Warning: Spoilers ahead for Altered Carbon.
Altered Carbon, Netflix's ambitious new cyberpunk drama, concludes its first season with a series of massive plot revelations. We learn who killed Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy), the Meth who hired Envoy Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman) to solve his death. We learn how Takeshi's sister, Reileen (Dichen Lachman), is behind all the dastardly business. Essentially, the twists fly by in such close succession that we had to watch the season finale twice, just to make sure we understood them all.
Here's the thing: The season's conclusion solves more mysteries than just that of Bancroft's murder. To understand why Bancroft died, we'll also have to unravel the other questions, family rivalries, and betrayals at the heart of the show.
Laurens Bancroft took his own life.
Let's start with Bancroft. Bancroft's stack was killed during a period in between his brain's "uploads" to the cloud. So when his stack was inserted into a new clone, he was missing those minutes of memory. Bancroft believed he wasn't the type to take his own life, and so immediately ruled out suicide. But his sleeve (Altered Carbon's word for a mortal body) had been killed with a gun that only he and his wife, Miriam (Kristin Lehman), had access to — what else could it be?
As it turns out, Bancroft was compelled to take his own life after he committed an awful crime in the floating brothel called Head in the Clouds. He murdered a prostitute — and not just ruined her body, but destroyed her stack, so that she could never be resleeved.
Not to take the blame off Bancroft, but he was set up by Kovacs' sister, Reileen and his wife, Miriam. Miriam transferred a male aggression drug to Laurens via a kiss, and the drug caused him to be violently aggressive.
Why would Rei set up Bancroft's death?
Rei, Takeshi Kovacs' sister, became extremely successful in the years she was separated from her brother. She founded Psychasec, and created all the evil technologies we see in the show: Head in the Clouds, virtual torture chambers.
But all the money in the world couldn't resleeve her envoy brother, who had been stuck on ice for hundreds of years. Then, she had an a-ha moment. Rei manipulated Bancroft's death, and then recommended that he hire Takeshi, the last of the Envoys, to solve it.
Was there a resolution to the Neo-C coding controversy?
Alongside the mystery of Bancroft's death runs another plotline: Why do so many murdered sex workers have Neo-C coding? Neo-C coding prevented murdered sex workers from being spun up (or revived) and testifying against the rich Meths who killed them for sport. Elias Ryker, whose sleeve Takeshi takes after he's revived, was a cop convinced that some shady organization was behind the coding. Ryker was right: The organization behind Neo-C coding was Rei's Psychasec.
One such sex worker was Mary-Lou Henchy, who had flung herself from the Head in the Clouds after Bancroft killed her colleague. She did so under the assumption that she would be resleeved. But Mary-Lou, like other prostitutes who worked at Head in the Clouds, had Neo-C coding in her stack.
Mary-Lou eventually gets a (sort of) happy ending. Rei confesses to faking the Neo-C coding, so it can be reversed, and Mary-Lou can testify against Bancroft. She'll be resleeved in a new body.
What happened to Lizzie Elliot?
Another Altered Carbon mystery involves violence against sex workers. Lizzie Elliot (Hayley Law) is the traumatized daughter of Vernon (Ato Essandoh), Takeshi's partner. At the start of the series, her consciousness was so severely damaged that she spent all her time curled up in a fetal position, completely nonverbal. At the urging of Takeshi, hotel AI Edgar Allan Poe (Chris Conner) uploads her consciousness to the hotel so he can rehabilitate her. Lizzie becomes a badass fighting machine.
Here's what happened. Lizzie had been a sex worker, and Bancroft was one of her most loyal customers. He got her pregnant. Lizzie visited his home to tell him the news, but instead met Miriam. She flew into a rage and kicked Lizzie, and her baby, to death.
When the hotel is attacked, Lizzie is uploaded into the data cloud, and then manages to take possession of a synthetic body. In the end, she is reunited with her mother and father.
In the end, Takeshi goes off in search of Quellcrist Falconer.
A long, long time ago, Rei and Takeshi had been soldiers in Quellcrist Falconer's (Renée Elise Goldsberry) revolutionary army. Takeshi and Quell were in love. Quell was deeply concerned about how stack technology, which she invented, might perpetuate economic inequality. Quell had a plan to bring back true death, and restore equality — which Rei sabotaged. First, Quell's entire army was decimated by Rawlings Virus, which drives people to murderous madness. Then, Rei blew up the escape shuttle she and Quell took to get away from the carnage.
Fast-forward to the present. Rei announces that she actually had created a back-up of Quell's consciousness and hid it somewhere only she knows. Takeshi kills Rei, and leaves Bay City to find Quell's copied consciousness.
Next season, Takeshi will look different than he does now. Takeshi leaves Elias Ryker's body with Ortega. Since Reileen confessed to setting him up, his consciousness is freed from prison, too.
As for Miriam and Laurens Bancroft? They're likely heading to the place that Ryker will be leaving: Prison. Both are guilty of murder. Lizzie can testify against Miriam, and Mary-Lou Henchy, liberated from Neo-C coding, can testify against Laurens, since she witnessed him kill the sex worker in Head in the Clouds.