Altered Carbon – Episode 7: Nora Inu
Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Dichen Lachman, Will Yun lee, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Martha Higareda, Ato Essandoh and Chris Conner
Director: Andy Goddard
Writers: Nevin Densham, Casey Fisher
Reviewed by Sidney Morgan
This review CONTAINS SPOILERS!
After six episodes of being teased about Kovacs’ past, about being an Envoy, about Kovacs and Quell’s romantic involvement and about the annihilation of the Envoys, this entire episode is dedicated to this backstory. And clocking in at a full 66 minutes, it’s quite an episode.
The last episode ended with Kovacs and Ortega being rescued by an unknown warrior, who’s revealed to be Reileen (Dichen Lachman), Kovacs’ sister. But aren’t all Envoys supposed to be dead? How is this possible? Kovacs, confused and in disbelief, a result from being poisoned, has a hard time processing this new information. Slipping in and out of consciousness, he begins to recall the events when he last saw Rei.
Kovacs and his sister lived in constant fear of their father. After he kills their mother, Kovacs decides to take matters into his own hands and kills his father. And to make sure it’s final, he shoots him through the stack, giving him a final death. Taken into custody, Kovacs is recruited by the Protectorate and is offered a place as a member of the Colonial Tactical Assault Corps (CTAC). Without any bargaining power, he agrees but only if they agree to take care of Rei. Jaeger doesn’t object. However, when Kovacs asks for proof, Jaeger only gives his word, telling Kovacs he must cut all ties with his present life, including his sister. A handshake with the devil later, the story fast-forwards to Kovacs as an adult.
A handshake to seal Kovacs’ fate?After an unexpected reunion with his sister, both of them escape into the forest where they believed the patchman lived when they were young. It is here that they meet up with Quellcrist and join the rebel cause, becoming Envoys. There is training, in both the real and virtual worlds. There are conversations during which Quell explains her fear of allowing people to become immortals. And Kovacs buys into it all because the Envoys offer him something that was taken a long time ago. A place to belong. A family. However, Rei isn’t sold on Quell’s philosophy.
As kids, Kovacs and Rei lived though a nightmare. They supported and loved one another in order to survive each day, to minimize the hurt and avoid death. And this bond remained, even if they were physically separated. Kovacs, happy to be reunited with Rei, finds peace and acceptance with the Envoys and sees them as his new family. However, Rei sees only Kovacs as her family and anyone else as an obstacle to her happiness. Being raised by the Yakuza has made her distrustful of others and a survivor. She doesn’t want to be a follower, but rather make her own path. She wants to live a thousand lives with her brother, just as they’d promised as kids. Does the tension this creates foreshadow some future confrontation?
Nora Inu, like its predecessors, is also a film noir and the parallels between its plot and that of this episode can’t be ignored. In the movie, a homicide detective has his gun stolen which is subsequently used in several crimes. Desperate to get his weapon back, he goes undercover to locate and recover it before it is used to cause more damage. In Altered Carbon’s Nora Inu, Kovacs is the gun and it is CTAC that lost it. As he kills other CTAC officers and escapes, he becomes the weapon that needs to be recovered. But the parallels go deeper as nora inu translates to stray dog.
A stray dog is one that has been separated from where it should be, likely its home, and finds itself all alone. Kovacs hasn’t had a ‘home’ since he was recruited by the Protectorate as a child. And though he thought he found a new one with the Envoys, it ended up being only temporary. Most of his life has been spent without a home, without a family. And missing any meaningful relationship, he’s been quite alone. Essentially, he’s Altered Carbon’s nora inu. He’s its stray dog.
Verdict: Continue to Watch!
We finally understand some of Kovacs’ motivations behind his behaviours, including why he pushes people away. And now that he’s been reunited with Rei, it will be fascinating to find out what happened to her and what she did for the 250 years Kovacs was imprisoned.