Man With My Face
This episode opens by walking the thin line between life and death. At the end of the previous episode Ortega was critically wounded by the assassin known only as “The Ghost Walker” and her partner Samir died saving her life. His stack was destroyed in the process which means he died real death and can’t be respun into a new sleeve. Kovacs rushes the wounded police officer to the nearest hospital, doing his best to drive, staunch the flow of blood and keep the wounded Ortega awake and coherent. Once at the hospital, Ortega has insufficient credit to receive treatment and Kovacs picks up the tab on Bancroft’s dime. Kovacs chooses to replace Ortega’s arm rather than have her respun. He tells Eliot later that he figured that’s what she would’ve wanted and she would’ve never forgiven him for resleeving her. He attributes this sentimentality toward Ortega to “sleeve memory.” That is, Riker has feelings for Ortega that Kovacs is compelled to experience.
Elliot finally steps forward this episode. His scenes in the previous episodes were brief and focused mainly on him keeping tabs on Poe’s progress with Lizzy’s digital recovery. This episode, Poe goes to Lizzy and has finally got her to open up, though her psyche is still very fragile. The AI entices Lizzy to strike him, ensuring her that he can feel no pain. The fragile woman punches Poe and sends him flying. Elliot is offended by this encouragement of violence and uses it as an excuse to break protocol and enter the virtual world to confront Lizzy. She lays one eye on her father and her delicate mind shatters back into a thousand pieces.
Poe jerks them both out and chastises Elliot, but the Marine is having none of it. He pushes Poe’s patience until the AI’s defenses target Eliot with blazing red targets on his chest. Before the situation can devolve beyond repair, Poe gets notified of Ortega’s situation. Elliot reluctantly leaves to meet Kovacs at the hospital.
Cut to a torrential downpour outside of the hospital where Kovacs is in the midst of an existential crisis. He hallucinates Falconer and has a conversation with her in which he questions the Envoy’s purpose and the war they waged against the meth.
“Maybe life shouldn’t be finite. Maybe we should keep living forever. Maybe we all fought for nothing. Maybe you died for nothing.” —Kovacs
Poe chimes in with information about Bancroft’s son, Isaac, and his illicit art dealings through Sergei Brevov. Kovacs remembers Sergei from Bancroft’s party a few episodes back. He makes a rather tenuous connection between Sergei and the Ghost Walker assassin and he leaves to confront Isaac with Eliot in tow.
Bancroft’s ground born assistant, Prescott runs over to the police station to pick up the meth’s clone. The very same one Isaac was using to impersonate his father with. She and Captain Tanaka have a muscle flexing competition before Prescott struts off to fetch Bancroft’s sleeve. The scene moves to the captain in the police station’s surveillance center going over the footage from the Ghost Walker’s elevator attack last episode. The only attacker visible is Dimi. The tech, Micky, explains that the assassin somehow deleted himself from the footage. Which is technically impossible. So it’s revealed that the Ghost Walker has been stalking behind the scenes the entire time. Who he is, who he’s working for or what his intentions remain unknown at this point. The captain puts out an arrest warrant on Dimi and the scene moves to him.
Dmitri sits down to meet with a new character named Hemingway. And Hemingway is obviously in charge. When Dimi vows to kill Kovacs, who he has mistaken for Riker the entire time, Hemingway makes it clear that he is not to go near him. Interestingly, Hemingway pauses mid-conversation to undergo a “backup cycle” which tells us he’s a meth-like Bancroft. Also of note, the Ghost Walker is there acting as Hemingway’s bodyguard. The enigmatic meth sends Dimi off “to a safe house” to wait until further notice.
Kovacs and Eliot confront Isaac in his apartment. After a brief scuffle, they end up at Bancroft’s house. Bancroft is enraged that Isaac has been impersonating him and threatens to repeat the scene at Fight Drome where he beat Isaac before his murder. Mrs. Bancroft steps in to defend her child. Isaac denies killing Bancroft and Kovacs actually backs him up. The Envoy says that Isaac doesn’t have it in him to kill his father. Bancroft saunters over to the fireplace where he picks up a poker. Mrs. Bancroft shields Isaac, but Bancroft beats his clone to a bloody pulp instead. Then he walks over, shakes Kovacs’s hand while thanking him for the update and leaves the room covered in his own blood.
On the way to the safe house, Dimi and the Ghost Walker have a brief exchange of words.
“You are an attack dog on another man’s leash.”—Dimi
The Ghost Walker doesn’t get an opportunity to attack Dimi because the old gangster bolts. Dimi flees through the crowded streets to a tattoo parlor where he retrieves a portable stack transfer device. He gets on the phone, agrees to someone’s demands and asks for an immediate transfer. In the next instant, he is gone and wakes up in Fight Drome in Kovacs’s old body. Carnage, the proprietor of Fight Drome, wakes up Dimi in Kovacs’s clone.
Meanwhile, at the hospital, Ortega starts to wake after her arm replacement. Kovacs leans in and she smiles calling him Riker. Kovacs tries to storm off in a huff but Elliot stops him and convinces him to stay.
“You’re the person who’s here. So you stay.” –Elliot.
Ortega wakes up and captain Tanaka comes in with flowers. Kovacs smells something off and confronts the captain who eventually admits to taking money from “someone” and that this unnamed person was responsible for the attack at the station. This sends Ortega into a rage and she gets to try out her new cybernetic arm by slamming Tanaka into the floor. The captain confesses that he meets this mysterious person in a VR café. Naturally, Ortega and Kovacs head there to investigate.
When Kovacs enters the virtual realm, Hemingway is waiting for him. He calls Kovacs by his real name and then the connection is severed. Ortega brought Kovacs back because the VR café went strangely silent. The reason for that is that Dmitri slipped in and sliced everyone’s heads off with monofilament wire. It’s a gory but cool scene when heads start sliding off like dominoes.
Ortega and Kovacs are overwhelmed and wake up in Fight Drome where they are forced to fight two mutant looking dudes. Once they defeat them, Dimi hops down in Kovacs’s clone and enters the fray. He poisons them both with the drug, Reaper. After a long and depressing battle, Ortega and Kovacs manage to overcome Dimi despite being drugged.
Carnage refuses to let them leave and opens the gates to the cage telling the crowd to kill the prone victors. Suddenly, gunshots start popping off and the crowd panics. Then some real ninja badassery happens. A mysterious ninja jumps in to save Kovacs and Ortega, slicing and dicing with more grace than a sushi chef. After the bloodthirsty mob was dealt with the ninja leans in and pulls off her mask to reveal one of Kovacs’s Envoy companions, Reileen.
All in all, this was a great episode. I’m really starting to see the underlying damage the characters are suffering from being coded and respun. For instance, Dimi vowed revenge on Kovacs for killing his brother. Hemingway points out that Dimi’s brother wasn’t actually his brother but a copy. He cloned his stack, basically. He and himself hopped sleeves for two centuries by Dimi’s admission. On one level you have a man mourning the loss of someone who has been by his side for a very long time. Though they were technically clones, they lived individual lives. But the reality is that they were clones. So Dmitri felt the death of his brother in a very personal way. His rage and desire for revenge are far more profound because his “brother’s” death is his death as well. And we learned in earlier episodes that the more a person transfers sleeves, the more their psyches degrade until they fracture. How does a mind face that kind of warped reality? How would the ego respond? It would unravel, come unhinged and hold on to one driving emotion to keep it from spiraling into utter madness. Hence the revenge-fueled maniac that is Dimi.
Then there’s Kovacs. His reaction upon waking in episode one was to demand a mirror. He looked into it, saw another man’s face and screamed. He is constantly bouncing back and forth between living Riker’s life and flashing back to his Envoy training with Falconer. Who, by the way, Kovacs is openly hallucinating now. She even points out she is a product of his fractured psyche and she is just saying what Kovacs is thinking. This level of self-awareness must stem from his Envoy abilities and it is what keeps him somewhat normal in a world full of psychopaths. But even he, with all his mental prowess, falls victim to a damaged mind.
Speaking of psychopaths, Bancroft is suffering from his own mental trauma by comparing himself to divine beings and what not. Meths live above the ground born both literally and figuratively and they have done so for so long that they no longer consider themselves human. They have unlimited resources, power and live under absolutely no man’s authority but their own. This has made them all cold, ruthless psychotics with no regard for anyone outside their circles. We saw in this episode the fear that Bancroft commands from even those closest to him. And we saw the disdain he has for everyone, especially for those closest to him. Living as a god is taking its toll on the meth and it makes me wonder if being respun into a clone really protects the mind as much as we are lead to believe.