Altered Carbon (TV series)
|Created by||Laeta Kalogridis|
|Based on||Altered Carbon|
by Richard K. Morgan
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||18 (list of episodes)|
|Producer||John G. Lenic|
|Running time||46–66 minutes|
|Production companies||Virago Productions|
|Distributor||Netflix Streaming Services|
|Original release||February 2, 2018 –|
February 27, 2020
Altered Carbon is an American cyberpunk television series created by Laeta Kalogridis and based on the 2002 novel of the same title by English author Richard K. Morgan. In a world where consciousness can be transferred to different bodies, Takeshi Kovacs, a former soldier turned investigator, is released from prison in order to solve a murder. The first season consists of ten episodes and premiered on Netflix on February 2, 2018. On July 27, 2018, the series was renewed for a second season of eight episodes, which was released on February 27, 2020, with an anime film set before the first season released on March 19, 2020. Though the series received generally positive reviews, it was canceled after two seasons.
The series starts over 360 years in the future, with most episodes of the first season set in the year 2384 in a futuristic metropolis known as Bay City. In the future, a person's memories and consciousness (termed digital human freight, or DHF) are recorded onto a disk-shaped device called a cortical stack, which is implanted in the vertebrae at the back of the neck. These storage devices are of alien design and have been reverse-engineered and mass-produced but can only be made from the material on Harlan's World. Physical human or synthetic bodies are called "sleeves" and stacks can be transferred to new bodies after death, but a person can still be killed if their stack is destroyed and there is no backup. Only the wealthiest, known as "Meths" in reference to Methuselah, have the means to change bodies through clones and remote storage of their consciousness in satellites, so they never have to die of old age before being resleeved.
Takeshi Kovacs, a political operative with mercenary skills, is the sole surviving soldier of the Envoys, a rebel group defeated in an uprising against the new world order. In the first season, set 250 years after the Envoys are destroyed, his stack is pulled out of prison by 300-year-old Meth Laurens Bancroft, one of the wealthiest men in the settled worlds. Bancroft offers him the chance to solve a murder—Bancroft's own—to get a new shot at life. The second season takes place in the early 2410s, set 30 years after the first season: Kovacs, now in a new sleeve, continues to search for his lost love and Envoy leader Quellcrist Falconer.
- Joel Kinnaman (season 1; flashbacks season 2), Anthony Mackie (season 2) and Ray Chase (Resleeved) as Takeshi "Tak" Kovacs, the last Envoy, of an elite rebel group defeated 250 years prior to the start of the series. Kinnaman also portrays Elias Ryker, a police officer and Ortega's former lover, whose "sleeve" or body Kovacs inhabits during season 1. Mackie serves as a new host body for Kovacs in season 2.
- James Purefoy as Laurens Bancroft (season 1), one of the wealthiest men alive, who lives in a skyscraper above the clouds and out of the reach of everyday people, ruthlessly powerful and wanting to exert control on those around him
- Martha Higareda as Kristin Ortega (season 1; guest season 2), a smart and tough lieutenant in the Bay City Police Department who comes from a religious Mexican American family of cops
- Chris Conner as Edgar Poe (seasons 1–2), an artificial intelligence (AI) that takes the likeness of Edgar Allan Poe and runs the hotel that serves as Kovacs' base of operations in Bay City
- Dichen Lachman (season 1; guest season 2) and Elizabeth Maxwell (Resleeved) as Reileen Kawahara / Gina, Kovacs' sister, who shared his violent childhood, who joined the Envoys at the same time as he did, and apparently perished when the uprising was put down
- Ato Essandoh as Vernon Elliot (season 1; guest season 2), a former Protectorate marine whose wife was imprisoned and daughter murdered
- Kristin Lehman as Miriam Bancroft and Naomi Bancroft (season 1), Laurens' wife who has her own motivations, and their daughter who steals her mother's sleeve. Lehman said she was "really intrigued and challenged" to play the character of Miriam, considering it different from her other work. Her background as a dancer helped her prepare for the role. Of the character's sexuality, "She has commodified her sexuality and I was interested in exploring that side of the character."
- Trieu Tran as Mister Leung / Ghostwalker (season 1), a killer and "fixer" who kills and solves problems for a mysterious employer
- Renée Elise Goldsberry as Quellcrist "Quell" Falconer (née Nadia Makita) (seasons 1–2), a master strategist and scientist, the creator of Stacks and leader of the Envoys. She was seemingly killed when the rebellion was put down, additionally appearing in Kovacs' flashbacks and hallucinations.
- Lela Loren as Danica Harlan (season 2), the governor of Harlan's World and the daughter of its founder, Konrad Harlan
- Simone Missick as Trepp, a bounty hunter (season 2)
- Dina Shihabi as Dig 301 (season 2), an AI archaeologue who befriends Poe
- Torben Liebrecht as Jaeger / Ivan Carrera (season 2), Kovacs' commanding officer in the CTAC Praetorian and surrogate father, later the leader of an elite fighting force called The Wedge operating on Harlan's World. Daniel Bernhardt portrays the character's previous sleeve in a recurring capacity in seasons 1–2.
- Byron Mann as Mercenary Kovacs (season 1; flashbacks season 2) and Dimitri Kadmin (season 1)
- Tamara Taylor as Oumou Prescott (season 1)
- Marlene Forte as Alazne Ortega (season 1)
- Tahmoh Penikett as Dimitri (season 1)
- Matt Frewer as Carnage (season 1)
- Hiro Kanagawa as Captain Tanaka (season 1)
- Hayley Law as Lizzie Elliot (seasons 1–2)
- Will Yun Lee as Original Takeshi Kovacs / "Kovacs Prime" (seasons 1–2)
- Adam Busch as Mickey (season 1)
- Michael Shanks as Horace Axley (season 2)
- Sen Mitsuji as Tanaseda Yukito (season 2)
- Waleed Zuaiter as Samir Abboud (season 1)
- James Saito (season 2) and Doug Stone (Resleeved) as Tanaseda Hideki
- Neal McDonough as Konrad Harlan (season 2)
Netflix ordered the series in January 2016, fifteen years after Laeta Kalogridis optioned the novel with the intent of making a feature film. According to Kalogridis, the complex nature of the novel and its R-rated material meant that it was a tough sell for studios before Netflix ordered the series. The show was one of a number of dramas commissioned in short order by Netflix, which had committed to spending $5 billion on original content.
Kalogridis wrote the script and served as executive producer and showrunner. Steve Blackman served as co-showrunner. David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross of Skydance Television also served as producers, as well as Brad Fischer and James Vanderbilt of Kalogridis' Mythology Entertainment. Miguel Sapochnik directed the pilot episode. Morgan served as a consultant during the show's production.
The series was reportedly the most expensive Netflix production to date. The production costs were not disclosed but Kinnaman said it had "bigger budget than the first three seasons of Game of Thrones".
Ann Foley served as costume designer. The production crew fitted about 2,000 costumers and custom made at least 500 pieces for the show, and emphasized "grounded" looks for future fashion but figured in specific details, such as a unique palette for Meth characters and subtle costume changes when different people are inhabiting the same sleeve.
The series is produced in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Laurens Bancroft's gardens was filmed in University of British Columbia Rose Garden and the lobby of the Marine Building served as Bancroft's home. The old Canada Post building was used as the location of The Wei Clinic, where Kovacs was tortured. Scenes with the Envoys were filmed on the Sea to Sky Gondola suspension bridge, in Squamish. Other Vancouver locations include the Convention Centre's West Building, the visitor centre at VanDusen Botanical Garden, the UBC Museum of Anthropology and The Qube.
Altered Carbon was renewed for a second season in July 2018. Anthony Mackie took over the lead role of Takeshi Kovacs, replacing the first season lead star Joel Kinnaman. Additionally, Alison Schapker joined the series as co-showrunner alongside Laeta Kalogridis. On May 23, 2019, it was announced that Schapker would be the primary showrunner for the series, replacing Laeta Kalogridis who is still credited as an executive producer.
On August 26, 2020, Netflix canceled the series after two seasons. The decision had been made in April and was not related to COVID-19, but a result of the standard process used by Netflix to calculate the viewership versus the renewal costs.
Adaptation of the novels
The first season is based on Richard Morgan's 2002 novel Altered Carbon. While most of the major plot points in the book are retained, the adaptation featured several major changes for characters and organizations. In the novel, the Envoys are elite soldiers of the United Nations Protectorate based on Earth, quite the opposite of the freedom-fighting rebels of the show, originating from Harlan's World, where Kovacs was born.
In the book, Kovacs was imprisoned for his freelance work after leaving the Envoys, while in the show, Kovacs is a captured rebel. The character of Reileen Kawahara in the novel was merely Kovacs' ruthless underworld boss and had no blood relation with him, in contrast to their sibling relationship in the show. The Envoy who trained Kovacs in the book was Virginia Vidaura. The show's Vidaura is only a minor character. Instead, his trainer is given the name and backstory of Quellcrist Falconer, who in book three is the historical messiah-like figure. Falconer's rebellion occurred not during Kovacs' training, as in the show, but long before Kovacs was born in the books.
The Hendrix is an AI character in the novel; it runs the hotel and takes the form of Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix's estate declined to license his image for the television series because of its violence. Instead, showrunner Kalogridis chose the likeness of Edgar Allan Poe and a Victorian era hotel for the replacement Poe character and said it would juxtapose well with the futuristic Bay City.
On November 7, 2018, Netflix announced a spin-off anime film serving to "expand the universe" of the series and new elements of the story mythology was in active development. Titled Altered Carbon: Resleeved, the feature uses character designs by manga artist Yasuo Ōtagaki, is written by Dai Satō and Tsukasa Kondo, directed by Takeru Nakajima and Yoshiyuki Okada, produced by Anima, and features an original music score by Keigo Hoashi Kinuyiki Takahashi from Monaca. The film was released on March 19, 2020.
On Rotten Tomatoes, Altered Carbon: Resleeved has an approval rating of 60% based on reviews from 5 critics. David Griffin of IGN gave it 6 out of 10, called it "a diverting entry in the Takeshi Kovacs saga that excels in the action department while neglecting to fully develop its main characters in a way that makes a lasting impact." John Serba of Decider.com wrote: "Resleeved won’t knock anyone’s socks off, but it effectively pleases newcomers and hardcores alike." Paul Tassi of Forbes said Altered Carbon: Resleeved was "not worth watching, even for fans" comparing it to a video game but without the interactivity.
|1||10||February 2, 2018|
|2||8||February 27, 2020|
|Resleeved||March 19, 2020|
Season 1 (2018)
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|1||1||"Out of the Past"||Miguel Sapochnik||Laeta Kalogridis||February 2, 2018|
|Convicted criminal Takeshi Kovacs awakens in a new body after two and a half centuries to help an extremely rich man, Laurens Bancroft, solve his own murder. Bancroft died just before his consciousness was to be uploaded and saved to a satellite, and the evidence suggests it was a suicide. Bancroft offers Kovacs a massive amount of wealth and Kovacs' freedom, but Kovacs declines. He is briefly interrogated by a police officer called Ortega, but makes it clear he does not want the case. Just before he checks into a gothic hotel run by an artificial intelligence, Kovacs is attacked by a high-class hitman called Dimitri. As Kovacs has been gone for two hundred and fifty years, he believes someone really did kill Bancroft and takes the case.|
|2||2||"Fallen Angel"||Nick Hurran||Steve Blackman||February 2, 2018|
|Lieutenant Kristin Ortega, already at odds with the Bancrofts, tracks Kovacs, who is investigating the long list of people who have threatened Laurens' life.|
|3||3||"In a Lonely Place"||Nick Hurran||Brian Nelson||February 2, 2018|
|Kovacs is invited to a party at the Bancroft mansion, where Laurens has assembled the many likely suspects in his murder.|
|4||4||"Force of Evil"||Alex Graves||Russel Friend & Garrett Lerner||February 2, 2018|
|Kovacs is abducted and tortured, and must remember his Envoy training by Quellcrist Falconer to turn the tables on his captors.|
|5||5||"The Wrong Man"||Uta Briesewitz||Nevin Densham||February 2, 2018|
|Kovacs has learned that his sleeve was formerly the disgraced cop Elias Ryker, Ortega's lover, and demands answers.|
|6||6||"Man with My Face"||Alex Graves||Steve Blackman||February 2, 2018|
|While Ortega recovers from a violent attack, Kovacs informs Laurens of his son Isaac's duplicity. Ortega and Kovacs are abducted by Carnage, who forces them into a fight to the death with his minions.|
|7||7||"Nora Inu"||Andy Goddard||Nevin Densham & Casey Fisher||February 2, 2018|
|Reunited with his resurrected sister Reileen, Kovacs remembers his origins in the Protectorate, and with Quellcrist.|
|8||8||"Clash by Night"||Uta Briesewitz||Brian Nelson||February 2, 2018|
|Faced with his sister's treachery, Kovacs gets Vernon's wife Ava released into a male sleeve to help him convince Laurens that his lawyer Oumou Prescott is the murderer. Ortega tries to determine the identity of the mystery woman who saved Kovacs.|
|9||9||"Rage in Heaven"||Peter Hoar||Russel Friend & Garrett Lerner||February 2, 2018|
|After Reileen issues a violent ultimatum, Kovacs and his associates plot to infiltrate her ship.|
|10||10||"The Killers"||Peter Hoar||Laeta Kalogridis & Nevin Densham||February 2, 2018|
|Everything is revealed as Kovacs confronts Reileen for the last time, and Lizzie faces the Bancrofts.|
Season 2 (2020)
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|11||1||"Phantom Lady"||Ciaran Donnelly||Laeta Kalogridis||February 27, 2020|
|30 years after the Bancroft case, Axley, a Meth, locates Kovacs and offers him a job to protect him. Kovacs wakes up in an enhanced sleeve to find Axley and his security murdered, and Kovacs flees. Kovacs finds himself on the planet of Harlan's World, now under the control of Danica, the daughter of Konrad, the founder. Danica is in the process of negotiating a ceasefire between two warring sides over mining access. Kovacs recruits help from Tanaseda Hideki and get hotel Nevermore as his hideout. Colonel Carrera takes over the investigation of Axley's murder and blames it on Kovacs. Kovacs is suspicious of his missing memories and realizes that Quell was there when Axley was murdered.|
|12||2||"Payment Deferred"||Ciaran Donnelly||Sarah Nicole Jones||February 27, 2020|
|Colonel Carrera leads the Axley murder investigation and reveals that his unit is composed entirely of upgraded sleeves like the one that Kovac is using. Carrera pressures Danica to continue her conflict with the miners, while Danica tries to figure out a way to have to make Carrera leave the planet, thus reducing the control of the Protectorate. Kovacs looks for Axley's bounty hunter, Trepp, and from the information that he gathers from her, finds two of Axley's cohorts, Anton and Haruki in a club. Quell arrives and kills all the people in the club including Anton and Haruki, but she escapes before Carrera arrives and captures Kovacs. Poe experienced worsening memory issues and resists the urging from Kovacs that he must reboot.|
|13||3||"Nightmare Alley"||M. J. Bassett||Michael R. Perry||February 27, 2020|
|Kovacs is questioned by Carrera and Danica about the supposed weapon that can destroy all DHF backups, causing permanent death. Danica sentences Kovacs to die in the Circle, a televised gladiatorial event. Carrera extracts the memories of those that Kovacs loved and realizes that who Kovacs is. Carrera reveals that he is Jaeger, Kovacs's former leader, and then drugs him before the Circle begins. Kovacs enters the arena and is forced to fight mercenaries that appear to be his friends Ortega, Rei, and Elliot. Poe attempts to rescue Kovacs, and teams up with an archaeological AI, Dig 301, to disrupt the power supply to the arena. The fourth mercenary to enter the Circle was supposed to appear as Quell, but she was replaced by the actual Quell to help Kovacs escape. A Quell sympathizer cuts power to the Circle, and the two escape. Trepp's bounty to find her brother is unsuccessful and ends up in prison for beating a miner. Trepp and Myka lose all their savings to get Trepp out of prison. Trepp decides to find Kovacs because of his increasingly high bounty. Jaeger activates project Evergreen.|
|14||4||"Shadow of a Doubt"||M. J. Bassett||Sang Kyu Kim||February 27, 2020|
|Quell tries to piece together her memories. Trepp finds Kovacs location, which upsets Kovacs and he hires Dig 301 while firing Poe. Carrera threatens Tanaseda Hideki for helping Kovacs. Kovacs makes a deal with Trepp to find her brother, Anil Imani. Dugan decides not to leave Harlan and keep an eye on Danica. Kovacs approaches Tanaseda and he agrees to get Kovacs and Quell off the planet. Tanaseda intrudes into Danica's Harlan party and gets permission for two people to transfer out of the planet. Meanwhile, Carrera tortures techs from sector B political prison which makes Danica nervous. Danica straps the techs in Harlan's celebration rocket fireworks. Angelfire is revealed as the laser defense system in the orbit which shoots down the firework rockets. Quell, murders Tanaseda and his DHF backups same as Axley. Dugan sees the symbol that Kovacs was trying to find the answer for and tries to escape Harlan but is also murdered by Quell. Kovacs realizes that Quell is killing the founders: Dugan, Tanaseda, Axley, Anton, Haruki, and Konrad Harlan. Quell destroys the main transfer point and disables interstellar travel for everyone on the planet. Jaeger's project evergreen is to double sleeve Takashi Kovacs using an old copy of his stack.|
|15||5||"I Wake up Screaming"||Jeremy Webb||Cortney Norris||February 27, 2020|
|Kovacs and Trepp return to the hotel to find Quell there. Quell has no idea what got into her and why she is killing the founders. Poe decides to question Konrad Harlan and head into VR. Jaeger's resurrected Kovacs is motivated by Jaeger by pinning his sister Rei's death on Kovacs. Kovacs prime investigates Tanaseda's residence to find the location of the Kovacs. Tanaseda's great-grandson leads Kovacs prime to Nevermore hotel but Kovacs, Quell, and Trepp escape. Kovacs prime overrides Dig 301 using the root password and extracts information out of her. Kovacs guides Quell and Trepp to Stronghold in hopes of recovering Quell's memories and running into Kemp. Danica leaks Quell's videos to instill panic and enact provision 532 to gain absolute control over Harlan. Poe finds that Harlan is not in VR and is hidden somewhere else. He escapes from VR by spreading the nanomites affliction he is affected with. Quell incapacitates Trepp with a neck-hold and flees. Kovacs fights Kovacs prime but is thrown off a cliff edge.|
|16||6||"Bury Me Dead"||Jeremy Webb||Adam Lash & Cori Uchida||February 27, 2020|
|Quell reaches the lake next to Stronghold and regains all her memories. Kovacs prime approaches her as the real Kovacs to find out about the weapon. Quell takes Kovacs prime to the place where Rei had kept her buried for centuries. Even with Jaeger constantly trying to convince Kovacs prime, Kovacs prime starts to understand the reason for the Kovacs' actions. Trepp rescues Kovacs and they take out 2 members of Carrera's team. The remaining members are taken out by Kemp and his followers. Quell passes the Envoy test and regains the trust of Kemp and his followers. However, Trepp realizes that Kemp is deceiving them and informs Quell. Kovacs talks to Kovacs prime and he understands the truth about Jaeger and how he had betrayed them. Kovacs prime switches sides. Danica takes over the control of Carrera's operation and Kemp reveals that he works for Danica. Danica arrests Carrera for double-sleeve violation. Protectorate soldiers are slaughtered by Angelfire while they close in on Kovacs, Quell, Trepp, and Kovacs prime.|
|17||7||"Experiment Perilous"||Salli Richardson-Whitfield||Nevin Densham||February 27, 2020|
|Quell's sleeve starts to break down. Kovacs prime is left behind and is retrieved by Danica's soldiers. Danica is now more focused to capture Quell since Quell seemed to have control over Angelfire. Trepp finds out that her brother Anil found Quell and was infected by the same invader that is hacking Quell's stack. Danica makes a deal with Jaeger and he recruits Kovacs prime in distrust to help him. Poe and Ms. Dig build a construct and send Quell and Kovacs to VR, unaware that Jaeger and Kovacs prime also sneaks into the construct. Trepp borrows Kovacs body to save TJ and Myka. Jaeger can lure Kovacs prime back on his side and sends him out of the construct, leaving Jaeger stuck inside. Kovacs learns that an elder was borrowing Quell's body which is why Quell was able to control Angelfire. The elder wanted revenge on the Founders for the massacre of the elder's children they committed. Quell escapes out of the construct, while Jaeger and the elder are stuck in it. Ms. Dig finds out that she is being tracked and shuts herself down. Jaeger is consumed by the elder who plans to destroy everything since Quell broke her promise.|
|18||8||"Broken Angels"||Salli Richardson-Whitfield||Alison Schapker & Elizabeth Padden||February 27, 2020|
|Jaeger, consumed by the elder, starts to get materials to control the Orbitals and begins to reorient the nodes for Angelfire. Kovacs believes that the only way to subdue the elder and save Harlan is to hand over Konrad Harlan to the elder so that the elder can complete its mission. However, they find out that Danica had already killed Konrad Harlan and destroyed his stack along with all the backups. Poe tries to find the convergence point for Angelfire but keeps glitching. Poe realizes that he will have to reboot else he won't be able to function anymore. However, the reboot is akin to death since he will forget everything. Kovacs plans to offer the broken stack of Konrad Harlan to appease the elder. Quell reveals her backup plan: killing Jaeger and taking the elder, thus enabling her to redirect Angelfire on herself to destroy the elder along with her. When Quell, Kovacs, and Danica approach the elder, Danica double-crosses them and tries to kill the elder to obtain control over Angelfire, but she is killed by the elder instead. Poe's reboot starts in between the skirmish, disabling him to assist. Quell, Kovacs, and Kovacs prime fight the elder, until Kovacs swaps places while Kovacs prime holds Quell down. Kovacs kills Jaeger, and after allowing the elder to infect him, redirects Angelfire upon himself. Elder and Kovacs experience real death. In the aftermath, Quell and Kovacs prime survive and continue on their paths. Dig, having renamed herself Annabelle, takes over the Nevermore. After three months she is reunited with an amnesiac Poe and it is revealed his final act before rebooting was to back up a DHF, implied to be Kovacs.|
Anime film (2020)
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|Resleeved||Takeru Nakajima & Yoshiyuki Okuda||Dai Sato & Tsukasa Kondo||March 19, 2020|
|Taking place 253 years before the main events of season one, on the planet Latimer, Takeshi Kovacs must protect a tattooist while investigating the death of a Yakuza boss alongside a no-nonsense CTAC with a secret all her own.|
Human-machine interface, gender identity, technology and society, cyberspace and objective reality, hyper-urbanization that passes up urban planning, artificial intelligence, paranoia.
A key concept in Netflix's cyberpunk series Altered Carbon is the 'stack', an advanced hard drive installed on the brainstem on which a person can save a copy of their consciousness. The main effect of stack technology is a form of immortality, because a stack can be installed into another body if the original body dies. But there's another major implication only hinted at during the first season of Altered Carbon: If you could choose your own body, would you go with the one you were born with? That's an especially important question for gender fluid or transgender people. The topic was only hinted at in the first season, but Altered Carbon creator Laeta Kalogridis told The Wrap it's something she would like to explore in greater detail.
On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the first season holds an approval rating of 68% based on 95 reviews, and an average rating of 6.59/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Altered Carbon leans hard into its cyberpunk roots, serving up an ambitiously pulpy viewing experience that often overwhelms, but never bores." On Metacritic, the season has a weighted average score of 64 out of 100, based on 25 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."
David Griffin of IGN said the show "gets almost everything right" as a "cyberpunk fantasyland." Griffin praised the visuals and the complexity of the plot, as well as the acting, such as Chris Conner's performance as the AI hotel manager Poe. He also wrote of the show's problems, such as the intricacies of the murder often got "in the way of the show's momentum" and the murder plot "loses steam" early on. He ultimately gave it a score of 8.8 out of 10, summarizing it as "A visual titan with a less than stellar story." Michael Rougeau of GameSpot made a point of calling it "hardcore" science fiction, as a "noir sci-fi/gumshoe thriller bursting with the trappings of both genres, from murdered prostitutes and holographic billboard ads to AIs who flit between the real world and some convoluted cyberspace." The review praised how deeply the show examined and explored the cortical stack, the central concept. Catherine Pearson of Digital Spy said the visuals were magnificent and the themes fascinating, but that it had flaws; for example, the characters "mumbling their way through long expository dialogue."
The Vancouver Sun summarized that the reaction of professional critics was mixed, and that the critics' conclusion was that the "murder mystery takes a back seat to the show's futuristic visuals." Entertainment Weekly also summarized reviews, saying the consensus was that the visuals were spectacular, but the violence against women raised questions. Darren Franich of Entertainment Weekly gave it a "B−" grade and wrote that the "show tackles race, gender, and class with all the subtlety of a blowtorch." Forbes criticized other critics for speaking negatively of the show and called it "terrific" and one of the best science fiction shows on television. Andrew Liptak of The Verge called it engrossing, but criticized the lack of focus on the relationships between the characters.
Robert Lloyd of the Los Angeles Times gave it a mixed review, but particularly praised Kinnaman, even if the fight scenes were described as tedious in a way. Jen Chaney of Vulture said the show was "ambitious, convoluted, violent, derivative, and somehow simultaneously grimy and glossy," but ultimately gave it a negative review, saying "the visual candy and philosophical subtext of Altered Carbon may wash over me, but none of it gets absorbed in any lasting way." Radio Times wrote that the "drama tries to find its groove by shifting erratically from noir detective drama to war epic to soap opera, ultimately failing to meet its own lofty ambitions: it's a thunderous haymaker that only manages to graze its target." The review noted that the show takes on too much, and that much of the story could have been left for a second season. Benjamin Lee at The Guardian gave the series 3/5, praising the "sheer ambitious scale of it all" and "it's an impressive step up from what we're usually offered." Lee compared it to the work of Paul Verhoeven only lacking the social commentary. He concludes "it's refreshing to see a show so unashamed about its pulpiness. The spectacle might grow stale but for now, the flash is blinding."
Many critics focused on the show's violence. Gavia Baker-Whitelaw of The Daily Dot wrote that the show seemed to use "the dystopian setting as an excuse for sexualized violence," and that the focus on dead, naked women's bodies "was a massive distraction from the show's stronger points, like the well-choreographed fight scenes and Takeshi Kovacs' backstory." Digital Spy defended the level of violence, arguing it accurately reflected the books, and was "the point" of the franchise, as "without showing brutal, unremitting violence, Altered Carbon would fail to fully explore the dystopian reality it aims to present." Kimberly Roots of TVLine also criticized the scenes of violence and nudity, and also said the story suffered from uneven pacing. However, she noted that the investigation part "clicks along smartly," and that the fight sequences were "sophisticated". She gave it a "B−" grade.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the second season holds an approval rating of 83% based on 35 reviews, and an average rating of 7.16/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "While not quite there yet, a clearer sense of purpose and more defined characters help Altered Carbon sophomore season step closer to the brilliance of its source material." On Metacritic, the season has a weighted average score of 65 out of 100, based on 8 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
|2018||44th Saturn Awards||Best New Media Television Series||Altered Carbon||Nominated|||
|70th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards||Outstanding Main Title Design||Lisa Bolan, Thomas McMahan, Yongsub Song, Byron Slaybaugh, Carlo Sa, Mert Kizilay||Nominated|||
|Outstanding Special Visual Effects||Everett Burrell, Tony Meagher, Joel Whist, Jorge Del Valle, Steve Moncur, Christine Lemon, Paul Jones, Antoine Moulineau, David Zaretti for "Out of the Past"||Nominated|
|2019||17th Visual Effects Society Awards||Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode||Everett Burrell, Tony Meagher, Steve Moncur, Christine Lemon, Joel Whist for "Out of the Past"||Nominated|||
|Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Episode, Commercial, or Real-Time Project||Philipp Kratzer, Daniel Fernandez, Xavier Lestourneaud, Andrea Rosa||Won|
|Outstanding Compositing in a Photoreal Episode||Jean-François Leroux, Reece Sanders, Stephen Bennett, Laraib Atta||Nominated|
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- Hibberd, James (December 4, 2017). "Altered Carbon: First teaser trailer for stunning Netflix sci-fi series". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on December 4, 2017. Retrieved December 4, 2017.
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