After a wait of two long years, Altered Carbon finally returns to Netflix for a second season, with Anthony Mackie taking over for Season 1's Joel Kinnaman as Takeshi Kovacs. While the complex world-building and deeply developed character histories are what made the first season such an addicting binge, it's also what might make you feel a little intimidated about watching Season 2. There is just so much mythology that you'd be completely forgiven for forgetting it. Season Two begins much like Season One did, with a murder mystery — however, the mystery quickly deepens with the introduction of far bigger issues, as seems to be the pattern when Kovacs gets caught up in a lot of drama.
Kovacs swaps bodies with some frequency, which is how Anthony Mackie inherits the role of Kovacs this season. Unfortunately, his primary predecessor didn’t leave him much to work with: The character is more often than not a stoic cypher who, in theory, is supposed to be both empathic and charismatic, but those qualities rarely come through.
Season 2 surpasses its predecessor with less Sherlock Holmes cyberpunk and more of a focus on exploring the depths of its universe with exemplary world-building, (mostly) interesting new characters, and lots of kick-ass action sequences that showcase Kovacs' new sleeve upgrades - but more on that later. The pacing throughout is also much improved with newly appointed showrunner Alison Schapker (taking over for Laeta Kalogridis) trimming the episode count from a sluggish 10 in Season 1 to a more-focused 8 instalments.
However, many of the other characters feature paper-thin development and as a result unengaging performances, such as new political force Danica Harlan (Lela Loren), who rules over Harlan’s World (Kovacs’ home planet, where the vast majority of the season is set). However, the returning Chris Conner as Kovacs’ erstwhile A.I. bestie Poe remains a charming element of comic relief, new player Dina Shihabi as Poe’s new A.I. friend Miss Digg is equally enjoyable, and Simone Missick, as bounty hunter Trepp, is a surprising new entrant and comes across as a character who speaks common sense, never loses sight of her own mission and passions, and brings enough relatable engagement to the screen to make her storyline over the course of the season one of its biggest highlights.
The look of this show is incredible — on an aesthetic level, the neon-lit noir cinematography remains especially stunning. The many, many fight sequences, as well, feature clean choreography and expert execution. We totally recommend this for binge-watching.