Throughout the season, Poe had been having glitches and trouble with his memory, processor, and focus. In the final scene of the season, we get some resolution about Poe’s illness, but he comes with a whole new mystery.
Let’s talk about that last scene. But first, let’s remember how we got there.
[Ed. note: this post contains major spoilers for Altered Carbon season 2.]
What was wrong with Poe in season 2?
Way back in the final episode of season 1, Rei’s henchman Mr. Leung made a final assault on The Raven hotel. Leung used an “electron destabilizer” to disable and seemingly kill Poe.
In the first episode of season 2, we see that Poe survived the vicious attack on his personhood, as he described it, and is traveling with Takeshi Kovacs, played in season 2 by Anthony Mackie. The wide-frequency emitter (that pyramid-shaped necklace) Poe resides in while travelling was how the bounty hunter Trepp found Kovacs.
But Leung’s attack had left Poe with an addled memory and a corrupted processor. We learn in episode 2 that the only way to fix it would be a full reboot, but Poe hesitates out of fear of losing his memories — of Lizzie Elliot, of his 30 years with Kovacs, and, presumably, of the more than 50 years he spent as a hotel(ier) before they met.
It’s only when Dig 301 (another AI) offers to build a program to save his memories that Poe relents.
The season’s drama and deceits all culminate in a battle in Harlan World’s bombed out needlecast tower. Quellcrist Falconer, Takeshi Kovacs, and the double-sleeved Takeshi Prime battle it out against Colonel Carrera/Jaeger/the Elder.
Poe pops in mid-fight to check on Kovacs, and, proving that technology is just as inconvenient in the distant future as it is today, it’s at that moment that Dig 301’s program announces it’s time to restart.
Just before he shuts down, Poe starts writing on a Post-it, his preferred method of notetaking. We don’t get to see what he writes before he disappears.
Poe, Dig 301, Annabel, and DHF
Three months, 10 days, 12 hours, and 55 seconds later, Poe reappears in The Nevermore hotel’s lobby. Dig 301 has taken the name Annabel and started looking after the hotel in his absence.
Poe’s memory hasn’t been restored, though Annabel is sure it’ll come back with time. More importantly, Poe’s programming (his personhood, as it were) has been entangled with a lot of fragmented data.
We learn that the note he was writing when he rebooted was a decryption key. Using it, Poe and Annabel discover that the mystery data is an entire raw human DHF — digital human freight. DHF is a person’s mind, brain, and personality in data form. That data that gets stored on a cortical stack and inserted into a sleeve (body). It’s what enables people to become effectively immortal in the Altered Carbon universe.
Presumably, Poe was planning for this moment as he scribbled the note.
So whose DHF is it?
Looking at the DHF, Annabel announces, “Better get the good whiskey ready,” strongly implying that the DHF belongs to the current version of Takeshi Kovacs (the one we’ve watched in seasons 1 and 2, not the double-sleeved Takeshi Prime). Annabel’s hint was confirmed by showrunner Alison Schapker in interviews with CinemaBlend and Collider.
During season 1, offsite backups of a person’s DHF were costly and rare — the 48 hours between Bancroft’s backups were a major plot point of that mystery. In season 2, though, backups seem a lot less intensive. For example, we see Danica Harlan’s sleeve get killed, and then watch her hop into a new sleeve moments later without missing a beat.
Assuming the DHF in Poe’s possession was similarly fresh, Poe could drop it onto a stack, find a sleeve, and bring back the Kovacs from moments before the final battle. We’ll have to wait to see for sure if — hopefully when — Altered Carbon gets picked up for a third season.