To Binge or Not to Binge Episode 74: ‘Altered Carbon’


Hannah Allred

(Graphic by Hannah Allred | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Cade Anderson, Arts Writer


With an immersive, “Blade Runner”-esque atmosphere and dark, smoothly executed themes about human nature, “Altered Carbon” is the type of sci-fi I love most. Based on a trio of novels by Richard Morgan, the show takes place in a grim, intergalactically-connected future in which human consciousness is downloadable and transferrable. Immortality is available to those who can afford to switch their minds between different “sleeves,” whether they be organic bodies or custom-built synthetics. The story revolves around the enlightened revolutionary-turned-mercenary Takeshi Kovacs — played by Will Yun Lee, Joel Kinnaman and Anthony Mackie — whose consciousness is awoken in the midst of a destabilizing society in order to solve murders and piece together the mystery of his own past.


To Binge or Not to Binge?

When it comes to the first season, this question has an easy answer. I binged it over the course of two or three days when it was released two years ago, and I loved every minute of the experience. Kovacs is an intriguing persona whose mind you want to understand just as much as he does. The show clearly has some specific messages regarding mortality and identity that it wants viewers to walk away with, but it projects those messages through such raw characters and stellar performances that the story never feels forced. The world of “Altered Carbon” is gritty, colorful and all-too-believable.

Although I also enjoyed binging the second season, I — like many fans of the first season — couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed. Maybe it was the overhaul in the show’s writers or maybe it was the choice to skip Morgan’s second novel and instead adapt the third, but regardless, season two fails to achieve the organic feel of season one. The major themes and the overall air of minimalistic mystique that had me hooked during the first ten episodes quickly fizzled out for me during these next eight episodes, thanks to new undeveloped characters and a plot that can’t decide where it’s going. Season two is certainly an entertaining watch, but it’s probably only worth your time if you’re heavily interested in the “Altered Carbon” universe and have nothing more pressing to watch.


Best Episode

My personal favorite episode is Season 1, Episode 5, “The Wrong Man.” This episode focuses on questions about our own subjective realities. It begins with a quote that feels bigger than the show itself. “Finding truth is more than a search for data,” Kinnaman narrates. “It’s an excavation of self. You have to keep going no matter where it takes you, because nothing can stay hidden forever.”


Similar Shows

Similar to “Blade Runner,” both the 1982 original and the 2017 remake, but also “The OA” and “Travelers,” though both are far less dark and violent than “Altered Carbon.”


Trigger Warnings

This show contains heavy violence and nudity. On a couple of occasions, it also portrays scenes of sex and sexual assault.


“Altered Carbon”

Season One — 4/5 Stars

Season Two — 3/5 Stars

Available to stream on Netflix

Two seasons, 18 episodes, approximately 15 hours


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