Altered Carbon is a new noir science fiction show on Netflix. It is set more than 350 years in the future, when a person’s consciousness can be stored in “cortical stacks”. When the person dies, these stacks can be transferred to other bodies called “sleeves”, which can accept any stack, enabling you to live on in bodies that are not your own. The story follows a highly skilled fighter called Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman) who’s brought back to life 250 years after his death, to solve the murder of Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy), one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the world. The show is based on the 2002 book by Richard K. Morgan.
There’s a lot to digest in it, and often you find yourself losing the plot. The new world bears little resemblance to the one in which we live, and, as a result, the show is chock-a-bloc with jargon that makes your head spin. There are colonial tactical assault corps and digital human freights. Kovacs is an Envoy, one of the soldiers with heightened reflexes and skills who took part in the uprising to quell stack technology more than two centuries ago. Purefoy’s character is a Meth, which means he will never age because he can create clones of himself and store his consciousness in servers. When a person has been dropped into too many stacks, he experiences personality frag, a form of insanity. Confused? Join the club.
Thankfully, the dialogues are crisp, so that a heap of explanation of the way this world works is not dumped into conversations. It leaves you with a sense of intrigue. Or, in other words, confused enough to watch the next episode in search of answers. Kinnaman as Kovacs, the tortured soul taking refuge in a suave and cynical front, nails the role. His gravelly voice and well-toned muscles make you want a whole load of that piece of stack. If things were to work out the Altered Carbon way, the future wouldn’t look too rosy. But it sure would be a heck of a fun ride.
Altered Carbon: Season 1