Altered Carbon is stripped down to the core of the story, but not necessarily for the better.
The second season of Altered Carbon is a stripped down version of the first season. The first season was an introduction to a new futuristic world, its new complications and enhancements, but also an introduction to the story of Takeshi Kovacs. The first season was a creative, progressive, and innovative story with complex and intriguing storylines, complex characters, with ethical and philosophical themes, lots of action, humor, wit, sexiness, and emotionally gripping, filmed in a stunning way.
There is less of everything in the second season. It’s more toned down and therefore less complex, fun, gripping or intriguing. But it still is a very interesting story that goes back to basic.
This second season consists of 8 episodes each with a duration of 43-56 minutes. It’s a continuous storyline, with the main focus on Tak’s quest to find Quell and save her, while Poe’s own story arc plays out as well.
After Takeshi Kovacs has discovered the evil scheme of his sister Reileen he also found out that Quellcrist Falconer might still be alive, so he goes searching for her. This brings him to Harlan’s Worlds where political schemes are at play, the Quellists, a rebellion group is active and Quell or someone wo is riding her Sleeve is killing Meths. Together with Poe, who is slightly damaged after his ordeal in Bay City, and a bounty hunter named Trepp, he goes after Quell, while stumbling on a an ancient force.
Why you should watch it
This second season of Altered Carbon is very different from the first one. Without the detective noir style and story arc it has less mystery. After the discoveries Tak had made, he is a different person himself. His nonchalant attitude with lots of dry humor and flair, is exchanged for a more serious and brooding Tak, much more to the likeness of how he used to be in his birth sleeve, 300 years ago. Although this is a logical change it takes away a lot of humor and playfulness.
What also has changed is his pack. While leaving them kinda happy in Bay City, he only took Poe with him. Luckily Poe brings in a lot of humor and emotional depth. It’s his search for who he is, his love for Lizzie whom he doesn’t want to let go, his new found interest in another AI, Dig, that makes him even closer to a human. His storyline is an interesting quest and brings in the much needed humor and emotions.
Trepp the bounty hunter is a nice new character, but doesn’t add as much powerful emotions as the Elliots or Kristin Ortega did in the first season. Trepp is there, she has a function, but not her own gripping story arc.
While political schemes play out in the background, they are predictable. Unlike storylines in the first season about the Meths, the corruption and the whole ethical, religious, sociological and philosophical issues about the Stacks, Sleeves and the opportunity to live forever, this new storyline feels a bit bland, conventional and superficial even. It’s not as fresh or new or original.
There is less humor, apart from Poe. No fun oneliners or dry absurdist dialogue or moments and situations. The storylines and characters are less complex, emotionally complex or gripping. It’s less sexy, less progressive in social themes like feminism or power. There’s some action but not filmed in a spectacular way, it’s less stylish but more brutal and hard.
That said it’s still a great series. The development of Tak’s and Quell’s history and romance is gripping and when the old Tak is brought back in his clone birth sleeve and copied stack from 300 years back, it makes an interesting storyline. That’s the fun part of the series. With stashed Stacks, cloned Sleeves, old characters can come back in a new form or never really stay dead, even when they are Real Death-ed….
The series looks great. Especially the first episode is a great one and surprisingly fun. However it’s not a good predictor for the rest of the season. The season takes place at Harlan’s World and we come to know more about the alloy that made it possible to make the Stacks, but we also learn more about the Founders of the Planet and The Elders and the Songspire trees.
Still all these elements, and the new characters don’t come together in the end like they did in the first season. The first season was an example that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. But now there’s no synergie, the separate elements stay separate things and don’t connect in an epic way.
My favorite part
Poe’s journey and his struggle to deal with his glitch, was the most interesting part. His emotional journey and his reluctance to let go of Lizzie, is heartbreaking. But his new found friend and love interest Mrs Dig is a pleasant storyline. Although Poe isn’t human, he is trying and for that it makes him the most humane human of all. Poe is a character you really root for and you really want him to be happy. He is sincere and maybe the most complex character in this season.
Epic factor: ★★★☆☆
Gruesome factor: ★★★☆☆
Originality factor: ★★★☆☆
Entertainment factor: ★★★★☆
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Cast and crew
Altered Carbon is based on the novel of the same name written by Richard K. Morgan. It’s created by Laeta Kalogridis. It stars Anthony Mackie (Takeshi), Will Yun Lee (original Takeshi), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Quellcrist), Chris Conner (Poe), Dina Shihabi (Mrs. Dig), Simone Missick (Trepp), Lela Loren (Danica Harlan), Torben Liebrecht (Colonel Carrera), James Saito (Tanaseda Hideki).
Music: Jeff Russo, Jordan Gagne. Cinematography: Corey Robson, Bernard Couture, P.J. Dillon. Production companies: Mythology Entertainment, Skydance Television. Original network: Netflix.