Altered Carbon: Season 1 Complete, Books Included.   Books Included 
February 7, 2018 10:40 AM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

It's probably much too late, but it's clear we need a space for book readers and binge-watchers to spoil heavily about Netflix's Altered Carbon adaptation.

(Don't have a ton to add here, I'm just trying to take phearlez's suggestion to heart and spare non-binge watchers any further headaches. Please, let's continue discussing the show.)
posted by mordax (50 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
YES OK FINALLY I can talk about how much it bothers me they reduced Quellcrist Falconer, Revolutionary, to Quellcrist Ensorcelled Princess in the last thirty seconds of the season.
posted by corb at 1:32 PM on February 7 [4 favorites]


That "Quellcrist is alive" gambit is like 80% likely to be a lie, right?
posted by axiom at 5:11 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


OK so I am binging the series for the second time. I am just starting the first book. I'm totally looking forward to reading the book and the comments here.
posted by miss-lapin at 5:13 PM on February 7


I haven't read the book, so I'd love some insight from book readers here on something that bothered me, because I'm hoping there is just some book reason that I don't know about.

I really thought the nudity was over the top, and the scene that really clinched it for me was the fight scene between Rei and Ortega in the clone sleeve vault. Was there a reason in the books why all the clones had to be naked? They're all just basically resting there, occasionally waking up to keep muscle tone, so why not have them in some sort of basic clothing. A lot of the other nudity in the show, particularly around the brothel type scenes, at least had a stronger connection to the plot - though it definitely still could have been reduced. That fight scene though just seemed to have absolutely no need for the character to be nude.
posted by noneuclidean at 5:58 PM on February 7


Just finished this past weekend. The thing that bothered me most I think was the AI. They seem really weak, is there an explanation in the book somewhere? I mean, seriously, how do you hack an AI? A computer that can write its own code is going to be way better than me when I write code.
I think I’ll have to pick up the book, but I’m curious about anybody else’s thoughts. I liked the show, but didn’t think the it strayed to far from genre cyberpunk.
posted by herda05 at 2:09 AM on February 8


Just finished episode four. That's the torture porn episode, where 80% of the screentime is watching Kovacs be tortured in VR. Only not-tortured because it's not real, only doubly tortured because it's more real than real. Or something. Mostly I'm just thinking do I need to watch this? At least all the porn in previous episodes was erotic porn, and as much as male-gaze-on-women doesn't do much for me at least it was a nice emotion.

This show is ugly. It's still interesting, and I'll finish it, but I'm just sick of this kind of sci-fi.
posted by Nelson at 7:29 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]


"Quellcrist is alive" gambit

They borrowed that from the third book.
posted by porpoise at 9:06 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]


(Shower thought; a lot of the erotic porn in episodes 1-3 is also creepy and exploitive of women. That's not a "nice emotion" at all, apologies for the confusion. What I had in mind as most male-gazey is the way the Meth matriarch wears these gauzy blouses that reveal her permanently erect nipples. I found that remarkably erotic in a nice way, and as a gay man that's not normally how I'm wired. Still annoyed at the broader context of how pornographic and male-gazey it all is.
posted by Nelson at 9:56 AM on February 8


As an adaptation of a book I am fond of I am liking it so far (through episode 4). It's been a few years since I've read AC, but the show seems faithful enough to the mood and the main themes that it is ringing bells not tripping alarms.
I am not binging (bindgeing?) to string it out, but I am inclined to re-read the sequels now, so that's good.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:15 PM on February 8


I Iiked the story enough to get the gist. But I watched the whole season in like 2 hours with the finger on the right arrow key (subtitles help). That's real pulp fiction. The usual tropes with body swapping and cloning. Anyone who enjoys these should check out the fucked-up anime Kaiba. Recently of course Westworld did a lot with clones (androids, bioroids whatever they are). Altered Carbon is no Westworld of course. More camp like Johnny Mnemonic with Keanu Reeves. But it had something refreshing to it despite all the grimdark pulp nonsense. I can't put my finger on it. I liked how the protagonist had training to counter this "what if torture but to infinity!!!" which seems totally part of the zeitgeist currently: Black Mirror did it several times recently, Star Trek Discovery had something like it... (I guess it does fall under the Fate Worse Than Death trope in general though)
posted by yoHighness at 2:04 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


(Shower thought; a lot of the erotic porn in episodes 1-3 is also creepy and exploitive of women.)

Well, that's basically how TV productions of 70s and 80s style SF and fantasy (in which category I put Game of Thrones) work now. Decanted straight from the Id of the most masculine and misogynistic New Wave and post-New Wave writers.

The directors are all "Oh yeah, let's make this so dystopic!" fapfapfapfap "Look how HORRIBLE it is that women in our fantasy future are treated like sex toys!"
fapfapfapfap "Isn't the future horrific when women are exploited like that!"fapfapfapfap

And so, NewBladerunner, Westworld, Game of Thrones, and so on. Showrunners are aware how well objectifying women under the weak cover of social commentary works to gain eyeballs. So of course it's going to be put in any "gritty fantasy" any chance they can get.
posted by happyroach at 9:25 PM on February 8 [9 favorites]


The show runner, who is female, apparently went to the writer and said they would keep it hard R and a dystopia, to say something about the exploitation of women being wrong? I read an article where they were interviewed saying that the nude fight with the clones was meant to empower Rei.

In a way having them wear soft clothes as clones instead of being nude would have felt a lot like whedon's dollhouse. In some ways I think they wanted to reduce people's flesh to meat. I wish the clones had been stored hanging in rows on hooks. But no Meth would want to do that, right?

They could have spent more time exploring the post human condition. I think they wanted to show being more than human doesn't keep you from being inhumane, in fact it may encourage people to think of others as disposable, easily replaced. Which is a commentary about wealth and class to me, as well as sex.

I don't know, I guess any show with someone's saucy talking grandmother running around in a skinhead's body isn't all bad.
posted by gryftir at 4:38 AM on February 9 [3 favorites]


> But it had something refreshing to it despite all the grimdark pulp nonsense. I can't put my finger on it. I liked how the protagonist had training to counter this "what if torture but to infinity!!!"

I realized that the show was working for me despite the violence because [spoiler] Kovacs actually cares very deeply and is bad at hiding it. In fact, that is the denouement, when the ascendant god tries to force him to destroy the things he loves in order to ascend himself the most he refuses. The strong say caring is weakness and so pay the price for it. We see this play out in Bancroft, Prescott, and Rei. A lot of the first season is characters choosing to acknowledge the value in people even when the powerful are doing everything they can to devalue life. See also Poe and Lizzie, which is weirdly lovely and could be the subject of an entire season of television all on its own.
posted by Tevin at 6:05 AM on February 9 [4 favorites]


I finished the series last night. I really liked the coherent visual language of the show, like with the repeated hexagons everywhere and the curved bridge/stair supports. The Blade Runner references were too heavy handed and would have been more fun if a lighter touch was used. The acting was more uneven than I was expecting, but most of the central characters were good.

It's been a long time since I read the books, so I may be wrong, but my memory is that the books were more tongue in cheek and playing with genres, whereas the series seemed to me to be presenting itself very seriously. Maybe that's an inevitable change given where "prestige tv" is at these days, but the underlying story is silly enough that it is hard to layer too much serious meaning on it.

The directors are all "Oh yeah, let's make this so dystopic!" fapfapfapfap "Look how HORRIBLE it is that women in our fantasy future are treated like sex toys!"
fapfapfapfap "Isn't the future horrific when women are exploited like that!"fapfapfapfap


I wonder if it depended on who directed/wrote/etc each scene, but I found the series very uneven on this. There were scenes where the nudity made sense, and other scenes where indeed you could almost hear someone jerking off just off-screen.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:41 AM on February 9 [3 favorites]


NewBladerunner, Westworld, Game of Thrones, and so on

Thanks for that comparison, I think it's spot-on. All three, and Altered Carbon, aren't just straight up male fantasy torture porn. They aren't just misogynistic. But they're indulging in fap fantasies for men at the expense of women and then saying "oh, but we're much more enlighted than that". Well yes, but you're also lazy. Do something more interesting to generate emotional intensity in your show. (I'd argue that one of those other three shows succeeds in this enough to justify the porn, but this thread isn't the place to make the argument.)
posted by Nelson at 9:29 AM on February 9 [6 favorites]


(Shower thought; a lot of the erotic porn in episodes 1-3 is also creepy and exploitive of women.)

Well, that's basically how TV productions of 70s and 80s style SF and fantasy (in which category I put Game of Thrones) work now.


This is very much also the case in at least book 1 of the series, which I think was published in 2002.

Some of the very worst sex scenes I’ve ever read, tbh. Exploitive, vapid, and above all, boring.* The toxic masculinity bullshit (and the complete failure, at least in book 1, to deal with how swapping genders would affect anything and everything) was a big part of why I didn’t keep reading.

(Or perhaps that the bullshit wasn’t outweighed by craft? Idk I’ve read all of Raymond Chandler.)

*i think this especially bothered me because Morgan is good at writing fight scenes, and they are not so different — unless you don’t understand that the same rules of tension, story momentum, and character apply to sex scenes, only doubly so, because it (usually) involves the relationship between two characters. Which...Morgan evidently did not, as of 2002.
posted by schadenfrau at 12:26 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


Some of the very worst sex scenes I’ve ever read, tbh. Exploitive, vapid, and above all, boring.*

I just started rereading the book after I started to watch the series last week. Yesterday I hit that first sex scene, and wow, you aren't kidding how bad it is. I can give him a pass as a (then) new author, but still, he could have done better.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:39 PM on February 9


I did manage to finish the book, but the torture porn scene and the awkward sex really put me off. It sounds like ep 4 would have been a dealbreaker for me. Does the writing/male gaze get better in the other books of the series? Some of the ideas about skins, identity, and AI hotels were interesting, but I don't want to roll my eyes through the rest. (looking at you Flashforward)
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 1:46 PM on February 9


In terms of exploiting women I was more upset by Lizzie's choice to wear wet leather during what essentially is a rescue mission. It just seemed like an out of character choice. I mean maybe it was more protective than other outfits there, but since we didn't see her choices and she smiled when she saw it suggests she liked her choice. Honestly nudity would work better for me than that outfit.

Just a side note, I thought that the greeter on the Satellite of Sin being dressed a bit like a Cardinal was interesting. It's another hint that people regard her as a god.
posted by miss-lapin at 4:32 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]


Oh I forgot to mention I liked how the grandmother dealt with being in a skinhead body ("I'm peeing standing uuuppppppp"). The scene is idenitfiable as "tense family gathering" and shows how the stacks impact generational values. (It also foreshadows Quelchrist's claim that dying is what makes us human.) But grandmother adds just a dollop of comic relief there and it's really the only place where there is any comedy about bodies and identies not matching.

I would like to go way out there. The reason I watched this show is because of the whole "bodies are not who you are" thing. As someone who has dealt with medical trauma my entire life this is a feeling I deal with a lot, but don't see often in entertainment. Tak protecting Ryker's body for Ortega is something that resonates with me. That idea that this body isn't me but it means something to others so I must figure out how to keep it safe (despite it being a jerk) is a feeling I well understand.

I'd be curious to know if I'm the only disabled person who was drawn to this aspect of the show.
posted by miss-lapin at 7:20 PM on February 9 [4 favorites]


Mostly this makes the other shows out there right now, “The Expanse” Springs first to mind, look good. At the same time the whole disposability of ‘bodies’ theme is/was interesting. But then the second to last (to pick the most glaring example) episode with all the woman killing... you know that was kind of sort of about it for me. There was a lot before then that was too much but that was kind of - that kind of bad that makes it a waste of time.
Then the AI hotel couldn’t see ... like, the people he was talking to himself... grrrr. I really liked Poe as well. Was this explained in the books? How do the books compare with all these themes (the boring fucking misogyny)?
Strangely I don’t regret having watched it so much though...
posted by From Bklyn at 3:21 PM on February 10


Well I've watched the whole thing now. I LOVED maybe the first 6 or so episodes. Liked the next 2 or so. Hated the last one and part of the second last one. Blah. It started out so well and then went all "the fifth element is love" eye-rollingly squishy.

I didn't mind that they combined Quell and Virginia Vidaura, I did mind that they turned her into a paper-thin love interest with no real explanation for her zealotry instead of a deeply intelligent and thoughtful badass, which both those characters are in the books.

I see NO REASON why they had to make Reileen his sister. It just added a layer of nauseating quasi-incestuous creepiness that didn't need to be there, didn't add to the story, and made Reileen (the Big Bad in the book) a boring accessory for Kovacs instead of her own thoroughly evil Meth character.

As much as I hate to admit it, I feel like the strongest argument for misogyny in the series is turning three strong female book characters into two silly caricatures of stereotypical shallow women.

Even though I found the last couple of episodes disappointing, I fervently hope they make Broken Angels, since that is by far the best book of the trilogy.

And I'll probably watch this again.
posted by biscotti at 7:14 AM on February 11 [6 favorites]


Rei being Tak's sister was a total WTH deviation with the books. I haven't watched to the end of the season but... maybe... ? I'm semi-ok with Quell~Vidaura but that might not bode well for future show adaptations of the books.

The nitpickiest of nano nits, but I was surprised by how much art asset they developed for Harlan's World.

I can't remember clearly, but I think in 'Altered Carbon' they mention Harlan's having "Martian" orbitals and maybe three moons. In 'Woken Furies' I'm certain they contrast Sanction 4's placid oceans with Harlan's monsterous tides/waves due to the three moons and Harlan's being 95% covered in water with most of the useable landmass as a string of archipelagos. In 'Broken Angels' surf bum culture is an integral part of the plot.

Given that they've borrowed Quellcrist being possibly alive, I was disappointed that while they did show two (visible, of three, moons - apparently one of which has a ring) they didn't really show the monster waves, dude.

I'm surprisingly ok with The Hendrix being replaced with The Raven. I even liked giving the AI a bigger role and lightening up the character.

Bit disappointed that the mohawk hairstyle was given to one of the patchwork man's sleeves rather than have a bunch of cops sporting them.

Tak's backpack was really endearing.
posted by porpoise at 10:52 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


I've come down with biscotti, I think. Also LOVED roughly the first 6 episodes, thought the next 2 were decent, and wasn't a fan of the end. Still, that's 60% LOVED and another 20% liked which is a pretty good average. It's just too bad they didn't stick the landing for me but I do think this was a very good proof-of-concept for a Netflix Original. A non-Marvel high concept high budget SF series.

There was a lot to like here and hopefully they shook out the kinks.
posted by Justinian at 11:29 AM on February 12


In 'Broken Angels' surf bum culture is an integral part of the plot.

You're thinking of Woken Furies, the last book.
posted by biscotti at 4:42 PM on February 12


Bit disappointed that the mohawk hairstyle was given to one of the patchwork man's sleeves rather than have a bunch of cops sporting them.

A lot of the cops definitely had at least faux-hawks, I commented on it to my partner while we were watching!
posted by flaterik at 10:40 PM on February 12


OMG I want that backpack so hard.
posted by miss-lapin at 5:41 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Speaking of the ending, I’m kind of really upset that they deviated from both the standard noir structure, and the books themselves in terms of the ending.

In standard noir structure, the semi love interest of the detective is always a “bad girl” but not truly evil. However, by making her the one who beats Lizzie to death rather than Lizzie’s pimp when she tries to blackmail a Meth, it makes her beyond redemption. You can’t have an ending where she gets away in a world where she beat Lizzie to death.

And that means that you can’t have the incredibly interesting ending where one Takeshi kind of cares for her. You can’t have the ending where one Takashi, before dying, asks the other to let her off the hook. And because of the homegrown cloning machine, you can’t have the realization that his feelings for the female cop are just sleeve feelings. And it’s that realization that lets him leave, not the understanding that he always loves Quellcrist.

So essentially, the Quellcrist is the princess of true love nonsense is weirdly dictated by story choices that I don’t understand.
posted by corb at 6:23 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Hm. So I set up two threads to try and un-screw the discussion of this show, and I didn't even finish it until today.

Some thoughts, almost all of which have already been covered:
* Top notch visuals.

I really liked the coherent visual language of the show, like with the repeated hexagons everywhere and the curved bridge/stair supports

Likewise. I feel like whomever made this really loved the material, and their care showed on the screen in all the little details.

* This didn't translate as well as I would've hoped.

It's been a long time since I read the books, but the thing that grabbed me about Takeshi Kovacs was that he didn't feel entirely human. Envoy training was supposed to make a person think, react and anticipate in ways that were at odds with nature. The show talks about Envoy intuition a lot, but I didn't really feel it. Kovacs just seems like your standard gruff protagonist type. That disappointed me more than I was expecting. And it may be the books wouldn't hold up there either if I were to go back to them, but that was certainly my feeling after my initial read: I was excited to read someone who wasn't just a person.

* Use of nudity was very uneven.

As has been discussed already, I liked some stuff. A lot of the scenes were obviously not intended to be sexy: I thought the fight in the clone vault was very striking, and a lot of scenes like that just felt... well, as mentioned already, it felt like they were about reducing people to meat. Reminding us that whatever their pretensions, these people were just flesh and blood. (That was my takeaway from every hanging dong, certainly.)

But I agree that Lizzy shouldn't have been wearing S&M gear for a rescue mission, and I was pretty unhappy with the 'sexy dead hooker' stuff early in.

The whole thing left me pretty conflicted there. Like, 'Do I recommend this to people? Do I not?'

* Ending was off. Too tidy.

Speaking of the ending, I’m kind of really upset that they deviated from both the standard noir structure, and the books themselves in terms of the ending.

Agreed. I wonder if this was born out of uncertainty about getting a second season - it felt more like a capper to the universe than part one of a trilogy.

So... hm. Yeah. Dunno. Mixed feelings about this. I'm still glad they're doing more things instead of endlessly remaking old movies, but I'm not sure this went quite how I wanted. I'm still eager to see them take a stab at book 2 though, because that was my favorite by a big margin.
posted by mordax at 3:45 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]


I'm still eager to see them take a stab at book 2 though

Absolutely, but I'm worried that there are too many things that could go wrong. The biggest being depicting "The Martians" and the ethnic phenotype of the sleeves is a bit of a minefield (iirc, during most/all of it, Tak's in an 'Afro-Carribean' sleeve and the bulk of his team are sleeved in rad-resistant Maori bodies.

The adventure side of the story could be awesome on screen, and there's the potential for a couple/three pretty damned good villains.
posted by porpoise at 6:35 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]


That about sums up how I feel, yeah.

Oh, further thought about S1:
One of the overall morals of Altered Carbon is 'nobody should have unassailable privilege.' Every rich person is a terrible shit, no matter where they came from or whether they were good at their jobs as captains of industry.

I appreciate that being packaged in a way that a lot of guys will watch, in the hope that some of them maybe think about it. (A lot of fiction is not sufficiently suspicious of power - it's one thing I don't like in the current glut of superhero fiction.)
posted by mordax at 10:03 AM on February 15 [4 favorites]


My question if they do a season 2 is who plays Tak.The end of this season suggests he will turn in Ryker so Ortega can resume her life (assuming Ryker still wants her, which who knows...) Considering the reality of the books. they could really get anyone to play Tak.


One thing I did wonder about is the family reunion in Lizzie's mind. We see her mother in her current body, but clearly Lizzie doesn't. Considering this is a construct put together by Poe and Lizzie, wouldn't it make sense that her mother would appear...well as Lizzie sees/remembers her? It just seemed like an odd mismatch there where they probably didn't want to risk confusing the audience.
posted by miss-lapin at 3:50 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Mordax-
I think there is material in the show demonstrating Tak is more than human. He doses himself on Reaper and stops his own heart. Poe refers to him as someone with "singular focus." And he has intuition, which his sister does not. This suggests Tak isn't just the product of training, but there is something unique about him-the training merely enhanced what was there.

I am curious to know about what training he got as it seems pretty fuzzy, but there was a lot more world building here than there was in Bright. And it seems like there is promise of more to come (possibly). With shows like this balancing exposition with action is always a bit difficult.
posted by miss-lapin at 5:47 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


One thing I did wonder about is the family reunion in Lizzie's mind. We see her mother in her current body, but clearly Lizzie doesn't

Pretty sure Tak's voice-over addresses this. He says he paid the mortgage on the mom's sleeve.

Count me in with those not too thrilled with the Rei as Tak's sister and Quellcrist/Virginia stuff. Also the Quell/Virginia as bog-standard love interest is a change for the worse.

Off topic: anyone have links for criticism of Morgan's work? Most interested in Altered Carbon and sequels and the A Land Fit for Heroes series.
posted by that's candlepin at 9:36 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


One thing I did wonder about is the family reunion in Lizzie's mind. We see her mother in her current body, but clearly Lizzie doesn't.

I read that, and their surprise, as Mom is really appearing to her in her male "body," but she's able to see through it. Not that she just sees Mom looking like Mom, but she's able to see Mom's essential Momness inside that dude.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 9:47 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


My question if they do a season 2 is who plays Tak.

I read an article that I can't find right now where the actor who plays Ryker-Kovacs says that he has no plans for coming back for a second season because the story of Kovacs in that sleeve is over. There wasn't anything about who would play Kovacs in a second season and I haven't heard if they're planning one.
posted by stet at 12:39 PM on February 16 [3 favorites]


Also, since I'm commenting right now, I've got a story in my head about the male actors that played women sleeved in male bodies. My completely made up story is that they were coached in vocal mannerisms by a person whose main job is vocal feminization coaching for women in the process of transitioning and that the coach got a huge paycheck for this job and can use the extra income to offer low cost services to lower income trans women.

There is no reason to think this is true, but it's technically possible and it makes me happy.
posted by stet at 12:45 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


I think there is material in the show demonstrating Tak is more than human.

I'm not explaining myself very well, because it's sort of a fuzzy thing. Most characters with superhuman powers retain an essentially human perspective because it's hard to get outside your own head. Most writers treat superheroic characters as regular people with a couple of extra button combos at their disposal.

That's how this show felt to me when I was watching it: Kovacs does possess some special abilities, but he reads as a regular, (if jaded and deadly), guy. The... emotional core of the character is normal, if that makes sense? The thing that drew me to Altered Carbon more than anything else was Kovacs feeling like something other than Generic Action Hero when I was reading it, but he feels like that kind of protagonist here.

After sleeping on it, I think I'm mildly disappointed because this couldn't really go any other way. TV doesn't have a good way to really let you inside a character's head the way a book can. Plus, while the show acknowledges Envoys are manipulative bastards, I suppose wallowing in it would've attracted the wrong sort of fan, (see: Breaking Bad, Rick & Morty, etc.).

So... yeah, that's what I'm on about: really, I guess I'm just wanting to express frustration about the inherent limitations of certain sorts of adaptation, and in myself for not seeing that coming. I hope that makes more sense.
posted by mordax at 1:15 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


To take off a little from mordax's thoughts about Kovacs; I think a big issue is that we're talking about two different Taks, bookTak and showTak.

(I still haven't finished the series, watching e08 now.)

In the books, Envoys are a special kind of Protectorate soldier. He's had his mind mucked up and certain parts pruned back and other parts enhanced. Cloned sleeves can also have some genetic modifications like a 'wolf (gene) splice' that evokes pack instincts and heightens emotional responses to pack activities. Tak has never met Quell (?) but she was a huge influence during Tak's early career. Virginia Vidaura was his combat instructor and occasional (? when they get back together, they 'get back' together) lover. Tak left the envoys, got into crime, got caught and put into storage.

Show Envoys... are Quellchrist rebels? Quell is a magic sensei that teaches magic fighting ability who wants death to be real-death again for all and might have some magic ability in simulation? Tak is Quell's lover and his sister Rei killed Quell.

Aside from implications that future adaptations are going to be completely new plots with a few bits sprinkled in, or that there's only one more season that's mostly based on the books, those are two really different motivations and backgrounds for Tak.

Rei being Tak's sister instead of some evil meth who deserves real death for being evil is a pretty big departure. Quell's death while escaping and being incinerated by a Martian orbital is faithful, less Rei's involvement.

If Tak's been in the Store for 200 years (show), Rei must be in a clone of herself. So, a meth. And one of the big themes are that meths are weird (and in the final book, Tak's got about 100 years subjective ... and there's another Tak who's only got about 30).

However, the brother-sister thing could also be a sprinkle from book 3; Tak and a teammate are sleeved into "twin" clones and had pheromone influenced emotional and cognitive responses.

I guess they airdropped in the Rawlins virus from Innenin into Quell's envoy camp's destruction (what with the self eye gauging and extreme psychosis).

tl;dr the medium of TV simply doesn't allow a lot of subtleties (pack genes, pheromones) to be transmitted, so it has to find a different way (brother-sister/lover-mentor) to convey a similar amount and hue of narrative.
posted by porpoise at 6:00 PM on February 17 [4 favorites]


In the books, Envoys are a special kind of Protectorate soldier. He's had his mind mucked up and certain parts pruned back and other parts enhanced. Cloned sleeves can also have some genetic modifications like a 'wolf (gene) splice' that evokes pack instincts and heightens emotional responses to pack activities. Tak has never met Quell (?) but she was a huge influence during Tak's early career. Virginia Vidaura was his combat instructor and occasional (? when they get back together, they 'get back' together) lover. Tak left the envoys, got into crime, got caught and put into storage.

Show Envoys... are Quellchrist rebels? Quell is a magic sensei that teaches magic fighting ability who wants death to be real-death again for all and might have some magic ability in simulation? Tak is Quell's lover and his sister Rei killed Quell.


I'll probably rewatch the show at some point and I'm going to defer final judgement until then, but my immediate reaction to the show when the new backstory was introduced was not positive. It seemed like a lazy change that tidies up and simplifies the story, but removes a lot of what made the character work in the books.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:02 AM on February 18 [5 favorites]


So, I seem to be a minority in the world, in that I think fight scenes are really stupid. There were a lot of great ideas in this series, and they would have had lots of time to explore them properly if they didn't spend so much damn time boneheadedly bludgeoning each other with their knuckles. Why is that shit so popular? It doesn't really advance the plot or characterization further than "they fight, X wins" why spend so much time on it? This series could have been way more interesting if they had more story and less smashing.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:22 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


5_13_23_42_69_666 - there are gatekeepers that green/red light ideas. Shows/TV/Movies need money in order to be made - and they are made in order to make the most money possible.

Whether a show is profitable or not has less to do with their quality but rather how much advertisment money is poured into supporting it - and favourable strategic scheduling on all the most common-denominator networks.

You and I - and all the rest of us - are a minority compared to demographics and surveys.
posted by porpoise at 8:44 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


oh yea, all of my why's are not actually looking for sensible reasons, more of a "why must the world be this way can we all stop being stupid for one damn minute" I'm just so sick of all the glorification of violence, and to see what could have been a cool show mucked up with it gets me a bit ranty.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:08 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


Given all the earlier talk, I expected a lot more "porniness" especially in the first episode. It's not really any worse in this episode than any of the strip club scenes in The Wire and even the more controversial stuff doesn't really go farther than GoT except to acknowledge that yes, human bodies do indeed have a crotch.

I think in the main it's done more tastefully, though I can still see how some might find it excessive, since it is ultimately unnecessary even when it does serve to underline the conflict and emotion the characters are experiencing.
posted by wierdo at 4:40 PM on February 20


Okay, so this is a super weird question, but is pubic hair on women coming back into fashion? Or was that a conscious "this is some time very different from now" decision on the part of the show?
posted by 256 at 8:30 AM on February 22


I liked jwz's cranky review post.
posted by Nelson at 12:43 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


but my memory is that the books were more tongue in cheek and playing with genres, whereas the series seemed to me to be presenting itself very seriously.

Part of it, I think, is that AC isn't just a Future Noir, but a future private eye noir, and the "classic" private eye is a wisecracking smartass. It's the armor over their soft heart. So far (two episodes in) this aspect of the character seems to be MIA. Also, book Tak is self-aware enough to recognize that he's basically LARPing a bit of centuries-old pulp entertainment and be darkly amused by it - he's practically rolling his eyes when Miriam Bancroft shows up at the hotel to seduce him, because of course the trophy wife of the rich man who hired you is working her own agenda and will try to manipulate you with sex. That's Private Eye 101. Again, this awareness & dark humor seems to be missing from the show.

So, yeah, agreed that the show feels far more self-serious compared to the book.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:43 AM on March 5 [3 favorites]


is pubic hair on women coming back into fashion?

Apparently, in the future, it's merkins all the way down.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 8:16 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


OK so I finally finished reading the book. I agree with biscotti that making Reileen his sister was really not a great decision. The counterbalance to that was turning the Hendrix into Poe and making him an actual character.

One thing I thought came off much better in the book is Takeshi's conflict making a double and all that entails. As much as I enjoyed the show, it didn't do that any justice and I found that pretty intriguing considering how much of the story is about identity. They really undercut that.
posted by miss-lapin at 8:49 AM on April 5 [1 favorite]


I'm about halfway through S1 but as a book reader I've been having lots of book thoughts. I'll have more to say (and ask) when I'm done with the season but, immediate reactions:

--What happened to the history of the UN, the planetary wars and the backstory of the Envoys? The show makes them seem like a generic assassin/insurgent cult, like the historical assassins. Maybe this is explained later but I feel like there needed to be more world-building up front. There was that brief VR museum scene, but it didn't say anything about where the Envoys came from.

--Along the same lines, the show really doesn't do much to transmit the sense that humanity has spread across different worlds. The urban scenes on Earth are pretty much just Blade Runner with clunkier set dressing. Harlan's World scenes feel kinda phoned in and borrowed from the jungle war playbook -- Platoon and Clear and Present Danger, etc., with an Avatar tree horned in. Maybe this was a production cost problem, but it just doesn't look very offworld.

--The actual Quellist catchphrases and ideas I remember from the books are potentially a little gross in 2018 as they resonate in an accelerationist/reactionary register as well as they do a progressive one -- i.e. there's a lot of stuff in the books for Bernie Bros and the wraparound left. Reading Morgan's Market Forces surfaces all that a bit more.

--The noir stylistics are awfully heavy handed to the point of being ocassionally self-parodying in an Archeresque fashion. I doubt that was the desired effect.

--I really don't like the whole Rei as Tak's sister thing so far, but I'm trying to be open to it.

--The acting seemed really REALLY wooden through E4 or so. It's getting a little better, or else I'm getting used to it.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:36 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


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