Altered Carbon is Stunning

Let’s kill all the things!

This is not really a review of Altered Carbon. I’m not going to “review” the show, so much as explain why you should go watch it on Netflix right now. Review makes it sound like I can stand back from the thing and judge it critically. I can’t. I can’t even pretend to. I’m in the thing. The thing is in me. (Insert stack virus joke here.)

Altered Carbon is a futuristic, cyberpunk, hardboiled detective show with a touch of war film genre thrown in. It has the virtual and the real. It has both dated and futuristic references. The main character is thrust into the position of solving a murder. In typical hardboiled detective fashion everyone tries to sleep with or kill Takeshi as soon as he takes the case.

Any hardboiled detective needs his drugs…

Let’s talk fights and battles. Many Altered Carbon reviews have opening statements of there being too much violence. If I were Netflix, I’d add those quotes to the trailer. “SHOCKING AMOUNT OF VIOLENCE.” I was not actually shocked at all by the amount of violence, only by the quality. They really set the fight scenes up beautifully. I guess I’m the main character of Clockwork Orange just loving the blood. I can’t help it, Altered Carbon just does it well.

This show is DRAMA. There is so much emotion, misery, and heart break all packed into this story between AI jokes and epic fight scenes. The first episode gets you up to speed, but after that it all goes by fast. Kind of like a downhill race towards who knows what. Whatever the mind of Richard K. Morgan dreamt up.

A ridiculously talented cast sells it all. I don’t think I’ve ever before simultaneously cared for so many characters at once. This cast can appear in all my shows now. Even a few actors that I’d written off from work on other shows, their performance here was stellar. The cast includes actors from Dollhouse, The Killing, Bones, and Buffy. As a nerd, I did find myself giggling as nerd-show actors kept appearing.

Photo by Stewart Cook/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Beyond serious acting ability, the cast of Altered Carbon is also ethnically diverse. Not just a token nonwhite, in a blinding cast of white. Actual racial diversity in a show! It just makes me happy to see. I’ve read some hilarious comments online of people who’ve obviously only seen one episode, accusing the show of white washing itself in the first episode. Let me put that to rest. Anyone worried that Will Yun Lee, the asian Takeshi, doesn’t get a big role because he is past Takeshi…Lets just say this story goes backwards and forwards. In my opinion, Will Yun Lee gets all the best parts.

Fancy science fiction soldiers!

Now, we’ve got a complex story, drama and fight scenes, great cast, what else do we need with science fiction? Scenic eye candy, please! The future is beautiful! Ugly-hearted maybe, but the skylines, mountains, and city-scapes are gorgeous. This show has a movie budget. Everything looks great. Even the gore and battles. Especially the gore and battles! Right when you’re upset by the last scene, you have to stop being upset for a moment to stare at the fabulous scenery.


Honestly, at this point, I’m going to alienate the book lovers…I may love the show more. Remember all those super intense reveal scenes in the book? In the show, the visuals just make those reveals obvious and immediately emotional. Also, the show just took advantage of some of the set up in the book and took it further, like The Raven hotel. The show took the AI hotel joke just that much further. That said, the book is brilliant, and the show is just cheating by showing me pretty pictures. Richard K. Morgan combined genres, stories, characters, emotion, and technology in a masterpiece that should not have been possible. The show succeeds by having that as its blueprint.

Fully disclosure, book lovers, the show does make some changes. I loved it anyway.

I rate the show all the stars in the sky out of five stars. Someone else can do the math. Now stop dawdling and go start watching Altered Carbon on Netflix. Once you’re done, immediately get the book so you can go find out how much more of a smart-ass Takeshi is inside his own head.

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