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Boxset Monday: Altered Carbon (season 2) (Netflix)

In the UK: Available on Netflix

The first season of Altered Carbon was almost a classic example of both how to adapt a novel and how not to adapt a novel. Altered Carbon is a noted piece of militaristic cyberpunk that foresees a future in which people’s minds can be downloaded and uploaded onto little disks called ‘stacks’ that can be inserted into organic or synthetic bodies called ‘sleeves’. Coupled with the ability to ‘needlecast’ information faster than light, you can travel the universe simply by being uploaded from one body and downloaded into another. Or you can live forever. Improvements in genetic engineering et al also mean that bodies can be enhanced for various applications.

Cyberpunk being cyberpunk and Brits being Brits, needless to say, the future that author Richard Morgan envisioned would stem from this improved technology is profoundly pessimistic. The government oppress, the poor are abused, the rich murder and rape for fun in exchange for putting their victims in new bodies when they’re finished, and more.

The first season of Altered Carbon was a correspondingly and refreshingly adults-only affair, chock full of sex and full frontal nudity, sadistic violence and Grade A swearing. An obviously vast amount of money was spent on envisioning this quasi-Blade Runner world and it looked fantastic. The show practically shimmered with ideas.

And it was largely a faithful adaptation, too, following the book’s narrative of former super-soldier ‘Envoy’ Takeshi Kovacs – played by various actors, including Will Yun Lee (Witchblade) and Joel Kinnaman (Robocop), depending on which sleeve in which time period on which planet we were following him – being revived after 300 years to investigate the murder of one of the richest quasi-immortal ‘Meths’. It was an interesting, futuristic gumshoe tale with a mystery to be solved and an engaging enough anti-hero to follow.

So far, so very good.

Altered Carbon

Sad puppies and love

What really scuppered it, though, was the taking of this hard-core ‘sad puppies‘ ‘masculine’ cyberpunk and smashing it straight into an almost completely incompatible ‘feminine’ affair. Various changes were made to the plot, characters and background to ground it in family, romance and somewhat liberal-left ideas.

The least spoilery example is that the supersoldier Envoys became heroic resistance fighters led by the same person who not only invented the stacks but simultaneously turned out to be the best, most empathetic fighter in the galaxy, as well as Kovacs’ lover.

One or other genres could have worked, but not both together in the same series. The scars from the surgery necessary to combine them were clearly visible, even if you hadn’t read the book.

It was still enjoyable, even on a rewatch, for most of its run, bar the episode that filled in all the back story, but it was still a cautionary tale for future adaptations.

Poe and Kovacs in season 2 of Altered Carbon

Altered Carbon: Unleash the furies

Now we have the second season, which has a new showrunner, at least one new leading man-sleeve (Anthony Mackie), a new sensibility and a new, clearly lower budget. However, against expectations, the show is continuing with Morgan’s work, albeit skipping his second Kovacs novel and heading straight into the final episode of the trilogy: Woken Furies.

Set 30 years after season one, it sees Kovacs continuing his quest to find his former lover – assumed to have died 300 years earlier – but lured back to his birthplace on Harlan’s World by Meth Michael Shanks (Stargate SG-1). The founders of Harlan’s World are being (permanently) killed by someone or something, and Shanks wants Kovacs’ protection. He’ll even give him a shiny new, weapons-grade sleeve (Mackie) if he’ll help.

But it’s not long before all manner of people from Kovacs’ past turn up – and Kovacs discovers that Shanks might not have been telling the whole truth.

And while it’s learned from season one, season two of Altered Carbon is a salutary lesson that unless you’re Doctor Who and can just ignore continuity at your whim, you need to be careful with the foundations of your adaptation, since it’s going to be hard to change them later on.

Continue reading “Boxset Monday: Altered Carbon (season 2) (Netflix)”
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For Life
US TV

What have you been watching? Including Indebted, Briarpatch, Katy Keene, Tommy and For Life

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week

Mythic Quest

Previously on TMINE

TMINE was clearly on speed or something this week, since it served up reviews of not one but two streaming Boxsets: the first seasons of Apple TV+’s Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet and Netflix’s Ragnarok.

Meanwhile, in the film world, Orange Thursday… didn’t happen. Sorry, I forgot I was actually supposed to be having a day off on Thursday. Still that does mean I definitely have a double-bill lined up for tomorrow…

Parasite
Parasite

Next on TMINE

It’s Part II of Spring 2020 in the US and after the jump, I’ll be reviewing literally all the new shows that aired on broadcast TV this week: Briarpatch, Indebted, Interrogation, Katy Keene, For Life, and Tommy.

However, don’t be surprised, given I’ve watched all of that as well as two entire boxsets (plus half of another, which I’ll tell you about in a mo), that I didn’t quite have time to watch all of Netflix’s Locke & Key. But I am two episodes in and I’m hoping to get through the rest of it within the next week – who knows, maybe next week will be another Boxset doubler because…

…also coming up in the next week are new shows High Fidelity, ZeroZeroZero and Utopia Falls, while Narcos: Mexico is back for a second season. That’s four shows from which to pick a second boxset, so expect at least one of them, maybe two, to get a review, too.

Meanwhile in movies, tomorrow’s Orange Thursday will be reviewing A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2020) and Parasite (2019), as I don’t have a day off this week. Definitely.

Iron Fist
Iron Fist

The regulars

The regulars list is now small enough that I’m pretty sure I’m only watching some as a result of experimental error: Avenue 5, The Outsider and Star Trek: Picard. And one of those is for the chop this week, too – you can see which one after the jump, but it probably won’t take much guesswork.

As you might expect, even with two boxsets, a third on the go, movies being watched and a whole bunch of new shows to watch, I found myself with time on my hands and ironing to do. Naturally, I started watching Marvel’s Iron Fist again – I’m now midway through my fifth viewing of season one, and yes, I’m still seeing new things in it and no, I’m not certifiable, thanks for asking, imaginary voice in my head.

But after a few eps of Iron Fist, with an ironing pile that wasn’t diminishing, I suddenly remembered that the second season of Netflix’s Altered Carbon is due to hit the Internet in a couple of weeks, so I decided to give season one a re-watch.

Altered Carbon
Altered Carbon

Altered Carbon: the rewatch

Unlike my rewatch of season one of Marvel’s Daredevil, my rewatch of Altered Carbon hasn’t made me reconsider my original view of the show: it’s still a beautifully made bit of sci-fi with a colossal problem with women (that may or may not be inherent to it or a critique of the patriarchy) that has six or so fabulous episodes that collide with the brick wall of the seventh as soon as we reach the big part of the narrative that wasn’t in the book. I’m on that episode at the moment, so I’m not going any further – or I’ll skip it and head straight into episode eight.

But on the plus side, my rewatch has reminded me of how good those first few episodes were, as well as some of the plot. It’s also interesting to rewatch more or less remembering not just whodunnit but why they dunnit, to see what clues the show leaves and how well the whole ‘universe’ holds together (pretty well).

All the same, watching the trailer for season two today, it’s noticeable that all the plot highlights seem to suggest that rather than going with one of the other books in the series, the show’s producers are doubling down on their own created mythos. So while Anthony Mackie looks like a good replacement for Joel Kinnaman in the lead role, I can’t say I’m 100% looking forward to the next season.

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Indebted, Briarpatch, Katy Keene, Tommy and For Life”
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