REVIEW: Altered Carbon

This new high-concept science fiction on Netflix takes old tropes and turns them into something fresh and compelling.

Altered Carbon is based on the premise that people have their consciousness downloaded onto a disc, which allows them to be ‘re-sleeved’ into another body upon their death for a price. The most elite in the Protectorate, an empire that spans across worlds-can essentially live forever, creating a steep economic and social divide. Takeshi Kovacs, who has been imprisoned for 250 years for countless crimes against the Protectorate, is re-sleeved and tasked by the immensely wealthy Laurens Bancroft to solve his own murder. What follows is an unconventional murder mystery steeped in a Blade Runner-esque world. Running the whole gamut of science fiction topics from virtual reality and artificial intelligence to clones and aliens, Altered Carbon takes a dive into the incredible advancements of technology and the ways that it can be manipulated and perverted by human interest.

In the style of Blade Runner, the show represents a diverse city influenced by the amalgamation of cultures. Where Altered Carbon goes beyond this typical imagined world, is with a diverse set of characters who often slip into other languages whilst talking amongst themselves. Unlike the relentlessly dark tone common in this science fiction subgenre, the show is given levity through the quirky AI impersonating Edgar Allen Poe and bodily humour of people being re-sleeved in comically different human bodies. The show is also not afraid to delve into the morally depraved aspects of technology such as virtual reality torture and killing sleeves as sport, and does so in a way that doesn’t gloss over how wrong and inhumane these actions are. These elements often work well together in the show, but sometimes the story can get bogged down and confusing with so much going on. That being said, everything ties together in the end, so pay close attention.

For anyone who is a fan of science fiction and/or murder mystery, this is not a show to miss.


Jade Verbick

(Image: The AV Club)