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Review: Netflix’s “Altered Carbon” Episodes 1-5

The newly released Netflix original series, Altered Carbon, is not unlike anything I’ve seen before. It follows a former disgraced soldier, Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman), as he’s awoken centuries in the future when his consciousness is “re-sleeved” into a new body so he can solve the murder of Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy), a wealthy man who’s purchased Takeshi with the promise of freedom for catching his murderer.

The “sleeves” idea reminds me of Ghost In The Shell (the anime – not the overzealous live-action). The murder mystery set in a future where there are crooked cops, a ticking clock, and a gritty tone you can’t escape screams Minority Report (the movie – not the premature TV series). However, even with all of these similarities, this series is paving its own way. Netflix really finds a new groove in sci-fi with Altered Carbon and its possibilities are fascinating.

Personally, I don’t care for the romance they want to stick us with between Takeshi and police detective Kristin Ortega (Martha Higareda). I found he had more chemistry with Mrs. Bancroft, (Kristin Lehman) or even the prostitute he questioned at Jack It Off, then he did with Kristin.

Abboud, Kristen’s partner, breaking the 4th wall and calling out the overused trope of the female and male protagonists falling in love under the pressure of life or death situations just made the whole thing all the more cringe-worthy. Seeing as this romance was so obvious, I had hoped they would go a different, more interesting route. Alas, here we are at the end of episode 5 and the two are basically an item.

Aside from that disappointment, the overall story is shaping up to be interesting and is taking a turn from the path Episode 1, “Out of the Past,” foreshadowed. That episode progressed so slowly you felt like you were being coddled. The world may be different, but it’s not different enough to warrant a 15-minute dialogue explaining every facet of society.

Thankfully Altered Carbon picks up halfway through Episode 2, “Fallen Angel.” The audience finally gets clues to the fateful murder of Mr. Bancroft, and through action, we get glimpses into the players true character:

Takeshi is dead inside and only purpose can revive him. Although he shows no inclination to do “good,” being exposed to the atrocities of the Meths—rich people who’ve lived incredibly long lives because they can afford to repeatedly replace their sleeves—inspires him to try and be better than they are.

Kristin also needs a purpose, but not a physical purpose like Takeshi. She’s trying to marry the world of reality and the world of faith.

Bancroft, an elite member of the Meths, has done everything in his power to become the God he wishes he could be. In reality, he’s a scared man with so little to fulfill him his insecurities cause him to oppress the ones he loves and hand out toys to people with terminal sicknesses just so he can feel loved. How heavy is that?

Utilizing the age-old story of absolute power corrupting absolutely, sprinkled with thematic trials of immortality and the true balance of nature, Netflix has found its new masterpiece in Altered Carbon.

I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t wait to see how everything unfolds.

Key Questions & Thoughts:

Its only been 5 episodes, so far, and we still don’t have enough information to piece together why Vernon’s daughter was beaten to insanity, the murder of Bancroft and the blonde “Angel,” and the framing of Elias.

It’s obvious the trail that leads them to Bancroft’s son’s house has nothing to do with the bigger picture. The son’s character doesn’t have the depth necessary to be connected with the Ghost Walker who kills Abboud and almost kills Kristin.

The Ghost Walker’s mission seems to be more on par with the Envoy’s mission in the past: end the unnatural Altered Carbon program. This will surely leave Takeshi in a very tight spot. Will he follow the ambitions of the new woman he’s beginning to love, Kristin, or continue his mission for the past love of his life, Quellcrist (Renee Goldsberry), and take down Altered Carbon?

All ten episodes of season one are now available on Netflix. Have you started watching? If so, what do you think? Any predictions on what Takeshi will do?  Come back for my take on the remaining episodes. 

 

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