Continuity is important, and what Altered Carbon did in their second season that The OA didn’t before its untimely demise, was balance new characters with callbacks to the last season giving viewers a reason to invest. It’s a shorter season of eight episodes too packed full of action.
We’re 30 years into the future from where we left off in Season 1 and we’re introduced to a new ‘illegal’ fabrication technology that sees short cameos from Kristin and Rei in the show’s signature and spectacularly choreographed combat sequences. Though they were merely puppets for bounty hunters trying to take down the last envoy in a UFC-style null gravity arena, it was a nice salute echoing the past.
Interchangeable sleeves and stacks that turn this future human world into immortals leaves the door open for fan favorites to return. And they did! Even Kinniman appears in a series of flashbacks and montages, while Lizzie is conjured up through Poe’s ‘digital dimentia’ story arc.
Joel Kinniman and Anthony Mackie have given very different portrayals of Takeshi Kovacs when comparing the previous season to the new one. There are similarities, but there are distinct differences. James Bond vs Men in Black, but what anchors the two is the appearance of the original Takeshi (pre-Quell) in the form of Season 1 returnee, Wil Yun Lee adding a whole new layer to the story.
The double slipping deepens our conceptual understanding of this sci-fi world where death no longer exists and backups of consciousness are essentially snapshots in time that can ultimately define who we are as we see in Season 2’s two very different personnas of both Kovacs’.
Furthermore, the undertones of race and gender neutrality are what make the concept of altered carbon so provocative, challenging interpretation not only of the future but similar themes and motifs in the present.
Kovac takes the form of a new custom built soldier sleeve and the transition by Mackie flows smoothly enough bringing about a softer side to the character towards the end of Season 2 which we only saw flickers of from Kinnaman last season.
It seems the longer one lives, the longer your past which is why the fallout is collossal should it all come tumbling down.
The new diva of the hour is Governer Danica Harlan (Lela Loren), who picks up where Miriam Bancroft who by now would have served 30 years of her prison sentence has left off. An elitist, ambitious chair guarding the safety and peace of Harlan’s World, it’s what ultimately leads to her end.
The season opens with newcomer, Trepp (Simone Missick), a bounty hunter who eventually strikes a deal with Kovac. The two quickly bond joining forces as she is looking for her brother in the same way he has been planet hopping, searching the galaxy for his lost love.
Altered Carbon “redefines human beings’ relationship to our physicality,” describes show creator, Laeta Kalogridis puts it. “…you can exist in any body. It’s a fascinating idea that humans will have evolved over millions of years to exist in tandem with our physical body.”
We see this in a touching scene when Trepp is reunited with her son in a man’s body and he immediately recognises her. Much of her story revolves around the connection to family which grounds the show and its over the top ideas.
A new charming love interest for everyone’s favorite avatar in this season takes place who is faced with a choice to reboot and lose his memories or fail everyone around him due to file corruption and damage to his operating system. Assault, power imbalance and mortality are explored through the perspective of man-made machines putting a new lense on the human condition.
It’s not easy being the lone surviving soldier of a group of elite interstellar warriors, especially when spending centuries in search sould mate Quellcrist Falconer (Renée Elise Goldsberry).
Kovacs finds himself recruited back to his home planet of Harlan’s World with the promise of finding Quell who finally appears in the flesh after appearing as a figment of his imagination throughout the previous season. You’ll spend several episodes wondering if she is the real Quell or not which will be annoyingly enjoyable. After it becomes unsafe for her to remain in Bay City, she must prove her identity in order to return to the uprising she founded. It’s an excellent combat sequenced monologue with sharp manouevres while maintaining deep emotion and assertiveness in every word. The timing and delivery is one of the most memorable, with Episode 7 definitely being the highlight of the season. The payoff is definitely worth it in the end.
Who we were, who we are, what we can accomplish, and what we destroy, all depend on endings and beginnings. Altered Carbon takes place in a world where those lines are blurred: A neon-filled, dangerously sleek, tech-addicted but morally hollow future hundreds of years from now.
In the amount of time it takes to back up one’s mental data in a satellite cloud, a person is ready to live life again – one day later, one week later, or centuries later. This is the foundation and the potential for years of stories from this world to continue to propel despite the devastating season finale…
Altered Carbon Season 2 begins streaming Thursday 27 February – add it to your MyList below:
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