I hate it when Jake Buckler is right

In Saturday’s edition of his long-running column, the intrepid Jake Buckler tells the whole world that he fell asleep trying to review Netflix’s latest sci-fi seriesAltered Carbon. Pretty brave of him, admitting that he gets paid for sleeping.

And if you read his articles, which I have been doing quite a bit of as I migrate content from our old blog to this one, either you’ll find yourself sleeping too, or you’ll marvel at his affinity for shows like Ozark, which has all the appeal of peat moss as far as I’m concerned.

Which is why, it really pains me to say it, but he’s right on the money with Altered Carbon.

This show isn’t unique, it’s not a fresh perspective that leaves you with unanswered questions. It’s an unholy mashup of Blade Runner and pretty much every buddy cop movie. I even found myself thinking of the original Total Recall because the female lead reminds me of Maria Conchita Alonzo.

Let’s get this right out in the open, I am a huge fan of Blade Runner but even I acknowledge that it’s really just a Philip Marlowe story wrapped up in sci-fi. The difference is, in 1982 that was incredibly fresh, so fresh that the questions it raised about consciousness and the class struggle in America actually seemed to be incredibly relevant. The film looked like nothing that had been seen before, and as most diehards will tell you, the plot is nothing more than a contrivance designed to allow you to string together beautiful cinematography, groundbreaking effects, and thoughtful philosophy.

If Blade Runner hadn’t existed before most of you were born, then Altered Carbon would be a revelation. Unfortunately for Altered Carbon though, it’s just a visual retread of Blade Runner (a formula that didn’t work well for Blade Runner:2049 last year) and after you strip away the same old tropes about income inequality and testosterone imbalance in men, it’s nothing but a cop drama. And you all know, I am “so over” cop dramas.

I found myself largely bored by the first two episodes, so much so that I doubt I’ll get to a third. That is, when I wasn’t struggling to interpret Joel Kinnaman’s scowling grumbles or Martha Higareda’s spread-on-with-a-trowel accent. Sure, I was inspired to ask questions but they weren’t the ones I thought the show wanted me to ask. They were more like,

  • So, you’re telling me that humanity advanced to that incredible technological level just 100 years from now and then, basically no change after that for 300 years?
  • Seriously, a handwritten notebook survives for 300 years? I leave something in my car and the sun bleaches it out in a day.
  • So Ortega can drive a cop car but not a limo? How’s that work?
  • Please explain to me the technology where you die and go to another body and your accent doesn’t come with you.

Take away the expensive special effects and there is nothing there. OK, (spoiler alert) a guy dies and then comes back and wants to know who killed him. How “conveeeeeeenient” that it was just a few minutes before his scheduled backup.

So, the person who killed him knew the right time to kill him but didn’t know about the backup? And by the way, when was this? Because that blood and gore stain looks pretty fresh. Who lives with that in their house and doesn’t wash it off?

And while we’re talking about it, how come Kristin Bancroft (aka “dead/not dead guy’s wife”) looks like she’s had plastic surgery done, with the typical pulled-back face? Why would anyone have plastic surgery when they could just jump into the body of a 24-year old bathing suit model whenever they feel like it?

See, these are the questions I was asking. I wasn’t asking about the nature of existence or of the soul or about the basic inequality of a system that has such a huge disparity between rich and poor. I wasn’t marveling at the effects or chuckling at the effective guerilla marketing campaign conducted this past CES. I was thinking, “How come that gun looks like it has two barrels? Is it a derringer? What kind of cop carries a derringer?”

Sorry Netflix, you wasted your money on this one. Better luck next time. Oh well, at least you had enough money to greenlight season 4 of Grace and Frankie.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.