This Altered Carbon review contains spoilers.
Altered Carbon Episode 5
“How does it feel to be a few hours away from freedom?” Ortega asks Kovacs in this installment of Altered Carbon, hinting that in discovering Isaac Bancroft’s scheme to take over his father’s sleeve, the case is somehow solved. But of course it’s not that easy as new mysteries arise just as Kovacs and Ortega are growing closer. As a turning point in the series, “The Wrong Man” definitely had a lot to love and even more to wonder about, but the closure for some characters as the story shifted was still very satisfying.
The most enticing new wrinkle in the case is the death of Mary Lou Henchy and how it ties in with Elias Riker, the cop whose sleeve Kovacs is wearing. Kovacs is convinced that the suspicious and sudden conversion to the Neo-Catholic religion of Mary Lou and apparently several other victims before her is related to the murder of Laurens Bancroft somehow. In essence, Kovacs has now combined his case with Riker’s, which feels appropriate given the new intimacy Kovacs and Ortega have indulged in.
Having all the cards on the table is a good thing, not only because Kovacs is more aware of why Dimi the Twin was after him but also because the tension between the BCPD lieutenant and the Envoy has been released… in more ways than one. Thank goodness the writers realized there was no reason to draw out the inevitable! Perhaps Riker’s body has an unconscious response to its connection with Ortega (honestly, whose wouldn’t?), and Ortega does a good job of pretending to protest when she tells Kovacs to shut the fuck up before giving in to desire.
What are we to make of Bancroft’s visit to the plague colony, handing out candy and toys to carriers of a deadly disease? Kovacs’ cynicism is infectious; we all see Bancroft’s title of “City Father” as self-aggrandizing. He even says he wears a middle-aged sleeve because the older gods like Odin and Zeus are more powerful. But there’s a hint of doubt in Kovacs’ face and the viewers’ mind when Bancroft says, “You’re saying because I can’t fix everything, I should fix nothing at all.” He’s not wrong! Is the crowd’s reaction the mourning of a benefactor or the worship of a self-sacrificial god? It’s a philosophically thought provoking scene to be sure.
And that’s not the only head-scratcher! Why does Miriam offer Kovacs an island of cloned sex slaves to drop the case? Why does Riker think that Mary Lou Henchy’s death is part of a larger conspiracy while Ortega initially doesn’t in the flashback? If Dimi the Twin is double-sleeved, why does he care so much that Riker/Kovacs killed his “brother”? And the big one: why is there a Takeshi sleeve in the Fight Drome?
It was nice to see Matt Frewer as Carnage, the proprietor of Fight Drome, and the information he provided started the pieces falling into place for the Bancroft case. Part of Bancroft’s missing 48 hours included him fighting with Isaac and shouting, “You’re not me! You never will be!” and once Ortega and Kovacs make the trip to Isaac’s place and find the 3D bio printer and the Laurens sleeve, Ortega assumes Kovacs’s mission is complete and his freedom imminent. Honestly, their break-in to a Meth dwelling like Isaac’s seemed a bit too easy, but it was worth it to see that moment of regret in Ortega’s eyes when she realized their time together might be ending.
How quickly it all went to hell! It’s clear that the so-called “ghostwalker” will be a force to be reckoned with not only because of the climactic final scene in which Abboud sacrifices himself and his stack for a real death and Ortega receives what appears to be a fatal wound, but also because at this point we have no idea who the mustachioed Asian man is working for. Although answers are coming in the next episode, we have to wonder how his apparent religious manner of speaking will tie into his underlying mission.
Kovacs is right, though: “They fucked up – they haven’t killed me yet.” Why that is remains a mystery, but with the new bond between him and the mortally injured Ortega, a reckoning is coming soon, and anticipation is high. Altered Carbon is a layered, thematically rich series from start to finish, and this episode is a great of example of its high minded premise. Dimitri even invokes the series title as he poses the question we all ponder: “Where is the voice that said altered carbon would free us from the cells of our flesh? The vision that said we would be angels?”