Humanity has unlocked the secret to immortality. A device known as a “stack” is implanted at the base of the skull, and it digitally stores an individual’s consciousness. If the body dies, the individual can be downloaded into a new “sleeve” and get back to business as usual. Sounds pretty sweet, but there are a few catches. If your stack gets damaged you’re still a goner, so watch out for plasma blasts to the back of the head. Likewise, if your body can’t be recovered, you can’t be re-sleeved for a night on the town. It also isn’t cheap. While everyone gets a stack implanted on their first birthday, sleeves are expensive. If you die and find yourself short on cash, it’s likely you’ll be relegated to VR limbo or re-sleeved into a body that is less than ideal.
The result is a world where the super wealthy can afford back-up sleeves and sleeves for different occasions, while the poor struggle to pay the sleeve-mortgage needed to keep their loved ones alive in the real world. Enter Kovacs, a mercenary-turned-criminal who hasn’t had the luxury of a human body for hundreds of years. He’s brought back to solve the murder of one of the wealthiest men in the world, and it’s a mystery with plenty of sordid twists and turns. Kovacs has a troubled past of his own, and he is struggling to find meaning in the mixed up world. His character’s perspective sheds a lot of light on the world of Altered Carbon, and is able to make the show more than just a re-sleeved crime drama.
Altered Carbon is well worth watching. I feel like good science fiction programming is hard to find, and I appreciate it when something like this comes along that can pique my interest. Altered Carbon has more than just the sci-fi hook, having a strong story and interesting characters to go along with its interesting premise. My only real complaint about Altered Carbon, and the only reason I didn’t wind up giving the show a well-deserved A, is that the show peters out in last episode or two. After a really solid seven or eight episodes, the last couple wind up feeling a bit derivative with story elements we’ve seen elsewhere too many times before. Still, the show is well worth watching, and if Netflix decides to crank out a second season, I’ll be eager to binge watch to see the continuing adventures of Kovacs and company.