doesn’t today. Kristin drags Leung to the floor. She holds Leung down and activates the weapon, then says, “My mother prayed to God and he put you in my arms. So tell me, are you a believer, motherf*ck*r?” She plunges the weapon into his neck and stack. Leung goes still.
Tak and Rei fight even more intensely, until finally they end by simultaneously stabbing each other in the chest. They pull their swords out and fall backwards. Kristin and Tanaka bang on the door to be let in. Rei says they’ll never get through. Tak says that they’ll stay where they are, crash, and Rei will still stand trial.
Rei reaches behind her and grabs the gun, where it was resting just out of Tak’s view. His eyes go wide- will she never quit? Rei says that if Tak helps her reach the escape pods, she’ll give him back Quell. She backed up Quell just before the explosion without Quell even knowing it.
Called that one. This changes everything for Tak, but he can’t help Rei escape. They have the standard conversation about him always knowing deep inside that Quell’s still alive, and Rei teasing him with the idea that Quell still exists, perfectly preserved, but he’ll never find her without Rei. But Tak knows Quell wouldn’t want him to let Rei continue on as she is.
He goes for the gun, she fires, and he partially dodges it, getting hit in the shoulder. He grabs the gun from Rei and holds it on her, point-blank against the base of her neck. She says, “Go on. Do it. I’ll never stop. I’ll never stop.” Tak bends his head down and they touch their foreheads together as they’ve always done at moments of closeness. He fires.
Tak sits on the floor, holding Rei’s body in his arms. Kristin yells to him when she hears the shot. He tells her goodbye, and to make all of this worth something. After a minute Tanaka drags her away.
Quell appears next to Tak. He tells Quell that he still loved Rei. Quell responds that Rei loved him, in her own lost way. Tak sings the Patchwork Man song to Rei as he holds and rocks her, as if they were still children. Head in the Clouds begins to lose altitude in earnest.
Tak asks Quell to tell him a story that doesn’t end in death and tragedy.
Quell: Long ago, and worlds away, there was a young princess, orphaned in a time of war. She was called upon to lead the armies of her kingdom for there was no other. She was the fiercest of warriors, beloved by her people, unstoppable on the field. She rode out everyday and saved her subjects in battle after battle.
But every night, when the fighting was done, she was alone. Until one day, a peasant boy came, looking to join her army, lonely, and angry, and fierce as she. For the first time, she found that when she strode out onto the field to save others, there was someone at her side, who had come to save her.
Then there came the darkest battle of the war. The princess and her peasant boy stood, side by side and vowed that they would be separated by nothing less than death itself. She fell to an enemy sword and died before his eyes. And those who heard the story cried for the death of love.
Meanwhile, Head in the Clouds has been accelerating as it falls, catching fire and burning, and finally, crashing into the bay below it. The Elliots, Kristin and Tanaka watch it fall as they escape in a police car, while everyone else in the brothel gets out in the escape pods.
Tak is debriefed in virtual. Both Taks. Original Tak’s stack was fished out of the bay, but his sleeve died on impact. Clone Tak talks to the authorities in virtual as a solidarity thing. The authorities have Tak’s pardon and are grateful for his help with this matter, but it’s illegal for there to be two Takeshi Kovacs DHFs. The two of them need to decide which will survive. Tak and Tak play Rock, Paper, Scissors to decide, of course. It’s pretty obvious that the clone DHF throws it. Once he’s in the clone sleeve, Tak lets Kristin know that he’s alive and Ryker still has a sleeve.
Life is back to normal in the Aerium. Miriam is having a party to show off her latest acquisition, a fossilized Elder, which looks like a large bird or a small winged dinosaur. Her guests fawn over her and it.
Kristin crashes the party and uses her Oni to project a broadcasted news report about Rei’s confession. Miriam finds Laurens watching the broadcast alone in his study. She tells him she’ll stand by him, no matter what. Laurens still insists he’s not a murderer. Purposely causing sleeve death, over and over, purely for fun, is always going to feel like murder to me.
Tak enters the study and tells Laurens the truth, that it wasn’t Prescott who pulled the trigger, and Laurens wasn’t insane or drugged. He was just a coward. Laurens continues to be in shock over these new revelations. No one mentions that Rei drugged Laurens with a powerful aggression enhancer to get him to cross his firm moral line. Not that his line matters much to me, but there were some extenuating circumstances that would argue for shortening his sentence a little, according to the morality of their world.
Tanaka and several police officers arrive to arrest Laurens. As he crosses the room to present himself to Tanaka, Laurens stops to tell Isaac that he’s in charge now, and inherits everything. The king is dead, long live the king. Then Laurens surrenders himself to the police.
Tak says that they aren’t done there yet. Right, Miriam? The Elliots come in. Laurens recognizes Lizzie. Miriam calls her a whore. Lizzie says that she couldn’t remember what happened to her for a long time. Now she does. She was pregnant. She came to the Aerium to talk to Laurens. He wasn’t home but Miriam was.
After Lizzie refused all manner of bribes for getting rid of the baby, Miriam beat her and kicked her until she lost the baby. Miriam asked Prescott to get rid of Lizzie, so she called Rei to act as fixer. Lizzie was taken to Wei clinic, and they used the Helminth protocol on her until she went insane. When they were done, they dropped her body in front of Jack It Off. The police didn’t care about another dead hooker, so Miriam was safe.
Miriam tries to explain, saying that the children are hers. They’re all she has. Rei called the favor in by having Miriam drug Laurens with Stallion.
Laurens is disgusted with Miriam’s betrayal. She tells him to get over himself, he’s been betraying her for a lot longer. Laurens realizes that he and Miriam have ruined each other. Kristin arrests Miriam for Lizzie’s sleeve death and the death of her unborn child.
Tak narrates in voiceover that Ava Elliot was pardoned and Tak got her original sleeve back for her. Lizzie kept her synth. 653 passed, so the dead could now accuse their murderers. Ryker was also exonerated.
Tak helps Kristin finish unpacking her apartment so that it will be ready when Ryker comes home. She asks him what he’ll do after he turns in Ryker’s sleeve. He says he doesn’t know anything, except that Quell is still alive. They say a tearful goodbye.
Quell finishes her story:
After his princess died, the peasant boy wandered the world, lost to despair. Until one day he came upon an immortal who told him his princess had been stolen, trapped in an enchantment. So now he seeks her, across this world and every other. Because somewhere, sealed behind thick glass and a thick wall of deadly thorns, she sleeps, waiting to be awakened. And someday, without fail, he will find her.
Well, that turned out better for the pack of local expendables than I thought it would. I was really prepared for them all to die. I will always believe that Ava or Lizzie somehow rescued Poe, or he ran to a corner of the array and hid. I don’t care what they say is canon, Poe lives, d*mn it.
Hopefully his survival will be revealed in season 2, episode 1, The Quest for Quell. Quell is somewhere on Harlan’s World, if Miriam’s fossilized Elder and the angel wings that she had in the closing graphic are anything to go by. Stack technology was developed using a metal from the Elder Civilization.
Then there’s the hint Rei gave. In episode seven, when Tak asked what she’d been doing since they were separated, Rei said she’d gone back to Harlan’s World, but nothing was the same and she hated it. After the life she had there, she probably always hated Harlan’s World and couldn’t wait to get off it. She would’ve only gone back to search for Tak or to hide Quell.
Rei said, even at the end, that she would come back for Tak- she for sure has other backups that the Rawling didn’t get. No immortal would leave themselves that obviously wide open to sabotage, unless they were being written by not very bright TV writers.
In my fantasy version of Altered Carbon, Poe has a version of his hotel on Harlan’s World, and every one of the Settled Worlds, with a different theme on each planet. The Old West theme would be a hoot. Perhaps he will have found a way to rescue Alazne and have her living in virtual with him. I need the two of them to be running a hotel together. Kristin can visit her there.
Tak will bring some of each team member’s DNA to whatever planet he ends up on, so that he can print them a clone and have them needlecast in to help with his search. Or maybe they’ll use synths that can look like them, like Lizzie does, since it’s a temporary gig.
Will Prescott’s name be cleared, now that the truth of Lauren’s shooting has come out? Will she get her license to practice law and her material goods back? She probably can’t get her reputation back, but she could at least start over somewhere else.
Full Text of Annabel Lee (near the bottom of the page). That’s just so suggestive of this entire show. There are debates about who Poe meant Annabel Lee to represent- his wife who’d died 2 years earlier, one of his childhood sweethearts, his mother, his foster mother? Several other women claimed it was written for them as well, but it wasn’t published until after Poe’s death, so he wasn’t talking.
So many of the characters have loved deeply, lost their loved ones and are now bereft without them. Some, like Tak, have lost woman after woman, just like Edgar Allen Poe. Vernon starts out this way, which is probably why Tak is drawn to him, but Tak gets Vernon’s lost Lenores back. Kristin and Rei are also full of longing for the ones they’ve lost, and ready to stay stuck in place while waiting to get the one they lost back, but ultimately handle loss very differently.
The poem has the most important implications for Poe and Quell. Poe applies the words to himself, just after he sends Lizzie to Head in the Clouds. I’m willing to bet that he also attached as much as he could isolate of himself, too, whatever hadn’t been affected by Leung’s malware yet. She’s his child and greatest love. He’d want to be with her forever, whether he saw it as potentially saving himself or burying himself.
And Quell is literally an angel buried away in some kind of vault somewhere. There was angel symbolism all through this episode, and Quell’s story of the lost, enchanted princess. Rei is a dark angel, who lives in the clouds and was jealous of Tak and Quell, just like the angels in the poem. She took Quell into the sky in a shuttle and created a chilling wind with the force of an explosion. She stole Quell’s soul and buried it somewhere. Tak and Quell’s one night together was near Stronghold, and next to the water, on Harlan’s World (this kingdom by the sea).
Rei actually told Tak the lie about the archaeology student finding her stack intact in the rubble of the shuttle crash, along with some genetic material. Could that be a lie woven from the truth of Rei finding Quell’s stack and body? Could the shuttle wreck be hidden on Harlan’s World in the isolated forest near Stronghold, near the water, and still hold Quell’s remains?
I seriously kept expecting fangs to drop down into Rei’s mouth. Most of Rei’s dialogue was straight out of a vampire novel, and she ran
a blood bar murder palace an out of control BDSM brothel. Actually, the Meths basically are the Volturi from the Twilight series (the books, not the bad movies) or the less moral vampires from Ann Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. We’ve seen that Laurens keeps the “plague carriers” as his own potential blood supply. The vampire fan fiction writes itself with this one.
If I could write dialogue, I might write it, then repackage it as original, then make a gazillion dollars on it. It’s the circle of fictional life. In other words, I’d start with the 50 Shades of Grey and immortality aspects of this show, then turn them back into Twilight fan fiction, which could then be loosely adapted into a best-selling book and movie franchise. I want credit in the acknowledgements from whoever uses this idea. 😜🤑
I’ve already said throughout these recaps how much I loved this show and season. It wasn’t perfect, but it was fun, interesting, and had good season long story arcs plus strong characters. It didn’t focus solely on the murder mystery to the exclusion of the rest of the characters lives. It was winding and rambling, but that’s part of the Noir conventions, so it’s a plus in this case. A convoluted plot makes the murder hard to solve, so that there’s a reason to hire a private detective. Otherwise the police could have solved it. I liked the way Altered Carbon was able to set up so many seemingly unrelated details, then weave them all together into relevance. I expect even more will become relevant in season 2 as Tak tries to think like Rei and piece together her history while he searches for Quell’s DHF.
I still think the show went kind of heavy on gratuitous violence, nudity and making the bodies of violently abused and murdered women into sexual objects. I believe the show was trying to make a point with the bodies, but I’m not sure the point came across for most people or that it was a good idea even if it did. They also didn’t need to be so murdery with the background characters (RIP, Alazne, Mickey and Aboud).
According to renewcanceltv.com and SpoilerTV.com, Altered Carbon was quietly renewed for season 2 even before release, with production scheduled to begin in October, 2018. We’ll have to wait for an official announcement or signs of production starting on season 2 to confirm it. I’m excited for season 2 and the storylines they’ve laid out. Hopefully some of the original cast will be back, since they are a big part of what made this season successful.
Tak kept the clone printer, right? And a bit of Byron Mann’s DNA to make himself a new sleeve? He definitely wanted that one back. Rei had something waiting for him, too, possibly a copy of his original sleeve or the Byron Mann sleeve. She might have had some of his DNA already stored when she took off on the shuttle.
And Tak inherits Rei’s wealth, right? So he’s rich beyond belief and can do anything, anywhere? Starting with backing up and cloning himself and all of his friends?
Grade for the season= A-
Photos and screen caps from Netflix.
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