Imagine stepping into a world where death is now an option. No longer bounded by time, space, and moral standards- anyone can die and live again. Get the chance to be reborn in their own body, an enhanced version of themselves, or somebody else’s- all of these are just among the technological advances sparked in the new Netflix series, Altered Carbon.
Same Mind, Different Body
Joel Kinnaman stars as Takeshi Kovacs in the adaptation produced by Laeta Kalogridis, based on Richard K. Morgan’s cyberpunk noir novel. Set in a dystopian future where people adapted a technology where their consciousness will be stored in a disk and be transferred to a new body or sleeve. The DHF or Digital Human Freight makes it possible for anyone to transfer their consciousness to any stack of bodies.
The 10-episode season started off with Kovacs being reborn about 200 years later in a new sleeve. He then found out that he is currently leased by Laurens Bancroft, a mega-rich Meth, to investigate his own murder. Kovacs’ hesitance to accept the task played out for almost an hour with him weighing in the chance of living freely upon solving the case.
The Dystopian Landscape
The first few episodes of the season are undoubtedly slow as the show took this opportunity to build the world, introduce the characters, and lay out the premise of the technology that the story revolves in. The first half of the series put the murder case at the center of the plot but it introduced more subplots which expanded the narrative. The expansion of the story gave the characters a much-needed background. As necessary as they may seem, the subplots nearly created a convoluted narrative which put the series at risk of losing audiences’ attention.
Morgan’s astonishing cyberpunk novel received a visually-stunning adaptation. The imagery of the world is reminiscent of Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell. Dark, musty, and neon-lit- it was a beautiful disaster. There is a sharp distinction between the worlds that the rich and the poor live in.
Fights That Deliver
After the borderline dragging narrations and monologues of the first half, sitting through it paid off with expositions and at-the-edge-of-your seat action sequences. Kalogridis describes the fight scenes as very intense. Dichen Lachman who plays Kovacs’ sister, Reileen Kawahara, teased that the sequences can get really dark. From multiple naked clones to ripped body parts, Altered Carbon delivered exciting and compelling fight scenes- all that without compromising the story and tone of the series.
At the core of it all is an underlying social relevance of the narrative. Its brave take on morality, politics, and religion establishes Altered Carbon as a series that will be talked about in the coming days and it even possesses the potential of growing a cult following. Despite its slow moments, gratuitous nudity, and imbalanced performances, Altered Carbon is one of the most interesting scifi TV shows to date. It is no Black Mirror or Sense 8 but it remains true to Netflix’s identity of creating shows that pushes the envelope of storytelling.
Creator: Laeta Kalogridis
Cast: Joel Kinnaman, James Purefoy, Martha Higareda, Dichen Lachman
Binge-level: 4 out of 5 stars