We’ve been talking a lot this year already about the incredible slate of science fiction television coming our way, making 2018 the Chrome Age of television. One of the leaders of this pack hasn’t even aired yet, and we can’t stop thinking about it.
Altered Carbon is a Netflix drama series adapted from the series of books by Richard K. Morgan that brings the worlds of Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, James Bond, and Star Trek together with a slick noir narrative that makes it an instant modern classic. Oh, there’s also the odd Edgar Allan Poe influence, too.
There is FTL space travel, there is hardcore science fiction in the form of downloading human consciousness into a small disc (called stacks) which can be implanted into a new body (called skins), and there is a pretty good whodunnit murder mystery at the core of the show.
The story follows main character Takeshi Kovacs (played in flashbacks by Will Yun Lee and real-time by Joel Kinnaman), an elite forces soldier Envoy and freedom fighter, now a prisoner of the state, who wakes up 250 years after being arrested in a new body with one chance to win his freedom: solving the murder of affluent Laurens Bancroft (played by James Purefoy).
Season 1 is rife with incredible visual effects and world building. Netflix continues to up their game, and for this particular series the immersive futuristic San Francisco balanced with the nature of Harlan’s World are breathtaking. The digital realm the characters visit is also astounding in its cohesive feel and presentation.
The cast is varied and fabulous — the shared role of Takeshi seems well suited to both Will and Joel, each actor bringing the same sense of purpose with individual flare. Martha Higareda plays police officer Kristin Ortega, whose relationship to the skin (body) Takeshi wakes up in is as complicated as the main narrative. She is fierce and complex, her character a breath of fresh air in the genre.
There are strong women galore in Altered Carbon, too. With the multitude of gunfights and hand-to-hand combat scenes, the women of the cast really shine. Kristin Lehman is Marion Bancroft, wife of Laurens, who has her own mysterious agenda that slowly unfolds during the season. Dichen Lachman plays Takeshi’s sister Reileen Kawahara, and is just as badass and motivated as her brother. Renee Elise Goldsberry plays revolution leader and combat trainer Quellcrist “Quell” Falconer, the mastermind behind the freedom fighters.
Altered Carbon season 1 is a helluva start for any series, pulling zero punches and immediately submerging the audience in the universe. It definitely holds the promise of a fascinating series to come. (That means we REALLY want additional seasons, Netflix!) Look for it on Netflix starting at midnight (PST) on Friday, February 2nd.