Title: Altered Carbon
Fix: Science Fiction Suspense, What The Eff Is Going On
Waking up in a new body 250 years after his death, Takeshi Kovacs discovers he’s been resurrected to help a titan of industry solve his own murder.
In the future, technological advances that allow consciousness to be stored makes human bodies just another disposable resource. People can switch “sleeves” at a moment’s notice, and live nearly infinitely in various bodies or—if you have enough money—clones.
When one of the richest men on the planet is murdered, he pops into a new clone then pulls the consciousness of Takeshi Kovacs, a former terrorist and/or revolutionary, out of storage to investigate … 250 years after his death. However, no one’s prepared for just how much truth Kovacs will uncover.
Joel Kinnaman as Takeshi Kovacs
Kovacs is the kind of guy it’s easy to dislike; he’s stubborn, self-righteous, misogynistic and quick to anger. And yet … there’s something about him that makes you want to root for him. (And, thankfully, he goes through a lot of character growth during the series.) He’s pretty much the exact character I’ve seen Kinnaman play like four times now, only a little more swole, and I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
James Purefoy as Laurens Bancroft
Purefoy has that aristocratic look and vibe that makes him perfect to play the richest man in the world—and the easiest character to hate. Even when he’s playing the hero (e.g., in A Knight’s Tale), there’s a quality about him that gives me the heebie jeebies.
Dichen Lachman as Reileen Kawahara
Lachman often plays the gorgeous badass, and Reileen is no exception. Once again making me feel like an uberschlub.
Kristin Lehman as Miriam Bancroft
I know I’ve seen Lehman in many things, but none of her characters have ever really left a mark. And although Miriam is memorable, it’s more because of how cold it apparently is in the future/how frequently she didn’t wear bras combined with slinky fabrics. Also: Miriam is her husband’s equal in being terrible.
Ato Essandoh as Vernon Elliot
Essandoh was so great as Alfredo on Elementary, and although Vernon’s a different kind of guy, I saw the same kind of tenacity matched with heart that I loved about Alfredo.
Chris Conner as Poe
Although he’s had minor roles in shows I’ve likely seen, I didn’t recognize Chris. But I have to put him in this list, purely to talk about how Poe’s my favorite character in the whole of Altered Carbon. No spoilers, but yes—his name is a reference to the famous literary figure.
A handful of other familiar faces, particularly to fans of Joss Whedon vehicles or Syfy shows, pop up throughout the series, but I’ll leave those as surprises.
Couch-Sharing Capability: Put the Kids to Bed
Altered Carbon is definitely not one for the younger crowd. It’s bloody, sexual and graphic—and unapologetically so. It’s a vision of humanity’s future that I sincerely hope never comes to pass, so in addition to keeping it from giving little ones nightmares, it’s also maybe a good idea to keep it from the next generation so as to not put ideas into their subconsciouses.
Recommended Level of Inebriation: Dull the Pain
Characters frequently get shot, beat up or tortured in Altered Carbon, so it’s no surprise when they turn to a stiff drink at the end of the day. I wouldn’t get sloshed—it is one of those shows that asks you to pay attention—but there’s certainly no reason you can’t pour a little something for yourself in solidarity.
Use of Your Netflix Subscription: Great
Netflix has become a TV* powerhouse in recent years with all of their original series, and Altered Carbon is another binge-worthy addition to the queue. With only 10 episodes, it’s easy to watch the entire thing in a weekend, and with the way the story unravels slowly, it’s easy to get sucked into the story and find yourself snarkily responding when Netflix asks if you’re still watching. It’s not a perfect story, and there are problematic themes throughout, but it’s engaging and thoughtful and doesn’t shy away from commentary on what makes humanity truly human. (Spoiler alert: Being essentially immortal makes people their absolute worst selves.)
*TV is a weird term to use for what Netflix offers, considering the shows are often streamed via computer, phone or tablet rather than through an actual TV, but I’m not sure what the official term is at this point. “Streaming show” or “streaming program” is real clunky.