Altered Carbon Episode Four Recap: Force of Evil
Episode Four of Altered Carbon gives the series a few self-contained stories; Kovacs’ Wei Clinic ordeal and Ortega’s family dinner dispute. Despite the series putting a pause on the Bancroft mystery this episode (The wealthy Meth nor his family make an appearance this episode.) Force of Evil sheds new light on Kovacs training with his former mentor/lover Quellcrist Falconer.
Ortega’s family dinner leads to a moral dispute. When the two stories collide in the closing scene of the episode, we get a startling revelation about why Ortega is so interested in Kovacs.
Was Kovacs’ former sleeve a person of interest named Ryker? After being drugged and knocked out, Kovacs’ body is rolled into a white room at the Wei Clinic. The Russian had bought and paid for the right to interrogate Kovacs. He believes Kovacs is a man named Ryker.
Kovacs and his Russian captor are hooked up to a virtual reality simulator. The Russian hopes to break him down through various forms of torture. The procedure doesn’t kill, but it also doesn’t stop either. The virtual reality interrogation method essentially reboots every time the interrogated dies. Within the same room, Alice, from the Jack-It Off brothel’s corpse is being ripped open apparently for parts. The Russian and Kovacs are put on two separate tables with wires connected to their heads.
Kovacs awakens in the VR simulation to a grimy interrogation room. He learns the hard way that his sleeve doesn’t have the same amenities such as combat conditioning and reflex aggression in the VR sim.
The lab coats running the simulation provide the Russian with whatever weapon or tool he desires. This makes for an already lopsided fight between the two, even less of a fair one. The Russian reveals himself to be the twin of Dimi, first introduced in episode one. He wants to know who sent Kovacs to kill his brother. Apparently like his twin, this Dimi also believes Kovacs is Ryker.
Back at the Raven Hotel, Vernon pours over hours of surveillance footage he was able to steal while at the Bancroft party. He finds nothing useful. Poe is decorating the hotel for All Hallows Eve. Vernon berates the A.I. saying this is something humans do with family and friends. Something Poe could never understand.
Poe retorts Vernon owes Kovacs an apology for not being the backup he promised he would be at the Bancroft party. When Vernon asks where Kovacs is, Poe says he has no idea until Vernon discovers that Poe from time to time is able to hack into Kovacs ONI device. (a recall from episode one when A.I.s are described as being possessive of their clients.)
Dimi continues to mutilate Kovacs in the VR sim. Dimi informs Kovacs this clinic specializes in data extraction from unwilling subjects. While falling in and out of consciousness, Kovacs remembers his Envoy training. Specifically his torture resistance training from Quellcrist Falconer. Quell explains the procedure of Virtual Torture.
The subject goes through beatings and rape in some cases until they break or die. If the interrogation is unsuccessful, the program reboots itself, and the process begins anew. Dimi, repeats the same lone question over and over again, “Who do you work for.” Each time Kovacs defies him, Dimi intensifies his torture methods. Dimi informs Kovacs that he had set up Ryker and that his sentence would send him away for years.
Ortega, Abboud, and tech mastermind, Mikey, go over the footage recorded at the Bancroft party. She recounts seeing a suspicious individual who now isn’t showing up in the recorded footage. Mikey reveals the individual is using a blocker that makes him invisible to the ONI. This is a disturbing rumor Mikey had heard of but thought was only a myth. Technology like this could make a person using it not only invisible to ONI tech but also to any other form of a surveillance camera.
Ortega leaves to answer a call from her mother who is preparing a Dia de Muertos party. The conversation is rudely interrupted by an abrasive apprehended large man covered with tattoos and piercings. She knocks him out with a shock weapon for making crude remarks. Ortega takes the unconscious thug down to the holding room and sees it as a prime opportunity to surprise her mother by re-sleeving the thug with her deceased Abuela’s (Grandmother) stack.
This creates a very awkward conversation at the dinner table. Ortega’s family believes death should be final, especially her mother. Oretga doesn’t understand why an all-loving God would be opposed to a lost loved one being able to reunite with their family.
It is a divisive moral dispute that creates an interesting dynamic. Ultimately when Ortega has to return the thug’s sleeve to the holding room, her Abuela requests not to be brought back again. It is an intriguing side story that shows Ortega has a hard time with letting go of the past. Something that pays off by the end of the episode.
Still referring to Kovacs as Ryker, Dimi asks why he was at the Jack-It Off asking about a girl named Lizzie. Kovacs mentally escapes into his training with Quell again. Quell had taught Kovacs the real enemy isn’t the interrogator, its despair. Quell says find the weakness in the interrogator and you will find your way out. She repeats a simple set of words for Kovacs to remember: Wait. Endure. Find The Weakness. Survive. The power of the mind is stronger than anything thrown at you in a simulation.
Dimi is abruptly woken up from the VR sim for staying too long. He angrily demands more time. Dimi accuses the program of not working. The clinic offers him an experimental product called Helminth Code. When Dimi returns to torture Kovacs, he brings with him some insect-like creatures to burrow under Kovacs skin. Remembering what Quell taught him, Kovacs uses his mind to escape the slab he was bound to and wakes himself up from the VR sim. Kovacs jumps off the table and grabs his gun and makes short work of the Wei Clinic, gunning down the entire staff.
Vernon shows up in an outside alley with one of the thugs who had jumped him and Kovacs at the Jack-It Off. An explosion violently erupts at the Wei Clinic, and Kovacs walks out of the smoke carrying a severed head. Kovacs nonchalantly shoots the thug, who Vernon had forced to lead him to the Wei Clinic, in the neck and walks back to the Raven Hotel. Ortega, Abboud, and a team arrive on the scene discovering the Wei Clinic to be riddled with blood and piled up corpses. After recovering a stack from a decapitated sleeve, Ortega storms the Raven Hotel looking for Kovacs.
Entering his room Ortega sees the severed head of Dimi in an ice bucket. Before Ortega can scold him, Kovacs deduces that the tracker was not for him. It’s for whoever this sleeve was. A sleeve known as Ryker. Begrugedly Ortega says Ryker was a former colleague. Ortega’s refusal to divulge more forces Kovacs to take a more drastic approach. Kovacs begins to cut himself seeing how it affects Ortega. This stirs Ortega to plead with Kovacs to stop, and she will tell him everything.
Force Of Evil was a nice change of pace episode. The episode revealed more about both Ortega’s and Kovacs’ motivations. Finding out who Ryker is will be yet another compelling mystery moving forward.