Altered Carbon was released on Netflix just over a week ago but it’s already been slated by critics for being unoriginal, slow and problematic. Um… Were these guys watching the same show as me? I think the fact that critics on Rotten Tomato give this an average rating of 63% whilst the audience score indicates that 92% of people enjoyed this show is telling. Clearly this is another show that critics love to hate.
The latest Netflix original is a televised version of Richard K Morgan’s science-fiction novel of the same name. It imagines a world in which our consciousness can be downloaded onto something called “the stack”, which is extractable from our bodies. Bodies are dispensable and you can change “sleeves” if and when you please as long as you’ve got the funds.
Our story begins with Takeshi Kovacs, an Envoy, waking up in his new sleeve. He’s been brought out his deep sleep by a “Meth”, one of the richest people in the world. He’s hired Kovacs for a mission – to uncover the truth about his own murder. Although at first unwilling, Kovacs agrees to solve this murder mystery in exchange for his freedom and a stack (wink) of money.
Altered Carbon is an exciting and fast-paced series from the beginning, not to mention wonderfully diverse. The series boasts a talented array of actors including Joel Kinnaman (House of Cards) and James Purefoy (The Following). There’s action, romance, mystery, thrills – I really do think this show has it all. I think the fact that I watched all ten episodes of season 1 in one day proves that. There’s lots of fighting and killing though so if you’re not a fan of violent drama then this isn’t the show for you.
The themes that the show explores, whilst not entirely unique, are certainly very relevant in today’s society and overall it’s pretty thought-provoking. However, what impressed me most of all was the diversity of the cast. The story follows a Japanese man trapped in an American’s body and he counts amongst his allies (and enemies) Spaniards, Japanese, African-Americans, Catholics, Muslims and more. There are also a number of kick-ass women in this, which is fantastic to see in a genre that is often ruled by men.
However, that’s not to say that Altered Carbon is flawless. The first thing that annoyed me slightly was what I considered to be gratuitous nudity. Certainly not a main pointer or anything but I got the impression that some nudity had been thrown in just for extra (and unnecessary) “sexiness”. What’s more, there are definitely some interesting and pertinent themes that could’ve been explored further, as the critics point out, such as how a transgender person might fare in a world where being re-sleeved in a body of the opposite sex is not a strange occurrence. I personally don’t see this as a “fault” of the show. The show has one main story line – Kovacs and his murder mystery – and anything in addition to this helped build the world even further and the left doors open for future exploratory plot strands. The murder is solved by the end of season 1 so I’m hopeful that future seasons will pick up on some of these points.
All in all, Altered Carbon is a fantastic new addition to Netflix