While the Sci-Fi genre isn’t something I normally gravitate to when picking a movie or a show, there’s no arguing against the fact that Sci-Fi is making a comeback. Between Star Trek: Discovery, Cloverfield Paradox, and more, this category is popular and gaining momentum rapidly.
Do you ever feel like you’ve watched everything on Netflix and are in desperate need for something else? That’s how I felt when Altered Carbon was released on February 2, 2018. Based on a novel that I’ve never even heard of previously, I wondered if this was something for me. The internet heavily promoted this series and every time I opened up Netflix, there it was. Since I had nothing else to watch, I tuned in.
By the way, this is usually how I discover my favorite shows. I binged the first season of iZombie on Netflix due to being bored and I rank it one of my favorite shows to watch on TV right now.
Joel Kinnaman (Suicide Squad, The Killing), plays Takeshi Kovacs; a former military operative recently employed by a ridiculously rich socialite to solve his own murder. Yes, I said that right. In Altered Carbon, dying is a thing of the past. At the age of one, a cortical stack (or ‘stacks’ they’re referred as) is installed, where all of your memories are stored. With this alien technology, you can simply change bodies (‘sleeves’) when your sleeve dies, or simply when you need a change. The wealthy are the ones who can afford to clone themselves, essentially living forever.
Takeshi was part of a rebellion group known as the Envoys, whose leader Quellcrist Falconer knew eventually the stack technology would only be afforded to the wealthy, who would then use it to their advantage over the poor. As the sole survivor of an attack that wiped out the Enjoys, Takeshi’s stack is removed from his sleeve and he’s “put on ice”, for 250 years, where he wakes up to find his leader’s (and lover’s) worst nightmare come true.
After being spun back up, Takeshi is resleeved and finds out that Laurens Bancroft has purchased him to solve who attempted to “real death” (the act of shooting the stack) murder him. Though reluctant at first, Takeshi takes the mission and there is the premise of the show.
Finally, the Review
The show is much more than a murder mystery, though. Within the ten episodes are subjects of classism, race, gender, religion, and basic human morality (and mortality). The first episode takes a lot of time to explain what’s happened to the world in the time Takeshi has been on ice and also explains a lot of the terminology used within the show, because there’s a lot.
So, the first episode takes a lot of concentration and is a little slow, but this show has built a whole new world that is really unlike our current one and you would be lost without a visual explanation. Hang in there, because the show gets so good. By the end, I was mad there were only ten episodes.
Though there were some aspects of the show that were problematic (the character Takeshi is from Japanese and Slavic origins. Two sleeves we see him in are Asian males and the main sleeve of the show, is Kinnaman), you can’t help but watch it. Kinnaman plays Takeshi as a man who has seen a lot and really doesn’t have time for shit. It would have been easy to make him one dimensional, but on top of kicking ass, Takeshi feels deeply for those in his life. Despite claiming that Envoys don’t make friends, he goes to extra lengths to help those around him throughout the show. He even displays concern over a prostitute, who is clearly being abused by a John.
I really enjoyed Kinnaman’s performance. Have I said that enough? First of all, he’s built like a brick house. The fight scenes are entertaining and there are many times where you question if Takeshi is going to win the battle he’s in the middle of. He may fall down, but you should be more afraid of when he gets up. Takeshi is a wonderfully well-rounded character and to see his life through his eyes is an emotional roller coaster.
I also have to give praise to Will Yun Lee and Bryon Mann for their portrayels of Takeshi, especially Lee’s for his emotional performance.
Random thing I noticed: in the first episode, you can see a list of other sleeves Takeshi has been in, including one female.
Once you get used to the terminology in the show, you find that it’s a lot more relatable than you think. I really enjoyed how much they touched upon the issues of classism, where the wealthy live like gods and those on the ground are forced to eat the scraps. As long as you have the money, you can live as long as you want and essentially do whatever you want. The show also made a complying argument that if this technology were around, we probably wouldn’t want it because it would only benefit those who could afford it.
Fight Like a Girl
The show may heavily center around Takeshi, but don’t think for a second that the women of Altered Carbon can’t hold their own. Quellcrist, Kristen Ortega (a cop skeptical of Takeshi), and Takeshi’s sister Reileen are all badass women who more often than not, end up doing the saving and not the other way around. Each woman is held in high regards by the main character, with the Envoy leader teaching him most of his philosophies he holds tightly onto.
Honorable mention: we also see the transformation of the character Lizzie from victim to badass, taking back everything that was taken from her. It’s an inspiring story and was great to watch.
Overall, I give this show a 9/10. It’s incredibly easy to binge and should be on your list of shows to watch. One of my favorite scenes, which will probably be yours as well; entails Takeshi, guns, and a pink unicorn backpack. You’ll have to watch to find out.