*Contains low level spoilers for Altered Carbon Season 1*
I love most stories based in the future. Sci-Fi is my bread and butter and dystopian cyber punk is my jam. I also like food metaphors apparently...and food if I'm being honest. I missed all the hype for Altered Carbon, including the promotional materials, and only knew it was on its way a few days before its launch on February 2nd when my Uncle mentioned a new Netflix show that looked like it had the vibe of Blade Runner. Solid suggestion Uncle Paul!
The series launched yesterday, in typical Netflix fashion all ten episodes from season one were available from the get go. I started watching episode one at around 9pm and by 6pm today, twenty one hours for those that are counting, I'd finished. Viewing them all one after another wasn't fatiguing and I didn't actually call it a night until 3am. If nothing else it is a perfect 'I'll just watch one more' type series. Altered Carbon is not particularly like Blade Runner. I just want to squash that comparison, as awesome as it is, now. It certainly looked like it from the trailers I do agree but the tone is completely different despite some similar themes. The story centres around an interesting premise, what is it to be human? In this fictional future humanity has transcended it's physical form and a person's consciousness can transfer from body to body. Swapping bodies is expensive but if you have enough bank/power you can basically live forever. This creates a society of haves and have nots. The dynamic is similar to that of the Killjoys plot where the Royal Qreshi families are above normal humans and control the society, so too the aristocracy of Altered Carbon known as Meth.
We follow a nearly three hundred year old consciousness of one Takeshi Kovacs, an ex-revolutionary who was against the idea of immortality and was imprisoned for it. He is brought back and thrown into a new body and has to solve a murder of a member of Meth society or be thrown back in purgatory where consciousness drives, known as Stacks, are kept in storage disconnected from bodies (a prison sentence). It's a really cool premise but doesn't play out like a detective story per-say. There isn't much downtime or snooping which is a shame as going down that avenue would have made it a little more Blade Runner however its feel is very much its own. Throughout the series the story keeps flicking back and forth between present day Kovacs and past rebel Kovacs. It's interesting and not a lot is resolved until the last handful of episodes which is good as the pacing is dead on. Plot points and twists come at perfect moments and the story is carried by its strong cast of actors. Takeshi (Joel Kinnaman in present day and Will Yun Lee in the past) is a good lead in all senses of the world. The flash backs were my least favourite part (aside from the opening on episode one) but I realise there importance for the building and set up of certain characters and relationships. Another few mentions to strong acting are Martha Higareda as Takeshi's reluctant partner in crime Detective Kristin Ortega and Ato Essandoh as Vernon Elliott. I also really liked Chris Conner as Poe the hotel AI who was desperate to have guests and observe human behaviour.
The series isn't without its problems. As already said the detective narrative takes a back seat which leads to random periods of dialogue over-explaining the facts of the current situation. This isn't to say that the dialogue is unnecessary as it isn't; it's very necessary. The story at times attempts to spin too many plates instead of focusing on a strong plot core, it's weaving narrative gets tied up at the end but this comes all at once and took two viewings for me to fully comprehend each part.
The visuals are fantastic. A grimy city laced with neon and clunky tech is contrasted well to the clean and proper world of the Meth where the dirt is just below the surface. The politics of class and the question of what is self are all prominent questions that keep being returned to in interesting ways. I thoroughly enjoyed the costumes used, especially the Praetorian soldiers who reminded me of the Helghast from the Killzone gaming series. I would certainly recommend this to like minded individuals. It won't take much of your time, I finished it in a day after all! Have you seen Altered Carbon? What did you enjoy/dislike? Please leave a comment below or tweet us @ghoulishent.