Netflix’s most expensive series to date boasts many desirable attributes: a sexy cast, a fictional, predominantly computer-generated environment, immortality...the list is endless.
Altered Carbon follows our planet’s last envoy, Takeshi Kovacs (actor Joel Kinnaman), after he’s revived from a 250-year “on ice” sentence to solve a mystery for a man (Laurens Bancroft) whom is presumably the wealthiest member of what is now Earth’s super elite. Just over 300 years into the future, this is completely inside the realm of possibility because mankind has found a way to transfer one’s consciousness onto a small disc, or rather, a “stack”, allowing them to switch bodies ("re-sleeve").
Bancroft (actor James Purefoy) and his family live in an exuberant mansion high above the now dark, cyberpunk-induced Bay City. Before we go any further, it’s important to note that Altered Carbon is gratuitous in all aspects – the wealthy (and the wielders of Netflix’s big budget TV blockbuster) seem to shy away from nothing – sex and violence in the most extreme senses are just another day at the office (or, in the cloud?) for the ultra-rich. After reading a stack (no pun intended) of mixed reviews and spending a solid weekend power-watching the sci-fi spectacle, we simply had to become a part of the conversation. Why watch, you ask?
1. The women kick ass (literally).
You’d think this reason would be relatively easy to accomplish, but Hollywood has forever seemed to struggle with writing a series that truly boasts strong, badass females; Altered Carbon certainly doesn’t struggle in this area. While many critics are quick to point out that a majority of the show’s female actors play sex workers, the show’s primary cast boasts some incredible girl power. Kristin Ortega (played by the gorgeous Martha Higareda) is a seasoned cop, Reileen Kawahara (actress Dichen Lachman) is a mastermind, truly – but we’ll refrain from a full explanation to avoid spoilers. Miriam Bancroft (actress Kristin Lehman) is the real head of the Bancroft household, Lizzie Elliot (actress Hayley Law) was, yes, a sex worker, but comes back with a vengeance and rules the screen with a vendetta that is as sharp as the black leather cat suit she spawns up in, and lastly, Quellcrist Falconer (actress Reneé Elise Goldsberry) proves to be an integral part of Altered Carbon - a warrior, a visionary, and the voice of wisdom in Kovacs’ head until the bitter end.
2. Hotels run by Artificial Intelligence are both hilarious and resourceful.
AI Edgar Allen Poe (“Poe”, actor Chris Connor) runs The Raven, the hotel at which Kovacs resides during his stint as a wealthy man’s detective. Easily a fan favourite and ironically, more human than a majority of the show’s carbon-based characters, Poe is equipped with everything from wit to weapons.
3. As it turns out, the guy from Get Him to the Greek who “just pounds the drum and does the African face,” is also an action star.
This was an awesome surprise, Altered Carbon. Ato Essandoh, even though your moment was brief, you have to know that you were our favourite part of Get Him to the Greek. Our team references that scene you were in from the film at least once a month; but we digress. Vernon Elliot (actor Ato Essandoh), arguably Takeshi Kovacs’ only friend (we use that term ‘friend’ loosely) and Lizzie Elliot’s father, is an emotional powerhouse in Altered Carbon. Essandoh delivers some of the series’ toughest moments, and is arguably a reason to commit to this sci-fi journey.
4. Joel Kinnaman gets to be an anti-hero that isn’t a part of the Suicide Squad.
Joel, we’re so happy. When we heard that Netflix had plucked you from the DC Universe, angels sang - who’d have thought that Takeshi Kovacs could be a strapping Swedish man in a structured, runway-worthy trench coat? Kinnaman is the ultimate unforgiving good, but somehow bad guy in this Netflix endeavour. It’s as if the powers-that-be (okay, the producers at Netflix) took all of the things that a focus group told them make a great male protagonist, and combined them into Kinnaman's Kovacs: formidable bone structure, dark/questionable past that is shrouded in mystery until mid-season, must shoot before asking questions, and let’s not forget about the staple nude shower scene that seems to happen before every anti-hero's search for his or her purpose – completely gratuitous, but no whiners here.
5. Inclusion Rider.
Altered Carbon has to be the most diverse show on television (err, on a streaming service) – and it feels completely unpolitical. In other words, it doesn’t feel like the production hired a diverse cast simply because Frances McDormand told them to – it just is a diverse cast, which...is truly exceptional.