Crossing the Stream: Part 8 - "Altered Carbon" Sn 1, Eps 7-8

I'm starting to plateau on the weight loss, and I suspect it has something to do with being past the dramatic water weight drop-off that was happening last week. Now, the results are going to be less satisfying, which is the arch-enemy of my motivation. Once I stop seeing immediate results, I tend to wash out of things. Ask anybody who knows me. Ask my guitar instructor. Ask my football coaches. Ask my seven unfinished manuscripts.

Hell, even look at these posts. I'm having trouble finishing them each day. But I haven't quit yet.

I'm hoping to start adding a little bit of a shakeup to the routine, with some extra walking on the weekends once the weather changes. I've been saying that for about a month, "Once the weather changes," but so far it's still pretty dreary out. I have heard that allowing yourself to be cold can help to kickstart the metabolism a little bit, sort of a simulation of the winter in order to tell my biology "Hey, it's time to eat that lunch I've been packing for you the last six months." Still, this sounds kind of fad-like to me. Most diets sound like cheap gimmicks, because no one wants mundane answers, or homework.

Things improved on the healthy cooking front. I made a really good vegetable soup that was mostly cabbage, onion, carrot, and celery. According to the recipe, a full bowl of it is only about 100 calories. I pushed it a little further and added some ground turkey, because meat is my new candy, I guess. Still, can you imagine eating enough soup that you fall into a deep coma, and it was still probably under 700 calories? Win-win for me. I also happen to really like cabbage, so it tasted great. Next time I'd like to exchange the turkey for my beloved mushrooms. I want a soup so lean that I'll burn calories eating it!

I also...want a soda machine. You know? One of those countertop gizmos where you just put water in it, and it yields fizzy water? I want one. It would be so much more convenient than all these pastel-colored La Croix cans building up in my house. And then I could just skip to the inevitable all-seltzer diet that I seem to be sliding toward. Anybody have one of these nutty things? Please @ me on this.

"Altered Carbon" - Season 1, Episodes 7-8


"Nora Inu"

Just as every Netflix Original seems to have the shift of power among the villains midway through the season, so too do they have a penchant for an entire episode of flashback story. This one isn't without relevance, of course. Rei has come to the rescue of her brother, and both he and we need to know how this convenient escape from FightDome is possible. To explain that, we need to go back and establish Rei as a character at all. It's a little sloppy to be doing so on Episode 7 of 10, but hey, at least it's being corrected. It's just a little bit tough to swallow this necessary pill without a B-plot to escape to every now and then.

Not much has been revealed about Takeshi's life before becoming an Envoy, so we get everything in rapid succession: he blew his father's stack after the swine had killed his mother and started the cycle of violence anew with little Rei. Once detained for murder, he is recruited into CTAC by Jaeger, the very Gestapo-esque agent who nabbed him and put him on ice 250 years before the Bancroft case. The recruitment is very creepy due to Kovacs' age. It reminds me of all the lip service given to James Bond's grooming from an orphanage directly into Her Majesty's service. It makes sense, since angry little boys are much easier to manipulate. That is, of course, unless they have a somewhat supernatural bond with a sibling forged over years of abuse and hardship.

When Tak and Rei are reunited as enemies during a CTAC raid on a Yakuza building, it's chilling how swiftly their loyalties toward their compatriots are dissolved. Within seconds of recognizing each other, they are blowing away their allies and burning their entire lives. This might just be the plot on fast-forward, or it could be a foreshadowing of what Rei is capable of. From there, it's almost a clip-show of all the various Envoy Training Alerts from previous episodes, but with added context and weakened flavor. I found myself at odds with the emotions that are being prompted by the larger look at the Uprising; Quellcrest Falconer uses cult tactics. She might be righteous in the macro argument about the human race, society, inequality, and that death is a natural part of life. But she still uses cult and terrorist tactics, and puts her ideals above the free will of all the stacked people in the colonized galaxy, whom she is unilaterally handing a death sentence. Envoys, as it turns out, were trying to eradicate inequality by attacking the very concept of immortality. Curious, since they use the DHF technology and all the additional talents it affords them, in order to destroy it. It's just more of the "We take what is offered" refrain that Quell likes to use.

Quell's secret, that she is in fact the creator of stack technology and is trying to right the wrongs her creation has wrought, is a storytelling misstep in my opinion. It does nothing in service to the plot or her character, so really all it does is make this sprawling world seem that much smaller in scope. Really, this whole episode is full of information that does very little besides explain Rei's fixation on her brother, and lead us to that breaking point where the idealistic supersoldier finally became the cynical, uncaring man we know. Rei's jealousy over her brother's divided love between her and Quell is fine. Just fine. I don't know if it works well enough to justify finking on the revolution or murdering Quell, but...okay. It might handle better as we see more of her unhinged side in the final few episodes. As the final moments of this one show, Rei is far more than just the long-lost sister appearing to save the day.

I appreciate that Kovacs' past is being fully realized, but I am pretty disappointed that the interlocking mysteries of the present-day seem to all share an origin point that leads to Rei, and therefore everything that has happened can be traced back to their failed Uprising. I hate the "I am the author of all your pain" moments from villains. But, we'll see where this leads us.

Random Notes:

-So, the image of a mysterious dead woman thrown into water carries over from Mary Lou Henchy to Takeshi and Rei's mother, dumped in an industrial pool to disappear by their father. It took a lot of shoe leather to get to that point.

-Kovacs, surprisingly, was a real true believer. I don't know if his feelings for Quell are what drove him, or if the cause actually did, but he's all in. Rei, not so much. She's all in for Tak, and nothing more.

-The raid on Stronghold is Kovacs' personal breaking point, his version of Serenity Valley, and Malcolm Reynolds' loss of faith in "Firefly." Imagine a 2002 Nathan Fillion as Kovacs!

-The episode's ending image is that of dual-faced Janus, the Roman god of transitions, gates, passages, time...and endings.

-And so Rei is actually the new mysterious crime boss Hemingway...along with a few other characters who have had little interactions with Kovacs since his wake-up call. How this connects to the Bancrofts, I haven't the foggiest idea.

"Clash By Night"

Belief is supposedly the theme of the episode, how it can shape a person's identity, salvation, and destruction. But believing in a lie enough will make the truth poison, even when your eyes are opened. Ask Kovacs, who just found out his sister and lover did not die as idealists in the waning days of a failed rebellion, but that Rei betrayed the cause for immortal life, endless clone bodies, and wealth. The very thing that the Envoys were trying to rectify ended up being the excuse she needed.

And speaking of lies, which are actually the theme here, hallucinations of Quell remind Kovacs that the best lies are woven from threads of truth. When Rei lies and tells Takeshi that she killed the Uprising and Quell because their cause was a lost, misguided one, it's true. But, really, she did it because he put the cause and the cult leader above his love for his sister.

Now that Rei has asserted herself as the Keizer Soze of the future, she demands that the Bancroft case be closed, and it might have less to do with her brother's freedom as it does with her financial stake in the outcome. Kovacs lies right back to her when he demands a dipper (a hacker, in Future-Slang) to pull it off. It's true that he needs the tech work done, but his real purpose is to use his sister's underworld resources to reunite the Elliot family. More threads.

Elliot's wife Ava being cross-sleeved into a man's body shies away from any real thesis on gender identity, and is largely a diversion. But at least it's an interesting one that moves the story of Lizzie forward in leaps and bounds. It even helps bring the whopper of a fake solution to the case into focus.

Kovacs gathers everyone involved in the Bancroft case up like Poirot, even Rei in one of her various personas. The adverse effect that this kind of storytelling has on a modern audience, where it feels too neat and orderly and artificial, actually helps when the solution being presented by the detective is fabricated. The fun goes from Whodunit to "Who gets blamed?" Prescott's comeuppance feels pretty benign considering how the show has never attempted to humanize her, beyond her unchecked ambition. At least the economy of character has provided us a solid reason for her existence, beyond bailing Kovacs out of jail once or twice.

But now, suddenly the show is hinting at the true solution, which involves the brothel satellite mentioned by Poe back when we first met him. Cool. But at this point, does it really matter? Surely Rei's motivations can't be as altruistic as springing Kovacs from prison, so what does it matter who shot Richie Rich?

Poor Ortega gets short shrift from both of these episodes, having been absent for "Nora Inu" and shunted aside by Kovacs here. How she continues to get poor Mickey to break rules and probably some laws for her is beyond me, and it's rather annoying to hear every other police employee parrot back the empty words of Samir, who constantly told her he was done smoothing out plot wrinkles for her.

That final fight between Ortega and Rei's army of nude clones is threatening to make this show feel like a video game. It's also going through the motions of elaborating on Rei's jealousy toward any other woman in her brother's life, so the fight has nothing to do with the pain and death she's caused, but it devolves into what I'm sure someone in the writer's room called a "catfight" over possession of everyone's second-favorite member of the Suicide Squad.

Everyone's favorite is Slipknot, of course. He can climb anything!

Random Notes:

-Retconning that Bancroft was high on "Stallion" and Tanaka fudged the autopsy report feels like a cheap cheat.

-The Ghostwalker, as it turns out, is a freaky lunatic who believes Rei and other Meths are living gods. Oooookay.

-That moment in every detective story where everything clicks together in a montage of previously unimportant snippets...it doesn't really do it for me.

-Envoy Training Alert (?): Kovacs gathers everyone to sell his lie, precisely because a crowd is easier to lie to than an individual. Their suspicions and hasty conclusions feed each other. It's all part of that power of perception...right?

Rating: C+




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