Created by Laeta Kalogridis
Starring Anthony Mackie, Chris Connor, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Lela Loren, Simone Missick
Netflix returns with a new star lead in Anthony Mackie for the second season of Altered Carbon, and after a wary introduction, proceeds to excel on its ground-breaking premiere. Where season one played to the detective noir theme in an impressive investigation, season two takes hold in the heart of political espionage and a coups d’état back on Takeshi Kovacs’ home planet of Harlan’s World, some 30 years later.
As Kovacs, Mackie (Avengers, The Hurt Locker) brings a sense of emotion to the character, which Joel Kinnaman (The Killing, House of Cards) at times lacked, and within the series we discover a little more about the world through its politics, and Elder heritage. Though Altered Carbon has diverged from the original source material, it retains the same hard-boiled, slightly dystopic flavour. Where Kinnaman held a solemnity, Mackie provides a suaver sleeve for Takeshi Kovacs to embody, and allow the audience to fall faster into the mystery and bone-crushing action of the series.
The allegory of man’s self-destruction is an equally hard-hitting theme within this season, mirroring certain views in today’s society, holding up a crystal ball to the audience. It is hard to gauge Kovacs’ emotional standpoint in this season, as he frequently reminisces on those thoughts, becoming an outspoken misanthrope – and yet, is constantly resleeving to help others (even if it’s for credits). In this regard, Kovacs as a character still continues to be more of a vehicle for events, than a driving force.
The series further builds on its identity with the concepts of gender identity, technology and society, cyberspace and reality, hyper-urbanisation, genocide and colonisation, artificial intelligence, and the human-machine interface – whilst bringing back some familiar faces such as Dichen Lachman as Reileen, a pervasive ghost of Kovacs past, Renée Elise Goldsberry as Quellcrist Falconer, and Will Yun Lee as Kovacs’ Prime.
There is a lot of jargon to work through, and a mid-season meandering – which is only par for the course with Netflix originals – but the series bounces back and finishes strongly, if not with a peculiar ending. Whereas season one hit hard with skilful designs, digital landscapes, and provocative storylines, season two has provided a sleeker, refined incarnation, alluding that the two years between seasons has been an overall strength.
From the expert writing, strong female leads, and a pervasive philosophical and intellectual conversation which breathes in the bedrock of each episode, Altered Carbon has come back swinging and delivering cyberpunk thrills.
JOSHUA HALL HAINES