Altered Carbon is beautiful in its neo-noir cyberpunk glory, but overwhelmingly trying to do far too much. That could all be forgiven, of course, thanks to pretty enjoyable performances from Joel Kinnaman (as Takeshi Kovacs), Martha Higareda (as Kristin Ortega) and c’mon, I loved me some Chris Connor as the delightful, loyal Poe. But then, there was the finale. And dear reader, it was a step too far.
The series started out as a basic ass murder mystery: former Envoy Kovacs is resleeved into a new body by Meth Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy) to solve's Bancroft's own murder. But as Altered Carbon continues, things get increasingly complicated. Kovacs discovers he was resleeved into the body of Elias Ryker, a man that just so happens to be Ortega's unhnged boyfriend. There's a secret prostitution ring, but instead of sex, Meths pay to permanently murder the life out of unwitting victims. Oh, and also? Turns out Kovacs' thought-to-be-dead sister Rei (Dichen Lachman) is responsible for all the bad stuff that's going on in Bay City. Still with me?
The finale tries its best to wrap up all one billion of those plots, but every ending is unsatisfying and rushed. And a lot of that blame can be firmly perched on the shoulders of Rei: as far as big bads go, she's just an immature little sister type with abandonment issues and a very stupid grudge. Despite being literally the most powerful person in the world, she spends the last episode of Altered Carbon mumbling and grumbling and yelling about how much she hated her parents and how Kovacs never paid her enough attention. For each of her many snarls, I wondered to myself: What is she talking about? Also, why?
But it’s not just Rei. The episode has the nerve to set up a romantic union between Kovacs and Ortega before abruptly snatching it away, with Kovacs helping Ortega set up her home for Ryker’s return. One second, they're embracing, Ortega heartened to see Kovacs alive once more; a couple of scenes later, he's leaving for good, promising to return Ryker's sleeve so they can be together again. It's agonizing! They could have at least made out a little bit.
As much as there were good things about the series — its diversity, inventiveness and the way it questioned the morality of an increasingly digitized world — the finale of Altered Carbon made me regret watching the whole thing. Not to be dramatic, but I wouldn’t mind getting those 10ish hours of my life back.