Altered Carbon Episode 1 Recap: Out Of The Past

Official promotional poster.

Immortality. This is what the cyberpunk, dystopian TV series called Altered Carbon centers on. The series is set more than 350 years into the future where humanity has discovered a means to preserve the human consciousness through implants called stacks. When a body dies, its stack can just be transferred into another body and life continues. So what happens when Takeshi Kovacs, wakes up 250 years since his death and is asked to solve the murder of Laurens Bancroft by Laurens Bancroft himself, one of the world’s wealthiest and politically influential men?

A fair WARNING this MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS. So, just in case you haven’t watched the episode yet and prefer not to read any spoilers. Now is probably the time to get on Netflix to see Altered Carbon. Trust me, it’s worth the hour.

After watching episode one, “Out of the Past”, I’m pretty sure some of you are going, “what the hell did I just see?” That is a legit reaction because Altered Carbon is the kind of show that plunges its viewers into its futuristic world leaving them to discover it for themselves as they journey with the main character through the episodes in the series. They certainly don’t waste a lot of time throwing long boring dialogue after dialogue at the camera explaining about the current world that they live in.

 

To recap this fast-paced storytelling on screen, here’s what we know so far along with some useful terms explained to help us catch on as quick as an Envoy adapting to a new sleeve.

 

SLEEVES AND STACKS

A hologram image of a cortical stack.

In the first few minutes of the episode we see two people decant a bag with a man’s body in it and this is where we first hear of talk about sleeves. A sleeve basically means a body. Upon the age of 1, each Protectorate Citizen gets a cortical stack implanted into them. The stack is where the human consciousness is stored and as long as it isn’t destroyed, it can be placed into another sleeve. This act of being transferred to another body is called re-sleeving. Dying with the stack still intact is called “sleeve death” while the stack getting destroyed is called “real death” and there is no coming back from it. It was also mentioned in this episode that those who are re-sleeved normally suffer from disorientation, visual and auditory hallucinations, and low-grade amnesia. If not monitored properly, they risk suffering schism or a psychotic break. That pretty much means coming back from the dead isn’t as heavenly as it sounds. It sure didn’t look pleasant to me when the body in the bag being decanted turned out to be a re-sleeved Takeshi Kovacs, who had violently died 250 years ago.

 

TAKESHI KOVACS

Kovacs awakens into a new sleeve.

Takeshi Kovacs wakes up all hostile and confused, he starts attacking the people that surround him. Remember when Batman brought Superman back from the dead? Yeah, it was kind of like that but with much less damage.

We later see in flashbacks that what probably was his last “heist” involved securing several stacks and heavily-armed men who had them surrounded in a hotel room. What followed was a bloody shoot out which eventually led to his partner’s stack getting blown into bits,  Kovacs’s sleeve being killed, and his stack being “put on ice” for charges of espionage, terrorism, crimes against the state, and the list goes on.  This is probably why we find him getting re-sleeved in Alcatraz Prison, Bay Area. In the flashbacks, there is a brief mention of the terrorist leader named Quellcrist Falconer, who I predict will be further be explored soon.

Slowly trying to grasp the current reality, he asks about how many years it has been, where he is, and which planet he is on. This leads me to an eyebrow raising question, what other inhabitable planets could there be? Perhaps we’ll be able to find out more about it in the upcoming episodes.

So why was a criminal like Kovacs spun up after all these years? The answer to the question was revealed upon receiving his parole documents which clearly indicated that his being re-sleeved into a body that was specifically “equipped with military-grade neurochem and combat muscle memory” was all because of one Laurens Bancroft who has leased him and now owns him for the duration of that said lease.

A mother holds her re-sleeved daughter.

Upon being released, Kovacs meets Officer Kristin Ortega, who was the first ever person to welcome him to the Bay City. Kovacs is also faced with the reality of how unjust society has become when he sees a 7-year-old girl murdered in a hit-and-run being re-sleeved into an old lady’s body. While the law says she gets a free sleeve, this doesn’t guarantee a good one. They basically get what they can that’s free and possibly one that’s broken-down from the inventory. To get a good sleeve people need to pay for it and from the looks of it, not everyone can afford a good sleeve.

As Ortega escorts Kovacs out of the building, he witnesses groups of protesters. On one side chanting “Justice! Let the dead speak!” and on the other side a group of people holding sign boards expressing their opposition to re-sleeving.

Ortega shows Kovacs the Aerium.

During the futuristic car drive, where aside from we get to marvel at how much the show seriously didn’t hold back with the budget into bringing this futuristic world to life, we also find out about a certain Resolution 653. This resolution makes it possible for murder victims to be spun up and to testify against who killed them. But the archdiocese believes that humans should not be immortal, that they should only live in the sleeves they are born with, and that getting spun up again for whatever reason will result to the soul being damned forever. I really love how the show gives its audience these moral and philosophical aspects to ponder on. I mean are you really still you after your first death? If the first version of you (the real you) dies, doesn’t that mean it’s just a consciousness of you that is being stored in a stack? The real you really only did live just once. So, it’s not really you in the stack, but it’s still…uhm…you. Get what I mean? Yeah, I’m still trying to wrap my head around everything too.

At the same time that the audience does, Kovacs also hears mention of the word “Meth” which comes from the name of the biblical figure, Methuselah, who was said to have lived for 969 years. Meths pertain to the rich people who can afford to live for hundreds and hundreds of years and who have apparently isolated themselves from the rest of the population and live in the Aerium – composed of massive structures that are found high above the clouds, totally different from the messed-up cities down below.

Kovacs is escorted by Miriam to the study.

Kovacs is taken to the Suntouch House where he is welcomed by Miriam Bancroft, wife of Laurens Bancroft, and he briefly meets Bancroft’s son. It was here that it was revealed that Kovacs is an “Envoy” and Envoys are all supposedly dead. Envoys were special soldiers who lived hundreds of years ago. They were trained to move from one sleeve to another without experiencing all the side effects and therefore be ready for combat the moment they enter any sleeve through needlecasting. Think iCloud but only between a stack and a remote storage location or onto another sleeve.

 

 

THE MURDER OF LAURENS BANCROFT

Laurens Bancroft shows Kovacs the crime scene.

Upon meeting Laurens Bancroft, Kovacs is eager to know why he has been brought back into a world he has fought to prevent from happening. He soon realizes that Bancroft is THE man of power and he can basically do what he wants because he is someone who can most clearly afford using a toilet paper made of gold to wipe himself. Bancroft offers him a full pardon and a hefty amount of money in exchange for agreeing to solve a murder – Bancroft’s.  I guess even with the possibility of murder victims being re-spun, there are still glitches and there is no assurance that murders will be solved.  Proven by this fact that even the wealthiest man alive even had to resort to re-sleeving an Envoy just to be able to solve this murder.

When Bancroft was murdered, his head had been vaporized and his stack was destroyed. However, being filthy rich as he is, he can afford a “full-spectrum DHF remote storage back up” and so, his stack gets automatically backed up every 48 hours through needlecast and he even has his own military-grade satellite to do it. That was how he was able to survive the murder. However, he was killed 10 minutes before his backup went through, so his current self has no memories of his murder. Kovacs is reluctant to take the job but Bancroft tells him to think it through after a stroll through the city.

Ortega and Kovacs having a conversation at a strip club.

Back in Bay City, he reminisces of his childhood and a place with a placid lake and two moons. From this, we can safely assume Kovacs was not born on Earth. He starts having a hallucination of his sister and comes to a point where he seems like he’s decided that he’s just had it. He was going to live his last night out however the hell he wanted and then he could go back on ice. Kovacs wanders through the city, gets high, and eventually gets a sensory overload from all the digital broadcasts popping up before him. If you’ve played MMORPGs and you’re walking through the main town and your chat box is filled with in-game advertisement and world shout outs of people selling their stuff, this is probably what it would feel like in real life. Ortega comes to his rescue and they go out for a drink at a strip club. We see here how the show feels about nudity censorship – ha! what censorship? In a short-lived substantial conversation Ortega confirms her info about Kovacs while voicing her disdain towards Bancroft who screwed with her career and life after he didn’t accept her findings that Bancroft died of suicide.  She also mentions one of the cases she is working on but can’t push through with – a murdered Neo-Catholic dumped in the bay and because she is Neo-Catholic, her religious coding forbids her to be spun up. However interesting this was, Kovacs, who’s had enough of the conversation since basically he is determined to turn down Bancroft’s offer and go back on ice, just wants to get laid on his last night out.

Kovacs decides to accept the job.

He decides to check himself into “The Raven Hotel”, an A.I. hotel that he has been warned nobody has ever gone to in decades because apparently A.I. hotels are hardwired to want guests and can be a little crazy. Crazy brilliant is what I say. Because when the hotel is suddenly stormed by armed men who try to take Kovacs, suddenly turrets drop from the ceiling and even the hotel A.I. himself start blasting the men to kingdom come. Kovacs was able to grab hold of the guy who lead the murder Kovacs club into the hotel but the A.I. killed the guy the moment it had a clear shot of him. Ortega and her team come in to investigate and Kovacs is told that one of the sleeves whose stack they fried was registered to Dimitri Kadmin a.k.a. Dimi the Twin, a high-end hitman who does a lot of work for the Yakuza and they’ve been after him since forever. Dimi doesn’t really have a twin, just an illegal copy of himself that he downloads into a black-market sleeve because he’s too darn paranoid to trust anyone and I understand that considering his line of work. This act of double-sleeving is illegal and is punishable by real death. This attempt on his life made Kovacs believe Bancroft’s death wasn’t a suicide.

After a few more rounds of getting high, reminiscing about his past, and another hallucination, this time of Quellcrist Falconer, Kovacs goes from wanting to kill himself to finally deciding to take the case. This may be where the episode ends, but this certainly is just the beginning of Kovac’s story.

Bonus Photos:

 

Posted by on 3/6/2019. Filed under Fandom, Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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