by Natalie Murray ‘18
Netflix has seen lots of success with its original sci-fi shows, most notably “Stranger Things” and “Black Mirror.” So it may seem surprising that Netflix’s newest original, “Altered Carbon,” a ten-episode series which was released last Friday, has just 65 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Having watched the first half of the series, I can see why the reviews are so all over the place. It takes place hundreds of years in the future, where humanity has invented a device called a “stack,” which stores the personality of its host and allows for reincarnation; if the stack hasn’t been damaged, it can be re-implanted into a new body, or “sleeve,” after a person dies.
The show begins with the main character, Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman), waking up after 250 years of being frozen as punishment for being a mass-murderer and terrorist. Kovacs is soon picked up by Kristin Ortega (Martha Higareda), a detective who takes Kovacs to meet the man who brought him back to life: Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy), a filthy-rich “Meth” who has hired Kovacs to investigate his murder. If Kovacs solves the mystery, he will receive a full pardon for his crimes.
But this is no ordinary murder mystery. In the first few episodes of the series, several other plot lines are introduced, including the death of two young women, a supposedly-corrupt cop’s downfall, and a man who erases himself from footage as it records.
Overall, the series can be described as graphic and complex. In addition to the intertwining plot lines of killings and corruptions, the show introduces numerous cultural conflicts that superbly develop the setting of the show, such as the Neo-Catholics’ staunch opposition to re-sleeving.
In terms of graphic elements, Altered Carbon has everything from torture and bloody fights to completely-uncensored sex and full-frontal nudity – so much that it makes scenes feel sleazy and even pornographic. Combine that with the ever-frequent F-bombs and you’ve got the recipe for a show not to watch with parents.
But despite its slow start, swearing, and graphic sex and violence, “Altered Carbon” is undeniably entertaining. Kovacs’ tortured past provides very engaging flashbacks, and his actions leave you wondering if he’s really as cold and heartless as he seems. That, combined with the phenomenal diversity of the characters (there are leading Asian, Black, Hispanic, and Muslim characters) make the show one to watch.