‘Altered Carbon’ puts new twists on utopian societies

Netflix has changed the game when it comes to new and unique television series. In the past five years Netflix has created and produced popular shows like “Stranger Things,” “Orange is the New Black,” “House of Cards” and as of Feb. 2, “Altered Carbon.”

This new action-packed, sci-fi drama is based on the science fiction novel printed in 2002, “Altered Carbon,” by Richard Morgan. This book, and now Netflix’s newest series, takes place in a futuristic and dystopian San Francisco, now known as Bay City. The show uses landmarks like Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge to further the belief that this is in fact San Francisco, but far into the future.

The show revolves around the murder of Laurens Bancroft, played by James Purefoy, who’s a Meth; the name for people who are rich enough to continue living indefinitely because of their wealth. In this futuristic show, people can continue living, even if they’ve faced something that would normally kill them, such as being shot, brutally beaten or even aging; all of which the series portrays. The extended life is a result of people containing a “stack” in the vertebrae in the back of their necks. A “stack” is similar to an external hard drive that contains all human consciousness and memories; Without one, they cannot live.

Keeping with the futuristic elements in the show, each individual’s body is known as a “sleeve” and one can substitute it for another sleeve if it becomes damaged. However, changing into another sleeve is only possible if the person has an unharmed stack, and the costly process makes it unaffordable for many. If they damage the sleeve and affect the stack, the person experiences actual death. People like Bancroft, the Meths, have multiple sleeves lined up and ready for use if their current sleeve gets damaged, like Bancroft’s sleeve that got shot.

The Meth’s have their stacks wirelessly backed up to satellites in the sky, and the back-ups occur every 48 hours. If the back-up of the stack does not occur, all memory of the past 48 hours, or until the last backup, is lost. This creates the element of suspense and the unknown to the show, which viewers find addicting. 

The first episode kicks off with Bancroft hiring a man named Takeshi Kovacs, played by Joel Kinnaman. Viewers are watching as a man comes to life after being in a vacuum-sealed bag, unconscious for centuries. The man has incredible strength and is very confused as to where he is. Viewers find out shortly that this is Kovacs being resleeved into another man’s body at the Alcatraz Center, where all resleeving occurs.

Kovacs is the last-standing Envoy of his time. Envoys were people trained to have a sixth sense. They could sense how people were feeling, fight like no other, and believed that stacks would ultimately bring a dark light into society, which is why the wealthy killed them off. The whole season we learn more and more about Kovacs through flashbacks into his Envoy life and discover the truth as to what happened to Laurens Bancroft.

Besides the thought that this could very well be our future, just like a “Black Mirror” episode, this show brings up religious beliefs as well. Even in this portrayed future, there is a small group of the population who are Catholic. They believe that once a person dies, their soul goes to Heaven, so they do not believe in being resleeved. This belief makes them a target to face real death, so their sleeve can be used again. Since the murderers destroy their stacks, the Catholics cannot be resleeved to testify.

“Altered Carbon” has many layers to it, and it’s most definitely a show where viewers must pay attention to every detail and every line, or else the viewer will miss out on an important piece to the puzzle. This show deals with violence, sex, a dystopian future and human values. Each episode is around an hour long, and so far, there’s only one season on Netflix with 10 episodes. According to Nexflixlife, “Altered Carbon” could very well be a one-and-done series. 

The show only reached a quarter of the viewings that the very talked-about show “Stranger Things” reached, which was around 10 million viewers. Because this show has so much information crammed into each episode, viewers lose interest, as it is too much of a commitment.

The show has so many elements to it that can either make or break it. At some point it can get ridiculous how many twists and turns there are, where it seems like the writers ran out of content and had to keep the show going for a couple of episodes. 

It’s up to the viewer if they want to stick around and wait for the murder of Bancroft to be solved in this new unique future, or binge-watch a different show.