Altered Carbon on Netflix was the most anticipated series this year. Based on the highly acclaimed novel, it was touted as the big-budget production to impact the landscape of small screen entertainment. Netflix did a massive marketing campaign around it on CES2018, and no stone was left unturned to make the audience watch it. The series got released to much fanfare, and many critics started bashing it after viewing just two or three episodes. The thing is that you cannot judge the concept or story of a series by seeing first two episodes where it is just trying to set up the base for upcoming episodes. With show many series coming out each month this is bound to happen, but still, as a critic, you should complete it and then present your views.
Coming to our view, Altered Carbon is a Sci-fi series which covers mainly every social issue and moral question if we humans one day become immortal. Apart from being a Sci-Fi, action series, at core its a love story which expanse through centuries along with that focuses how the relationships will be affected if we become immortal.
The story takes place in a dystopian future where humans have discovered a substance in outer space which can help store human conscious on a small stack that goes behind your neck. So, with this stack, the human body acts a mere package which can be changed when you die, or the body deteriorates. Assume a scenario you met with an accident and your body gets wholly mutilated, so if the stack is intact you can just transfer it to another body or the ‘sleeve’ Voila! You are back.
After reading above paragraph, it will admittedly seem pretty cool, and time to be alive in, however, this is where series gets good. It not only captures all the positives of the new advantage which humans have, but it also mixes the concept how this will impact social dynamics. The show depicts how rich still have complete control over their lives, and poor people are left to die again and again. The rich are now called Meths (derived from Methulas in Bible) and have built their paradises away from the normal humans. They have the liberty to choose high tech sleeves which have additional benefits. However, if you are poor you get a sleeve which is already dying, this has been depicted nicely in a scene where a 15-year-old girl receives a body of the 45-year-old woman because her family is poor.
Over this colorful yet dark background, we get a thriller and action story where the character of Takeshi Kovacs portrayed by Joel Kinnaman plays a significant role. He was a rebel who wanted to end the immortality but he died, and his stack was not re-sleeved. Laurence Bancroft portrayed by James Purefoy, powerful meth brings him back to life to find his killer. I know this sounds trippy, hold on it will get trippier as we go on. During the first few episodes, we find out that Meths are even more advanced and their conscious is backed on the cloud every 45 mins and in case if they die it is restored to their clone. So, technically make them immortal with all the pleasure of their own body.
The deal with Laurance binds Kovacs to solve his murder otherwise he will go on ice forever. The agreement pushes him to investigate the complicated murder mystery. Another main character in the story is that of police officer Ortega played by beautiful Martha Higareda. As Kovacs is brought to life she starts keeping track of him, the however reason behind is revealed in the second half of series. The plot seems difficult to understand which points the fact that writing was bit lazy. For an average viewer who hasn’t read the book, he will surely miss out on the few concepts which play a significant role as the series progresses.
In each episode, Kovacs gets little closer to the mystery and on the way new characters are introduced. We also start getting the glimpse of Kovacs’s backstory who he is and how all the dots in the present will content to his past. After the series came out, it was backlashed for whitewashing the story. However, I think people who criticised it never saw beyond episode 3 and 4. First being it focuses on Asian sleeves which Kovacs had before his death, this much coverage to this side is not given in the book. Secondly, the other principal actors in the story are either Mexican, Nepalese, Afro-America. So, I want to put across the same point again; please watch it complete before giving any judgment.
Altered Carbon is packed with fantastic action sequences and twists that leave you at the edge of your seats. It is not artsy as Blade Runner, but it marvelously justifies its purpose. The series focuses on the concept of entirely new view and makes you question various possibilities. It doesn’t shy away from representing the religious beliefs as in the time we have defeated the death itself, who will be the gods? It questions Would we become our Gods or Rich with more power over ordinary human beings?
On the sideline, it also focuses on the religious side where people who believe in God have Neo-C coding. It means that if you have Neo-C religious coding, you will not be brought back from the dead by re-sleeving. This small factor in the plotline shifts the whole dynamics of the story and makes it way more exciting and treat to watch.
We also get to see lots of nudity, and I admit that in few scenes it could have been avoided. However, nudity or sexual content feels like a part story similar to acclaimed series like Game of Thrones. In the first season itself, Altered Carbon has covered the gamut of questions around immortality and transferrable conscious. The writers have beautifully woven the idea ‘where you can take the sleeve of anyone and become whoever you want’ in the story. A man can become a woman by taking the female jacket, a grandma’s conscious can be transferred into the tattooed gangster and so on.
Till this point in the review, I have only touched essential aspects of the story. In my view, nobody can tell you or explain you the experience in simpler words. You have to watch it to experience the story by yourself. It surely is a flawed masterpiece that will confuse but over will leave amazed.
Each scene has been directed with finesse, and the massive amount of production value has been driven to offer us a magnanimous experience. Each actor with spectacular performances has made a series to watch out for in coming years. The music in each episode just adds tension to the screen and gets you deeper into the story with its melodious tunes.
Overall, Altered Carbon is a must watch Sci-fi series which explores the concept of mortality in the utterly detailed way. The actors from various descents charm you and get you attached to the story. However, there are flaws in the writing department which many times make it hard to understand and will often confuse. I hope that they grab all the right things and work on their flaws to give us a next season that will blow over minds from the get-go.
Rating – 3/5 Stars
Altered Carbon Cast and Creator –
Cast - Joel Kinnaman, James Purefoy, Martha Higareda, Chris Connor, Dichen Lachman, Ato Essandoh, Kristin Lehman, Trieu Tran, Renée Elise Goldsberry Creator - Laeta Kalogridis
Check this amazing series out on Netflix and let us know your views on it!!