Last year Richard K Morgans novel ‘Altered Carbon’ was turned into a lavish mini series on Netflix.
The story is set in the far future where a persons identity is stored on a chip and can be downloaded into new bodies called sleeves. It is a fascinating view of morality, corruption and what it means to be you. The fact that the hero, Takeshi Kovacs, can move between bodies means that you can have a new lead each season.
This season saw Anthony Mackie take the lead from Joel Kinnaman and he did a fine job. Appearance is such a key thing in portraying a character that it is interesting to see the nuances of the Takeshi character be performed by different actors.
This season is based on the second book ‘Woken Furies’ and follows Takeshi as he returns home and hunts for his lost love and revolutionary Quellcrist Falconer. There is a great deal of action across the 8 episodes which is well paced, be warned however Altered Carbon takes no prisoners with regards to plot and exposition.
Richard K. Morgan is someone I would consider a hard sci-fi author. He tackles large themes and weaves complex science into moral decision making and a sideways look at personal identity. TV sci-fi generally avoids these grand themes preferring the serialised likes of Star Trek, Stargate and Battlestar Galactica etc. Very rarely do we get to see such grand themes realised in such a way.
The violence and language is unrelenting but fits the universe the characters inhabit. Life in this future is tough and… corporate, it has much to say about modern slavery, poverty and multinationals.
This season has a rage of supporting cast, Torben Liebecht plays a delightfully dangerous Colonel Carerra, and Renee Elise Goldsberry is convincing in her role as Quellcrist who is coming to terms with who she is and how to stop the big bad alien. The standout character however is the AI played by Chris Conner. The AI is based on Edgar Allan Poe and Conners brings a suitable blend of gothic melodrama and humour to the role. As Takeshis only real friend Poe is critical to the show and is one of the most likeable characters, after all Takeshi is very much the anti hero.
Poe has to deal with his own mortality as an AI this season and we are forced to examine what that means for an artificial construct. Conner’s treatment of this is sensitive and moving. Poe is not alone he gets help from another AI Dig 301 and Takeshi gets a sidekick in the form of bounty hunter Trepp.
This season broadens the more insular last season and pads out the depth of the characters, a third season must surely be on the drawing board and there is a third Kovacs book that could be adapted.
The current two seasons are now available on Netflix.