We have nine episodes in Altered Carbon that, at times, really feel like an honest attempt to inject pace and well-thought futurism into a cops-n-robbers-in-space thriller.
You’ll see lots of references to Blade Runner style and Matrix cyberpunk and the like. All of which is sort of true. And there’s plenty of cruelty, especially against women, that is the stock-in-trade of most crime thrillers, no matter whether set in the past, present or future.
To offset that misogyny, there are four strong female characters, played by Dichen Lachman, Martha Higareda, Kristin Lehman and Renée Elise Goldsberry (pictured with showrunner Laeta Kalogridis). And the lead man is played with a great deal of gritty realism by Joel Kinnaman (he was also impressively taciturn in The Killing series from 2014).
Like many Netflix series, there’s a cookie-cutter approach to the plot and sub-plots. Hero(es) just about get a win but then the carpet is pulled out from under them. All very Hero’s Journey but rather too formulaic now that we’ve seen it in, oh, about 14 Netflix series so far!
In keeping with ‘the future’ there’s plenty of bleak darkness – the dark, rainy streets, the glaring neon, the dark alleys, the stark white labs and the dark settings when hero(es) are in a bind and trapped.
The story? Well, we’ve got galaxy-spanning capabilities and intergalactic stormtroopers and rich people who can live forever (more or less – give or take the odd ‘refresh’). And lots of cops-n-robbers street-level stuff, which is a long way below the super-rich living in their spacescrapers.
And, of course, there’s a sort of fate-of-personkind thing and the revolutionaries (good guys?) versus the establishment (bad guys?).
But, and it’s a big BUT, the whole fin de siècle turns out to be completely prosaic when we reach the finale and the underlying reason for a huge percentage of the story.
Spoiler alert: I’m sorry, but the people who are supposed to have lived for a few hundred years would have sorted out the petty insecurities that supposedly set off the main ‘bad deed’.
It’s like we’ve just watched nine episodes of Twin Peaks and the tenth episode (and ‘resolution’) is a weak sub-plot from Dallas.