After two years of waiting, Netflix is back to bring fans into the world that invented eternal life — well, at least sort of. Altered Carbon’s season 2 offers an amnesiac AI, a hero inhabited by two consciousnesses, and a new sense of vitality. The streaming giant’s endeavor into science fiction may have started as an edgy take on Blade Runner, but season 2 begins to fill its own shoes, creating a world that’s far less a carbon copy and much more an original.
The series continues by following its hero Takeshi Kovacs (Anthony Mackie) with his beloved AI, Poe (Chris Conner), as they search for Kovacs’ lost love and the inventor of stacks, Quellcrist Falconer (Renée Elise Goldsberry). You can expect action sequences and a rekindled sense of science-fiction to lead the show, and it ultimately becomes an exciting experience that exceeds its predecessor on many levels.
Expanding its Pantheon
If you were a fan of season 1 then you probably already understand that, for the most part, any character is replaceable. This concept is one that’s unique to the series, and although it’s definitely an element that keeps it entertaining, it can also affect character traits and personalities. That is the case with the lead protagonist, Takeshi Kovacs, who was played by Joel Kinnaman in season 1 and is played by Anthony Mackie in season 2.
The strange thing about this is that although both actors offer great performances, their temperaments are noticeably different, where Kinnaman can seem brash and Mackie is more cool and collected. By no means does this negatively impact the show, but it may take some getting used to, especially for fans of Kinnaman’s portrayal.
Aside from this given change, we still get a lot of the likable things season 1 had to offer while bringing new and exciting changes to season 2, and these decisions tremendously benefit the show overall. Exploring previous characters more in-depth is perhaps one of the greater aspects of season 2 because suddenly, Quell is not just a character in Takeshi’s memory, but a multi-layered hero, and Poe is still a likable artificial intelligence, but he’s also a character with flaws that is coming into his own sense of humanity.
Exploring New Worlds
Season 2 offers a much deeper exploration of its characters while introducing a dynamic set of new ones, and it also continues to properly expand on its world-building. Initially, I was divided about the aesthetic of season 2. Although occasionally tacky, Altered Carbon season 1 was a colorful world of neon lights and vibrant cinematography, and season 2 noticeably takes it down a notch. By the end of the second season, however, it’s clear that the series chose to break out of its shell and offer new ways to capture visual attention (and there’s still enough color to get entranced by without it being so in-your-face).
The series takes us to bold new places, implementing immersive effects, settings, and directorial decisions that elevate its sense of mise-en-scène. If not for its script, Altered Carbon is an enjoyable watch strictly visually; with that said, it’s not always for its script.
Altered Carbon is fun and inventive and builds upon itself beautifully, but a lot of the dialogue can seem overdramatic, which may work in the world of anime, but that hardly translates well to live-action. A clear example of this falls upon the antagonists of the series, which are written to have little emotional range and thrive off of tropes. In many cases, the series can be plain cheesy, and if you’re like me, this may occasionally take you out of the visual trance you’re in throughout your watching experience.
Altered Carbon season 2 may not be exactly what season 1 seemed to promise, but in many ways, that’s a good thing. We’re offered a bold new performance by Anthony Mackie, and this season also brings in exciting new characters while greatly exploring returning ones. By no means does it break grounds for science fiction, but it’s an imaginative ride that works on many levels, and if you’re looking for something to binge, Altered Carbon might just do it for you.
What did you think of Altered Carbon season 2? Did you enjoy it more than the first? Let us know!
All episodes are now streaming worldwide on Netflix.
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