This week, the Agents of SHIELD finally return to our present day, but it’s a difficult, winding journey to get there, of course. We say goodbye to the characters we’ve gotten to know over the future space arc, and learn more about the time loop, before the cliffhanger monolith jump at the end. Loyalty, the importance of making the best choice of who to align oneself with, and when to let go, always a focus on this show, continue to be major themes. Those themes are set up to affect the rest of the season, perhaps the series, in game-changing ways.
Also in this episode, Coulson proves he’s not the greatest leader when he treats Daisy like she’s his property to control. He may think he’s acting like a leader or father, but he takes Daisy’s choices away to the point of rendering her unconscious, while others risk being left behind without a word of complaint from him. That’s not the kind of caring he, or the writers, think it is. Overly possessive misogyny doesn’t stop being wrong because you convince yourself it’s for a good cause.
When the Zephyr pulls into the landing bay of the Lighthouse, Kasius and his guards are waiting for it. The first thing they see when the doors open is Sinara’s body, still hanging, impaled on the balcony railing. Kasius brain melts down. The lead guard orders the rest of the guards to search the ship.
“Peace is an illusion. No matter how tranquil the world seems, peace doesn’t last long. Peace is a struggle against our very nature. A skin we stretch over the bone, muscle and sinew of our own innate savagery. The instinct of violence curls inside us like a parasite, waiting for a chance to feed on our rage and multiply until it bursts out of us. War is the only thing we really understand.”
So, there’s a slightly different tone between Quell’s inspirational voiceovers and Kovacs’ nihilistic calls toward violence and conflict. Having given in to the Quell that lives in his mind at the end of episode 1, stayed awake, and taken the case, Kovacs is left to navigate the world without her, other than as echoes from a long ago defeat. He begins his investigation in earnest, and considers who he can trust to become part of his team. The complexity of the case begins to reveal itself, as hallucination Quell predicted. Meanwhile, Ortega has secrets of her own. She spends much of the episode working on a separate, but possibly related, case.
Altered Carbon is a wild cyberpunk ride through a dystopian future starring Joel Kinnaman as Takeshi Kovacs, a centuries old supersoldier, rebel, and former mercenary who’s been imprisoned and asleep for 250 years. The method of his imprisonment is the removal of his “stack” from his “sleeve,” meaning the disc which contains his soul and consciousness was removed from his spine and stored until a wealthy man who requires his services pays for his release. His stack is then inserted into a new sleeve, also known as a body, that his patron bought for him to use while Kovacs works the murder case he’s been hired to solve.
Everyone in society is fitted with a stack when they are very young, but new sleeves vary in price. Functional immortality using clones and backup stacks is fashionable for the very rich. Normal people hope that their stacks aren’t damaged when they die so that they can be brought back, and that they can afford a decent new sleeve. Neo-Catholics believe that being spun up in a new sleeve is a sin and vow to live only the single life span their original sleeve allows them. Overall, life has become cheap because it’s so easily replaced, and corporate decadence rules society.
Episode 1 begins with images of modern Kovacs before he’s revived, dreaming that he’s floating in water. The view of his body is interspersed with images of original Kovacs being intimate with a woman, and mercenary Kovacs showering intimately with another woman, or at least another sleeve (although they start out covered in blood). The future gets confusing at times, with all of the body hopping. We can see the stack insertion scar on the back of the showering woman’s neck. The floor of the shower is littered with stolen stacks.
When episode 11 of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend opened with Dr Akopian in her bedroom, I had this joyous flashback to the early days of the show, when Rebecca and Heather broke into her house through the doggie door. My hopes were raised that the whiny, misogynist slog toward the finale would be interrupted by a fun, creative episode like the ones I fell in love with. But, no. That was not the case.
Instead, we got more of the pointless, endless “will they or won’t they” from Bex and Nathaniel, a huge amount of time spent on Heather realizing that being 8 months pregnant is no fun (solved by her taking a bath 🤦🏻♀️🤦🏻♀️🤦🏻♀️), and another Paula is a b*tch story, with a side of betrayal from former bestie Sunil, to teach her a lesson. We also had an 8 month time jump, to move the story and characters along. Except almost everyone was stuck in exactly the same place.
Altered Carbon is my new guilty pleasure. Do we still have guilty pleasures? I don’t care, that’s what it is. It may or may not make the cut for prestige television when the critics are done deciding, but, after watching 3 episodes, I’ve decided I’m just going to have fun with it. It’s not the best, or the worst, or the first, or the most, of anything. But it is a hardcore, pulpy, scifi cyberpunk neo-noir murder mystery with a detective who’s both completely futuristic and a total throwback. This show is not taking itself too seriously while still including all of the essentials of its genre(s). That means that we can all relax and enjoy the ride.
Altered Carbon is based on the 2003 novel by Richard Morgan. It stars Joel Kinnaman (The Killing) as Takeshi Kovacs, a former mercenary and legendary rebel soldier who fought against the Protectorate, the universal government of the future that’s run by the wealthy. He was caught and imprisoned 250 years ago.
The film Dunkirk, written, produced and directed by Christopher Nolan (Interstellar, Inception) is a 1 hour and 46 minute long slow motion action sequence. It’s like watching snails race, with stops for a chat about the state of the world and a cup of tea every few minutes. But the snails don’t actually have much to say, certainly nothing that hasn’t been said before, and better, by others.
Dunkirk tells the story of the evacuation of the British army from Dunkirk Beach in France in 1940, early in World War 2. 400,000 soldiers were stranded there, with Germans pressing down on them and not enough ships to get them out. A flotilla of small civilian boats crossed the English Channel to pick up 300,000 of the stranded soldiers and return them to Britain, many more than were expected to be rescued.
The film follows men in the air, sea and on land who are fighting to get the soldiers home. Each element highlights a few characters and their journeys, but doesn’t develop them as compelling individuals. The focus is exclusively on the tasks at hand and the immediate difficulties they face. The only character background we learn is what affects getting the men home. What would, in most movies, be a few small vignettes is meant to pass as the plot of Dunkirk.
This episode is full of lost souls and mistaken identities. Mattie takes Anita to visit Leo, but Leo is unable to break through the Anita persona to find Mia. Leo becomes inconsolable and wants to give up on his family altogether. Mattie looks through the diagnostics log and discovers that Anita’s adult function has been used. She assumes it was Toby and yells at him for being gross and rapey. Toby tries to protect the family by accepting responsibility. Odi is found in the woods, then lost again. Niska stays with George, and they debate what kind of being she is with Vera. Niska doesn’t trust George at first, but slowly they begin to become friends. Pete continues to take in arguments for and against synths as he wanders through his day.
Niska races away from the smash club and meets Leo and Max at their usual rendezvous spot. Leo tells her about the program that David Elster hid in their root code. Niska is excited about it, and wants to get going on putting it all together. Leo says that she has to stay in hiding for now, since she’s wanted for murder, and sends her to George Millican’s house. He tells her to be nice. Niska says, “I am nice.”
Everyone develops complicated feelings in this episode, as the lines between humans and synths continue to blur. Pete finds a temporary new home, but it’s not as synth-free as he thinks. Niska takes on a fight club for anti-synth bigots and almost gets caught by Hobb. Leo and Max make a discovery after examining Mia’s root code, but don’t seem much closer to getting her back. They do meet up with Mattie and George, bringing all of the plot strands together for the first time. The Hawkins explore the realities of synth rights and feelings, with mixed results. Joe takes his primary user status with Anita to the next level, and immediately regrets it. I don’t actually think his experience with Anita was good for any of us, including, maybe especially, her.
Pete starts his morning in fine form, snapping at Jill when she asks him to join her for breakfast and ignoring her in favor of calling Karen at the office.
Mattie checks in with Anita to make sure that she’s okay after the hacking session the other night. Anita doesn’t remember the session, and says all of her systems are running fine. Mattie is surprised that Anita doesn’t remember what happened, after she was so upset. Anita goes back to her chores, saying hello to Laura, who was eavesdropping out of sight, as she goes.
Counterpart is a new scifi/spy/thriller series from STARZ starring JK Simmons as two very different men who live in two different versions of the same world. The worlds are connected by a secret passage in Berlin that’s heavily guarded and controlled by the two world’s governments. Up until 30 years ago, there was one world, but then scientists caused it to split into two branching realities. The politics of each world spill over into the other world, causing friction and intrigue.
Each person has an “other” in the alternate reality, a duplicate self who may be nothing like themselves. The other self frequently becomes a target of political plots originated on the opposite side. Since the alternate realities have been kept a secret from the general public on both sides, this can cause some confusion.
The game of lost and found continues in episode 3, as Leo and the conscious synths continue their complicated lives together and apart, the Hawkins family searches for answers to the mysteries surrounding Anita, and George and Odi become separated on an outing. The death at the brothel is officially ruled an accident, sending Pete into an anti-synth tirade.
Hobb wakes Fred up. Fred refuses to speak during the entire scene, but he does subtly try to break the straps binding his wrists to the lab chair he’s in. Hobb says that he’ll do all of the talking for now, and spills everything he’s figured out about the conscious synths.
He believes there are five synths. One of them is the female the lab isolated from Fred’s memory of swimming (holds up a picture of Anita/Mia). Hobb thinks they were made by David Elster, who kept them a secret. When Elster died, they ran away and hid, but then they got separated, allowing him to capture Fred. Fred turns his head all the way to the right. The lab tech says that he’s hiding his thoughts from them. The screens that have been showing his memories go dark, then show only Hobb.