When it first premiered, Altered Carbon was a high-budget cyberpunk drama that had a passable central plot. Unfortunately, the series never reached its full potential.
Altered Carbon Season 1 was polarizing for many because instead of being logical, the narrative relied on tense battles between Kovacs and the many people who opposed him.
Even the mystery surrounding who killed Laurens Bancroft struggled to live up to the hype. The best part of the show was Kovacs, with his multi-layered personality and a past that haunted him every waking minute of his existence.
Part of the show’s early success was Joel Kinnaman’s portrayal of the character. Yes, we did see multiple actors take on the role during Altered Carbon Season 1, but Kinnaman was the constant to which we always returned.
For that reason alone, I expected to struggle to like Altered Carbon Season 2. As you will recall, Kovacs gave the Season 1 sleeve back to Ryker and allowed him to have a well-deserved reunion with Ortega.
In a series filled with misery, those two characters got some semblance of a happy ending. But without the sleeve, we still have the same old Kovacs, who is eager to find Quell and some happiness of his own.
That’s where Anthony Mackie comes into play. He embodies the character to perfection, while still giving viewers the Kovacs they know and love.
Mackie is probably best known for his role as Sam Wilson in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He brings a lot to the table as Kovacs and proves that no matter who plays the role, they will be believable if they can get the nuances of the popular character right.
One of my biggest frustrations with the first season was the aforementioned battles that felt thrown in to keep viewers glued to the screen. The second season allows the storylines to breathe while taking viewers to new locations.
It’s less loud and more heavy on plot, and that’s about all I could ask for from the series. Poe is back as Kovacs’ right hand, and that’s because he’s computerized. If there were one character I wouldn’t have wanted to have a new face, it’s Poe.
His return coincides with a big event that kickstarts the latest mystery, offering a lot to chew on throughout the eight-part season. The first season meandered a bit with ten episodes, and the second season flows better as a result of its lower episode count.
Lela Loren is another excellent addition as Danica Harlan. Like the surname would have you think, Danica has a lot of power in Harlan’s World.
The place has changed considerably in the 30 years since Kovacs was there. He vowed never to return, but once he does, it’s clear he’s not going to face the same hurdles he did the first time around.
Danica is a tough nut to crack, which is to be expected when you’re associated with the Harlan family. It’s a nice change of pace for Loren, who played Angela for many seasons of the Starz drama Power.
It’s difficult to assess whether Danica is a good person, a bad person, or someone who likes to keep the middle ground. What we learn off the bat is that she wants to rule Harlan differently than the people that came before her.
New leaders like to make their mark, and Danica does something unheard of to the people she rules over in her first scene.
Simone Missick plays a bounty hunter named Trepp. The Luke Cage and All Rise actress is another solid addition to an already robust cast.
I found myself over-analyzing each of the new characters in case they were a character from the first season in a new sleeve. On a show as ambitious as Altered Carbon, it’s easy to assume other characters will pop up again with new bodies.
With so much going on, anyone can be anyone. Just look at the way Reileen managed to be in multiple sleeves to steer her operation on the freshman run. She immersed herself into the lives of the people well because she had numerous sleeves at her disposal.
Part of the fun of the series is picking up on similarities between the characters. Thankfully, there aren’t any reveals that feel forced.
There are some distinct differences in the original iteration of Harlan’s World from the one we travel to on Altered Carbon Season 2. It would have been easy to leave that location behind in favor of somewhere new, but Kovacs is at the center of the story.
Altered Carbon Season 2 picks up with some significant changes, and those changes are what allows the show to break free from the shackles that hindered Season 1.
There is certainly scope for the series to continue beyond the new season, but Netflix doesn’t have the best track record for renewing its more expensive series.
The visuals continue to be of the best on TV, so if you’re on this ride for the thrills that the expansive world has on display, then you will not be disappointed.
Few TV shows manage to get the writing, acting, and directing right, but the second season of Altered Carbon will keep people talking for months, if not years after it hits the air.
Okay, Altered Carbon Fanatics.
Will you give the second season a shot?
Hit the comments below.
Altered Carbon Season 2 launches globally Thursday, February 27 on Netflix.
Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.