In the aptly titled ‘Fallen Angel’, the second episode of Netflix’s Altered Carbon delivers what only non-network TV can: more violence and more nudity. But this episode promises a lot more than just action and sex. Not only do we receive a clearer insight into how this society runs, but we get a deeper and darker look into our main characters. As Episode 2 proves, no one in this world is innocent.
Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman) delivers a chilling opening monologue that sets the tone for this episode, talking about how peace is merely a construct and that war and violence are the only things that we, as a species, actually understand. The monologue is delivered as we watch a woman’s body fall from the sky, dropping into the river. A fisherman is in a boat nearby with his young son, and they rush over to the woman only to find her dead. When the son takes her hand and tries to lift her onto the boat, his father stops him. The boy doesn’t want this woman to be alone, to be lost here, but his father says it isn’t their place. And as the boy lets the woman go, as Takeshi talks about the true nature of humans, we see the ultimate problem with this society. There’s a certain lack of empathy needed in order to survive, let alone flourish in this world. If you’re seeing some parallels to our world’s current situation, you aren’t alone.
Takeshi is still haunted by his memories and the loss he endured during the uprising, which we learn more about later in the episode. But Takeshi has a lot more than that to worry about now, especially since he’s agreed to solve Bancroft’s murder. He wakes up in his room at the Raven Hotel (which he seems to have taken a liking to), only to find the concierge, Poe, standing at the door with a woman. A woman Takeshi believes to be a prostitute, so, of course, he has no problem standing up and talking to her while fully nude. It isn’t until Poe points out that this woman is Oumou Prescott, Mr. Bancroft’s lawyer, that Takeshi shows some modesty.
Prescott definitely isn’t Takeshi’s biggest fan. As an upscale lawyer for the elite, she can’t help but frown on Takeshi’s tact (or lack thereof). She sees him as a hired gun and nothing else. But obliging her client’s request, she takes him to Psychasec, where we learn a lot more about resleeving, AKA the process of transferring one’s stack into another body (see here for more details).
Psychasec specializes in clones, and as Takeshi is told, one clone “costs more than most people make in a lifetime.” Needless to say only the wealthiest of the Protectorate use clones. The Bancroft family actually has their own vault, containing multiple clones of each member of the family. It explains how Laurens continues to look the same. It’s interesting, perhaps even important, to note that these clones can open their eyes, potentially even move, but they are not aware. Their stacks are empty; they have no consciousness. It’s also important to note that resleeving into a clone of yourself affects the transition. Takeshi has witnessed instances of people resleeving too many times, losing their minds in the process. But as one of tech personal, Gus, explains, it’s a personality frag that only happens by jumping between many different sleeves. If you resleeve into your own clone, you can do it, in theory, as many times as you want.
Takeshi and Prescott are soon joined by both Laurens and Miriam, and they take turns recounting the events before Laurens was killed. But Bancroft is able to answer little himself, as he can’t remember anything that happened right before his death. So much for any leads. That being said, in regards to the attempted hack on Bancroft’s backup, police think “dippers” are responsible. Dippers steal memories of the wealthy during uplink, and apparently, these memories can even be sold.
Other than information on sleeving and uplink, Takeshi walks out of the meeting with little more to go on, and that’s not good for him. Bancroft may have hired him, but he makes it very clear that if he is unable to solve the case quickly enough, Takeshi will go back to serving his sentence. He doesn’t so much as flinch at this news. If there’s anything we know about Takeshi Kovacs, it’s that he doesn’t like being threatened. And anyone who does threaten him doesn’t truly understand what he’s capable of.
Takeshi returns to the Raven where, with the help of Poe, he sifts through the multitude of video threats that Bancroft received before he died. With over 3500 threats from this year alone, Takeshi breaks them down into separate categories, trying to find someone who had the skill, motive, and potential background to commit this murder. But in the end, it’s a memory of something Quell once told him that leads him to the answer.
“At its heart, violence is almost always, in one way or another…personal.”
Takeshi comes across a video of a man holding the gun. All we see are his hands on the gun as he talks about getting revenge for someone named “Lizzie”. While he has digitally altered his voice, the serial number on the gun is clearly visible, and it only takes seconds for Takeshi to realize it. So, he decides to pay this man, Vernon Elliot, a visit.
This is where we really start to see Takeshi’s skills as a fighter and his abilities as an Envoy. When Takeshi shows up at Elliot’s apartment and makes his intentions clear, Elliot tries to attack him. But not only can Takeshi move incredibly quickly, we actually see him anticipate Elliot’s next moves. Envoys aren’t clairvoyant, but highly intuitive and great studies of character. Elliot may be a marine and a skilled fighter, but he’s no match for Takeshi.
In between fighting Elliot and tying him up, Takeshi discovers why he wanted revenge. Lizzie is his daughter, and she was beaten to death in the streets. Her body was completely broken, but her stack was fine. The only way Elliot can see his daughter is in some form of VR (Virtual Reality), but here’s the catch: Lizzie is caught in a trauma loop. She’s stuck in the moment of her attack, and yet her father keeps her there so he can see her. Even Takeshi is disgusted by this, and we know that he isn’t fazed easily.
After visiting Elliot, he takes a brief detour for a personal visit to a nearby exhibit dedicated to the uprising. Countless images of Quell surround him in the exhibit, each depicting her as some kind of war criminal. The pain on his face is obvious.
“When the victors rewrite history, it’s just another kind of war, waged after the battlefield killing is done, to murder the memory of the defeated.”
It is easy, I think, to say that someone is definitively good or definitively bad. What’s difficult is understanding that it’s not as simple as that. But as Takeshi walks around the exhibit, watching kids learn about his own history, he realizes that they’ll never know the truth.
After the exhibit, Tak visits a club that Lizzie used to work at as a dancer/prostitute. He gets a private dance from a woman named Alice, but as soon as he starts asking about Lizzie, she shuts down. She’s about to leave when he convinces her that he is actually Lizzie’s mother, telling her that she’s been cross-sleeved for a job and if she completes it, she’ll get a new sleeve for both her and Lizzie. He starts stuttering, changes his mannerisms, he’s shockingly believable.
Alice starts opening up to him, telling him about a regular that used to visit Lizzie. She claims that he takes care of ‘his girls’, but we soon find out what that means.
“He’s one of the good ones. If he breaks it, he buys it. You know, if he accidentally kills a girl, he buys her an upgraded sleeve.”
That man, as it turns out, is none other than Laurens Bancroft. We see extreme bruising on Alice’s neck, proof of what he does to the women there (potentially others as well). Alice promises to ask around and try and find out more, but she still defends Bancroft with tears in her eyes. Before Tak leaves, he offers her a surprisingly gentle and kind word.
“It doesn’t matter how much anyone pays you. You shouldn’t let anyone hurt you. You’re worth more than that.”
In this moment, we see another glimpse of Tak’s kindness. It’s such a stark contrast from only a few scenes before, and it shows how much struggle he faces internally. He’s fighting two very different instincts, and there’s no telling which one will win.
When he leaves the club, he finds Vernon waiting for him, ready to shoot. But before he has the chance, two enhanced men pop up behind him. They’ve come for Takeshi. He’s able to fight them off, but by the time he does, who shows up but Kristin Ortega, ready to arrest him. He doesn’t even spend the whole night in a cell considering they can’t charge him with anything, and Bancroft’s lawyer comes to release him as soon as she hears. Kristin isn’t making a great name for herself, and as it turns out, she isn’t at all what she seems.
This episode told us a lot about both Kristin’s character and background. Her father was Captain on the force, and it’s safe to assume he is one of the reasons she joined. He died, and the apartment she currently lives in seems to have been his. We also learn that their family are devout in their religion, and that if you have religious coding, you can avoid being resleeved. This is the way of her father and her family, and her mother is worried for her daughter’s soul. They believe you should have one life, and only one life. But Kristin isn’t as devout as the rest of her family. No doubt she’s been occupied with grief and the stress of her job.
We also learn that she doesn’t play by the rules. Not only is she currently tracking Takeshi without authorization, but she has been hiding a body! The young woman we saw in the river in the beginning of this episode, her body was never found. Her mother came and begged the authorities to see her daughter, to say goodbye, but everyone, including Ortega, claimed they had no knowledge. But at the end of the episode, we see Ortega pull her body out of the morgue, where she had been hiding it in an ’empty’ slate. It looks like there’s a lot more to her than we thought.
The episode ends with Takeshi returning to the Raven, where Poe, along with expressing interest in becoming his partner in crime, warns Tak that there is a guest waiting for him in his room. That guest turns out to be none other than Miriam Bancroft. She makes it clear that she’s fascinated by him and the time he comes from. And though she claims he is “everything this world has lost”, she seems to be talking about more than just the world, but her husband.
With the help of a biochemical pheromone called Empathin, Miriam seduces Takeshi and proceeds to undress him, and then herself. Within minutes she’s kissing him, while he’s pushing her against the wall. This final scene is as steamy as it is dangerous, because as we see, there are robotic bugs in his room. He’s being watched by someone, and it could change everything.
For previous recaps and all news on Altered Carbon, visit our official Altered Carbon page, here! Stay tuned for more.
Altered Carbon Is Currently Streaming On Netflix.