Saturday, February 24, 2018

TV Show Review: Altered Carbon

I managed to watch all ten episodes of the Netflix sci-fi original series but I am still not sure of everything that happened in it. I will do my best to remember the plot though I mostly watched it because I like the idea of sci-fi series and would like Netflix to produce a lot more. The story revolves around Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman), an envoy soldier who is revived in a new "sleeve", or body, to help solve the murder of a wealthy billionaire "meth", Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy). He is greeted at the prison exit by Kristin Ortega (Martha Higareda), a detective who may have an interest in Kovacs but also the new body he now inhabits. Once Kovacs receives the assignment, he struggles to figure out what is happening in this new world and how to deal with all of the advanced technology.

He also discovers that certain individuals are after him, or the person that used to occupy the body he now holds. Thanks to Ortega, he manages to survive these scrapes but he also owes a debt to the artificial intelligence hotel that looks like Edgar Allen Poe (Chris Conner). Poe is part of a group of AIs who look down upon actual humans as they play poker. Kovacs starts to research the case coming upon a man who made a death threat to Bancroft. Vernon Elliot (Ato Essandoh) has a reason to believe Bancroft is responsible for the torture of his daughter Lizzie (Hayley Law) leaving her trapped in a virtual trauma. Kovacs overpowers him and determines that he is not the one who is responsible for Bancroft's death but later he employs Vernon to help him with espionage. 

As bodies are not permanent, bloody battles are used as entertainment for the rich. Kovacs has to show off his fighting skills but I'm not sure Kinnaman is up to the task. Takeshi (Will Yun Lee) learned his fighting and resistance to torture in a previous life as he trained under the rebel leader Quellcrist Falconer (Renée Elise Goldsberry). He manages to survive the brutal treatment of a few men angry at Riker, the man whose body Kovacs occupies. It turns out that Ortega was in love with Riker and so she makes love to Kovacs and transfers her feelings to him. All of this is possible because of stack technology which downloads the brains of an individual allowing them to transfer their mind into another body. Bancroft was able to back his mind up and it was made to look like he killed himself. 

More of Kovacs's past is revealed when his sister Reileen (Dichen Lachman) shows up to save him from a cage fight. She had trained with him in the past after they were separated as kids. They reunited and joined the envoy but Rei never wanted to lose her brother to Quell's spell. They are attacked by a ruthless army who uses a special virus to make people crazy. Only Takeshi survived but now Rei has been reborn with several clones and has somehow become involved in this case. Following some more clues that I didn't fully understand, Kovacs and his crew end up on a sky brothel where they fight Rei and her ruthless killer henchman Mr. Leung (Trieu Tran). Kovacs kills his sister and crashes eventually earning a reprieve and helping reveal the truth about Bancroft's suicide.

Altered Carbon has some positive aspects that make it an appealing show visually but the plot is so convoluted, I wasn't always sure what was happening. The show is fun enough to propel me through the episodes though I mostly used them to exercise. Kinnaman has never been an extraordinary actor but he is fine to watch even though the earlier Kovacs played by Will Yun Lee has more charisma and would have been a better choice for the lead. There are spurts of action each episode that kept it entertaining but it still felt like low budget sci-fi which can look silly. Netflix is in the process of producing a lot of shows that are not very special but they are overloading their platform with content that appears to be profitable. 

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