A Cyberpunk Dreamland: Altered Carbon Review

No Spoiler

If I was to describe the Netflix series; Altered Carbon in one word, I would say “Awesome”.

Introduction To The world

Altered Carbon is a 10-episode series that can be streamed on Netflix.  Based on a 2002 novel by Richard K. Morgan with the same name, this series is a cyberpunk dreamland. It takes place in distant future which has come up with a “cure” for death, so to speak. In this world, people have developed a device that they call a stack, which stores the human consciousness in it. An individual is truly dead only if his/her stack is destroyed. And, our body is just a vessel, a sleeve (what they call it) for our stacks. But these sleeves are extremely expensive so only the rich can afford this luxury. And the ultra-rich people called the Mets also have the luxury to have their consciousness be stored in a cloud server, which basically makes them immortal.

The Story

Altered Carbon follows a guy named Takeshi Kovacs who has been on ice for the past 250 years. He is the sole survivor from a group of elite warriors called the Envoys. He is brought back into the society by Laurens Bancroft, a Met, to solve his own murder. Without getting into the details, this series is not just a straight up murder mystery; it is a more complex case that is tied up in a huge tangled web of altered facts and straight up lies.

Characters and Performances

The character of Takeshi Kovacs is played by two actors, Will Young Lee (flashbacks) and Joel Kinnaman (present). Will Young Lee’s version of the character seems flawless to me, he was an extremely tough guy with a strong emotional core. Joel Kinnaman also gave a pretty good performance, however sometimes both the versions of the character do not seem consistent. The character established by Will Young was so strong that Joel’s version of the character in some parts seems like a completely new character.

Takeshi forms an alliance with a police officer named Kristin Ortega who is played brilliantly by the beautiful Martha Higareda. She was assigned to the Bancroft case before Kovacs was brought back. This character has a bunch of things going on in her personal and professional life that somehow pull her into this case with Kovacs, deeper. She is a tough woman who displays little signs of emotional weakness at moments that are well earned.

Rest of the cast, for the most part gives a stellar performance, the ones that stand out are, James Purefoy as Laurens Bancroft and Chris Conner as Poe. The character of Laurens Bancroft has a commanding presence on the screen, he is a Met who has lived for several hundred years as a rich and one of the most powerful people on the planet. He considers himself to be a superior being, but also believes that he is somewhat of a decent individual, and James completely makes this character his own, and so does Chris Conner as an AI of a hotel or as he himself says in the series as the hotel. Poe is funny, witty and extremely loyal. He unlike other AIs featured in the series, does not hate humanity, in fact he is fascinated by them. And aside from all that, we find out in the first episode itself, he is a bad-ass. Poe, in my opinion has one of the better arcs in the whole series, and a lot of that is because of how Chris Conner plays him.

Things I Really Like

This show deals with some complex ideas and philosophies wrapped in this beautiful futuristic sci-fi world. It shows us the consequences of immortality. It explores high level concepts that will force you to wonder about the society and its morality.

The visuals in the show are amazing. The world is fleshed out with beautiful bright colors. The color schemes used in different locations are brilliant and the images really pop out. Along with these visuals, the technological concepts in the series are fascinating. An AI that is the Hotel itself, the different uses of virtual reality, the weaponry, the stack are some of the most brilliant, mind bending ideas that I have come across.

The storyline with Martha’s character Ortega is one of the stronger aspects of the series and brings a much-needed emotional weigh along with the flashback sequences where Will Young Lee is playing Kovacs.

And the best part of the series, Poe.

Things I Didn’t Like

At some points, the show becomes slow. It has a hard time keeping a consistent pace, and the action sequences take forever to come.

The tone of Joel Kinnaman’s version of Kovacs is quite inconsistent.

The final parts of the series felt a bit underwhelming to me. One of the plot lines changed its tone completely, which instantly pulled me out of the series.

I especially did not like the setup for next season.

Overall Thoughts

Altered Carbon is a very dense series. It is Netflix’s answer to Game of Thrones, Fargo, True Detective etc. set in a Sci-fi world. It sets up its world brilliantly and I cannot wait to return to this it. If you are a fan of Cyberpunk Sci-fi movies like Blade Runner, ghost in the shell (anime) etc. then this is the series you would love to get into. And if I had to rate the series, I would give it a strong 7 out of 10.

About The Author

Dhruv Thakur

Dhruv Thakur

25 years old, living in Delhi. An aspiring writer who dreams to author several fiction novels. He loves the art of storytelling, so he tries to take in as many stories as possible, Movies and TV series being the primary means.

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