“The first thing you’ll learn is that nothing is as it seems.” These are the first words spoken in Altered Carbon and they are a fitting primer for the show.
Altered Carbon is set on a hyper-futuristic planet Earth, in a time when humanity has spread to other planets. In their expansion humanity came across the technology of an extinct race of aliens which allowed them to download their consciousness into devices called stacks, meaning life was no longer tied to your physical body but instead a device that amounts to a memory card.
This premise might sound like a simple one, but Altered Carbon uses it to create so many complex scenarios. For example, since stacks can be transferred into different bodies — or sleeves, as the show calls them — actors are often forced to play multiple different characters, or multiple actors might have to play the same character at different times. The actors absolutely nail this, any time a transition happened I loved watching the subtle nuances of a character portrayed by different actors.
Altered Carbon also shows us just how much humanity might degenerate if humans could never die. Through the show we get a glimpse at the new upper class of Earth, a group known as Meths (taken from the Hebrew figure Methuselah) who have a backup system in place to let them live even if their stack is destroyed. These characters are some of the most fucked up people in a show about fucked up people, mainly because they are bored of life and have no regard for anyone else’s. One Meth even goes so far as to pay someone to have their mind transferred into the body of a snake and back again just to see what would happen.
Unlike Black Mirror, Altered Carbon has a continuous story. It follows Takeshi Kovacs, a terrorist who had been locked in a virtual prison for 250 years, who was hired by a murdered Meth to find his killer.
Kovacs is a dick, but you’ll love him anyway. Kovacs is acted by both Joel Kinnaman and Will Yun Lee, both of whom deliver a great performance. Both actors present a very dry, “I don’t give a fuck” attitude which made it believable that it was the same person in two different bodies.
Other notable characters include a hotel named Poe and a cop named Ortega. Poe is the A.I. curator of a hotel called The Raven, though he considers himself to be the hotel. His mannerisms and speech is ominous and poetic, so it’s not hard to see where the inspiration for his character came from.
Ortega is a straight cop in a crooked world, frustrated with the injustices in the system. Her and Kovacs come in to conflict due to his work with the Meths, whom Ortega despises. Also she is a total badass.
If you were even a little intrigued by any of this you should watch Altered Carbon. If not, you should still watch it. This is a show I will be recommending every chance I get.