Altered Carbon’s Worldbuilding and Character Motives Make No Sense (Netflix Series)


Why would some billionaire hire a random terrorist from 250 years ago to prove a crime was committed? At best, the entire thing is justified as a quirk of fancy for the rich billionaire. Rich billionaire dude – his character isn’t memorable enough for me to remember his name – repeatedly has the same boring, pointless monologues about how he’s like a god on earth while butchering Nietzsche’s philosophy in one scene because the writers of this show or the author of the book that this show is based upon probably never bothered with even a philosophy 101 class and thought they were being clever.

What are Reileen’s motive for literally everything she does? Maybe if they just went and said she wanted to bone her own brother, it could have made some sense and she’d be the Sci-Fi version of Cersei Lannister, but her explanations and reasons for killing Ortega’s family just seemed to be generic villain needing to be a generic villain without much thinking involved. And for those blaming this on the Social Justice / Female Empowerment wave, nope, sorry. This is the cookie-cutter Femme Fatale villain trope that’s existed for decades. Reileen gives no meaningful explanation for any of her actions or what the heck her motives even are. How am I suppose to understand what the hell the conflict of this story is even about, then?

Takeshi Kovach’s motives make no sense either and he’s the main character! From “I don’t care about anything!” to generic good-guy with no meaningful explanation or reasons. He goes from believing in the idealistic cause of the Envoys to saying he doesn’t care about anything since the cause clearly failed, but then not giving any clear reason for why he’s opposing his sister; someone he missed dearly and who he went through the abusive family life, mafia, and CETECH to protect and keep by his side. Yet, he betrays her because of Ortega and a bunch of people he’s only known for a few months? He couldn’t, y’know, just tell his sister not to have her hitman murder Ortega’s family or hurt the new people in his life and then he’d join her on that condition? Not that Reileen ordering the death of Ortega’s family made any fucking sense to begin with. It was a cheap sympathy ploy that I really didn’t care for. What the hell is there to be upset about in their dystopian world? Did they not want to be with Jesus Christ in heaven, after all? Did Ortega not want them to be in heaven with their precious Jesus Christ? It’s sad how Takeshi and Ortega don’t thank Reileen for sending Ortega’s family to heaven, as in accordance with the Christian beliefs the Ortega family supposedly hold. They believe life is but a test and they didn’t want to be re-sleeved in another human body (that is, have their soul put in another body so they don’t actually die) so what’s the problem when Ortega full well knows they’re going to heaven to be with Jesus? She already knows that the police force is a joke, so why care when this is what her family wanted due to their cultish beliefs?

If that all wasn’t enough, one of the billionaire dude’s kids displays his Western Barbarianism by making racist insults to the intellectually, culturally, and morally superior Japanese people to show racism is still a problem in this world. Now, I don’t know if it was the source material or the writers of the show who added this part, but in a futuristic civilization that’s set 500 years in the future where people speak multiple languages as a matter of social norms and with humans able to switch bodies on a whim – one is even shown to be done wirelessly by what amounts to a futuristic Wifi connection (incidentally violating the worldbuilding about it being a neck attachment to switch bodies, but whatever) – why in blazes does racism still exist? No seriously, if you can purchase a new body of any ethnic background and even have them custom-made for you, then why on earth does racism exist? Why on earth would any social stigma regarding racism exist? There’s none for people switching genders or “cross-sleeving” due to the contrivances of money needed for a body more to lower-class people’s needs, but why on earth does racism exist at all? The rich can switch to any physical body, cross sleeve, and pick any ethnic background or features they want in custom-made bodies and they live in a society where it is entirely normal to do that. So why would racism even exist? I suspect even the writers don’t have a rational answer. It was probably just there for woke points or the source material is awful.

Finally, the most blatant failing in its worldbuilding is religion. Now, to be clear, if there were new fantasy religions in this Sci-Fi world set 500 years in the future, then I wouldn’t care or complain. If there were variations of major world religions modified in belief for this Sci-Fi setting then I wouldn’t care. But no, it is presented as real world Christianity and Islam in a 500-year old Sci-Fi setting where humans have conquered and colonized an unspecified amount of habitable planets and does business with them as part of the norms of this setting. This wouldn’t necessarily be bad, if we were given explanations of just how anybody can believe in Judgment Day prophecies in Islam and Christianity when you can use a spaceship to travel to another habitable planet filled with human life that has futuristic Sci-Fi technology of switching ones bodies or creating however many clones of oneself to switch bodies at its beck and call. To show I am being fair: the technology of re-sleeving would obviously disprove the concept of reincarnation in the theistic branches of Hinduism. And, much more importantly for this shoehorned religious narrative, it would completely repudiate the idea of needing to worship Jesus Christ as the Messiah to live forever in heaven as one of his Chosen People whether you are Muslim or Christian. Billionaires living forever in their sky-mansions completely repudiates the entire promise of eternal life in either Islam or Christianity and yet this show doesn’t delve into this issue or challenge it. We’re just expected to accept people are still Christian and Muslim as we understand them in our modern times in this futuristic dystopia. Apparently, 500 years isn’t enough to make significant changes or reforms in religious thinking or create new religions that are more accustomed to addressing the social needs of the dystopian Sci-Fi world. It makes no sense to be any kind of theist in our modern-day settings when people can switch bodies or create copies of themselves to live forever. The eternal life promised by any of the Abrahamic faiths is repudiated. For Dharmic theism, reincarnation is either disproven or obsolete. If it had just been cultural traditions without the superstitious beliefs in the Abrahamic faiths, it could have worked. But this idiotic series treats it as normal for modern-day versions of the Abrahamic faiths to still exist in a futuristic setting 500-years from now where humans have achieved immortality and can live on other planets. Sorry, but not everybody is an American who judges everything by their feewings, and the rest of the world is actually capable of critical thinking unlike Americans. This setting treats everyone like they’re a bunch of dumbass Americans and treating the rest of the human species as if they’re just a bunch of Americans doesn’t work. The rest of the world is capable of critical thinking unlike American filth. It’s as if American wokeness and “representation” was of higher importance for the writers than engaging critically in the worldbuilding and the story suffers severely for it. All that said, it is Ortega’s family’s fault that they died in this setting by not having back-ups or re-sleeving. To be religious in a setting like this means that they may have all suffered from some severe degree of psychosis and should have been institutionalized as a family. And if you disagree, well guess what? Ortega’s family dying means – by their own Christian beliefs – they’re in heaven now, so there is no reason to be concerned about their deaths since that was ultimately what their religion taught them to live for and they consciously chose to ignore alternatives. In a setting where you can reload yourself into clones and change your body at will, such a viewpoint is healthy and sane and not psychotic. Ortega’s family were insane and they only have themselves to blame for what happened to them.

I began watching this show at the recommendation of a friend, although he said to skip Season 1. I should have indeed skipped Season 1, because I have no real interest to continue watching this trash fire as of now. Perhaps I’ll try to force myself to watch Season 2 by skipping the last two episodes of Season 1 because Season 1 is a dumpster fire.

Update: Due to criticism, I looked up the changes between the book and the Netflix series since I honestly didn’t expect much of a difference and have concluded that I have indeed been unfair to the author and to the larger franchise. It seems everything I’ve lodged complaints against fall upon Netflix’s idiotic changes and not the source material. Please keep in mind this is a critique of the Netflix series first season and my sincerest apologies for my aspersions towards the author and source material. 

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