Altered Carbon – Episode 2: Fallen Angel
Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Will Yun lee, Martha Higareda, James Purefoy, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Byron Mann and Chris Conner
Director: Nick Hurran
Writers: Steve Blackman, Laeta Kalogridis
Review by: Sidney Morgan
A few minor SPOILERS included.
The first episode of Altered Carbon served to set up the main story (solving Bancroft’s murder), introduce this new future society with its cool sounding stacks and sleeves, and present us with some of the various characters we’d get to know on this journey. Admittedly, it was somewhat of information overload. So it was nice for this second episode to slow down, and work on fleshing out some of this information for the viewer, letting plot advancement take a back seat to character and world development.
After filtering thousands of death threats directed at Bancroft down to a few, Kovacs identifies a potential suspect, Vernon Elliot (Ato Essandoh – Chicago Med, Elementary). Paying the man a visit, Kovacs discovers that Vernon’s daughter Lizzie (Hayley Law – Riverdale), had a connection with Bancroft. Though Lizzie is dead, or at least her body is, Vernon has her stack. With the help of some stack reading technology, can meet up with her in a virtual reality (remember that a stack holds everything that is ‘you,’ your thoughts, your memories, your knowledge, up to the moment of your body’s death). But there’s a problem.
Damaged stacks don’t work so well (think a badly scratched Blu-Ray disk) and Lizzie’s was seriously damaged while her body was beaten to death. As a result, she’s caught in a ‘trauma loop.’ Essentially, she’s reliving her death over and over and is unable to interact with anyone visiting her in this VR land, which hampers Vernon’s search for Lizzie’s killer(s). In any case, Kovacs does find a clue and following that lead, visits the whore house where Lizzie used to work. And… surprise! Bancroft is a client. Albeit a twisted, sick client.
Meanwhile, we’re told a bit more about sleeves. It turns out that jumping from sleeve to sleeve comes with its downside as it can lead to insanity, due to the various personality fragments the jumper inherits. Meths, the rich upper class of this future society, don’t have this problem as they’re able to afford to have their sleeve cloned, and jumping from clone to clone has no such negative consequence. Oh, and for good measure, money can buy upgrades for your sleeve! Bancroft’s wife Miriam, for example, has state of the art biochemical pheromones in hers, which are automatically released by touch. So, in the words of the notorious Borgs, Resistance is Futile!
A few characters are fleshed out a bit more in this episode, although not equally. Most disappointing is Kovacs, who probably has the richest and deepest background story. He experiences a few flashbacks, but nothing to let us in on who he truly is. Then there are the Bancroft’s, Laurens and Miriam, who (surprise, surprise!) we find out are really bad people. Miriam, with the help of her pheromone drenched sleeve, has no qualms cheating on her husband. And Laurens? Ditto, though he prefers prostitutes because and can get rough with them. But, no need to worry! If he damages their sleeves, he buys them a new and better one. Eye roll and head shake…
Whereas everyone seems set in their way and direct in their actions, Ortega is the odd woman out. She’s conflicted, in part based on her upbringing. Her family is religious, which includes the right not to be spun in case death. This bothers Ortega because when her father died, she wanted nothing more than to spin him back and find out what happened. It is for this apparent reason that she’s broken away from her religion, and chosen to be spun back in case of her death, bringing her at odds with her family. She harbours anger, defies orders, but does have a sense of right and wrong. How she develops, especially vis-à-vis Kovacs should be interesting.
Finally, most intriguing is Poe. Described as an old-school AI, he is a student of humans and their behaviours. His AI friends don’t get his obsession with studying their creator, believing they’ve evolved beyond them. Although not a unique concept (Westworld, Prometheus / Covenant), it will be interesting how Poe develops as a result. There are a few hints that he may also partner up with Kovacs, which would be a hoot! Oh, and a nice touch to have a raven in Kovacs room…
Verdict: A strong continue to watch! This is a mystery after all, and it’s far from being solved. It takes place in a beautifully created world, from a cinematography point of view. There is so much left to discover about this future, and there’s a bit of everything. Great characters and character interaction. A good mystery. Great sci-fi. Issues upon issues, including social, ethical, and religious ones. It’s like a buffet. Choose and enjoy! Perfect for a Friday night escape.