Altered Carbon: Season 1/ Episode 1 “Out of The Past” [Series Premiere] – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

The title card for Netflix's Altered Carbon.
73.97% (6)

Altered Carbon first episode leads you to believe writer Laeta Kalogridis known not just by their productions, but by name.


Network
Netflix
Creator Laeta Kalogridis
Director(s) Miguel Sapochnik
Writer(s) Laeta Kalogridis
Air Date 2/2/2018
Noted Cast
Takeshi (Past) Will Yun Lee
Takeshi (Present) Joel Kinnaman
Quellcrist Renée Elise Goldsberry
Laurens James Purefoy
Kristin Martha Higareda

The Introduction

The oligarchy has truly become the ruling class. That is what Takeshi Kovacs wakes up to after spending most of his original life fighting to keep that from happening. But now, 250 years later, he gets to see the nightmare of himself and his leader, a possible lover, Quellcrist in full effect. Though, to make matters worse, someone who probably is beyond a trillionaire named Laurens Bancroft has elicited Takeshi’s help. An odd request, considering how Takeshi fought to bring down those like Laurens, but with Takeshi being the last of the Envoys, an elite group of super soldiers trained by Quellcrist, who else could you go to in order to solve your murder?

Especially when cops like Kristin may ask a whole bunch of questions, but never the right ones of the right people. But, being that Kristin is a new type of cop, and her failure to solve Laurens murder has been detrimental to her career, now she latches onto Takeshi for answers, insight, if not to take him, and maybe Laurens too, down.

Though, she may need a lot of luck for that. For even with him being on ice for 250 years, Takeshi still has military grade neurachem and combat muscle memory. Much less, thanks to this thing called a Cortical Stack, while a lot of his old memories may be fuzzy, like the existence of his little sister and Quellcrist, they still exist. Thus giving way to him agreeing to help Laurens solve his murder, but maybe his true pursuit being how to undo the damage of the last few centuries and complete the mission him and Quellcrist were working on.

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. How and why did the United States dissolve?
  2. Without changing your sleeve, how long do bodies last in this time period?
  3. Are sleeves expensive? Much less, storage for a person’s consciousness if you can’t afford a sleeve?
  4. How does one get a sleeve? As in, would it just be when a poor person dies, their body can be repurposed for the upper class or for “Victim Restitution?”
  5. Are the Founding Meths the first people to transfer their consciousness to other bodies?
  6. What does Bancroft Industries sell?

Highlights

The Visuals

The world above the clouds where the middle class and poor live.

When I started watching this, I had to check who was behind this because the lush visuals reminded me so much of Bryan Fuller’s style. However, with knowing how American Gods was handled, and seeing how the action scenes were, I knew it was not him. But it isn’t just the action but just the city scope and how the costumes and makeup are, clearly this wasn’t his style. This is truly something beyond which you can imagine, even after a 10 episode season, you maybe not feeling like it lost all its luster by the 3rd or 5th episode. Especially as we explore life outside of Bay City.

World Building

To be completely honest, sci-fi and fantasy aren’t perhaps my favorite genres. Especially since we live in an age where it is more about the special effects and action than how the technology changes people lives. How someone like Takeshi, who fought for a different kind of world, adjusts, and in general, while I don’t mind being mentally challenged, at the same time I’d rather be intrigued than left feeling ignorant. You know what I mean? I want to be enticed into looking into what is Methuselah, vs. feeling ignorant or questioning if something was made up, embellished to sound cool, or else philosophical in the most pompous of ways.

With Altered Carbon, there is a balance. You get your shootouts, hand to hand combat, a nice dose of sci-fi with the whole cortical stack thing, flying cars, and what have you, but not to the point it is overwhelming. What we get is a foundation. You see what this new world has and is capable of, and there isn’t a deep dive just yet. Also, we get a sense of how the world became, basically, an oligarchy and are given signs that the conversation on that will pick up at a later time.

Plus, while we aren’t given a huge amount of flashbacks, we are given just enough for a before and after effect. A means to connect to the real Takeshi in order to get into white Takeshi. Thus, overall, presenting a rather approachable sci-fi production, even for those who aren’t head over heels for the genre.

On The Fence

The Characters, If Not Their Actors, And Their Initial Impressions

Will Yun Lee as Takeshi in Altered Carbon

Recognizing the source material may have this be done as well, it is hard to take this cool looking Asian guy, Will Yun Lee, with decent charisma, and have him get traded in for what looks like a younger version of Aaron Eckhart. Someone who looks the part of your usual action hero, and in there lies the problem. Bootleg Eckhart presents a generic vibe to a rather interesting story. I mean, even the way he fights, like at The Raven Hotel, just seems boring and uninspiring. Which, for a show which seemingly will have no issues with sexual content, considering the violence maybe graphic with gunshots but the actual fighting is lackluster, it is worrisome.

For while I recognize, as seen with Devilman Crybaby, a show can’t live off its sexual content and violence, that is why I worry about this just adequate protagonist. Though, it also extends to those who seemingly are alive as well. Laurens, as a pseudo-villain, considering he is what Takeshi fought against in his first lifetime, doesn’t really inspire any feelings. Neither does Kristin. And I want to believe it is just because it is episode one, so it is more about the world and its history than the characters we will spend lots of time with.

Yet, what if it isn’t? Or, even worse, what if only the past with Takeshi’s sister, Quellcrist, and that era will be interesting while the present is a struggle?  Only time will tell.

First Impression: Mixed (Stick Around)

James Purefoy as Laurena speaking to Takeshi about his misplaced optimism in his son.

In terms of world-building, this is a very approachable show. For those not heavy into sci-fi, like myself, you won’t be inundated with terms and overthought philosophy which seems geared strictly towards enthusiast. But, what will make or break the show is if Kinnaman’s version of Takeshi doesn’t find itself relying on Lee’s in order to maintain our interest. Much less, if the show doesn’t find itself being split into liking what character and story goes on in the past vs. what is going on in the present.

So, I am currently a bit mixed on where this may go. I definitely enjoy the visuals and the characters who inhabit Takeshi’s past. However, while they have an influence on present Takeshi, they aren’t seemingly part of the central story. So I do fear that most of the show might be waiting for old school Takeshi to appear while suffering through the new school one. Though, fingers crossed, things could change.


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Altered Carbon | Netflix Official Site

After 250 years on ice, a prisoner returns to life in a new body with one chance to win his freedom: by solving a mind-bending murder.

Altered Carbon | Netflix Official Site

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