Violent, visually stunning, and captivating, Altered Carbon caught my imagination from the pilot episode and wouldn’t let up. It’s one of the few Netflix shows I’ve ever even attempted to binge-watch, and it rapidly became one of my new favorites.
The show isn’t for everyone, but this, in my mind, is actually a strength of this new wave of shows from Netflix, Amazon, and the rest. The show never apologizes for itself, and while the violent scenes, the physical and psychological torture, and the world itself may be off-putting to some, the shown never dulls its material to make it more palatable. This is a world where bodies have become almost meaningless, and the show reflects that. It certainly makes viewing some scenes uncomfortable at times. But I would argue the show is better because of it.
I personally liked this show for three reasons:
The first is that the characters are well developed and tie together in interesting ways. There are no angels or demons here, but a wide variety of people with a wide variety of motivations. For me, that’s a powerful sign of good storytelling, and I became involved in the story even through minor characters. Characters end up clashing against one another because of their motivations, not because of their inherent goodness or badness.
I also loved this show because of the world that it built. Perhaps more than anything, this was the quality of the show that immediately drew me in. Like a lot of my favorite science fiction, it posits a simple question: what if we could store our consciousness on a disc? What would that world end up looking like? It influences economics, space travel, daily life, religious belief, and fighting. Through examples both large and small, we get glimpses of what this world is like.
In fact, if I had a complaint about this show, I would have loved for it to have slowed down and spent more time in the world. Yes, it would have messed with the pacing, but to me this was one of the most fascinating pieces and I would have loved to spend more time on it.
Finally, I liked the ambition of the piece. This story spans worlds, lifetimes, and more. It’s not all that often we see big-budget original sci-fi, and this one went for everything. More than anything, I want this to do well simply so Netflix and the other streaming services will put more money into making more shows like this.
That, to me, would be the biggest success.