Altered Carbon (2018-?)
Renée Elise Goldsberry
Set in a future where consciousness is digitized and stored, a prisoner returns to life in a new body and must solve a mind-bending murder to win his freedom.
It’s been almost a week since I finished watching Altered Carbon and I’ve done a lot of talking about it, my original opinion was mostly neutral but it has become more negative the more I’ve thought about it. AC is visually remarkable, especially considering it’s a TV show. The world created was interesting and definitely something worth exploring. There have been lots of complaints about the acting, but I personally don’t have a problem with it considering it’s a Sci-Fi show and that’s honestly what I expect. My main problems with the show are the characters, story, and the treatment of women.
In AC bodies are called sleeves, if you’re wealthy you can slip in and out of different sleeves depending on your whim. If you are poor, not so much, but it is possible for you to earn enough in your lifetime so that you can feasibly not die. This makes the human body almost like a car and for some disposable, which is supposed to explain a lot of things, like why there is so much nudity in the show.
My problem with that is that the nudity is almost completely one sided. You see all but one main female cast member completely naked. You see one male lead and it’s so brief I missed it. There is a scene where Dichen Lachman’s character jumps into six different sleeves of herself, all completely naked, and fights on a ton of glass. There are multiple sex scenes were you see full frontal female nudity, but the most you get male wise is butt. There are discarded female sex bots all over one episode, but almost no male ones.
I counted 2.5 penises, though I’m told I missed maybe 2 more. I lost track of how much bush I saw. If this was a futuristic world in which women appeared to be able to do everything that men could, they were revolutionaries, capitalists, and police officers, why was there so little in the way of their sexual entertainment? Why were their bodies the only ones on display?
Even ignoring the nudity the female characters were treated and written horribly. It was a violent world, but they almost always ended up worse than the male characters. They made decisions that seemed to go against character, though, most of that seemed to be in situations involving them being naked which just adds to my frustration on that front. Clearly the reason for the female nudity had very little to do with story.
Kristen Ortega, Martha Higareda, stalked Kovacs, Joel Kinnaman, from the beginning because he was in the sleeve of her boyfriend. She hated him because of it and was constantly calling him a terrorist, but this did not stop her from sleeping with him and falling in love to the point where when her boyfriend is cleared and Kovacs is returning the sleeve she is visibly disappointed. She was tortured, her partner killed protecting her, and her entire family brutally murdered. She’s finally at least getting the man she’s supposed to have loved enough that it messed her up emotionally at the beginning of the story, but she’s bummed because…reasons.
Reileen Kawahara, Dichen Lachman, is Kovacs sister. She has miraculously survived these two hundred and fifty years because she has no morals or scruples. This was hinted at in flash backs to their original lives and not out of character at all. What does feel out of character is her sudden incestuous feelings toward Kovacs. While she’s taken over the body of Kristen, she comes on hard to him. He realizes it’s her and is grossed out, but her explanation is nothing is off limits when you’re rich and basically a god. She goes from a younger sister that idolizes her brother to a madam that does truly heinous things all in the pursuit of money and apparently wants to get in his pants. Her getting her brother free is basically a stretch goal and her real purpose was to cover her own ass. She ends up dying, which is much deserved, though who knows if it’s permanent.
Quellcrist Falconer, Renée Elise Goldsberry, is leading a revolution. She’s created a technology that she thought would be good, but of course turned out bad. She’s trying to correct things, she’s got a plan, too bad she falls in love with Kovacs. She ends up dying at the hands of his sister, or does she? She’s currently saved on a stack waiting to be rescued by Kovacs.
Miriam Bancroft, Kristen Lehman, is married to Laurens Bancroft, James Purefoy, and is basically stuck. She can’t do anything because he owns everything, but she’s got her kids. Her kids are everything to her apparently, though apart from a couple seemingly throw away comments you don’t really know this until the last episode. She has been with her husband forever and seems to exist for him. Her body is specifically engineered to be amazing at sex to the point it excretes some kind of pheromone or something. Naturally she has sex with Kovacs and then any time she’s around him is trying to get him to go to an island where all of her clones are so that he can have sex with lots of her. You discover that she killed a sleeve and an unborn baby because of her great love of her children and not wanting someone else to give birth to a child by her husband. She has charges read against her and she’s led away by the police.
I’m not going to list the rest of the female cast, but their histories are similar. They’re dedicated to getting ahead at whatever cost, they do everything for their children, and they’re sexually abused and left for dead.
Just so you can see the contrast here’s a breakdown of some of the male characters.
Kovacs is woken up after two hundred and fifty years in jail, he’s put in an enhanced body, sadly they missed an opportunity here. He went from being Asian to a white male, if bodies are as exchangeable as they keep trying to say in the show it would have been nice if they hadn’t been so tone deaf.
He’s told if he can solve Bancroft’s murder he will get a full pardon and a ton of money, in the meantime he’s allowed to roam free and has access to a ton of money. He indulges in lots of drugs, has sex with his boss’s wife and the cop tailing him and wins a lot of fights. At one point he’s tortured for quite a while, but he eventually breaks himself out and destroys the whole place. The show ends with him killing his sister (maybe), learning his true love is in a stack somewhere and just needs to be found and put in a body, and getting a ton of money and a full pardon.
Laurens Bancroft is RICH and thinks of himself as a benevolent god. He’s kept his children in arrested development and they hate him for it. He believes one of his sleeves was murdered and wants Kovacs to figure out who did it. All the evidence points to suicide, but he refuses to believe that’s what happened. Turns out that’s exactly what happened. His wife drugged him because she was being blackmailed after she killed his baby momma. He gets super violent while on these drugs and permanently kills one of his prostitutes. He can’t believe he’d do something like that and it breaks him, he felt there was a line he’d never cross. So that he will never have to remember what he’s done he kills his sleeve before his memories can be backed up. The show ends with him being arrested, though the charges are never read by the police. He reconciles with his son and leaves him in charge, but let’s be honest there’s no way he’s not getting free with his money and the confession of his wife drugging him.
Poe, Chris Conner, is the most interesting character in the whole show. He’s a hotel AI and takes care of his guest, Kovacs, every whim. He dies a heroes death.
Like I said Altered Carbon is visually amazing to watch, the world interesting, but the story and characters are seriously lacking. There’s a lot wrong with it and I don’t think I’d say I enjoyed watching most of it, but it’s got a lot of potential. If it is picked up for a second season I hope it’s able to live up to that potential and do a lot better. I’m honestly not sure if I would watch a second season though.