Altered Carbon “Nightmare Alley”

You know something?  This future sucks.

I say that because, without anything to go by beyond Carrera’s word for it, Governor Harlan sentenced Kovacs to die in The Circle.

That doesn’t sound all that ominous, though.  I mean, that was the name of a Tom Hanks movie I haven’t seen.  How bad can it be?

Well, according to Carrera, the Circle is a place where the convicted and put into an arena and forced to fight people that mean a lot to them, only the people are synthetic copies overlaid various gladiators, meaning the convicted die while enduring both physical and psychological torment.  After forcibly taking memories from Kovacs’s mind, Carrera…seems to know who he is, especially as faces flash on the screen.  The last one catches Carrera’s eye.

That would be Quellcrist’s.

Now, it’s not like Kovacs is without allies.  He still has Poe!   The increasingly unstable AI himself goes for more AIs for help, but they’re not inclined to help a glorified bellboy…aside from one called Dig 301, or Ms. Dig.  These AIs were outlawed by the Harlan regime and they were named for dig sites.  Most of them have nothing to do anyway, and Ms. Dig’s initial advice was to find a human ally, and the only one Poe knows is Trepp the cyborg bounty hunter, and as generally awesome as Simone Missick is, she isn’t going to be helping right now because she has her own problems.

Fortunately, Ms. Dig does come to help Poe anyway.  She knows Kovacs might have a chance if they can shut the power down.  And there’s a weak point.

They better hurry.  Kovacs was drugged, and he has to fight, in order, copies of Ortega, Vernon, and finally Relieen.

Reileen?  She was hardly an ally, and Kovacs is seeing her anyway.  She might not be the best option for torment.

As it is, even drugged and confused, it doesn’t take Kovacs long to figure out what’s going on, and Poe’s power outage is quickly rerouted.  Is there anyone left to get Kovacs out of the Circle, even if he is taking down the synthetic copies of characters from season one?

Um, yeah.  What is initially taken to be a copy of Quell shows up, only it’s the real Quell (maybe), and she’s there to help.  The fact that there’s a second Quell in a synthetic body means it’s not that hard for two supersoldiers to escape, and she and Kovacs get back to Poe.

All things being equal, despite a lame name, the whole Circle concept was pretty well done.  Poe’s desperation, Kovacs’s figuring things out, and the sudden arrivals of both Quell and Ms. Dig made for a good episode where the protagonist seems to have escaped certain death even if Carrera somehow knows Kovacs, dropping hints that mean something to Kovacs but hasn’t been explained to the audience yet.

Anyway, everything seems to be working out fine.  Except Governor Harlan asks Carrera to unleash some sort of secret weapon.  And Quell, she says she isn’t Quell.

It’s Altered Carbon.  All this stuff makes sense in context.

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