This episode’s theme is “never face the monsters alone,” a mantra Kovacs and his sister shared as children while they watched their father abuse their mother. We also find out the story behind Kovacs’ blended name. His mother is Japanese and gave him the name Takeshi. His father was Slavic and is the origin of his surname.
In keeping with the overt theme, Kovacs spends the episode securing backup. He has a flashback of the Falconer speaking during Envoy training. She teaches that Envoys are ultimately alone and that wherever they find themselves, find common people to inspire “even if they are expendable later.” So Kovacs sets out to inspire Elliot, the Marine medic from episode two. In order to secure his aid, Kovacs offers Elliot a chance to heal his daughter whose stack is stuck in a trauma loop. Kovacs gets the AI Poe to help rehabilitate Lizzie Elliot’s stack.
Meanwhile, Bancroft decided to throw a party and invite everyone who would have cause to want him murdered. It’s a pretty large guest list. The party itself allows the most intriguing insight of the episode as it showcases meths in their natural habitat: towering mansions that act as Mount Olympus for this elite class of immortals. These are people who have lived so long that life has lost its luster. As a result, they are declining into insanity of Romanesque proportions. Each and every meth has an aloof attitude to match their degenerate and cavalier outlooks on the world. To illustrate this is a Bancroft party tradition that each guest must bring something truly unique to share.
Clarissa Severin (Anna Van Hooft) describes herself as “dealing in art and antiquities” and is responsible on some level for tracking down Kovacs’ stack initially. She comments about the hefty finder’s fee she made for securing his stack. And she also hints to Bancroft’s obsession with the Falconer. Her unique offering to the party is a python that she spun a convict’s stack into “just to see what would happen.”
“Laws don’t apply to people like us.”–Clarissa Severin
Her story of the nonchalant torture inflicted on another human is chilling and psychopathic. But this is exactly what’s to be expected of someone who has lived so long life has lost its meaning.
And here we have the real problem with living forever. Eventually it would mean nothing. What is another day, another year, another century to a god? What are the people beneath them if not expendable playthings to torture on a whim? I see a lot of parallels with Greek mythology. Bancroft’s daughter (who is 67) uses one of her mother’s clones to take it for a spin. So we have the gods taking different forms. Clarissa Severen’s tale of the convict Janus echoes ideas of punitive reincarnation and a flippant attitude toward the value of human life. Bancroft lords over the entire party like Zeus himself and describes his relationship with his wife not with love but “veneration.” Much like Zeus feels about Hera.
“But one thing I knew for sure, not one of these people gave a damn about any life but their own.”–Takeshi Kovacs
Bancroft’s children bring up an interesting dynamic as well: that of the eternal adolescent. Men and women who have unlimited power at their disposal but won’t ever fully mature because their parents constantly cast a looming shadow. They were cruel, spoiled, degenerates and I couldn’t help but think of the stories of the Emperor Caligula and his wicked excesses. Again illustrating the meths’ psychopathic behavior. So now a pattern about the meth mentality starts to emerge. They are powerful and bored with life, they live so far removed from the real world it is nothing but a playground for them. And the people in it are but pawns to be used to satisfy their escalating needs for violence and bloodshed.
“It gets worse. The longer they live, the worse they get.” –Lt. Ortega on the meths
This is driven home with two events. The first is Bancroft’s reveal of his unique gift that turns out to be Kovacs himself. He is the last of the Envoys and no one else in the whole Protectorate can claim to have one. This clearly establishes Kovacs as property in the eyes of the meths and that realization isn’t lost on him. He confronts Bancroft and the meth drives the point home with:
“In this room there is only one real choice. That of being the purchaser or the purchased.”–Laurens Bancroft
The next example is the main event of the evening: a gladiatorial style fight to the death. The combatants are a husband and wife who love each other. They agreed to fight to the death in an antigravity ring. The winner receives an upgraded combat sleeve and the loser gets downgraded. What’s interesting is the couple’s willingness to do this in the first place. Again we have mythological parallels in people indulging the gods to receive rewards. Everybody has a price and when you are an immortal meth with unlimited power and resources you can pay any price. And in reality, the new sleeves were a paltry reward; but when offered to desperate people even paltry rewards seem like a king’s ransom.
The fight is appropriately brutal neither combatant shows the other mercy. While Kovacs is appalled by the brutalization the meths eat it up with much cheering and excited squealing, even going so far as to lick the splattered blood. Bancroft throws Kovacs into the mix and offers the couple upgraded sleeves for both of them if they can kill the Envoy. They immediately attack. Kovacs is at a disadvantage because he is unused to fighting in a zero gravity ring. He is eventually saved by Lt. Ortega who was sent there by the BCPD to monitor security.
She had her own reasons for being there as she is trying to track down who is responsible for the girl’s death last episode. During the party Elliot acts as one of the caterers and gets data that can help him find his daughter’s killer leaving Kovacs without backup during the fight. So much for not facing the monsters alone.
The episode ends with Kovacs returning to the brother where Lizzy was murdered to help a hooker who gave him some info last episode. She stabs him with sedative whilst crying and apologizing. The bouncers enter, kill the hooker and haul Kovacs to an unknown facility.