Altered Carbon is the first major new series on the scene in 2018 and it is being heralded as Netflix’s Game of Thrones by some, a title that I agree with to an extent. The series is set in a world where advancements in technology have allowed human consciousness to live on through multiple bodies, essentially removing death as a definite outcome of life. The story follows Takeshi Kovacs, a prisoner and the last of his kind who is reborn in a new body 250 years after being caught and in order to win his freedom must solve the murder of the man with infinite wealth, Laurens Bancroft. Now overall this is a very good series, for the majority of the time I was thoroughly enjoying myself and loving almost every moment. But not everything goes as smoothly as I’d have liked and so where this could have been one of the best shows I’ve seen recently it misses that mark due to issues I will get to eventually. The series is just about as close as we’ll get to a Blade Runner series, it is very similar in its themes and especially visually, it is clearly very much inspired by that world. It’s a cyberpunk noir crime story with a relatively small focus within a large exciting world.
Firstly I want to talk about and highlight this world (or worlds) which I absolutely loved learning more and more about throughout the episodes. This is such a well fleshed out world I found myself at times more intrigued by what was happening around Kovacs as oppose to what was happening to him. It’s a little more defined than what we see in Blade Runner but just as intriguing, mysterious, and uncertain. There are so many layers to the way this world works, how power is distributed, how society behaves, all of these things that may sound boring but are endlessly entertaining in here. It shows elements of Elysium (2013) in it with how the wealth is exponentially distributed to the rich by a ridiculous amount. Right down to the details and inner workings of this world I found myself immersed in it. Small details such as the fact that people communicate to each-other in different languages add so much to this world, for example, one person will be talking in Spanish and the other responding in Arabic. It’s a minute detail but adds to the charm of the universe.
Visually this series is absolutely stunning, it features better visuals than a number of modern big budget sci-fi films. Seriously, at times I forgot I was watching a TV series because of how grand and large almost every moment in here felt. There aren’t many TV series’ that make me want to pause on a shot and admire its beauty but Altered Carbon manages to do this a number of times. The action is very fast-paced, well shot, and quite intense mainly due to how much you do care about some of the the characters. The action isn’t under-utilised nor is it too excessive, I feel like it’s just the right amount spread out over the 10 episodes.
The characters and the performances behind the characters are very strong and I found myself caring about quite a few characters, even characters I didn’t think I would come to enjoy watching. Joel Kinnaman is fantastic in the lead role as Kovacs and strides the line of showing little emotion, but enough to where you feel like you can connect with him in the things he is going through. He’s a worthy protagonist but doesn’t hold the show on his own, that’s where the great supporting roles come in. Martha Higareda plays Kristin Ortega, a cop who has plenty of screen-time and a number of run-ins with Kovacs. I instantly gravitated to her character who is very likeable and more morally in-tune than most other characters in this world. Their interactions make for a number of engaging scenes and not a dull moment in sight. James Purefoy plays the subtly creepy and manipulative big wig Laurens Bancroft and does so in a very convincing manner. He doesn’t come across as silly or a cliche antagonistic character and is actually a little interesting as you spend some time with him. Other supporting performances from Chris Conner who plays Poe and Renee Elise Goldsberry who plays Quell add to the series in their own way and are very entertaining to watch.
The story for the majority of the series is fantastic, it had me roped in to the mysteries and wanting to learn more about the characters and exactly what goes going on beneath the surface. But it does drop the ball towards the end which is disappointing because the worst thing a film or TV series can do is leave you on a low note and for me, that’s what this show does. For the first two thirds of this season I was loving almost every minute of what was happening, I was enjoying the narrative, and following each of the characters on their journey and everything felt very focused on a common goal with a common tone. But the final few episodes however start to get a little more unfocused, or rather the core focus of the narrative switches to something else and this is where it starts to break down and fall apart. It goes in a direction I didn’t like and that severely lessened my enjoyment of the series approaching the end. Everything else that I love about the series, the visuals and the action, I still love in these moments but it’s the story direction I’m not a big fan of.
So despite some of the late story woes I still believe this is a very good series with a lot of positives that outweigh the negatives. The world is a character unto itself with a tonne of depth and history I want to know more about, the characters are well developed and their relationships are engaging, the action is well shot, and the visuals are undeniably stunning. At 10 episodes I’d say this is still something you should check out especially if you are a fan of Blade Runner and the sci-fi genre as a whole because there is a lot in here to enjoy.
If you would like to check out my SPOILER REVIEW you can do so HERE.