Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Altered Carbon (Season 1)

There comes a point with a prison sentence that adding more years does nothing.  The longest life spans tend to be just past 100 years.  Being given a sentence of 250 years might as well be a million years.  Takeshi Kovacs lives in a future where that’s not a problem.  He finds himself at Alcatraz after serving those 250 years.

In this future, people have cortical stacks.  These stacks can store consciousness and memories, so that if one body, called a sleeve, dies, those memories and consciousness can be put into a new sleeve.  Some people have the body they were born with.  Others have the body someone else was born with.  Those that are rich can get clones of their original body.  There are even synthetic bodies, if you‘re in to that sort of stuff.

Takeshi is being released to solve the murder of Laurens Bancroft.  If Takeshi can find the man’s murderer, he gets a full pardon and more money than one could reasonably fathom.  Who’s hiring him?  Laurens Bancroft, of course.  You see, normally, a murder victim could tell you who the killer was. However, Bancroft’s stack was destroyed, meaning that his backup had to be used for the current clone.  It looks like a suicide, but Bancroft is convinced someone else did it.  The gun used was kept in a safe that only he or his wife could open, but someone else using one of their clones isn’t out of the question.

The future presented in Altered Carbon is one where the gap in wealth has gotten much wider.  Those that have money have everything they could want.  Those that don’t are condemned to live on the ground in squalor.  If you have money, you fear nothing.  You probably have at least one police officer on the payroll.  You can engage in almost any illegal activity you want.  You have enough clones that death means nothing.  Life is one long party.

The idea of transferring consciousness bothers me a little.  How do you know it’s really going to be you?  The idea that several characters have copies of themselves complicates the question.  Also, what does it mean to have missing memories?  These questions are dealt with, even if it’s tangentially.  Having a copy of yourself, called double sleeving, is illegal.  Bancroft’s memory loss is a problem for Takeshi and others, for several reasons.

I will say that there’s a lot of sex, nudity and violence in the series.  Most of the main characters appear naked at some point.  It’s excessive to the point of gratuity. (Not that I’m complaining.)  This is not a series for children.  Also, it appears that language isn’t as much of an issue in the future as it is now.  You’re going to have to pay attention to the subtitles occasionally.  On the plus side, you may pick up a few curse words in Spanish or German.

The series seems a little drawn out.  It’s a murder mystery over 10 episodes, each being about an hour.  It’s kind of like 24 in that regard.  The difference is that here, we’re not limited to a single day.  Almost a full episode is dedicated to Kovacs’s life in his original body.  We also get flashbacks to Kovacs’s previous life.  Parts of that previous life have come back to haunt him, which is where the extended story comes in.

I will say that Netflix has been producing some great original content.  I don’t know that it’s necessarily fair to compare the series to other TV shows or movies.  It does have a unique feel to it.  It is somewhat dark and could easily be viewed as dystopian, which is not unusual.  I’d say that it’s better to come into this series not expecting something else.  This isn’t Blade Runner.  It may be similar, but it’s not the same.

Right now, your only option for viewing the series, at least legally, is to have access to Netflix.  If you do decide to go for the free trial, this might be one of the series you look at.  You could easily watch it in a weekend.  The episodes don’t rely on cliffhangers, so it’s easier to break it up if you’re not into binge watching.   It’s a shame that I will probably have to wait a year for more episodes.  Given that the murder investigation is wrapped up, I’m curious to see how a second season plays out.

IMDb page

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