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Recap / Altered Carbon S 01 E 05 The Wrong Man

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Title from: The Wrong Man (1956)

"When everyone lies, telling the truth isn't just about rebellion. It's an act of revolution. So think carefully when you speak it because the truth is a weapon. Finding truth is more than a search for data. It's an excavation of self. You have to keep going, no matter where it takes you. Because nothing can stay hidden forever."
Takeshi Kovacs, Opening Narration
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Ortega explains the history of the previous owner of Takeshi's current sleeve, Elias Ryker. Kovacs makes a major break in the Bancroft case.


Tropes in this episode:

  • Acting for Two: Joel Kinnamen plays both Ryker in flashbacks and Kovacs in present day.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Played with. Miriam Bancroft has taken to referring to Kovacs as "Takeshi-san", which uses his first name (which he almost never uses) and adding a Japanese honorific to denote her seeing him as an equal and respect for his heritage.
  • After-Action Patch-Up: Kovacs and Ortega share a sexually charged moment when she starts stitching him up. They end up having sex.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Ryker seemed to be subject to violent mood swings, combined with at least two separate drug addictions. He goes from beating a suspect to crying in Kristen's arms, and he responds to his boss trying to peacefully arrest him by pulling a gun on him and nearly going into hysterics.
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  • Bait-and-Switch: The opening scene apparently involving Kovacs beating someone for information turns out to be a flashback from Ryker's time.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Ortega is seen taking a shower, with the water clearly visible running over her face, yet maintains perfect makeup during and after.
  • Body Horror: Several examples:
    • Bancrofts sleeve rapidly deteriorates as each of the infected carriers caresses him. It takes him less than five minutes to go from normal to blue veins to purple boils on his forehead.
    • The cloned sleeves in Fightdrome's inventory are mostly monstrous, except for a clone of Takeshi's previous sleeve, which has all of an Envoy's Super Soldier physical abilities.
  • Body Surf: Dimi Two is resleeved in the same sleeve that Ortega's Abuela was in just a few days previously.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Dimi Two remonstrates Ghostwalker for wasting time giving the last rites to the people he's about to kill when they're in the middle of a police station. His doing so gives Simar a chance to throw himself in the path of the bullet; when the Ghostwalker then tries to shoot Ortega the gun is empty and Dimi Two hauls him away.
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  • Break Them by Talking: Ortega does this ACCIDENTALLY to Ryker while trying to defuse a stand-off between him and the police. She implies that it might not be a mistake, which causes Ryker to completely deflate at the notion that she doesn't believe in him. Leads to a My God, What Have I Done? from her.
  • Buy Them Off: Miriam offers double the price that Laurens has, and a new identity anywhere in the Protectorate so he'll be safe from Laurens' wrath. She points out that her deal doesn't come with a threat attached; he just has to walk away from the case. She even offers clone group sex as a sweetener.
  • Character Tics: Kovacs has to impersonate Ryder, so Ortega tells him to just fold his arms, Death Glare a lot and let her do the talking. He apparently overdoes this as Ortega has to tell him to unfold his arms later on.
  • Cloning Blues: Takeshi is horrified to see a clone of his previous sleeve is slated to take part in a fight to the death.
  • Compartment Shot: The scene of Ortega getting the vodka for Kovacs is shot from inside the cupboard.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Kovacs berates Ortega for not mentioning that he is "wearing her fucking boyfriend."
  • Defiant to the End: Ortega spits in the Ghostwalker's face, and refuses to just accept her death despite him urging her to.
  • Desecrating the Dead: Ortega rips out Dimi Two's stack and dumps his head in the sewer.
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: Whatever the disease spread by the contagion bomb that accidentally went off in the Old City, forcing it to live in perpetual quarantine and is spread by skin contact is never named. To add insult to injury, the residents are the descendants of the original inhabitants who are all asymtomatic carriers of the plague.
  • Doppelgänger Replacement Love Interest
    Ortega: When I look into his eyes, I see you looking back at me, and it's been a long time since someone looked at me like that.
    Kovacs: I'm sorry I'm not Elias.
    Ortega: Just shut the fuck up! (throws herself on Kovacs)
  • Dramatic Ammo Depletion: During the Elevator Action Sequence the Ghostwalker shoots at Ortega but Abboud manages to dive into the line of fire to save Ortega. First it looks like Ortega's death is only delayed but the subsequent clicking of the Ghostwalker's gun makes it clear that he used his last bullet for the shot, allowing Ortega to survive the attack.
  • Due to the Dead: The Ghostwalker attempts a preemptive one while Ortega is bleeding to death. It comes off as completely sincere, but nightmarishly twisted.
  • Elevator Action Sequence: Between the Ghostwalker and Dimitri on one and Ortega and Abboud on the other side. It doesn't end well for the latter faction.
  • Elevator Snare: Kovacs chases the elevator up and down via the stairs, eventually arriving too late to prevent the ensuing massacre.
  • Every Scar Has a Story: Kovacs finally gets an explanation from Ortega as to why Ryker's sleeve is Covered in Scars.
  • Everything Is Online: Defied by Carnage who records all of Fightdrome's matches and spectators on pre-digital VHS tapes. It keeps them from being hackable.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The events of the first episode were only two days ago, but for Kovacs it seems longer because of the time he spent in virtual being tortured.
  • Fantastic Drug: Ortega talks about one called Synamorphesterone, or "Stallion". It's a male aggression enhancer, and sends the imbiber into a murderous rage.
  • Fight Clubbing: Fightdrome is a futuristic version. Features one-time fights between cloned sleeves, most of which are enhanced in some way, such as one with Envoy fighting abilities or grotesque surgical alterations. They "guarantee" that there is no recording of any of the fights or spectators, but in fact do both.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Lampshaded by Samir, who knows that Ortega and Kovacs working together will only make them closer. However he knows Envoys are trained to manipulate people, so thinks that Kovacs is using this trope for his advantage.
  • The Fixer: Poe takes on the role, as his membership of the AI Management Association allows him to give Kovacs a clue that leads to investigating Fightdrome.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: A rare villainous version. Ryker didn't kill the C-TAC bureaucrat, but he did torture him and was an illegal drug user with a vitriolic temper. It makes the frame job appear damning enough that even Ortega half-believes it.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: There are no buildings surrounding Mary Lou when she jumps from a high altitude, indicating she did not jump from a building located in the Aerium, but somewhere else at least equally high.
  • Functional Addict: While beating up a prisoner, Ryker takes a pause to inject an unnamed Fantastic Drug into his left eye. This doubles as Fridge Brilliance for why Kovacs made a beeline for similar drugs when he was first Needlecast into Ryker's sleeve: Ryker wasn't just a nicotine addict.
  • The Fundamentalist: The Ghostwalker reveals himself to be a variant, complete with the catchphrase "Are you a believer?"
  • Godiva Hair: During the nude scenes, Ortega's breasts are partly covered by her long hair.
  • Gorn: The Ghostwalker uses a horrifying many-bladed device to rip out separate chunks of Ortega's abdomen and shoulder.
  • Handicapped Badass: Even with a sizable chunk of her shoulder and abdomen removed and bleeding heavily, Ortega gives the Ghostwalker a hell of a fight.
  • Heal It with Booze: Ortega makes Kovacs drink from a bottle of booze before stitching him up.
  • Hope Spot: Kovacs and Ortega appear to have uncovered an incentive for Laurens murder, and a lead that could prove Ryker was framed. Then Samir is murdered, Ortega seriously injured and Dimi Two escapes without revealing who his employer was.
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Samir pulls a paternal version on Kovacs, explicitly threatening to kill him if Kristen gets caught in the crossfire of the investigation.
  • Immortality Begins at 20: Averted with Laurens but played straight with his children. Laurens prefers to keep a perpetually middle-aged sleeve as it commands respect, but keeps his children is perpetually youthful sleeves to reinforce their dependence on him.
  • Internal Reveal: Kovacs relates to Ortega that Dimi Two confessed to framing Riker to the murder of a C-TAC officer while torturing Kovacs, who he erroneously believed to actually be Riker.
  • Interrupted Bath: Ortega's Shower Scene is interrupted when she hears her Abuela threating to shoot Kovacs.
  • Island Base: Miriam reveals she has a secret private island with cloning facilities that even Laurens doesn't know about. She uses it as a sex paradise for herself, as she sometimes likes to "decant the clones and let them play". She offers to let Kovacs visit, along with his freedom and double what Laurens is paying him if he will drop the case.
  • It's Personal: Ryker was Mary Lou's childhood friend, and he goes apeshit when she dies and there appears to be a coverup.
  • Kick the Dog: Kovacs deduces that Bancroft had him resleeved in Ryker's body in order to teach Ortega a lesson. It also happened to be a combat-ready sleeve, which was just icing on the cake.
  • Kill and Replace:
    • The Ghostwalker is implied to have killed a cop named Levine and stolen his identity to infiltrate the police station.
    • Kovacs believes this is the incentive for Bancroft's murder. His son was planning to kill Laurens, then use a cloned body to impersonate him to take control of his wealth and power.
  • Mama Bear:
    • Miriam reveals her Love/Hate relationship to Laurens stems from his abuse of their children. She believes that if Laurens did kill himself, and realizes it, he will take out that anger on either Kovacs or her children. She ends up trying to bribe Kovacs to drop the case and go into hiding to prevent such an occurrence.
    • Alazne starts shooting at Kovacs when he tries to enter Ortega's apartment, claiming he is an abomination due to her Neo Catholic beliefs.
  • Messianic Archetype: Adding to his previously shown God Complex, Laurens Bancroft is shown to enjoy "Ministering to the Masses", acting as a savior figure named "City Father" to a slum infected with a deadly virus that is under perpetual quarantine. He even intentionally allows himself to be infected every time, and then Needlecasts to a freshly grown clone when his sleeve succumbs. It becomes grotesque when Kovacs reveals he could just as easily pay to re-sleeve the entire infected population, which would solve the issue and effectively cure them, but prefers to only act as their savior.
  • Modesty Towel: Ortega is wearing one when she's defusing the situation between her Abuela and Kovacs.
  • My Greatest Failure: Samir reveals that Kristen considers Ryker's imprisonment to be hers.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Kovacs reveals that among his many talents, he can also read lips.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Kovacs and Ortega witness Laurens giving his son Isaac one on a Fightdrome recording.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up
    Miriam: Laurens will not allow what he loves to grow and change. Our children, he's trapped them in kind of a benevolent dependence forever. And when a Meth says "forever", it isn't hyperbole.
  • Not His Sled: Things go really off the rails when Kovacs discovers that Bancroft's son has a clone of Lauren's sleeve, then the "Ghostwalker" infiltrates the police station, frees Dimi, maims Ortega and Real Deaths Abboud, adding a whole new facet to the already-twisted conspiracy behind Bancroft's suicide.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You: As Ryker points out, Soft Water doesn't apply when you fall from the height that Mary Lou did.
  • Offscreen Villain Dark Matter: Averted. Laurens and Miriam have this, but their son Isaac doesn't. In order to afford the astronomically expensive 3D bio-organic printer, he has to sell off many of his assets, including priceless works of art.
  • Oh, Crap!: Kovacs realizes Ortega is trapped in an elevator with the Ghostwalker just before the doors close.
  • "Open!" Says Me: At Isaac Bancroft's house, Ortega opens a door the "Kovacs" way.
  • Person as Verb: When Kovacs and Ortega need to get into Isaac Bancroft's house.
    Ortega: I could call for a search warrant, but it may be faster to go for a knock...
    Ortega: ... or Kovacs. We could Kovacs.
  • Pillow Pistol: Ryker had one. It reinforces his unstable personality.
  • Police Brutality: Ryker is introduced beating a suspect senseless while trying to determine if Mary Lou was murdered or killed herself. Ortega talks him down, but she herself is ready to beat up and threaten to Real Death Dimi Two, encouraged by Kovacs. Samir is furious with Kovacs because he's been trying to restrain Ortega from going off the rails himself, and insists on accompanying her into the elevator when she tries to have a final word with Dimi Two.
  • Priceless Ming Vase: Ortega wraps Dimi's head in an expensive linen cloth from the Raven Hotel. Poe is not pleased.
  • Rabid Cop: Ryker is taking drugs while beating up a C-TAC officer in an Abandoned Warehouse. Ortega has a gun on him while trying to talk her boyfriend down, pointing out that the man he's accusing isn't even responsible for religious coding, so he can't have changed the coding on Mary Lou's stack.
  • Reality Ensues: Kovacs has accumulated several injuries over the past few episodes. He ends up reopening several of his cuts here.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Ortega knows Kovacs isn't her boyfriend, but can't stop herself from having sex with him anyway.
  • Sanity Slippage: Mary Lou's death had Ryker slipping before he was arrested. He ends up torturing the wrong man due to it.
  • Scar Survey: A variation with the woman having to explain to the man where he got his own scars.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: When arriving at Isaac Bancroft's house, Ortega muses that they should either get a warrant or knock. Kovacs shoots out the lock without breaking stride.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Ortega when Kovacs tries to back off from their Unresolved Sexual Tension.
  • Spicy Latina: Ortega reveals that the facial scar on Ryker's sleeve is from her, but she can't remember why she did it.
  • Spotting the Thread: Having known Mary Lou since they were children, Riker is devastated by her death, and perplexed as to why she would have converted to Neo-Catholicism without telling him, meaning she can't be spun up and interrogated as to how she died. After digging deeper and discovering that there were no witnesses to her conversion, only the say-so of a bureaucratic office and the coding on her stack. He concludes there must be a coverup.
  • Starts with a Suicide: The opening reveals that Mary Lou Henchy committed suicide by jumping from a location above the cloud line.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: Doubles as an Offscreen Moment of Awesome. Kovacs easily breaks into Suntouch House, despite their elite security, only commenting that the guards will be fine "except for the broken jaw and the shattered leg".
  • Taking the Bullet: Abboud does it for Ortega, right in his cortical stack, when the Ghostwalker attempts to murder her. He Dies Wide Open.
  • Tap on the Head: Averted with Samir. Dimi Two launches him headfirst into the ceiling, and his head nearly caves in. He barely has enough strength to move, and it's clear he probably would have had brain damage had he not subsequently been killed.
  • Tempting Fate
    • While stealing Poe's booze, Vernon says there aren't any police around. Then Samir turns up.
    • When he apparently solves the case, Ortega tells Kovacs he'll be back on ice in a few hours. It's no surprise that it's not that easy.
  • Title Drop: Dimi Two pulls a quote out of thin air.
    "Where is the voice that said altered carbon would free us from the cells of our flesh?"
  • Twin Threesome Fantasy: Up to Eleven when as a bribe Miriam offers herself copied into several of her clones, all focussed on pleasing Kovacs (or each other).
  • Typhoid Mary: There's a small colony of the descendant of the survivors of a bio-weapon. While they seem to be living relatively healthy, they are still carriers of the fast-acting and deadly virus. Bancroft regularly ministers to them, handing out goods and allowing them to touch him, as it only costs him a new sleeve. In return, they venerate him like a deity. Kovacs wonders if he couldn't simply buy them new, uninfected sleeves instead.
  • Uncanny Valley: The proprietor of Fightdrome, Carnage, has a synthetic sleeve that gives off this vibe. It gives him the ability to change appearance at a whim, but he keeps it looking nightmarish.
  • Woman Bites Man: The Ghostwalker urges Ortega to stop struggling and accept her death. She responds by biting his hand.
  • Working the Same Case: Kovacs being put in Ryker's sleeve as a petty Take That! to Ortega has wasted his time and nearly got him killed by criminals who have a grudge against the cop. But he also realises there must be a connection between the two cases, as Dimi Two framed Ryker and Dimi One tried to kill him.
  • Worst Aid: Kovacs finds Ortega seriously injured and covered in blood in the elevator. He immediately picks her up and takes her out. Considering the nature of her injuries, the best thing he could have done would be to try and keep her immobilized and try to staunch the bleeding until she could get proper medical attention.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: Kovacs thinks that Laurens will give him his freedom as promised if he solves the case, but Miriam suggests he won't if what Kovacs finds out (i.e. that Laurens really did commit suicide) isn't to his liking.

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