Altered Carbon season 2 review – a new-ish story that just meets expectations

By Daniel Hart
Published: February 26, 2020 (Last updated: December 17, 2023)
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Anthony Mackie stars in Netflix series Altered Carbon Season 2 as Takeshi Kovacs


Takeshi Kovacs returns in a new fresh sleeve (Antony Mackie) in Altered Carbon Season 2 — a new story further in the future but with a healthy continuation.

This review of Netflix Series Altered Carbon Season 2 contains no spoilers.

When Altered Carbon arrived on Netflix, we were presented with a Blade Runner vibe, with complex, articulated layers of plotlines that left audiences stroking their chins at the pure audacity of the attention to detail. Takeshi Kovacs is an enigma — a character that is easily questioned in terms of morals and decision making; in the context of the Altered Carbon canon, he’s neither a good or a bad guy, he hangs in between, purposefully intriguing.

Season 1 left viewers with the possibility that a second installment would not reach the same heights and it could be forgiven if Netflix could not topple it. Altered Carbon Season 2 is a new story (ish) that just about meets expectations. It’s not as good as its predecessor but can stay with the Netflix thumbnails.

For one, Altered Carbon Season 2 feels less raw than the first installment; we warned in our Season 1 review that “it is not for the faint of heart or the easily offended. It’s raw and brutal, but with a deep heart and real meaning at its core”, but Season 2 does not give that impression. It still has the formula at heart but it is not as intimidating and aggressive; the creator has opted for a lighter, subtle message, which will either turn the fans the other way or encourage new fans to start the series.

We are not sure why Altered Carbon Season 2 made some evident creative differences — less vulgar, more motion-smoothed sci-fi — but the introduction of Anthony Mackie as the new sleeve is welcomed. He does a splendid job of carrying the Takeshi Kovacs’ name with a broody, violent, but firm approach to his mission. Like the previous sleeve, Takeshi Kovacs’ emotions come out in odd spurts rather than in every chapter, which makes the more emotional outbursts appreciated.

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Altered Carbon Season 2 questions the sanctity of immortal life — it pokes at the wonder of what it would be like to keep hold of purpose and eternal love. Like its predecessor, the characters want to find themselves useful in a world where power is the only purpose and longstanding happiness is watered down by a neverending future. It’s a theme and question that will continue to be proposed in the story if Netflix decides to extend the series and one that will be truly appreciated.

The story of the second season starts years in the future, with Takeshi Kovacs handling a female singer sleeve and desperate to remain low-key. The story leads him back to his old homeworld, and a desperation to find his one true love, Quellcrist Falconer. The story oozes with mystery, with new characters introduced but with old motives and the politics surrounding Harland world remaining the same but more fractured.

It’s very much a soft continuation, with the link between Takeshi Kovacs and Quellcrist Falconer keeping the foundations of the original installment alive. The new characters crave attention, and you enjoy them, but it’s obvious that the leads are still the center point. In terms of the character Poe, the AI that runs the hotel and has become Kovacs’ servant, his side story is rather labored, and I would expect Netflix to give the character a more deserving arc in a potential Season 3.

If you read the recaps here at Ready Steady Cut, many of the star-ratings are openly positive, suggesting that a 3.5-star review does not match but overall, Netflix series Altered Carbon Season 2 just about delivers a new story that justifies the third season. Some of the chapters have such impressive moments of dialogue that lead to high-fuelled action which alone deserve high ratings, but it falls short of its predecessor in terms of impact on television. I would say that’s a shame, but I was never expecting Season 1 to be topped.

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