Series Review: Altered Carbon – Season 1 (2018)

So it’s a new sci-fi series? From Netflix? Sign me up!

Ladies and gentlemen… “Altered Carbon” season 1.

In the future people have found a way to sort of cheat death by transferring their consciousness from one body to another. Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman) is a man who gets to experience this as he’s brought back to life in a new body. And soon he’s hired to solve the murder of a very wealthy businessman (James Purefoy). And as Kovacs begins investigating this murder he soon notices just how deep and twisty this whole thing gets. So now we have our cyberpunk story. And is it any good? Yeah, it really is. Not only is it a complex whodunnit with plenty of twists and turns, but it’s also a journey of identity and life. I mean, with people more or less being able to cheat death, it’s got to lead to some interesting questions. And these explorations are quite interesting, and meshes quite well with this cerebral murder mystery. The only flaw I have with it is that it can get a little bit meander-y at times. For the most part it has a good focus on what the hell it’s doing, but there are times where the pacing meandered a bit too much. Luckily these meander-y bits aren’t too frequent, so it doesn’t kill it to much for me. So overall this is a really solid plot.

The characters here are layered, flawed, damaged, and just overall quite interesting. Joel Kinnaman plays Takeshi Kovacs, the cool guy at the center of this story. We learn quite a lot about Kovacs and his backstory throughout the season, and we see him get some decent development as it moves forward. And Kinnaman is great in the role. Martha Higareda plays Kristin Ortega, a cop that Kovacs runs into throughout the season. She’s a tough, take-no-nonsense kind of character that still shows a fair bit of vulnerability throughout, adding to her layers. And Higareda is really good in the role. Then we have James Purefoy as Laurens Bancroft, the very wealthy businessman whose murder Kovacs has to solve. And I hear you asking “How could Purefoy get any acting/character development if he’s dead?”. Simple: His consciousness got put in a new body. He is the one that hired Kovacs to solve his murder. This isn’t a spoiler, it’s something you learn very early in the first episode. Either way, his character is slightly weird and seems a bit shady and is just an interesting addition to the cast. And Purefoy is good in the role. Then we have Ato Essandoh as Vernon Elliot, a man that Kovacs runs into throughout the plot (and kind of starts working with). He’s damaged and has some things in his past that clearly trouble him, but he isn’t some broody and overly serious character, he feels fairly realistic. And Essandoh is great in the role. And the final one I want to go slightly in-depth with is Chris Conner as Poe. Poe is the manager of the hotel that Kovacs stays at throughout the season. While he is intended as a slightly less serious character than the others (often having a lot of funny moments), he still works well dramatically speaking. And Conner is really good in the role. As for the other characters in the show, they are interesting in some way, but I don’t wanna ruin it for you. But I can say that we get some really good supporting work from people like Kristin Lehman, Hiro Kanagawa, Antonio Marziale, Tamara Taylor, Adam Busch, Matt Frewer, Cliff Chamberlain, Will Yun Lee, and many more.

The score for “Altered Carbon” was composed by Jeff Russo, the man who also did the music for “Fargo” and “Legion” (two awesome shows). And once again he has killed it with the music. Sure, it clearly takes inspiration from “Blade Runner” (which we’ll get back to in a bit), but it still does enough differently to feel fresh. It’s tense, emotional, and just overall great. There are also a bunch of licensed tracks used throughout the season and they work quite well within their scenes, improving said scenes quite a bit. So yeah… this show has good music.

Based on a novel by Richard K. Morgan, this show was created by Laeta Kalogridis and written/directed by a whole bunch of people. And in terms of direction this show is excellent. The direction here is stylish and sweeping, but still tight and tense. And now we get to the bit that I alluded to before… visually speaking this has a lot of similarities to “Blade Runner”. At least when we see the skyline or follow the characters on the streets, it all looks a lot like Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic. That said, I’m not bothered by it since that seems to be the general aesthetic of cyberpunk fiction. And I just generally like it… it shows that a lot of time and love went into crafting this show. That and an obvious fuckload of money. You can really tell that Netflix went balls out with the budget, wanting to make this as extravagant as possible. The props, sets, and CGI are all absolutely fantastic. My breath was taken away at a lot of the visuals here. And the action scenes in this are all really good. They’re tense, badass, and really well choreographed. From shootouts, to melee combat, to a chase or two… the action here is really good. Oh, and violent… really violent… many gallons of blood. So if you’re squeamish you might have have a hard time watching this. There’s also a lot of nudity. So if you hate naked people, don’t watch this. But yeah, this show has some good production value.

The show just came out, but it has already pretty good reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 65% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 65/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,9/10.

“Altered Carbon” isn’t for everyone, but I sure as shit liked it. It has a really good plot, really good characters, great performances, great music, and great directing/cinematography/action/effects. Sure, the pace meanders a little bit at times, but it’s not too bad. Time for my final score. *Pew*. My final score for “Altered Carbon” season 1 is a 9,52/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Altered Carbon” season 1 is now completed.

“Blade Runner? Never heard of it!”

7 thoughts on “Series Review: Altered Carbon – Season 1 (2018)

      • Cheers, Eddy. Truth is, I don’t have enough time to watch ‘normal’ telly, let alone add more to the mix. 🙂 I still have over 30 DVD films I haven’t watched yet too. Maybe I should stop blogging, and start watching?

      • haha, don’t stop blogging Pete, thankfully I have no TV to watch, but I enjoy my hour or so a night that I’m free to watch whatever I can and Netflix has some top content.

      • It certainly does. I had a free trial early last year, and watched three films I had never seen before. Trouble is, I have to watch them on the PC, until I get something set up on our rather old ‘smart’ TV.

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