Cold War Feel, Modern Day Treatment

I recently started watching Counterpart, the new Starz TV series, which was haphazard of me, as I generally prefer to wait until a season is over before starting to watch it.

I was thoroughly engrossed by the end of the first episode, despite the science-fiction-y concept of the show, because the alternative worlds premise is really a great substitute for Berlin during the Cold War.

The antics each side goes through, spying on each other, brings Berlin sharply to mind, too.

So does does the art and design of the series.  Clothe are subdued, sets are dark, and there are interesting touches, like throw-back computer monitors and clunky reel-to-reel mag tapes.

The homage is deliberate:  part of the series is filmed in Berlin.

If you like Le Carré, you’ll likely enjoy Counterpart.

Good Thriller, Not Such A Hot Gumshoe Story

I started hearing the rumbles about the “don’t-miss” new Netflix series, Altered Carbon, almost as soon as it dropped on Netflix, and checked it out with some degree of curiosity because everyone was raving about how it was Blade Runner meets Sam Spade.

Yeah…not so much.

I was intrigued by the first episode which set up a neat little murder mystery, complete with femme fatales and dodgy characters galore, set in a grimly advanced future.  The hero even had a personal stake in solving the murder.

So far, so good.

I’m only a couple of episodes from the end of the first season (I believe there are two more seasons in the making), and can say with a fair amount of confidence about the season overall that:

1.  It’s a brilliant thriller.

The layered and complex future setting doesn’t overtake the story.  There are some great characters mixing it up in unexpected ways, and the hero is constantly barely a step ahead of murderous trouble.

The series is certainly compelling.


2.  It forgot it was a hard-boiled murder mystery.

The hard-boiled characters are still there, because it is a dystopian setting, so they get to come along for the ride.

Unfortunately, the massive back story the series must go through to explain the present day story overwhelms the mystery.  (The book the series is based upon is over 500 pages, and it shows.) There has been very little movement on the mystery itself for a few episodes.

If you don’t mind pure thrills and chills, then you may enjoy this futuristic thriller.   It’s damn fine viewing, within that perspective.

Just don’t hold your breath waiting for a mystery to unravel.