Altered Carbon's first episode combines Blade Runner's awe with The Matrix's firepower and peppers it with Tarantino-esque artistry to deliver a quality cyberpunk debut.
Daddy like...Sat down with vino, pizza, and Netflix last night to bask in cyberpunk glory, and it was an evening very well spent if you ask me.
The first episode of this new sci-fi Netflix series is titled, "Out of the Past", and it introduces us to futuristic law enforcement officers, technologically advanced weaponry, and holograms galore.
Most importantly, it's a world in which your consciousness and memories can be downloaded onto a disk which is then implanted into the neck of a new body. A world in which you can be born again.
The episode's main character struggles to accept the fact that he has been provided with his high-quality body because his existence has been leased and is the property of a wealthy owner. We follow him during the beginning of his journey as he debates whether or not he wants to accept this existence, or reject his owner's offer, which will result in his consciousness being placed back into storage for the foreseeable future.
In my most recent article about the evolution of cyberpunk science fiction, I highlighted some of the elements that make for good cyberpunk, as well as cyberpunk as we know it.
This episode is quite timely, actually, because Altered Carbon is a pretty damn good example of fulfilling some of the subgenres necessities and/or cliches, while adding new flavor into the mix.
Great visuals, great sound effects, and great plot points and premises. A believable character in Takeshi Kovacs (played by Joel Kinnaman) certainly helps add to Altered Carbon's authenticity.
All Images: Netflix
I think the show in general brings enough originality to the table to be legitimate. Forget the flying cars, forget the holographic exotic dancers, (might be easier said than done...) and forget the urban, dystopian atmosphere.
It's primarily the directing, the cinematography, and the editing, that gives Altered Carbon its own identity, in a subgenre or genre even, that sometimes feels like its parts are rolling down an assembly line.
The hotel lobby scene was definitely nifty and my personal favorite, and the lobby clerk was particularly entertaining.
The artistic flair in this show is something you don't see too often in cyberpunk. Blade Runner 2049 is the closest thing that comes to mind, and that's a very recent addition to the cyberpunk stable.
Since no show is perfect, I'll include a gripe or two for good measure. I don't like it when one character finishes another character's sentences during backstory-related dialogue.
Star Trek Discovery's Michael Burnham is guilty of committing this crime as well. The reason why I don't like it is because it's very unnatural dialogue. Even for a human Star Fleet Officer that was raised by Vulcans.
It just makes the parties involved sound like smart-alecky clowns. There's gotta be a better way to deliver pertinent historical details without having characters finishing each other's sentences.
And the sexy shower scene that launched the episode may or may not have been necessary. It kind of felt like cinematic click-bait.
Would have been much cooler and more applicable if the show had kicked off with one of those shoot-em-up scenes or the scene in which Kovacs is reborn and is struggling to find his bearings.
Series premiers are tougher to execute than mid-season episodes are and maybe even finales, because you have to combine all the things you would normally set out to accomplish, with an introduction and backstory that aims to hook a viewer. And cramming all of those goals into one episode of a show is by no means an easy task.
But Altered Carbon's debut episode does a great job of juggling that delicate balancing act. Out of the Past gives us just the right amount of history, action, drama, suspense, and visual appeal. Not just for hardcore sci-fi fans, but for everybody.
I mentioned something about this in one of my other cyberpunk related posts, but between this new Netflix series, Amazon's Philip K. Dick based Electric Dreams anthology, and the satisfaction brought forth by Blade Runner 2049, it really is an epic time to be a cyberpunk science fiction fan, and I hope it's a trend that continues for quite some time.
If Altered Carbon was cyberpunk soup, it would contain all of the tried and true ingredients that upon first taste would make you say, "Oh yeah, this is definitely cyberpunk soup..." but simultaneously brings enough of its own flair into the mix to make you say, "Mmmm! What's This?"
I'm either hungry or excited, but either way, I'm sold on Altered Carbon.