If you seek moody cyberpunk laced with violent action and passion, then transport yourself into the dark future of “Altered Carbon.” Featuring Joel Kinnaman as a resurrected super-agent wearing a new bodily skin, “Altered Carbon” offers edgy and entertaining science fiction.
Title: "Altered Carbon"
Year it began: 2018
Where it can be seen: Netflix
Who’s in it: Joel Kinnaman, James Purefoy, Martha Higareda, Dichen Lachman, Kristin Lehman, Ato Essandoh and Renée Elise-Goldsberry.
Typical episode length: 53 minutes
Number of episodes to date: 10
Brief plot description: In a future California controlled by the Protectorate, the rich and powerful Laurens Bancroft buys a new body “sleeve” for Takeshi Kovacz, who was an envoy trained for fighting and strategy in a rebellion crushed 250 years ago. Lieutenant Kristin Ortega follows Kovacz as he investigates Bancroft’s murder.
Why it’s worth watching: “Altered Carbon” is a thought-provoking cyberpunk series featuring technological marvels and a noir aesthetics. Based on a novel by Richard K. Morgan, “Altered Carbon” meditates on immortality while imagining a world of runaway income inequality where the obnoxiously wealthy monopolize life-preserving technology and live literally above the poor. In the show’s hyper-urban dystopia, all trees seem to have disappeared, and only religious traditionalists resist the use of technological devices called “stacks” that store peoples’ minds and can “spin” them into new bodies. “Altered Carbon” poses difficult questions about what identity means when those with enough money can upload their consciousness into new new bodies.
Kinnaman grounds the show with his central performance as the tough, cynical and quietly ethical Kovacz, who connects the audience to the past through his living memories of the fierce rebel leader Quellcrist Falconer (played powerfully by Goldsberry) and his part-gangster, part-rebel sister, Reileen Kawahara (Lachman). Playing Laurens and Miriam Bancroft, Purefoy and Lehman effectively convey the sinister privilege and greed of the filthy rich. Higareda projects a deep, spiritual frustration with injustice as the charmingly intense Lieutenant Ortega, while Essandoh channels dignity and desperation as a grieving father trying to protect his daughter’s soul. An especially intriguing performance comes from Conner’s Edgar Poe, an AI hotel manager whose fascination with human culture ensures his excellent chemistry with his special envoy guest. While it is ultraviolent and hypersexual (this is definitely not family friendly fare), “Altered Carbon” offers intriguing philosophizing along with its cyberpunk thrills.