Altered Carbon
"Altered Carbon" is more like altered good entertainment... as in bad entertainment. (Illustration by Dorothy Timan, Indiana University)
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Altered Carbon
"Altered Carbon" is more like altered good entertainment... as in bad entertainment. (Illustration by Dorothy Timan, Indiana University)

Be prepared for fillers, meaningless romance, poor writing and no detective.


Like everyone else in the sci-fi fan squad, I was excited for the Netflix premiere of “Altered Carbon.” Much to my dismay, however, I was met with something other than your average sci-fi detective show.

The summary of the show: It takes place 300 years in the future, and human bodies are interchangeable through the transferring of human minds via a chip-like disk, so death is no longer an issue. Main character Takeshi Kovacs, played by Joel Kinnaman, is the only surviving soldier of a group of elite interstellar warriors who were defeated in an uprising against the new world order. His mind was imprisoned for centuries until wealthy businessman Laurens Bancroft provides him the opportunity to gain back his life. The catch: Kovacs must solve Bancroft’s murder.

Calm down. It is not as exciting as it seems. The first two episodes were out-of-this-world, pun intended. The sci-fi elements were killer (also pun intended). You could say that the directors put a majority of their budget into the first two episodes. I guess they figured if they can hook the viewer with only two episodes, they will stick around for the remaining eight. Here five reasons as to why you should “watch” “Altered Carbon.”

1. The Writing

The writing is something other than what one might call good. In fact, it was just as bad as getting cat litter all over your carpet. I only made it to Episode 6 before I decided I needed to regurgitate my beef-potato medley. Shame. The writing was so cliché and predictable I thought I was watching one of those incredibly cringy movies that you thought was a joke, but the writers ended up actually serious about their script. Some of the lines from the show are like this:

KOVACS: I think no one in the Archdiocese has ever been murdered. Violent death will do wonders for your perspective.

ORTEGA: Is that experience talking? I mean, no offense, but whatever you did, it must have been pretty bad — down for close to five hundred years, they said.  What were you in for?

KOVACS: A little of this, a little of that. Blew some s—t up, killed some people.

2. The Actors

If the script does not turn your stomach inside out, then wait until I get to the cliché actors. Lieutenant Ortega, played by Martha Higareda, was right up there with the worst of them all, right next to the gung-ho lady playing Falconer, Renee Goldberry, who was trying way too hard to be a hardcore savage.

Note: This is not an anti-feminist article; this is an article about a show where all the female actors happen to be terrible at acting in their designated roles. There is also the other female character, Mirium Bancroft, played by Kristen Lehman, who is also not a good fit for the show.

What each of these characters have in common is that all of them share the quality of being the tough broad that everyone admires. It’s too much. I am simply trying to watch a sci-fi detective show, but every 10 minutes I am interrupted by a war junkie, or the women who feel that they need to show the guy, whom each predictably have sex with, that they are tough and need no man. Ugh.

3. Unnecessary Action 

Each of the chase/fight scenes are overrated. Period. The characters do a lot of useless and unneeded moves to look cool. Instead of jumping on top of the car or doing five backflips to avoid the one person in your way, you could simply go around the obstacle and maybe actually catch whom you are chasing. Just an idea.

Or better yet, instead of running all over the dome you are trapped in, maybe actually entertain the audience with a stunt double doing some fake moves. None of this, “let’s run with our legs in the air, maneuvering a katana, and slice through everybody we see. We also need to wear a black cloak too, because that says mysterious, and mysterious is cool.” It’s pathetic. Again, I am still waiting for the detective.

4. Am I even watching a detective show? 

“Altered Carbon” has way too much filler. I am on Episode 6, and I have yet to see any actual detective work happening. No, f—king the cop you are supposed to be flirtatiously annoyed with and then breaking into a house together to find something unexpected is not detective work. And each episode is an hour long, so when am I going get a detective in action?

If we aren’t reminiscing Kovacs’ lost love, then we are remembering his sidekick’s traumatic experience with his daughter, and if we aren’t doing that, then we are watching Ortega solve cases that inevitably take up half of the showtime. If you thought that was a lot, wait until you get to the 15-minute training montage of Kovacs’ gung-ho lady, Falconer. Presumably, the show is a detective show, but instead, it is a show about unrequited love, and then requited love, and then nostalgia, etc. The characters aren’t even solving a murder anymore.   

In sum, the show is a cringe-disaster, and not the good kind of cringe either. Spoiler alert: Bancroft’s murder doesn’t really get solved until Episode 8, and really it is just a case of a rich guy gone mad. The writers could have done so much better.

I have a theory that they hired excellent writers for the first two episodes, but because they poured what seems like their entire budget into two hours, they had to find some less talented folks to write the remainder of the show.

As a final note, the graphic nudity is way too much for a sci-fi show. I’m not sure why sci-fi today has to include graphic content in dramatic fashion, but hey, “Altered Carbon” is the new and upcoming sci-fi show that everyone “must” see.

ALTERED CARBON Trailer 2 (2018) Netflix

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