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Recap / Altered Carbon S 01 E 01 Out Of The Past

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Title from: Out of the Past (1947)

"The first thing you'll learn is that nothing is what it seems. Ignore your assumptions. Don't trust anything. What you see...what you hear. What people tell you...what you think you remember. Let experience wash over you, absorb it like a sponge. Expect nothing. Only then can you be prepared for anything. Your body is not who you are. You shed it like a snake sheds its skin, leave it forgotten behind you. One thing I can promise you, coming back from the dead is a bitch. When you wake up the world will not be what it was, and neither will you. They have forgotten who or what we are. Make them remember. There will be places where they'll wait, the people left behind. Wait to see their parents, lovers, children come back to them, riding unfamiliar bodies out from digital exile. They'll look into the eyes of strangers, searching for a glimpse of the person they have lost."
Quellcrist Falconer, Opening Narration

Convicted criminal Takeshi Kovacs awakens in a new body after two and a half centuries to help a wealthy man, Laurens Bancroft, solve his own murder.

Tropes in this episode:

  • Adaptation Distillation: In the novels while Kovacs was a Quellist sympathiser her revolution had occurred long before he was born. The Envoys had been created by the UN Protectorate, and had turned to crime and mercenary work after leaving UN service because it was the only thing they were good at. Here the Envoys were created by Quellcrist, who was also Kovac's lover, and Kovacs is assumed to be the Last of His Kind.
  • Adventures In Coma Land: The opening is heavily implied to be a recurring dream Takeshi experiences while his Stack is in cold storage, as he remembers the events leading up to his most recent "death".
  • Advert-Overloaded Future: Only visible if you have a Heads-Up Display installed in your eye. Kovacs finds this out the hard way when he installs one when tripping balls, and gets overwhelmed. Ortega gets him an AdBlocker to help him function.
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  • After Action Patch Up: The episode opens with one, combined with Shower of Love, as Kovacs and his companion clean a copious amount of blood off themselves in a hotel shower, and then proceed to have sex in the same shower.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: No-one stays at any hotel run by Artificial Intelligence because they are hardwired to please their guests, so are like a Stalker with a Crush. When hitmen look like they're taking away the first guest the Raven has had in decades, the hotel machine-guns them all to death, including one man that Kovacs was interrogating for information.
  • Alien Sky: Twin moons are used to show the difference between flashbacks set on Kovacs' planet of origin, Harlan's World, and the contemporary scenes on Earth.
  • Artificial Outdoors Display: The hotel room Kovacs is killed in during the opening has one set to a beach at sunset. He ends up turning it off to look out at the dark and stormy cityscape.
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  • As the Good Book Says...: Ortega quotes from Genesis when explaining what Meths are. "And the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years."
  • Ate His Gun:
    • According to police, this is what Laurens Bancroft did.
    • Kovacs seriously considers this at the end of the episode. His imaginary version of Quellcrist talks him out of it.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: The real skill of an Envoy is not their ability to fight but their 'subliminal pattern recognition', which involves drawing useful details out of your environment and using them to your advantage. The Envoys were trained for this so they could needlecast to another planet and its unfamiliar society and instantly go into action.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: This is now the norm, as Ortega and her partner casually switch between English, Arabic, and Spanish in the space of one conversation. Jaeger then throws German into the mix.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Dimitri wastes time beating up Kovacs and trying to goad him to fight. This only gives him a chance to reach the front desk and touch the console to leave his DNA trace (blood from a split lip) and officially check-in, which gives the Raven the legal right to Kill 'Em All.
  • Bungled Suicide: Brought up as one explanation for Bancroft's death which he strongly dismisses.
  • City Noir: Played straight as per the cyberpunk genre. In less than a day Kovacs travels from the homes of the megarich above, to the squalor of Licktown groundside with its drugs and prostitution.
  • Classified Information: The Mysterious Past of Takeshi Kovacs, a former Protectorate soldier and Envoy terrorist.
  • Cold Sleep, Cold Future: Everyone who gets resleeved suffers from this. Even Kovacs who wakes up with every advantage — Envoy training, a good quality Sleeve, a Presidential pardon, an influential employer with a generous paycheck — seriously contemplates real death or just going back into cold sleep.
  • Comic Sutra:
    Raven AI: I know one particular lady of the night who seems a demure clerical worker but carries in her briefcase instruments of such delight it will tickle your bones.
    Kovacs: I'll take it.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: Averted then played straight. The opening fight makes it seem like Kovacs is going to be safe behind the kitchen counter, but then he unloads a pistol through his OWN cover into the heads of one of the Praetorians. Then they open fire in return and he is perfectly safe. Presumably Kovacs was using a barrier penetration round, but it would have to be pretty good to exceed the 'lethal load' rifle bullets being fired at him.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Kovacs' companion in the opening casually complains about getting splinters from the human bone fragments she is removing from a pile of Stacks.
  • Covered in Gunge: Anyone being debagged after resleeving.
  • Cue the Billiard Shot: When Kovacs invites Ortega for a drink, the scene cuts to a bar scene that starts off with a pool table shot.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Even before he knows he's a private investigator, Kovacs is snarking appropriately.
    Neo-C Protestor: God is watching! He will judge you for your sins!
    Kovacs: That's going to keep him busy a while.
  • Dirty Mind-Reading
    Miriam: Is it true you can look into a person's eyes and know exactly what they're thinking?
    Kovacs: Envoys don't read minds.
    Miriam: What a pity.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Jaegar shoots out the stack of Kovacs' love interest purely because Kovacs failed to show respect for him.
    • Dimi the Twin plugs one of his own men just for dissing him. Poe then shoots Dimi the Twin in payback for saying his microwave is smarter than him.
  • Dissonant Serenity: The Raven Hotel's AI Poe is completely unfazed by armed men attacking his prospective guests, merely sighing that he will have to clean up the body of a dead Mook.
  • Don't Create a Martyr: Used to explain why Kovacs is taken alive in a world where Death Is Cheap. He gets shot anyway but his stack survives, so the authorities give him a Longer-Than-Life Sentence.
  • Dramatic Shattering: Kovacs is riddled with bullets by the Praetorians and is blown through the requisite sheet of glass. The last thing he remembers is his dying face reflected in a shattered mirror.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Multiple ones:
    • Kovacs is introduced as a jaded yet heartbroken mercenary, who talks tough but is clearly bothered by the violence of his profession, with a habit of switching between Sleeves frequently. The opening fight then shows him as a hyper-efficient Combat Pragmatist with a Spider-Sense.
    • Ortega immediately begins subtly interrogating Kovacs, and then reveals she stole the limo they are riding in, showing her bottomless curiosity and Cowboy Cop tendencies.
    • Laurens Bancroft opens his introduction by jointly apologizing to Kovacs while insulting his own son, all while showing off just how rich and well informed he is. Then he casually hands Kovacs a journal written by Kovacs deceased lover.
    • Dmitri shows his Bad Boss tendencies and arrogant attitude when he casually boasts that he can easily defeat Kovacs in a fight, then immediately pulls a Boom, Headshot! on a mook who mouths off to him.
  • Evil Is Petty: The Praetorian Commander, Jaeger, brutally Real-Deaths Kovacs' lover simply because Kovacs disrespected him. Then he frames Kovacs for the murder to boot.
  • Evil Laugh: Kovacs and Poe share a lewd chuckle when arranging the services of The Oldest Profession.
  • Exact Words: The AI Poe cannot assume host prerogatives without payment. For guest amenities please touch the screen.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: When Dmitri meets Kovacs, he notes that he expected him to be bigger. He then beats him up while scoffing at The Dreaded Envoy who allows himself to be manhandled like a wimp.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Kovacs briefly mentions that he frequently switches between Sleeves. This comes into play when he is able to Wake Up Fighting instantly, where most people can barely walk at first when newly sleeved.
    • Kovacs casually throws away Falconer's diary, but it turns out to be an Imagine Spot. This foreshadows the scene where an imaginary Falconer talks him out of throwing away his life.
    • Among the crimes committed on the day Bancroft said he was murdered, Ortega mentions a Neo-Catholic woman dumped in the Bay.
  • Gatling Good: The Sentry Guns used by the Raven fit the anachronistic theme of the lobby.
  • Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: Implied to be the reason Kovacs and his partner hook up in the opening. Whatever just happened to them previously, it was bloody and violent. It's somewhat spoiled by the fact that Kovacs is fantasizing about Quellcrist the whole time.
  • Hologram: A drugged Kovacs walks through a squalid alley where holographic projectors send out advertisements as he walks past each one. When charged by a pair of holographic gladiators from Fightdome, he takes a swing and ends up falling on his ass.
  • Hookers and Blow: Combined with Screw This, I'm Outta Here!. Kovacs starts out having absolutely no desire to stay alive in this new future, and is perfectly willing to go back into cold storage. But decides on a single night of debauchery before he voluntarily re-imprisons himself.
  • Hypocritical Humor: When Ortega gets angry at the Raven's AI for massacring the hitmen for attacking a guest and being rude, her partner Samir points out she's shot people for less.
  • Imaginary Friend: Kovacs has conversation with the apparition of his sister Reileen and his lover Quellcrist, both now deceased.
  • Info Dump / Mr. Exposition: Several examples, sometimes combined with As You Know:
    • The resleeving crew includes a rookie who's having the revival procedure demonstrated to her.
    • As part of the rehabilitation process after being resleeved, prisoners at Alcatraz are given a run down of the Cortical Stack technology by a holographic presenter, due to the entire thing being very disorienting. This allows the audience to catch up on how this future world works.
    • The Warden of Alcatraz later does this to Kovacs upon release, going over the parts of his criminal record that are not classified.
    • Ortega explains the philosophy of Neocatholicism and the Meths' system of power to Kovacs, who is unfamiliar with Earth society. She later discusses Envoys with her partner.
    • Laurens Bancroft quotes Quellcrist Falconer to Kovacs and explains the basic concept of the Envoys, including their Supersoldier nature.
  • Insistent Terminology: Kovacs didn't 'work' for Quellcrist Falconer. It was more like an autonomous collective.
  • Layered Metropolis: San Francisco is now Bay City, a Skyscraper City with megatowers reaching above the clouds for the rich, and a rain-soaked metropolis beneath. There's some kind of above-ground tube transport system, Flying Cars are finally the norm and the Golden Gate Bridge is now clustered with slum dwellings built from cargo containers.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Kovacs mocks the warden for pulling an As You Know and monologuing to him.
  • List of Transgressions: The warden makes an attempt to go over Kovacs' file, but since just the unclassified portions of the document contain "more murders than I can count" he just hits a few highlights and gets on with it.
  • Locked Room Mystery: Only Bancroft and his wife had access to the safe containing the weapon used to kill him. As the wife has flawlessly passed a Lie Detector, the police naturally assume it's a Bungled Suicide.
  • Made a Slave: The warden promptly informs Kovacs that he is now the property of the Bancroft estate, yet refuses to call Kovacs a slave, merely telling him he has been "Leased" and has no rights.
  • Mirror Reveal: When Takeshi Kovacs realizes he's been resleeved, he threatens the medical staff with a scalpel and demands a mirror over the doctor's objections that it wouldn't help his psychological state. One of the techs hands him a metal tray, in which he momentarily hallucinates his birth sleeve before stabilizing and seeing his new face.
  • More Dakka: Turns out the Raven Hotel is equipped with laser-sighted machine guns that will utterly annihilate anyone who tries to harm a guest.
  • Naked on Revival: Kovacs comes out of cold storage fully naked.
  • Never Suicide: There seems no motive to kill a man whose memories are backed up regularly and can be downloaded to another body at any time. Yet Laurens Bancroft refuses to accept that he might have tried to kill himself, so hires Kovacs to find out Who Dunnit To Me.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Kovacs was completely willing to go back on ice for eternity, until the Hidden Villain decided to send a squad of hit men to capture him. This inspires him to take up the case of Bancroft's "murder".
  • No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction: Bancroft offers Kovacs a small fortune, the priceless diary of his former mentor and lover, a Presidential pardon, and a generous paycheck. Kovacs rejects the offer just to spite him. Bancroft is unruffled, telling Kovacs to think over his decision for a day in the belief that he will rediscover his desire for life. All this does is remind Kovacs of everything he's lost. It's the reveal that there's a genuine murder-mystery involved that causes Kovacs to accept the job.
  • Not My Driver: A nonlethal version; hoping to get some idea of why Kovacs has been resleeved by Bancroft, Ortega has Bancroft's son arrested on a pretext and takes his place.
  • The Nth Doctor: The opening scene has Kovacs re-sleeved, and the actor portraying him switches from Byron Mann to Joel Kinnamen. As a perk his new body comes equipped with military-grade neurochemistry and combat muscle memory.
  • Only in It for the Money:
    • Kovacs' main motivation before being killed and resurrected. He dismisses his partner's concerns for who the Stacks of the people they just killed belonged to, citing the fact that they are getting paid.
    • Averted when he rejects Bancroft's extremely generous offer.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Kovacs buys a pink children's backpack full of drugs.
  • Rip Van Winkle: Kovacs realizes shortly after waking up that his Stack has been in cold storage in Alcatraz for the past 250 years. After a momentary Freak Out, he adjusts to his new sleeve and walks out of the room, to the amazement of the revival staff.
  • Scenery Porn: Even Kovacs gapes in awe when the Flying Car lifts above the clouds from the rain-drenched city below to the sunlight-drenched Aerium above.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Bancroft is so influential he can arrange a pardon from the President of the United Nations for Kovacs.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: When it's mentioned the Archdiocese opposed a law allowing murder victims to be revived to testify as to who killed them, Kovacs sardonically comments that it's doubtful the high-ranking administrators of the Catholic church are the kind of people who have to worry about being murdered.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: It quickly becomes apparent that Kovac's visions are not just idle imaginings, but actually a combination of Imaginary Friend and PTSD flashbacks.
  • Sherlock Scan: Kovacs claims this is part of his learned "Envoy Intuition". Total absorb of everyone around you without preconception or assumption.
  • Sitting on the Roof: Instead of going up to his room to rest, Kovacs goes up to the roof of the Raven Hotel and contemplates blowing his stack out. A hallucination of Quellcrist talks him out of it.
  • The Snack Is More Interesting: Poe stops to drink from a tumbler in the middle of the hotel shootout.
  • Soul Jar: The Info Dump rehab presentation establishes that every human being in the Universe is implanted with a device called a Cortical Stack as a baby, which hold their mind and memories, based on technology salvaged from an Alien species called the Elders. If the body is killed but the Stack survives, it can be downloaded into another body. All bodies are now referred to as Sleeves, as they can be easily discarded if another is available. However, the Stacks are not invincible and can be destroyed by either blows to the base of the neck or energy weapons, which will kill the recipient permanently, referred to as Real-Death. Human minds can also now be transmitted across light years to new bodies in a matter of minutes, through a process called Needle Casting. In effect, the entire human race can now Body Surf, assuming they have the money. The ultra rich even have their minds digitally backed up at regular intervals, meaning that even if their Stack is destroyed, a copy remains and can be resleeved.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The brutal combat between Kovacs and Dmitri's gang in the hotel lounge is set to a jazzy music.
  • Starts with a Suicide: But is it a suicide?
  • Surprisingly Good Foreign Language: Jaeger's German is sound although he has an American accent.
  • Tattoo as Character Type: This episode begins the trend of Kovacs tattooing the symbol for the Envoys (a figure eight Ouroboros) on the inside of his left arm. His sleeve in the opening has this tattoo, but his new one for the series doesn't. He gets it reapplied by the end of the episode.
  • Tattooed Crook: Both past Kovacs and his girlfriend are wearing tattoos — whether it's to do with their criminal or former military activities is not made clear, but the woman has tattooed teardrops similar to what contemporary criminals wear. A hallucination of an adult Reileen shows her wearing similar tattoos.
  • There Was a Door: The explosive entry is powerful enough to have Kovacs and Sarah Blown Across the Room, showing that minimal force is not a consideration for the Praetorians.
  • The Triple
    Kovacs: I mean, anything can set me off. Interstellar dictatorship, genocide, people who talk too much
    • Ortega and Samir brainstorm why Laurens Bancroft would want to hire an ex-Envoy terrorist.
    Samir: Hired muscle? Uh, expensive toy? I don't know; maybe he's planning to invade another star system over the weekend like a Meth version of laser ball.
  • Two Shots from Behind the Bar: Poe has a pump-action shotgun which he makes use of from behind his counter.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Dimi the Twin makes this mistake, but unfortunately resleeving means that you can learn from your mistakes, even fatal ones. He promises not to underestimate Kovacs a second time.
  • Vapor Wear: Bancroft's wife is wearing a sheer white dress that clearly has nothing underneath.
  • Voluntary Shape Shifting: A stripper with a synthetic body changes her body-type when she thinks Kovacs might not like the first one.
  • We Are as Mayflies:
    Ortega: Our quick and messy little lives are so small to them. They build their homes up here so the clutter of our existence is out of their sight.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Kovacs partner and lover is killed before we even learn her name. According to the credits, it's Sarah.
  • We Will Meet Again: Dimi the Twin promises this moments before he's gunned to death. It's not an idle threat — turns out he's known for illegally copying himself into a second body as a precaution, hence his nickname.
  • We Will Spend Credits in the Future: Bancroft offers Takeshi 50 million UN credits.
  • What Are You in For?: Though much of it is Classified Information, the charges against Kovacs include espionage, terrorism, crimes against the State, and "more murders than I can count."
  • What Year Is This?: Averted; Kovacs first demands to know how long it's been since he was last 'killed', then which planet he's on, then he demands a mirror to look at what body he's now wearing.
  • Who Are You?: When Kovacs goes berserk in the resleeving room, the staff try to look up his record only to find most of it is Classified Information.
    "Who the hell *is* this guy?"
  • Who Dunnit To Me:
    • Bancroft reveals that he wants Kovacs to find out how he died, as Bancroft's mind was backed up at an earlier date before the death occurred and he has no memory or idea why it happened.
    • Proposition 653 was an attempt to pass a law allowing the authorities to spin up the cortical stack of a murder victim so they can testify who murdered them. This would include Neo-Catholics who are opposed to this on religious grounds.
  • Women Drivers: Ortega crashes the Flying Car limousine onto the Bancroft estate. Justified when we discover she's not a trained chauffeur but a Cowboy Cop impersonating one, and she likely crashed it deliberately as a Take That! to the Bancrofts.
  • World in the Sky: The Uber Rich, referred to as Meths (short for Methuselah) reside in a city above the clouds called the Aerium, composed of the tip tops of starscrapers from the Bay City skyline. They literally never have to see the world beneath them. This contributes to their A God Am I tendencies. The Bancroft mansion is even called Suntouch House, as it is perpetually above the clouds of the rainy city.
  • World Tree: The Bancrofts have one located in the entrance hall of their mansion. It is referred to as a Songspire Tree, and is completely alien. Apparently, there are several of them, the largest known being thousands of meters high. Although the Bancroft's is much smaller, it has the distinction (according to Miriam) of being the only one successfully transplanted to Earth.
  • Worthy Opponent: When Kovacs turns the tables on him Dimitri just starts laughing, glad to find that Envoys really are as good as he's been told.
  • You Need to Get Laid: The body Kovacs is using was still creating hormones while in cold storage, so Kovacs goes to the Raven despite being warned off because it promises girls as part of the Room Service.
  • Younger Than They Look: A seven-year old girl is resleeved in the body of an old lady by the indifferent authorities, who use whatever cheap bodies are at hand with a non-paying customer.
  • You Talk Too Much: Kovacs says this a couple of times; as an Envoy trained to assimilate everything in his environment, it can be rather annoying when someone is blathering on.


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