Follow TV Tropes


Recap / Altered Carbon S 01 E 04 Forceof Evil

Go To
Title from: Force of Evil (1948)

Kovacs is trapped in a virtual hell and continually tortured to death by Dimitri Kadmin, who believes him to actually be a cop named "Ryker".

Tropes in this episode:

  • Angst Nuke: In a flashback, Falconer relates the story of Iphigenia Deme, a freedom fighter on the planet Adoracion, who had herself turned implanted with explosives triggered by rage. She eventually was captured by CTAC and put into virtual torture. She finally told her interrogators that she would only confess to the bosses in the real world. When she got the top 17 CTAC officers in the room with her, she let her rage at them trying to make her betray her friends overwhelm her, and blew them all to hell.
  • Asshole Victim: The people working for the Wei Clinic are torture technicians who specialize in destroying a person's mind in VR to get what they needed. After being freed from their VR torment, Kovacs goes through and murders each and every person there.
  • The Atoner: In a flashback with Falconer, Kovacs says that he wishes he had died with Iffy Deme. As a result, he already had Survivor Guilt long before the Envoys were massacred.
    • Their dialogue implies that Kovacs was one of the interrogation team that tortured and raped her.
  • Beat Still, My Heart: While being tortured, Kovacs has a Dead Person Conversation with Falconer during which he pulls his beating heart from his chest and offers it to her. At the same time, his heart stops in the real world, forcing the interrogation team to revive him.
  • Body Backup Drive: The man torturing Kovacs is revealed to be a clone of the mind of Dimitri Kadmin, Dimi 2, who Poe killed in the first episode. Turns out he cloned his mind while still alive and sleeved it in a different body as a companion. They considered themselves twin brothers.
  • Body Horror: In the virtual world Kovacs is dismembered with a blow torch, and later imagines ripping out his own heart and giving it to Quell. In the real world, about 20 feet away from the unconscious Kovacs, Alice (Anemone) sleeve is being cut up for Human Resources. Her entire scalp and full head of hair end up casually falling off, lying discarded on the floor.
  • Body Surf:
    • Kristin resleeves her Abuela in the body of a male Tattooed Crook so she can spend Day of the Dead with her family.
    • Dimi Two reveals he has lost count of how many times he has done this.
  • Bored with Insanity: Poe reveals just what he was doing in the decades when nobody stayed at his hotel. He went insane from loneliness "with long intervals of horrible sanity."
  • Break Them by Talking: As soon as Kovacs wakes himself up in the real world, he proceeds to do this to the technicians who have been supervising his torture. It works so well they cut him loose after he gets one hand free he proceeds to kill all of them.
  • Call-Back: During his virtual interrogation, Kovacs imagines himself in the bullet-riddled apartment where he was shot by the Praetorians in the pilot episode. He raises this with the technicians when convincing them he’s C-TAC – why would he have memories of Harlan’s World when he’s an Earth cop who’s never been to another planet?
  • Cardiovascular Love: Kovacs has to stop his heart in the real world so the technicians will be forced to revive him. So in virtual he tears out his heart and offers it to a hallucination of Quellcrist, saying his heart has always belonged to her.
  • Chain Pain: Dmitri starts off the torture by brutally beating Kovacs with a heavy chain.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Envoys can escape their bonds in the virtual world and short circuit the program, but doing so requires enormous effort and practice.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Quellcrist Falconer found a way to weaponize this, by teaching all Envoys how to resist the pain and horror of virtual torture in order to manipulate their interrogators into releasing them. Kovacs spends the entire episode trying to remember enough of her teachings to pull this off, as he understandably has trouble focusing when being tortured to death continuously. In the end he gets it right.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The Wei Clinic specializes in giving these to people REPEATEDLY, as every time they die in virtual they can be spun up and killed again. Kovacs is shot in the head, burned alive, has his legs removed with a blow torch, and has an alien lizard crawl into a belly wound and eat its way out of him.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: In the climax, Kovacs shows just why the Envoys were The Dreaded. He kills about 50 people in a matter of minutes and explodes his way out of the Wei Clinic using nothing but a pair of high powered pistols.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: During a flashback, Kovacs reveals that he was one of the original interrogators of Iffy Deme. He didn't die in her attack because CTAC was Genre Savvy enough to see it as a trap and only back-up clones were present.
  • Decapitation Presentation: Kovacs brings Dimi Two's head, stack intact, back to the Raven Hotel so that Ortega could interrogate him.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: When Dimi Two's blowtorch cuts out, Kovacs informs him that it happens to every man after a certain age.
  • Facial Dialogue: When Mickey complains about a missing Hawkeye tracker, Ortega and Simar share a guilty look.
  • Famous Last Words: According to Kovacs, Iffy Deme's last words before pulling a Taking You with Me on her interrogators were "That's fucking enough."
  • Fan Disservice: Kovacs has a Walking Shirtless Scene after his Shower of Angst, but then starts slicing open his chest to make Ortega talk.
  • Flipping the Bird: Kovacs arranges for Dimi Two's body to be doing this when Ortega discovers it, holding the very tracking device she secretly placed in Kovacs' ad blocker.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: The name of the virtual alien lizard Dimi Two inserts into Kovacs's belly? "Helminth Code". The interrogators see its use as a Point of No Return for the virtual torture, as the one time they used it before the victim had a complete psychotic break.
  • Frame-Up: Dimi 2 framed Ryker for killing a CTAC officer, which would get him a Longer-Than-Life Sentence.
  • Genre Savvy: Iphigenia Deme didn't actually kill anyone when she blew, as CTAC realize that her desire to confess in Real World to the highest-rank person possible was an obvious trap. Everyone in the room was a backed-up clone.
  • Glamor Failure: Dimi two ends up losing control of his appearance in the virtual world, becoming identical to his "brother", played by Tahmoh Penikett.
  • Halloween Episode: The episode takes place during Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead. In the future, Halloween/Dia is an official national holiday.
  • Handicapped Badass: In his virtual cell, Kovacs has all of his combat training, reflexes, strength, and even bone density removed, which keep him from being able to physically fight back. However, part of his Envoy training involves being able to manipulate his way out of just this sort of situation. It just takes time and patience.
  • Hollywood Nerd: Micky the police computer technician — he enthuses that the invisible man is a "Ghostwalker, like in Master Mage: Search for Dark Dominion", and is able to work on a program to detect him because he's the only one not taking a holiday with his family and friends. In a further irony, he's played by Adam Busch, the leader of the Nerd Trio from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • Ironic Echo Cut: Several between events at Ortega's party and the torture of Kovacs.
  • Internal Reveal: Several:
    • The unseen Big Bad is revealed to be a woman, based on the comments of the head of the Wei Clinic, Mr. Phillips.
    • Kovacs learns Ortegas has been tracking him with his ad blocker.
    • Kovacs learns from Dimi Two and Ortega who the original occupant of his current sleeve was: Elias Ryker, an imprisoned cop and Ortega's lover.
  • Intoxication Ensues: Ortega's Abuela convinces her to let her get high on drugs from the police evidence lockup before going on ice permanently.
  • Invisibility Cloak: Turns out the mysterious Asian man Ortega saw at the Bancroft party has technology that prevents him appearing on any camera. She gets a police technician working on a way to See the Invisible.
  • Irony: Ortega's Abuela is resleeved into a skinhead bearing white supremacy tattoos. She seems to think it's pretty funny and has a blast with it.
  • Knuckle Cracking: Dimi Two cracks his neck before moving on to torture Kovacs in VR.
  • Last Dance: After having one last fling with her family, Ortega's grandmother asks not to be spun up again.
  • Love Is a Weakness: During his Envoy training, Kovacs is always the last person to work out how to escape virtual interrogation. The other trainees think it's because he's just not good at it. It's Quellcrist however who is deliberately making him spend longer in training; she implies that it's payback for Kovacs torturing her friend, but he eventually realizes that Quellcrist has fallen for him and is trying to prove otherwise to herself by making it tough for him.
  • Made of Iron: Falconer made sure to condition all Envoys to have the mental version. As a result, most people would probably go completely insane when subjected to the amount of mental torture Kovacs receives throughout this episode. All of the technicians are practically shitting themselves with fear when they realize he will not break.
  • Make Sure He's Dead: Kovacs double taps the victims at the Wei Clinic to make sure their stacks are destroyed.
  • Match Cut: From Kovacs' skull on fire to a Calacas skull on the dinner table at the Ortegas.
  • The Mob Boss Is Scarier: Invoked by Dimi Two to explain why 'Ryker' is resisting interrogation.
  • Moral Myopia: A technician at the Wei Clinic reprimands his colleague for using sexist language. He protests that he just appreciates the female form. We then see an eviscerated woman Strapped to an Operating Table. They then spend most of their time griping that they're going to miss a party because Kovacs won't break under interrogation.
  • Mr. Exposition: Ortega reveals during dinner with her family what had only been hinted at in the pilot: Cortical stacks are explicitly based on technology developed by the alien precursors the Elders, specifically from metal found by human space explorers.
  • Not His Blood: Kovacs goes through a Roaring Rampage of Revenge at the Wei Clinic, resulting in his shirt being soaked in the blood of many victims. When his sidekick arrives, he asks about the blood to which Kovacs replies in a dead-pan tone "It's not mine".
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Two examples:
    • After tasing the criminal, Ortega drags him into the morgue and tosses him on a slab. She does this by herself despite him being about a foot taller and outweighing her by at least a hundred pounds. All we see is his body hit the slab. Then she secretly resleeves her Abuela in the newly vacant sleeve and brings her home for dinner.
    • Vernon finds the clue Kovacs left at Jack It Off, deduces that Kovacs has been kidnapped, tracks down the merc in Powered Armor that previously attacked him and Kovacs, and gets him to lead him to the Wei Clinic. He becomes a case of The Cavalry Arrives Late when he arrives just after Kovacs has killed every single person in the building, also mostly offscreen.
  • Off with His Head!: Kovacs cuts off Dimi 2's head, takes it back to the Raven and leaves it in an ice bucket, to Ortega's horror.
  • Peace & Love, Incorporated: The nightmarish company that tortures the enemies of anyone who can pay is called the Wei Clinic, and specializes in data extraction from unwilling subjects.
  • Punch Clock Villains: Subverted with the bureaucratic technicians. They seem at first like generally bored employees doing a job, but then are immediately shown to be a bunch of sexist assholes, on top of literally helping torture numerous people into insanity and absolutely no illusions about this. Kovacs gives each and every one of them a very well deserved Karmic Death.
  • Rage Breaking Point: The bald criminal that attacked Kovacs just won't stop yelling in the middle of the police station while Ortega tries to have a phone call with her mother. She finally snaps and tasers him into unconsciousness when, after asking him to "shut the fuck up" he makes a lewd comment about her mother.
  • Reusable Lighter Toss: As part of his Cold-Blooded Torture, Dimitri drops his cigarette which ignites a Vapor Trail leading to Kovacs on the operation table.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Once he wakes up, Kovacs brutally massacres every single person working at the Wei Clinic, making sure to real death each one with a Double Tap, except for Dimi Two, who he decapitates (stack intact) instead.
  • Sanity Slippage: As we were warned in the first episode, resleeving into a new sleeve too many times causes the mind to eventually snap, unless you are an Envoy. Dimi brags about just how many bodies he has gone through, and it's clear he's become dangerously unstable as a result, complete with a case of Thoroughly Mistaken Identity when he refuses to believe that Kovacs is not Ryker, or that he wasn't hired to kill Dimi One and Two.
  • Shower of Angst: Kovacs washes the blood off himself after his ordeal.
  • Stop, or I Shoot Myself!: Kovacs starts slicing up his sleeve in front of Ortega to give himself Death by a Thousand Cuts to force her to tell him who Ryker is. He starts to cut his own throat before she agrees to tell him everything.
  • Swiss Cheese Security:
  • Talking Your Way Out: Envoy training notes that this is the only option of escaping from VR interrogation - resist breaking, find the weaknesses of your captors, then will yourself out of the VR construct and Break Them by Talking. In the fourth episode, Kovacs executes it perfectly, first sowing seeds he's not who his captors think he is (while being dismembered over and over again), then stopping his heart to come back into reality to talk to the Torture Technician pair who oversaw his interrogation and convince them that he's a CTAC officer and give them a full-blown To the Pain of how much they screwed up by abducting and torturing him, only to seemingly offer a way out to the one who sets him free. Cue Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
    Kovacs: You have any idea what they're gonna do to you? They're gonna hunt you down. All of you. Gonna make what you did to me look like a tropical cruise. They're gonna rip your stacks out and feed them to the shredder. They're gonna kill your families, your friends, your dogs, cats and fucking goldfish. [...] The one who lets me up lives. The other two... when the Corps is through with you, you won't even be a memory.
  • There Was a Door: Kovacs could have left the Wei Clinic by opening a door. He elects instead to set off an explosion that destroys both the door and a good chunk of the surrounding wall.
  • Torture Chamber Episode: Kovacs spends the majority of the episode being tortured to death in various inventive ways by Dmitri.
  • Torture Technician: The Wei Clinic is an institutionalized version. A virtual hub where the rich and powerful can send their enemies to be tortured for eternity.
  • Tracking Device
    • Turns out that add blocker that Ortega slapped on Kovacs in the first episode is how her Hawkeye is able to track him. Unfortunately, the Wei Clinic finds the device when Kovacs is first brought in.
    • Knowing that AI hotels have a compulsion to keep tabs on their guests, Vernon convinces Poe to violate guest privacy and reveal where Kovacs is. He's able to track down where Kovacs left his ONI bracelet (he slipped it off as he was falling unconscious in the brothel) then track down Kovacs from there.
  • Troll: Ortega's Abuela spends the holiday saying increasingly silly and scandalous things, mostly just to mess with her daughter and get her family to laugh. It becomes Refuge in Audacity as she looks like a bald hulking biker dude.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Subverted; Ortega tells a TV reporter to go fist herself, which when you think about it is even more grossly obscene.
  • Virtual Reality Interrogation: The torture inflicted on Kovacs is all mental.
  • You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With: Invoked by Kovacs, who tells the technicians they've been torturing a government CTAC officer. After all, who else would have the skill and training to resist interrogation for so long?
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: The Anti-Hero version; Kovacs says he'll spare the first one to set him free. The two technicians rush to do so, whereupon Kovacs kills them and everyone else in the building. When he encounters the cyborg thug being led at gunpoint by Vernon, he Boom Headshots him too without breaking stride. Vernon belatedly explains that he'd promised his captive he'd live if he led him to where Kovacs was being held.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: