February 10, 2018

Netflix Review: Altered Carbon, Season One (2018)

"This is exactly the kind of TV show that we crave."

(aka Our Eventual Future.)
Release Date: February 2nd (Netflix)
Country: USA.
Rating: TV-MA.
Written by: Richard Morgan, Various.
Directed by: Various.
Showrunner: Laeta Kalogridis.
Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Martha Higareda, James Purefoy, Ato Essandoh, Chris Conner, Dichen Lachman, and Renee Elise Goldsberry.

Every time we (and most likely a lot of Sci-Fi fans) get wind of something like Altered Carbon, the movie Blade Runner instantly comes to mind. It's a Sci-Fi classic that painted the future as a bleak one, where things are run by big corporations, and the Police are ever present, keeping order in the over-crowded streets. The environment is in decay, the divide between the rich and the poor is wider than ever, and technology rules everything.

It's an escalated reflection of our times, which is classic dystopian setting.

Altered Carbon may well inhabit that same sort of dystopian future, but its got its own stories to tell, and so please go into this one knowing that it is NOT a Blade Runner clone or rip-off, but that the movie's influences are undeniable, none the less.

In the future, death is not the end. Our bodies are merely sleeves used to hold storage devices called cortical stacks, which house human consciousness in our spines. If your stack is destroyed, it's game over, but as long as it remains intact, it can be housed in any available sleeve, at any time, making a person virtually immortal. Of course, the richer you are, the more choice you have as to which sleeve you get, so for the poor, it's pretty much take what you can get.

The richest of the rich (Meths) live in massive, gorgeous skyscrapers that reach above the clouds, and they live lives of absolute privilege; while the poorest humans (Grounders) dwell on the dirty, over-crowded ground, living in hand-to-mouth squalor. When Bancroft, one of the richest Meths, suspects his sleeve was murdered, a former Envoy (a badass soldier of sorts) named Takeshi Kovacs is awakened from his 250-year stint on ice to find out what happened.

Along with a hot Latina Cop (who kicks all sorts of ass); a computer A.I. who thinks it's Edgar Allen Poe; and a dude who wants bloody revenge for what happened to his wife and daughter, Kovacs uncovers the details of the intricate plot behind Bancroft's sleeve death, which reaches into his past in ways he could have never imagined.

Let's just say that shit goes down.

The world of Altered Carbon is as breathtaking and captivating as it is terrifying. The way people are re-sleeved; the virtual way that people can be tortured to death over and over again, and how it's completely legal; pleasure centers where prostitutes are literally screwed to death, their bodies discarded like trash; husbands and wives fighting to the death, all in an effort to make enough money to get better sleeves, and live better lives... The way the Meths view everyone else as disposable entertainment is frightening, because that's how many rich and powerful people in today's world behave, albeit not to such extreme levels. Usually.

This is a Neo-Noir detective story as much as it is anything, and we're completely fine with that. Tak Kovacs is brooding, death-dealing hero who drinks too much, lovers cyber-hookers, and doesn't care about anything, but of course, he has a heart of gold underneath it all. Sure, it's cliche' as hell, but he's such a great character, and Joel Kinnaman plays his so perfectly, that it doesn't matter, because not only does he dazzle us with his badassery, but he makes us care about him, and that's the whole battle right there.

Even better, his gang of misfit friends are all each as likable, and we cared about their stories too. How do you not love Poe, and his killer hotel, not to mention his love for a human girl that leads him to heal her, making her into something new? How do you not want to see Elliot reunited with his family as much as he does? Or how do you not want Ortega to get naked, because dammit, it's her body, and she can do what she wants to with it! Even the villains are compelling as hell.

Great characters, inhabited by great actors.

Of course it's hard to a watch a show like Altered Carbon in this day and age and not draw parallels between its story and the current state of world affairs. The book may have been written in 2002, but the rich vs. poor angle of its central story is one that is always relevant, and one that always will be. The show isn't here to preach, but it does make some strong statements about how people are valued in our society, and who truly controls things, which makes it all extra compelling.

The second season of Altered Carbon will most likely feature an entirely new cast, because the story of Takeshi Kovacs moves to a different world, and that sucks, because everyone did such great work here, that we'd love to see more from their characters in the future.

Why does the best damned supporting character in every son of a bitching TV show that we watch and love, have to die?!?? The one damn person we wanted to live died painfully in this one, and it sucked!!!!

There is a liberal amount of blood and violence on display throughout this one, some of which is downright uncomfortable to watch. Isn't that great?

There's no shortage of sex and nudity in the future, and there's plenty of both on display throughout the entire season.

  • The beginning scene at the hotel with Kovacs.
  • The A.I. hotel coming to violent life.
  • The arena fight.
  • The re-birth of Lizzie.
  • The Ortega vs. Mr. Leung showdown.
  • Just about every fight scene.

It's not a perfect show, and the end felt way to over-convoluted and messy, but overall Altered Carbon was an engrossing, 10-hour look into a nightmare world that dazzled and horrified us at the same time.

We tend to get more satisfaction these days out of TV shows that we do movies, because with TV, you get more of the story and characters that you grow to love. That is exactly the case with Altered Carbon, and if you're looking to immerse yourself in a truly bingable world for a few hours, then add it to your Netflix lists pronto.


Altered Carbon is steaming on Netflix, now.

The future might be scary, but it's filled with gorgeous women who kick ass, so we deal.

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