5 Ways the Characters RUINED Netflix’s Altered Carbon

Set over 350 years in the future, Netflix’s Altered Carbon follows United Nations Special Forces operative-turned-revolutionary Takeshi Kovacs. Based on the Takeshi Kovacs book trilogy, Netflix’s small screen adaptation vastly departs from the show’s source material and proceeds to tip toe around its themes of class divide, consumerism, warfare and political dystopia, like a tepid ballerina. The show commits to themes about as strongly as a twenty year old commits to, well, anything. This inability to commit to any subject matter is overshadowed only by the impressively poor writing of its primary characters. In a move that surprised the writers, viewers decided they wanted watchable protagonists and this inevitably led to the show’s cancellation.

Join us, weary traveler, as Scarlett Media explains the top 5 Ways the Characters Ruined Netflix’s Altered Carbon and the character that is the greatest perpetrator of each point. We chose only to breakdown the greatest perpetrator of each transgression lest you die of old age while we death rattle through a comprehensive list. Upgrade your sleeve and hit the like button if you agree with our points, spin down to the dislike button if you don’t.

Spoilers Ahead

#5 Character Inconsistencies. Dimi the Twin.

Dimitri Kadmin, also known as Dimi the Twin, was a Russian hit man and enforcer for a few of the local criminal organisations that inhabit Earth’s Bay City. Dimi engages in a process called “resleeving” wherein one trets actual human bodies the way bored, rich, people treat luxury rental cars: you move from one to the next as needed or desired. Doing this completely normal and not at all strange activity so frequently, for some reason, causes gradual insanity. Dimi copied his mind and placed it in another body which earned him the nickname of “the Twin.” This is where the majority of his character inconsistencies come into play. When Dimi the First was real-deathed by Takeshi Kovacs, his “brother”, Dimi the Second, takes it upon himself to exact revenge. This becomes a foolish endeavor very quickly as he is so consumed by his desire for revenge, he willingly turns on his Meth retainer. He actively attempts to murder them, and, when this fails, he escapes their custody and joins up with others who will assist him in ensuring Takeshi’s demise. Ultimately, none of this works. Somehow, the most notorious hit men in the city have the kill rate of a squadron of Storm Troopers and are unable to hit their mark.  It is difficult not to attribute his failures to the show’s apparent desperate need to manufacture suspense and conflict. He behaves so illogically he makes the crazy person you still follow on Facebook for their entertainment value seem normal.  While his character displays a clear lack of the understanding of consequences in some scenes, implying personality fragmentation, in several other situations in the show he is clearly shown to fear death, fear his copy’s death and to even grow unfathomably angry at the loss of said copy. He acts out in counterproductive ways, at a risk to himself, while also seemingly being concerned for his and his brother’s well-being. 

When Dimi ultimately dies, we couldn’t help but feel relieved. Not because he represented any real threat, but because his antics had become tiresome.

#4 Cliché Characterization. Kristin Ortega

This is arguably the most frustrating to watch. Kristin Ortega of the Bay City Police Department is a strong, capable, high ranking officer. She is a competent combatant and decent detective. This becomes frustrating when, for most of the season, she is reduced to the ‘angry cop’ role. Her character and development is far better here than it is in the books, but “better” does not mean “watchable.” Fuelled by frustration at the untouchable Bancroft family, she proceeds to harass them and their new employee Takeshi Kovacs, going so far as to break the law several times throughout the show. She steals from police inventory to illegally track Kovacs, and assaults suspects and her commanding officer, among a litany of other offences. Listen, we all know this isn’t exactly far from the truth as far as cop behavior goes but considering the show is more focused on body swap drama than making an important stand on current events, the realism is strangely misplaced. The audience is asked to just accept that she’s super duper angry and then move on.

Not only is her characterization a cliché but she fast becomes one that is taken too far. A character who is angry at injustice and personal strife is someone we can all get behind, but a character who berates her friends and colleagues. After all, not everyone can be Ellen DeGeneres.

#3 Lack of Agency. Reileen Kawahara.

Reileen’s book to screen transfer is nothing short of heartbreaking. A crime syndicate boss and filthy-rich Meth in the novelization, Reileen is truly a force to be reckoned with, and she and Takeshi share a begrudging, professional respect for each other after his short lived tenure in her employment. This is not the case in the show. 

Her role is changed from brutal crime lord to creepily adoring and possessive sister to Takeshi Kovacs. That would be like remaking Kill Bill and having Uma’s character just cry while watching Rom Coms and eating Ben & Jerry’s. Throughout the entirety of the show, she is never given any agency, everything just happens to her and she is not allowed to choose how she reacts. It’s basically just depicting life for women in the ‘50’s but is not making any statements whatsoever.. It’s Takeshi who kills their father and gets them separated. It’s the Protectorate that sells her off to the Yakuza for a life of crime. It’s Takeshi that fires first, condemning their reunion to a gunfight and turning them both into wanted fugitives. She turns on the Quellcrist Rebellion, a movement she didn’t ask to join, and for no other reason than that she is jealous of Falconer stealing her brother away. When it ultimately comes out that she founded and is running her own immeasurably lucrative business, became a meth and criminal mastermind, it’s all reduced to some strange and twisted 300 year ploy to get her brother back. She never turns around and says “I did this because I wanted to and because I could.”

#2 Lack of history. Quellcrist Falconer

If there ever was a character we should have cared more about and didn’t, it was revolutionary hero turned simple love interest and plot prop Quellcrist Falconer. In the books Quell existed hundreds of years before the story takes place and was a messiah-like character that Takeshi idolises, venerates and regularly quotes. Something akin to my feelings on the Chuck E. Cheese rat.

In this rendition of her character, Falconer is a severely watered down version of her novel self. Think movie version of Ginny Weasley: sure, she’s there. Kind of. Holding somewhat similar ideals but lacking any and all background, Quell simply ‘is,’ and we are to just accept that. The show makes very small nods to her past as the inventor of cortical stacks and her origin as a scientist but they are just that; nods. These concepts should have been explored more, rather than being talked about for about as long as you’d spend making small talk with someone you tried to avoid.

For a character we are also supposed to relate to, we see no childhood. No character development. We only see what she has become, and it’s hard to connect to a character we know nothing about, unless you also suddenly sprung into being as a boring adult. We see evidence of her combat abilities and her tactical mind but the aching question of the “why?” is never answered.

The number one way the characters turned Altered Carbon into a smouldering mess is coming up next. But, before that, don’t forget to subscribe and hit that bell notification to be gifted with either a new sleeve or new “Ruined or Saved?” videos on our favourite films and shows every week.

#1 Told and not shown. Takeshi Kovacs

Takeshi Kovacs is “The Last Envoy.” A super soldier trained from a young age by a Special Forces division of the Protectorate. After going rogue, he joins the Quellcrist Rebellion and his already formidable capabilities are multiplied by Envoy training which gave him superhuman reflexes and one of the keenest minds in the settled worlds. It sure would have been cool if we had seen any of that.

We see a great deal of Takeshi’s past. We see snippets of his time in an abusive household, the Protectorate and then the Envoys, all of which should have turned him into a single minded war machine. Instead, we got a man everyone speaks extremely highly of despite having accomplished very little. Kind of like every guy who ever went to business school. The show actually consists of Takeshi getting beaten like a big bass drum. 

The scenes in the Wei Clinic torture simulation are a good example of what an Envoy can do; endure severe torture for an entire episode and then gun down a building full of torturers in retaliation.  Great! We love that! For the rest of the show, however,, Takeshi is constantly being thrown around like a dog toy by everyone else he fights – from Dimi the Twin, Reileen, and Bancroft’s gladiators in season one, to Carrera, Quell and Takeshi Prime in season two.  It kind of feels like one of the writers just gave up on life mid-show.

Moreover, his keen detective mind only manages to piece everything together in season one after he is literally presented 3 cryotubes storing Reileen’s guilt. Similarly, in season two, the mystery of Quell’s uncharacteristic violent urges is revealed through the combined deductive efforts of Poe, Trepp and Dig. Takeshi merely piggybacks off of their findings to come to the final conclusion. Way to take credit for a group project.  He makes no Sherlockian deductions, no great leaps of reasoning or logic to be one step ahead the other characters. He too is reduced to a primarily reactionary version of himself.

The only Takeshi that is close to what we hear about is Takeshi Prime: the consciousness backup made before his defection from the Protectorate. This version is capable, intelligent, ruthless and cunning. Everything we wanted to see from the main character himself.

Takeshi Kovacs was supposed to be one of the deadliest people alive, yet the only thing he killed were our last brain cells as we watched him drunkenly stumble from one ass kicking to another.

Are there any characters you thought were a better representation of the fundamental issues with the show? Were any of the characters mentioned redeemable? Let us know in the comments below.

Writer: Bendan Smith
Editor: Arielle Andreano & AB Scarlett
Voice: Scott Tunnix
Video: Luis Phillipson & Angel Gustanski

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