The only way to watch Altered Carbon is in an altered State
I'm not normally much of a binge watcher, but it's 10 in the morning on Groundhog Day and I've recently been fired from my job at Tommy Bahama. So, I don't really have anything going on for the foreseeable future.
Goodbye shitty tips and rude customers. Hello, narcotics and a (probably) dystopian future.
Let's get altered and watch some Netflix.
Episode 1: Out of the Past
Menu: High West Double Rye whiskey on the rocks with a splash of Peychaud's bitters (because it seems absurd to drink straight whiskey before breakfast), and I've just torn into a 64-pack of Lay's Potato Chips single-serving bags.
Also, I have a bit of a hard time really focusing on anything, so I've borrowed 50mg of Dexedrine from my roommate, Gary.
The opening credits are pretty cool. I'm feeling good. Kind of a Philip K. Dick vibe going on. There's already hints of Bladerunner and maybe a little Westworld from the credit sequence.
Someone just said, "Your body is not who you are." I feel like that's a statement of theme here.
Four minutes in and the whiskey is gone. These 1.5-ounce bags of chips are a joke. Who eats six chips in a sitting?
We meet our hero. He's naked, jacked, white, and mostly hairless. He sounds like a dullard.
Here's the kind of dialogue we're getting:
Protestor: "God will judge you for your sins."
Hero: "That'll keep him busy for a while."
I'll allow that. Kind of a detective noir vibe with more gun violence.
The hero is taken to some kind of cloud city by a female driver, who we learn is actually a cop named Ortega. They're going to see someone called a "Meth." I hope meths are toothless jittery fuckers like you see on Cops. Oh. Nope. They're rich people who live in the clouds in brilliant white suburbs called Ariums.
Our hero's name is Takeshi Kovacs. I don't love Kovacs. He's kind of a poor man's Armie Hammer.
And hello James Purefoy. He's so fancy.
Alright, the whole premise of the story is that Purefoy has brought Kovacs back from the dead after 250 years to solve a murder - his own murder. Why does he need this dude who's been out of the picture for 250 years to help him? Don't they have detectives in the future?
There's some clunky exposition here that I tune out as I get up to refresh my whiskey. I don't want to get too negative early, but this is already coming across like Philip K. Dick without a soul.
And man, this world is REALLY similar to Blade Runner. Rain. Umbrellas. Dark streets full of people, and - look MORE NIPPLES!
Kovacs goes to some kind of AI hotel, which is a concept I don't really understand. The hotel is called The Raven. It is run by an AI version of Edgar Allen Poe, whom I already like. And let me tell you, Edgar is not fucking around. He's gunning down bad guys with ceiling-mounted machine guns. Just like the real Poe!
Episode 2: Fallen Angel
Menu: XX Amber and a pack of Chunky White Fudge Cookies
Had to switch off the rye. I think I was coming in too hot for a 10-hour commitment. But honestly, if I'm going to enjoy Altered Carbon in a truly altered state, I'm already behind the curve. Maybe these Chunky White Fudge cookies will help. Side Note: I think "Chunky White Fudge" would be a funny nickname for a little fat kid.
The rich people in Altered Carbon all dress like the women from "The Lorelei Signal," which is the fourth episode in the Star Trek animated series. Starting to think maybe I should have binge watched that instead.
More nudity. Every time I think I'm out, they pull me back in.
Then we're off to the Bancroft family vault and BAM! First penis sighting. A properly fluffed James Purefoy has no shame. Fortunately his attendants quickly fit him into some Gap boxers from 1997.
Kovacs then starts running down possible suspects in the Bancroft murder. Ortega is spying on him. And then we're off into another flashback to a mentor character training Kovacs back when he was Asian. She's probably his girlfriend.
Kovacs tracks down a suspect, kicks his door in, and knocks him out. When the guy wakes up, Kovacs is sitting across from him, chill as hell, eating some cereal like John Travolta in Get Shorty.
Kovacs then wanders off into the Bladerunner set and heads into a futuristic Masturbatorium., where we see more penii, some boobs and a bunch of dudes masturbating. Man, the future is gross.
I'm going for another beer.
Episode 3: In a Lonely Place
Menu: XX Amber and Ramen
I think I took too much Dexedrine. I'm pissed off for no real reason and I'm grinding my teeth. Not really sure what the right dose is for maximum focus without the edge. Taking some Klonopin to hopefully take it down a little. Oh, and some Ramen.
A wise voice says, "Humanity has spread to the stars ... the worst monsters are those we bring with us." And then we're in another flashback. Young Kovacs and his sister are reading a scary book, and then some big Russian dude beats the crap out of their mom.
And we're back in story present. The Bancrofts are having a party. Kovacs and Ortega are both invited, but neither wants to go.
Kovacs needs a date. Probably should have asked Ortega, but instead he asks his new friend, Vern. Vern agrees and they go to get weapons. This is the obligatory James Bond "Q Scene." You know what I'm talking about.
And they're off to the party.
Oh fuck. They're eating a tiger. Now all I want is some goddamn tiger for lunch. The roasted emu I was planning is just shit now.
Kovacs narrates this thing like an unfunny, not charming Magnum P.I.
There's an anti-gravity fight to the death. Pretty cool scene. Reminds me of Carousel from Logan's Run, but less of a spectacle. Sigh. Not really like Logan's Run at all. I guess that was wishful thinking. Carousel was way cooler than this. Now I really kind of want to watch Logan's Run again.
Episode 4: Force of Evil
Menu: Buffalo Trace rocks
This episode opens with Kovacs in an exam room with a bunch of IT nerds who promise their boss they're going to "crack him like a walnut." The IT nerds speak somewhat disrespectfully about women. Seems a little tone deaf in the #MeToo era.
Kovacs is being tortured in VR. Meanwhile it's Halloween, which seems to be an important holiday in the future. Poe is decked out in his Dia de los Muertes costume. Vern is pissed. He says Halloween is "about flesh and blood and families bonding." I've never really thought of Halloween like that.
We're really flashing between scenes and timelines a lot. Kovacs' VR interrogator looks like a Buckhead neighbor of Elton John.
More sexist talk by the IT guys. Seriously, probably not the best look right now.
And we cut back to Ortega's mom making a Halloween feast. Jesus Christ, there are so many flashbacks in this show. It's like Chevy Chase's book in Funny Farm. "In the first 20 pages alone, I counted three flashbacks, one flash-forward, and I think a page in, you have a flash-sideways."
Now we're into a massive cross-cutting segment where we're going back and forth between the torture scene and Ortega's Halloween feast. The feast scene is mildly comedic but doesn't add anything of value to the narrative. Why keep pulling the viewer out of the intense torture scene?
In the last four minutes we've bounced from Kovacs' real body, his VR body, flashbacks to his training in a different body, and the goddamn Ortegas' dinner.
I'm having heart palpitations.
Episode 5: The Wrong Man
Menu: Lagunitas IPA and gummy edibles
Gary left a single Doritos Loco Taco in the refrigerator. Who saves leftover Taco Bell? No way this thing is still good. The shell is all soggy and it's not like you can microwave the lettuce and sour cream. I guess you eat it cold?
Hopefully these gummy edibles kick in soon.
I just want to say I probably sound like an asshole for getting fired from Tommy Bahama. I get that. And yeah, it sounds worse when I say, "I was fired for biting a customer." But that bitch attacked me first. I was threatened and had to defend myself. What am I supposed to do, let some crazed lunatic murder me over a cup of soup?
Now I'm getting worked up again. I'm gonna take a break and go outside for a minute.
Just heard that the groundhog saw his shadow. I guess we get six more months of winter now.
Whatever. Going back in.
We lead off with another pithy axiom about truth and revolution. Aaaaand now we're into another flashback. Jesus Christ. This show has more timelines than the X-Men movies.
I'm starting to think I'm not very good at binge watching. Gonna pause this and go make a milkshake.
This show really lacks any kind of subtext or depth. Sci-fi at its best is --
BOOM. Full frontal.
Now we're into more flashbacks. God help me.
Now they've killed Tony Shaloub.
Episode 6: Man With My Face
Menu: Nitrous Oxide and Triscuits
Kovacs is 210 pounds of altered steel and sex appeal.
He's had a complete personality change from the beginning of the story. I guess this is character arc? He loves the shit out of Ortega now.
Every single character in this show lacks motivation.
Kovacs and Ortega are tossed into a Thunderdome fighting ring and they have to fight a pack of mutants. They're doing OK, but then a ninja comes in and wrecks the whole thing. Saves Kovacs though. I think they stole John Carpenter's Halloween theme for this scene.
Whew. OK. I'm over halfway through this adventure. It's time to dig deep and find some meaning here. I'm going to pray about it. Entheogens will be involved.
Episode 7: Nora Inu
Menu: Magic Mushroom Tea and Marshmallows
I've sweat through my shirt and my face is numb. I think all my internal organs are freaking out trying to sort out this bitches brew of pharmaceuticals. I never realized before how great marshmallows go with apple juice. The good news is I think the nasty chemical Dexedrine edge is finally wearing off.
There's a lot of Oedipal stuff in this story. This relationship with his sister is really weird. Are they fucking each other? Because they look at each other like they are. We're getting flashbacks inside of flashbacks. Where even the hell are we?
I like the trees in this episode.
Everyone is preaching yearbook quotes at each other. Who are they talking to?
I really love this bridge. And the mountains in the background.
Kovacs has HUGE pores. I love this mountain lake.
I hope Gary doesn't come back until I'm done. I guess I don't care. I actually like Gary. He's a good roommate. His sister's creeping pretty hard on him. She's jealous that he's having sex with the rebel leader. Falconer is her name. Did I mention that before? I love these burning trees and the snow. And the rocks. We don't spend enough time appreciating the beauty around us.
Episode 8: Oscar the Model
Menu: I think I ate all the Lay's.
Pretty kickass three-dimensional ship explosion, but this weird sibling love thing is honestly creeping me the fuck out.
And now we're completely off in the woods. I feel like I'm watching a different show.
The ad agency guy is trying to explain to Felix why his photographs aren't working. The crazy thing is he LOVES the portraits Felix did of Oscar.
Why did we ever stop wearing ascots?
Felix's allergies are a real problem.
Still can't believe how many people smoke in the future. Well, at least Kovacs does. Not sure if anyone besides him and Quincy are still smoking.
Episode 9: Rage in Heaven
Menu: Gary's cigarettes
Ortega kills Kovacs' sister? What? I missed something. She is beautiful. She wants to know if I love her. I think I do. Wait. That's not Ortega! That's Kovacs' sister. And he just gave her a bath. Gross. Gross. Gross. What the fuck is wrong with these people!? So creepy. So gross.
Oh man. Ortega's mom has one of those Instapots. I totally want one of those. You know you can even make yogurt in those things? She made cookies though. Good for her.
Kovacs' sister said she ate his fucking shirt. Who does that?
I guess Felix was right.
They just threw up a title card that says "18 hours earlier." Why bother telling us this time? They've been flashing into different timelines with every shot. Why the fuck do I care that this one was 18 hours earlier?
If I were a woman trapped in a man's body, I would just masturbate all the time ... like I do now ... so not much different really.
Episode 10: The Killers
Menu: Buffalo Trace Bourbon
It's after midnight and I can't figure out why it's taken me 13 hours to watch 9 hours of programming. I'm missing time, man. I feel like I'm in the hell version of Bill Murray's Groundhog Day. My carbon's been altered and there's no way out.
OH MY FUCKING GOD -- ANOTHER GODDAMN FLASHBACK.
God, just let this end. HEY! More boobs.
Kovacs' sister just said she was going to eat him. Something is really wrong with this girl. At least he'll have a shirt when he gets inside her belly.
Ortega is fighting mustache dude. She's really good at karate.
Mustache dude asked her, "Where's your god now?" Not super original.
Looks like Kovacs is going to die with his creepy sister. At least --
Oh shit. Gary's home.
Gary said he really needs to get to bed, so I need to turn the volume down. The bourbon is gone.
Oh yeah, Kovacs had put his consciousness into another body. Forgot about that. But they recovered the stack from the first one, so … no loss, really.
Oh my God, they're taking forever to explain this whole murder. This is like the end of an Agatha Christie book ... if Agatha Christie books were 5,000 pages long. They've got the whole goddamn cast explaining what the hell happened. Honestly haven't heard a word of it.
And now another flashback. Or maybe a flash sideways. Whatever. Kovacs is off. He's looking for his old girlfriend ... or maybe a replicant. I don't know.