A Beautiful, Incredible Ride: “Altered Carbon” Reviewed

by T. Mack


5 SG Shields

Normally, my rating comes at the end of a review. However, Netflix’s new series, Altered Carbon, is so good that I had to begin by telling you just how much I liked it. Now, I’ll break down 8 reasons you should watch this show immediately!

1. It’s a Terrific Premise

In the world of Altered Carbon, death is avoidable… if you have enough money. Technology has advanced so that people are implanted with a device that is essentially a flash drive for memories and personality. Once a body is destroyed, the device can be inserted into a different body and life continues. Takeshi Kovacs was deemed a criminal and killed 250 years ago. His very specialized skills were lost with him. Now, one of the richest men in the world has been killed and left without the memory of who did it. He needs Takeshi’s skills to discover his killer. So Takeshi is given a new body and the chance at a new life if he can solve the mystery.

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2. It’s Mysterious

The plot of Altered Carbon revolves around a murder. However, that’s not the only mystery that must be uncovered. The police are wading through unsolved cases. In flashbacks, the story and secrets of Takeshi’s past are shown and he must figure out how they connect to his present. In the present, Takeshi must figure out his place in this new world while trying not to be killed due to mistaken identity. Because not everyone is a fan of the man whose face he now wears.

Altered Carbon - Kinnaman

3. It’s Beautiful

Altered Carbon is visually stunning. It’s a feast for the eyes that makes you want to keep looking at the screen and never look away. It’s very clear that the colors on screen at every moment are carefully chosen. They help move the story and portray a number of themes, including the class divide within the show’s universe. There is often shocking and violent content shown, and even that is as beautiful to look at as it is terrible. Everything that you see–costumes, setting, effects, etc.–is presented as a spectacle that makes you want to keep watching.

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4. It’s Several Different Love Stories

In addition to murder mysteries, Altered Carbon features multiple love stories. There is love lost, love found, new love, old love, obsessive love, and redemptive love. Romantic love, parental love, love between siblings, and love between friends are all featured. Even the villains, in their own way, love strongly in this story. Nearly everyone who does anything does so because of love. Though often, that love is warped beyond what is healthy, or even sane.

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5 + 6. It Has Terrific Characters & It’s Diverse

The characters featured in Altered Carbon are interesting, engaging, and fascinating. Viewers will quickly find that they are invested in what has happened and will happen to the people onscreen. Many of the characters are likable, and many are not. However the interaction between them all is incredibly entertaining. To add to the appeal, the characters are ethnically, racially, and spiritually diverse. Sometimes, those differences are a significant point of the plot. Other times, they are simply a given that everyone takes for granted. It is particularly interesting when two characters have a conversation where one flows out of English into Arabic, the other responds in Spanish, and after bantering in those two languages for a while, they both jump back to English.


7. It Stars Excellent Actors

Altered Carbon is filled with a talented cast that brings the characters to life wonderfully. Will Yun Lee and Joel Kinnaman both do a terrific job as Takeshi Kovacs. I was particularly excited to see Dichen Lachman and Tahmoh Penikett, who are both phenomenal actors as well as being familiar faces from Joss Whedon’s short-lived series, Dollhouse. Chris Conner was utterly charming as the AI personality, Poe. James Purefoy, Kristin Lehman, and Tamara Taylor were all phenomenal as high-class elites who were happy to use other characters as pawns. And I have to mention Michael Eklund, who is quickly becoming my very favorite character actor due to his recent work on not only this series, but Wynonna Earp and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency as well. I could continue to list each member of the cast, but let’s just say that they all do a fantastic job helping bring this incredible (and slightly terrifying world) to life.

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8. It’s an Incredible Ride That Leaves You Wanting So Much More!

Altered Carbon drops its audience into a colorful and dangerous high-tech world. There exists in this world a clear and infinite divide between those who live, struggle and die on the ground and those who dwell and live forever in the sky. The journey of one man to navigate and bridge the gap between those places while he tries to solve a mystery is fascinating. It has many twists and turns, uplifting high points and devastating lows. It seems to loop back on itself more than once. And to understand the end, you have to experience the entire journey. It’s like a roller-coaster… terrifying and thrilling, seeming to simultaneously last much too long and be over far too quickly. In the end, audiences have gotten a complete story that is wonderfully told and does not require more to make us satisfied. However, we are also left with possibilities, curiosity, and the desire to see what may happen next in this beautiful and–in its own way–horrible world that Netflix has introduced.

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I haven’t read Richard K. Morgan’s novel on which this series is based and named. So I can’t speak to it as an adaptation. However, as someone who didn’t really have a clue what to expect going in, I can say that I was wonderfully surprised and elated with what I got. This show kept me on the edge of my seat and glued to my screen for an entire day while I devoured all 10 episodes. I give it my highest recommendation.


Have you watched Altered Carbon? Did you enjoy it as much as me or are their critiques that I glossed over in my haste to praise it? Have you read the book? If so, let me know how the show is as an adaptation. Take to the comments to share your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you.

6 thoughts on “A Beautiful, Incredible Ride: “Altered Carbon” Reviewed

  1. I binged all ten hours yesterday and absolutely loved it. At some point I just sob-tweeted about Poe quoting Annabelle Lee and then the show responded with a Poe gif of saying “You Seem Troubled” and I died. The show was really brilliant. I would definitely enjoy seeing more, but at the same time, this is one of the few shows where I wouldn’t be mad if that was the end. Does that make sense?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It absolutely makes sense. The show is so well-done that one season could be a completely brilliant run of the entire series. And things ended so beautifully that like you said, this would be the one of the very few times where it wouldn’t be upsetting to see it end so quickly. I was not expecting this show to be so great. I was so pleasantly surprised by just how wonderful it was!

      Liked by 1 person

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