Altered Carbon is one of those shows that makes me just sit back and marvel at how far Netflix has come.  The acting is all fine and the story seems intriguing enough, but the sheer spectacle of the whole thing is what always leaves me speechless.

Anyone who reads the site will know that I have absolutely no life outside of television and up until recently I would have said that FX was the top network when it came to the number of amazing shows they’ve put out.  But after a weekend of binging Godless, it’s hard not to think of the insane amount of quality content Netflix has provided me over the years and give it the “best network” spot.  

After that first episode of Altered Carbon, I think I’m just gonna go with that.  Even if the rest of the series doesn’t hold up, it’s the risk I want to reward.  The money they must have thrown into this show most likely destroys what SyFy is doing on The Expanse (and I thought that show’s production values were high!) and the talent they’ve brought in are two of my favorite lesser known actors.

Most people I talk to know Joel Kinniman from House of Cards or (shudder) Suicide Squad, but he jumped on my radar after he ended up being my favorite aspect of AMC’s The Killing by a wide margin.  He always brings his “A” game and Carbon is no exception.  The bigger surprise was seeing James Purefoy’s name pop up in the absolutely stunning opening credits.  Fans of HBO’s Rome will remember him as the Jamie Lannister-esque portrayal of Marc Antony.  He also helped keep Kevin Bacon’s show The Following on FOX going for two seasons.

As someone that knows absolutely nothing about the source material and managed to stay away from all the trailers and prelaunch hype, I went blind into Carbon and was pretty instantly hooked.

From the kind-of-confusing, Memento-ish opening scenes to that first shot of the flying car clearing the clouds and showing us the first look at , to the general aesthetic of the future, everything is pretty goddamn captivating.  

The show is set in the distant future, where we get implanted with “sleeves”.  Basically USB ports in the back of our necks that house hard drives called “stacks” that hold our consciousness.  Our main character, Takeshi Kovacs is some sort of Jason Bourne meets Daredevil.  A super spy that you can drop into any sleeve and have them instantly be able to adjust to their surroundings while also having some sort of super sensory powers.  

The first half hour shows his last moments before being gunned down by, what I’m assuming are, the future law enforcement of The Protectorate.  Later on Purefoy mentions how a country “used to be called the United States”, so I’m assuming America becomes The Protectorate at some point.  Takeshi, at least from what the show gave me, appears to be some kind of freedom fighter?

He wakes up 250 years later to find himself put into the body of Joel Kinniman at the behest of some ultra rich benefactor Isaac Bancroft (Purefoy).  Bancroft, being one of the oldest known humans known as “Meths” (named after the old ass Methusela from the Bible) wants to use Takeshi’s abilities to solve a murder mystery.  

Along the way he meets future cop Detective Kristin Ortega, (Martha Higareda), Bancroft’s wife, Miriam (Kristin Lehman), and my favorite character in the episode, Edgar Allen Poe (Chris Conner).

Poe, the A.I. who runs the front desk of a themed hotel Takeshi checks into, brings a somewhat macabre lightness to the show.  Over the top without ever actually being over the top, I hope to see him a lot in the future episodes.

But the real show stopper in Altered Carbon is easily the world the show has created.  As mentioned above, the production value on this show is through the fucking roof.  A scene as simple as Kinniman walking down alleys has me gazing at the screen with an almost childlike wonder.  It’s something we’ve seen done in plenty of movies, but for a scifi show to get to be able to pull off these kind of scenes just plain rocks.

The majority of sci-fi shows take place on their respective spaceships, so as long as you spend a good amount of money on the ship’s interior you’re good to go.  The problem comes into play later on in the series, when episodes require the characters to go to other locations.  We usually get a quick couple of establishing shots and then an outside location with minimal set design or a spiffy looking interior.  

Getting to actually walk around in a world like Carbon gives us for extended periods of time, especially in the first episode is a pretty good sign.

I was weary going into this show, a couple of the early reviews weren’t overly enthusiastic. Then again, neither were the reviews for Bright, and audiences seemed to dig it.  I’m sure there’s tons of stuff changed from the book that pisses off their fans, but from someone who just likes TV shows, murder mysteries and scifi, Altered Carbon is about to consume the rest of my Friday.  

See you for episode two.

4.5/5

– Joel Kinniman continues to prove that he’ll crush any role you give himAny time I get to hear Purefoy’s silky accent, I’m a happy camper. 

– Poe is the shit.

– Every scene in the show looks like it stepped out of a video game.  That’s a high compliment.  I’m one of those people that will be sad to see Sense8 go, but if this is where Netflix is throwing their money instead, I’m on board.

– I don’t know who it was at Netflix that started making all their shows perfect for 21:9 ultrawide monitors, but I fucking love you.

– The little girl being put in the old lady’s body was a great way to give a good idea of the kind of class inequality having sleeves would create

– Yo, that ninja kick Kinniman gives near the end was fucking flawless.  You know he practiced that shit a hundred times.

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