Altered Carbon is a new sci-fi show on Netflix that should blow your mind. Extremely beautiful, violent, and intelligent. You’ll want to binge-watch it ASAP.
Imagine the grim future shown in Blade Runner, but with some people living their life in a beautiful paradise above the dark gray sky. Now, combine that with the virtual reality world of The Matrix. Finally, understand that this is not the Matrix, but rather the “technique” used in Get Out taken to a whole new level.
You see, in Altered Carbon you don’t die simply because your body does. All your memories (including your skills) are stored in a “stack”. A stack is a device inserted into the back of your neck when you turn one year old. It records everything you experience and essentially becomes the digitized version of your soul.
In Altered Carbon you never really die unless your stack is destroyed. Otherwise, you can be transferred into a new body or even be stored for years without one. The latter is also used instead of prison to remove criminals from the world.
You can watch the trailer for Altered Carbon – Season 1 right here or continue reading our review below.
Want a new sleeve?
If you’re rich – or can save up money or cut a deal – you can upgrade your “sleeve”. “What is a sleeve?”, you ask. Well, it’s basically your body. You can upgrade it with extra skills or simply replace it with a new one.
And yes, you can switch sleeves across age, race, and gender. This also means race plays a very small role and everyone speaks lots of languages. Because while your stack holds all your own memories, there is also something called “body memory”. If your new sleeve was previously used by a chain-smoker, then you will crave cigarettes.
If you’re murdered or killed accidentally, so your sleeve can’t be used anymore (but your stack is intact), you will be given a new one. However, just because you were a 9-year-old Asian girl, you won’t be given a similar sleeve. You get whatever is in stock.
Basically, when you see someone walking down the street, you have no idea if their body (sleeve) matches their mind (stack). You have to actually talk to people, to have any idea about their background.
Of course, not everybody loves this new form of immortality and religious groups fight for “Real Death” (or RD) by having code inserted to their stack with states they do not want a new sleeve. A new form of “DNR” [Do Not Resuscitate].
Oh yeah, Altered Carbon is a crazy new world and with each episode, you learn something new!
A cast of diversity
Because race, gender, and age means much less in this future [since it only concerns your sleeve], Altered Carbon has a wonderfully diverse cast.
The absolute star is Joel Kinnaman (The Killing, Robocop). He plays the character of Takeshi Kovacs. Or actually, he just portrays the latest sleeve. In the first scene of the pilot, and in some flashbacks, Takeshi Kovacs is portrayed by Byron Mann (Arrow) and Will Yun Lee (The Wolverine, San Andreas).
The female star of the show is Martha Higareda who plays the role of a police officer. Her partner is portrayed by Waleed Zuaiter. The two often speak in their own native tongues of Spanish and Arabic respectively. People speak lots of languages and so they speak both English and these languages and everybody understands each other. A bit like Scandinavia, but of course, our languages are similar and these are not.
James Purefoy portrays the extremely wealthy (and old) man, who brought Takeshi Kovacs back in this latest sleeve. His character, Laurens Bancroft, reminds me a lot of the character James Purefoy played on The Following. And that’s a good thing!
Oh yeah, and James Purefoy is also the only male star that does a full frontal nudity scene on Altered Carbon. Most of the female stars also end up in at least one full frontal scene during season 1. As a European, nudity isn’t a big deal, but for this particular show, it does also make sense. After all, your body is just whatever sleeve you’re in right now.
Brilliant supporting cast
I have to give special mention to three supporting cast members – in no particular order.
First, there’s Kristin Lehman, who plays the wife of James Purefoy’s character. They’ve been married for more than 100 years, so it’s safe to say they know one another pretty well. Kristin Lehman was also on The Killing with Joel Kinnaman and they have many scenes together in Altered Carbon. And also a pretty great chemistry!
Second, there’s Tamara Taylor (Bones), who has far too little screen time. The second you hear her voice, you know it’s her. Her character obviously has a fascinating backstory that I really hope we get into when (or if), the second season is made.
Third, there’s Chris Conner (American Crime Story: Versace), who portrays the hotel proprietor, Poe, at the Raven hotel. Or actually, Poe is the hotel. You see, it’s a VR hotel, so he’s basically the program that runs the entire hotel. Chris Conner is perfect as Poe, who (of course!) actually looks like Edgar Allan Poe. Although he sometimes tries to switch up his characters (appearance and behavior) to fit in better with the hotel guests.
Trust me, you will like all three, but you will probably come to adore Chris Conner’s “Poe”.
I need more episodes of Altered Carbon
My one main criticism of Altered Carbon is that it left me wanting more. A season 1 with just 10 episodes it far too little.
And I honestly wouldn’t have minded, if this first season had been at least 13 episodes with this exact same storyline. There is a lot of information to process. And it’s fine if you binge-watch the show, which I highly recommend. Otherwise, it will be a lot to keep track of.
Also, this is a gorgeous show. I mean it is visually stunning in every way and easily holds the standard of Blade Runner 2049. I know Bright was apparently the most expensive Netflix production to date, but Altered Carbon is so much better in every way!
The story is better, the characters are more complex and interesting, and it’s just so damn beautiful to watch.
If you like sci-fi shows and is ready to pay attention and be transported to a twisted (and yet not that different) version of the future? Then Altered Carbon should tick a lot of boxes for your wants.
Now, I’m just waiting for you all to fall in love with it, so Netflix will greenlight a season 2 fast!
Altered Carbon is available on Netflix worldwide from February 2, 2018.
Director: Uta Briesewitz, Peter Hoar, Nick Hurran, Andy Goddard, Alex Graves, Miguel Sapochnik
Cast: Joel Kinnaman, James Purefoy, Chris Conner, Martha Higareda, Tamara Taylor, Hiro Kanagawa, Ato Essandoh, Kristin Lehman, Waleed Zuaiter, Antonio Marziale, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Teach Grant
Based on the classic cyberpunk noir novel by Richard K. Morgan, Altered Carbon is an intriguing story of murder, love, sex, and betrayal, set more than 300 years in the future. Society has been transformed by new technology: consciousness can be digitized; human bodies are interchangeable; death is no longer permanent. Takeshi Kovacs is the lone surviving soldier in a group of elite interstellar warriors who were defeated in an uprising against the new world order. His mind was imprisoned – on ice – for centuries until Laurens Bancroft, an impossibly wealthy, long-lived man, offers Kovacs the chance to live again. In exchange, Kovacs has to solve a murder … that of Bancroft himself.