In a snap, everyone on social media is suddenly talking about the new Netflix sci-fi series Altered Carbon. If you’re wondering what the hype is all about, then you better check out deets we have about this series based on Richard K. Morgan’s classic cyberpunk noir novel. We also have a character guide to help you get started.
Altered Carbon takes place in a neon-filled, dangerously sleek, tech-addicted but morally hollow future which is set hundreds of years from now. In that time, humans are able to have their minds stored via neck discs called “cortical stacks”; and the data comprising the human mind, called Digital Human Freight or DHF, can be transmitted to the stacks of different bodies or “sleeves”. Pretty much like a Back Mirror episode, if you ask me.
In the amount of time it takes to back up one’s mental data in a satellite cloud, a person is ready to live again – one day later, one week later, or centuries later. This technology springs from alien advancements that has been perfected by a 21st-century revolutionary, but taken to violent and disturbing extremes in the 24th century.
THE 1 PERCENT VS. THE REST
The key to this trippy mystery lies with a wealthy ruling class called “Meths” who live high above the gritty, decaying world in skyscrapers in the clouds (referred to as the Aerium), where each person’s consciousness can be put into “designer” sleeves or into clones of their former bodies – which allows them to literally live forever. Those who aren’t as privileged are called “Grounders” and these people live a hand-to-mouth existence on Earth’s grimy, dangerous streets; some have their consciousness awakened to find they’re in a sleeve that’s been leased or assigned to a position of servitude – bodyguard, for example, or prostitute, or some other being answerable to the UN Protectorate, which oversees interplanetary law.
At the center of it all is a man named Takeshi Kovacs (played by Joel Kinnaman), veteran of a failed rebellion that occurred centuries earlier, and a man at war with himself. Learn more about Kovacs and the other people (and an AI) who inhabit the mysterious world of Altered Carbon below:
Takeshi Kovacs, present (played by Joel Kinnaman)
A former freedom fighter (an Envoy in Altered Carbon parlance) who wakes up nearly 250 years after he was killed to find out he has been re-sleeved into a new body – on a lease – to solve the murder of one of the wealthiest men in the Settled Worlds. The man who has given him a new life? The murder victim himself, Laurens Bancroft, now re-sleeved into his own clone and on a mission to find out who killed him and made it look like a suicide.
Takeshi Kovacs, birth (played by Will Yun Lee)
Birth Kovacs was a Black Ops assassin when he was younger. Then, as elements of society fought against the wealthy and powerful re-sleeving themselves for eternity and maintaining and increasing their power in the process, there was an uprising, during which Birth Kovacs was trained by a woman he fell in love with. After the uprising failed, he became a mercenary, and when he was killed by authorities, his stack was put on ice- a virtual prison.
Laurens Bancroft (played by James Purefoy)
The Methuselah or Meth (what the mega-wealthy are called in this world) who has paid to have Kovacs’s consciousness and skills implanted in a new sleeve. The catch? Kovacs must find the person who killed him and made it look like a suicide. If Kovacs solves the case, he’ll earn his freedom.
Det. Kristin Ortega (played by Martha Higareda)
A tough cop working in the Bay City Police Department’s Organic Damage Division who has an unexpected connection to both Kovacs and Bancroft. Ortega has chosen to never be “spun up” – so her consciousness will never be put into another body – based on her ethical and religious beliefs.
Quellcrist Falconer (played by Renee Elise Goldsberry)
Intelligent, calculating, and dangerous, Quell was the Envoys’ leader, a brave rebel and inventor with whom Birth Kovacs fell in love. Quell still very much exists in the mind of Kovacs, even in his re-sleeved form.
Reileen Kovacs (played by Dichen Lachman)
Takeshi’s sister, who gets separated from him after the death of their abusive father.
Vernon Elliott (played by Ato Essandoh)
A former medic in the Protectorate’s military forces, who is haunted by the imprisonment of his wife, and visions of his daughter, Lizzie, whom he believes was murdered.
Edgar A.I. Poe (played by Chris Conner)
A highly evolved artificial intelligence system operating inside the Raven Hotel, where Kovacs lives in grungy Bay City.
Miriam Bancroft (played by Kristin Lehman)
Laurens Bancroft’s wife, who has also been spun up into ever-stronger and beautiful clones of her original body. She and Laurens have been together for 118 years.
Abboud and Captain Tanaka (played by Waleed Zuaiter and Hiro Kanagawa)
Colleagues of Det. Kristin Ortega at the Bay City Police Department.
All photos courtesy of Netflix.
Altered Carbon is now streaming on Netflix! For more information, visit:
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