Immortality, sex and violence: Altered Carbon’s first season

Jonathan Lynam

Credit: Gamespot

Based  on a novel of the same name by the British Sci-fi writer Richard K. Morgan, Altered Carbon is Netflix’s latest science fiction series and is a visual spectacle for fans of the genre.

The story follows Takeshi Kovacs, played by Joel Kinnaman, who has been brought back to life and “re-sleeved” into a new body to help the insanely wealthy Laurens Bancroft solve his own murder. Brought back to life hundreds of years after he’s killed Kovacs finds himself at the centre of a murder enquiry, lots of sex and violence, including a terrifying virtual torture chamber where he dies over and over.

The show takes place in a world where death has become obsolete and shows the negative effects that immortality could have on the world. In this world physical bodies are referred to as “sleeves” outer layers that host “cortical stacks” which are futuristic storage devices that hold the user’s consciousness and memories.

If your body dies, then your stack presuming it hasn’t been destroyed is just moved to another “sleeve” often not of the same gender or race meaning gender and racial barriers have ceased to exist in the world, but of course, being re-sleeved costs a substantial amount and only the rich and powerful can continuously do this and afford to do this.

Detail isn’t only shown in the world’s technology but more importantly in the characters, Kovacs is played by four actors, Joel Kinnaman in the present day, Will Yun Lee as his original “sleeve” when he was half Japanese and half eastern European and Byron Mann in another Asian sleeve, as well as Morgan Gao when he was a child. Each version of Kovacs we meet creates a bigger and bigger connection to the character as well as background as to why he is who he is.

Kovacs stays at an AI hotel called “The Raven” run by its AI host Poe, played by Chris Conner who does fantastic in the role and selling the reason why nobody stays at AI hotel anymore because of their overly possessive nature with their guests.

Kristin Ortega is a cop with some real anger issues and a complicated relationship with her mother over her religious faith and stack technology makes you sympathise for her.

It’s these little details in the characters and society that make the show so fascinating to watch, the world is so rich and complex mixed with the uncertain identity of some of the characters and the enigmatic plot you’re not only invested in the story, but the world.

But despite all of this great world creation Altered Carbon does have its weak points, the plot sometimes strayed away from itself with additional storylines added in to perhaps flesh out the characters and the world a bit more but ultimately got in the way of the main story line. This in turn meant some episodes felt unnecessary and slow just as it began to get exciting, but overall it was a good first season.