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Recap / Altered Carbon S 01 E 02 Fallen Angel

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"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 to violence curls inside us like a parasite, waiting for its to feed on our rage and multiply until it bursts out of us. War is the only thing we really understand. Technology advances, but humans don't. We're smart monkeys, and what we want is always the same. Food, shelter, sex, and in all its forms...escape. I knew a shouldn't go, 'cause when the victors rewrite history, it's just another kind of war. Waged after the battlefield killing is murder the memory of the defeated. But it was a chance to see her again, not as a dream or a hallucination. I thought it would give me a moment of peace. I should have known better. The moments of peace that we find sometimes...they aren't anything but warfare, thinly disguised. And sometimes surrender can be as savage as any attack. "
Takeshi Kovacs, Opening Narration

Kovacs begins investigating the long list of people who have threatened Laurens' life, while Ortega keeps tabs on him.

Tropes in this episode:

  • 0% Approval Rating: Laurens Bancroft receives thousands of threats every year that Kovacs has to sort through. Of course Bancroft can afford to ignore them.
  • Achilles' Power Cord: When attacked by a cyborg thug with cybernetic enhancements that give him Super Strength, Kovacs just smashes the power pack on his belt.
  • Adorably Precocious Child: Kovacs meets a talkative little girl at the Envoy museum exhibit. He ends up giving her a minor "Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • And Then What?: This is why Vernon didn't kill Bancroft — someone would come after him, and if he was killed or imprisoned there would be no-one to look after his daughter's stack.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Poe gets Kovacs more appropriate clothing for someone being employed by a trillionaire.
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  • Bad-Guy Bar: The AI Hotel Management Union meets in a virtual one. Poe re-ups his membership after getting a windfall from Kovacs.
  • Beneath the Mask: Kovacs drops the mask completely and shows tenderness for the first time when he meets Lizzy, completely horrified at her condition.
  • Brick Joke: Samir jokes that instead of sparring in the morning, he and Ortega should instead begin it with coffee. When she barges into work later that day, he wordlessly greets her with a cup.
  • Broken Bird: Several:
    • Part of Lizzie Elliot's backstory. She was beaten to death and driven completely insane by the ordeal. While spending most of her time in cold storage and unaware, she gets spun up occasionally to see her father, but is completely catatonic and trapped in a "Groundhog Day" Loop of her trauma.
    • Lizzie's call-girl friend "Anemone" (Alice) is genuinely shocked at the lengths Ava Elliot (actually Kovacs) would go to rescue Lizzie, and mutters how her mother would never do that. She also lets herself be abused by her johns in the hope that they will buy her an upgraded sleeve. When Kovacs tells her she is better than her profession, she nearly breaks into tears and hugs him.
  • Character Tics: Kovacs notes these in various people.
    • Laurens Bancroft fiddles with his wedding ring, showing the Bancrofts are not the happily married couple they're pretending to be.
    • Anemone fiddles with her neck collar when discussing her clients, which Kovacs then removes to reveal bruises from rough sex.
    • Miriam's twitches show that she is afraid when seducing Kovacs.
  • Cloning Blues: If you resleeve too many times into sleeves you have never used before, you go crazy. Part of Kovacs' Envoy training lets him avert this. The Meths exclusively use clones to prevent it, allowing them to resleeve indefinitely, because they're just being sleeved into the same body each time.
  • Coitus Ensues: Miriam Bancroft doesn't have to try very hard to seduce Kovacs thanks to the Merge9 secreted by her artificial body, which makes her a Living Aphrodisiac. It also helps that Kovacs hasn't had a chance to dispose of those pent-up hormones.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: Bancroft continues his trend of showing off his freakish amount of wealth, including having an entire vault of clones for himself and his family.
  • The Constant: The Golden Gate Bridge is no longer used for transportation, but is instead now an extended slum of Bay City, with an entire town built on the still standing bridge itself. Vernon Elliot lives in this area.
  • Contrived Coincidence: While walking down the street, Kovacs just happens to stumble upon the brothel where Elizabeth Elliot worked. In fairness he did go looking for it.
  • Covered in Scars: Kovacs new sleeve, thanks to a Shirtless Scene or three.
  • Creepy Souvenir: The Envoy exhibit has a collection of destroyed Stacks from the Envoys who died at the Battle of Stronghold. Kovacs is horrified by this, as it is akin to having the skulls of his friends on display.
  • Cowboy Cop: Ortega is tracking Kovacs without a warrant, tries holding him without charge, and illegally removes the stack from a dead Catholic, whose body she has hidden to prevent it being returned to her mother.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Averted; Ortega's father is a picture on the police memorial wall for cops killed in the line of duty, but her mother is still alive and trying to get her daughter to get a life.
  • Defiant to the End: After Stronghold is reduced to ashes, a dying Envoy is shown shouting, "Long live the Uprising! Long live Quellcrist Falconer!"
  • Disposable Sex Worker: A literal version because Death Is Cheap. Laurens Bancroft pays to get rough with prostitutes. They don't protest because if he accidentally kills one, he just buys them a new and younger sleeve.
  • Dream Within a Dream: One of Kovacs' PTSD nightmares ends with him waking in his bed, but it raining ash. He then wakes up for real.
  • Drugged Lipstick: Miriam drugs Kovacs with a chemical aphrodisiac secreted from her skin when aroused.
  • Enhance Button: Kovacs is able to identify Vernon Elliot in his death threat video by enlarging the serial number on his rifle.
  • Epiphanic Prison: Vernon's daughter Lizzie has her stack uploaded to a virtual one whenever someone comes to visit her, and she is completely catatonic. While strictly speaking, Vernon CAN get her out, he cannot afford to either resleeve her or pay for the therapy necessary to snap her out of her funk. All he can do is keep her safe. He only spins her stack up in the virtual world as it is the only way to see her, and otherwise keeps her in cold storage.
  • Fantastic Drug: Merge9, or "Empathin", a biochemical pheromone that puts human bodies in touch with each other, allowing one to feel the sensations of another. Miriam Bancroft has a sleeve that is bioengineered to secrete it from every bodily fluid when aroused. It lets her have fantastic sex with Kovacs.
  • Foreshadowing: Several examples.
    • Ortega is reluctant to deal with a distraught mother demanding the return of her deceased daughter's body. At the time it seems she doesn't want to admit the police department has stuffed up and lost her daughter, but it's later revealed that Ortega is the one who stole the body.
    • The little girl in the museum nonchalantly explains the motives of the so far Hidden Villain while relating her own problems. She even urges Kovacs to give up on grudges.
    • Ortega's mother, Alazne, urges her to move to a new apartment that is actually hers, implying the current one is not.
    • The thug who attacks Kovacs outside the brothel says he shouldn't have come back, even though Kovacs has never been there before.
    • The closing image is of a little boy and girl together.
  • Genre Savvy: Poe has been researching Noir Films and wants to be Kovacs partner, as the partner is frequently murdered in such films and Poe being an AI makes this difficult. Kovacs' has a "No. Just... No" Reaction, causing Poe to gripe that he needs to come up with more snarky comebacks as befits a private investigator.
  • It Only Works Once: Vernon is able to eventually break out of his restraints through an adrenaline rush. Kovacs promptly knocks him out again and ties him to a puffy armchair with duct tape, making sure there is no chance in hell of him ripping out of it.
  • Lonely Bachelor Pad:
    • Indicative of Vernon's depression, his apartment is quite messy. However, he is not a bachelor by choice, and Kovacs starts taking the time to try and snap him out of it.
    • Despite being an attractive woman who sleeps in sexy lace panties, Ortega wakes up alone in a large apartment with only her Hawkeye program to make small talk with. A subsequent conversation with her partner reveals she is staying single by choice, for as yet unknown reasons.
  • Look Behind You: While holding Kovacs at gunpoint Vernon says he's not falling for this one. Unfortunately there really are a couple of thugs coming up behind him.
  • The Lost Lenore: Kovacs goes to the Quellcrist exhibition at the museum because he wants to see her face again while not hallucinating. He realises this is a bad idea when he sees the exhibition is just a Propaganda Machine.
  • Magnetic Weapons: Vernon has a handheld railgun, apparently a former service weapon he has purchased from the military.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Kovacs poses as Lizzie's mother (resleeved in a male body) to get cooperation from another prostitute.
  • Married to the Job: Ortega is sleeping with only her Hawkeye tracker sharing her bed.
  • Mistaken for Prostitute: Kovacs' first instinct upon seeing that Poe brought a woman to his room is to think she's the hooker he requested in the previous episode. She's actually Bancroft's attorney, who is unimpressed at this demonstration of an Envoy's legendary observational skills.
  • Must Have Nicotine: Kovacs' sleeve was a compulsive chain-smoker, which means he has the habit as well.
  • My Beloved Smother: Alazne Ortega fits this to a tee, but she is very well-meaning and genuinely concerned for her daughter's emotional health, with good reason.
  • Naked on Arrival: Bancroft needlecasts into his family vault during Kovacs investigation to observe his progress. Nothing is left to the imagination.
  • Naked First Impression: When Poe brings Prescott to Kovacs room, he's sleeping in the nude and doesn't bother putting clothes on or covering himself when he gets out of bed to meet her. She's hardly affected, and only Poe nervously tries to use briefcase to cover Kovacs.
  • Neural Implanting: Memories can now be illegally copied from people, and Meth memories are especially valuable on the black market. The people who steal them are called Diggers, and they are suspected to be the ones who tried to hack Bancroft's needlecast after his "murder".
  • Not Me This Time: Vernon may have the motives and skill to assassinate Bancroft, and even sent a death threat video. However, he would never actually try to as it would endanger his daughter.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You: Mary Lou Henchy plummets into the Bay City waterline and is killed on impact. Turns out she had Neo Catholic Coding embedded in her stack, so she cannot be legally spun back up.
  • Only in It for the Money: Kovacs uses this as an excuse as to why he took the case.
  • "Open!" Says Me: When Elliot doesn't answer his door, Kovacs doesn't think long before kicking it in. He leaves money to fix the door when he goes.
  • People Farms: Besides the prison system keeping people in cold storage, the Meths have one called Psychasec. It's used to grow augmented and custom made sleeves for the elite. A single clone costs more than most people make in a lifetime. Bancroft has his own vault full of cloned sleeves waiting to be used.
  • Percussive Therapy: Samir and Ortega spar in the morning to help her work on her anger. It doesn't work, and after he gives up Ortega keeps punching a bag until her knuckles bleed.
  • Pinocchio Syndrome: Poe reveals his greatest aspiration is the study of humanity. His fellow AIs find it weird and disturbing.
  • Powered Armor: Vernon and Kovacs are attacked in Licktown by a few Mooks, one of whom sports a powered exoskeleton that lets him overpower punch through walls. However, it's actually almost completely unarmored and he is half naked while wearing it. This allows Kovacs to Attack Its Weak Point with relative ease and disable it.
  • Questionable Consent: It's not clear how consensual Kovacs' tryst with Miriam is, as she drugs him with Merge9 through her saliva. According to her, this just makes the sex crazy good by letting her feel his sensations and doesn't alter his mind, but she makes a point of telling him not to fight the effects.
  • Rage Breaking Point: While Vernon is truly pissed when Kovacs breaks into his home and ties him up, he freaks out and practically foams at the mouth when Kovacs puts on his virtual reality headband that he uses to contact his daughter.
  • Reality Ensues: Invulnerable Knuckles don't actually exists for unarmored humans, and your hands will bleed even if properly bandaged if you hit a punching bag too hard too many times. Ortega finds this out the hard way.
  • Red Light District: Bay City has an appropriately sleazy area called "Licktown".
  • Refuge in Audacity: While on the case, Kovacs visits a brothel to interrogate a prostitute. He ends up pretending to be a bereaved mother cross-sleeved in a man's body. He gets away with it because this isn't an uncommon occurrence in this world.
  • Retired Badass: Vernon Elliot is introduced as a former TAC Marine Medic. While he is a Badass Normal, he's nowhere near on par with Takeshi's Super Soldier abilities.
  • Sherlock Scan: Kovacs sees the mark of a VR headband on Vernon's forehead and immediately goes looking for it.
  • Ship Tease: Ortega begins her confession by admitting to lustful thoughts, against a Sex Montage of Kovacs banging Miriam.
  • Sinister Surveillance: A mysterious man of Asian descent appears watching Kovacs in Licktown, but vanishes when he looks around. This appears to be another hallucination, but he's then shown watching the fight in Licktown and later using a Literal Surveillance Bug to spy on Kovacs sleeping with Miriam.
  • Sleeping with the Boss's Wife: Kovacs is seduced by his trillionaire retainer Laurens Bancroft's wife Miriam and Coitus Ensues. This creates tension in his relationship to Bancroft later in the series.
  • Somebody Else's Problem: The father and son pair who go fishing in the opening and witness a body plummeting into the water decide to leave the body for the police to find, citing this reasoning.
  • The Speechless: The Artificial Intelligence who has apparently been enslaved by an unknown human only communicates through sign language.
  • Threat Backfire: Bancroft tries to threaten Kovacs to put him back on ice if A) Bancroft dies during the investigation or B) Kovacs doesn't solve it quick enough. Kovacs is completely unfazed, as he was completely willing to do just that before becoming interested in the case.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Poe refers to a potential call girl as a "Siren of the Night".
  • Tracking Device: Hawkeye is a software program that Ortega has illegally keeping tabs on Kovacs.
  • The Reveal: Ortega is the reason Henchy's daughter's body has gone missing, having moved her body to another morgue drawer that she has coded as empty.
  • You Need to Get Laid:
    • Samir tells this to Ortega when they're sparing, who responds by kicking his ass. Given that she confesses to having lustful thoughts, it's clear he hit a nerve.
    • Because Kovacs never had a chance to get laid in the previous episode, Miriam finds it easy to seduce him, as he still has all those pent-up hormones.
  • Wakeup Makeup: When Ortega wakes up in the morning, it looks like her makeup is already applied.
  • Wall Bang Her: We see Kovacs banging Miriam Bancroft against a wall.
  • With My Hands Tied: Vernon tries fighting Kovacs while still strapped to his chair, then breaks it, but is not able to defeat Kovacs, who then secures him to a much bigger chair with duct tape.
  • Working Out Their Emotions: Ortega is frustrated with the situation with Kovacs, and begins her day practicing boxing with her partner to work on her anger. When he tells her that You Need to Get Laid it prompts her to get even angrier and to actually start kicking his ass. Even after she's done with him, she moves on to pummelling a punching bag and ends up punching so hard it bruises her hands.
  • Written by the Winners: Kovacs visits a museum exhibit dedicated to the Envoy rebellion and Quellcrist specifically. It paints them all as terrorists and monsters who murder innocent children.
  • You Got Spunk: Laurens doesn't like being questioned by Kovacs and threatens to have him put back on ice, but is impressed when Kovacs refuses to back down in the face of this threat.
  • Your Door Was Open: Unfortunately as the Bancrofts are paying the hotel tab, first their attorney and then Miriam Bancroft can walk right in, despite Kovacs wanting otherwise.
  • Your Makeup Is Running: On Mary Lou's Drop Dead Gorgeous corpse.


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