By Dave B.
In the second season of Netflix’s Altered Carbon, Takeshi Kovacs (Anthony Mackie), who has spent the past three decades searching for his lost love, finally gets the chance to reunite with her. The catch? He must return to his homeworld and solve a deadly mystery that dates back hundreds of years to the colony’s founding.
Altered Carbon: Season One was the first show that I ever reviewed, and I loved it, so to say that I was more than a little excited for season two to finally arrive would be an understatement. There are quite a few elements of season two that met or exceeded my expectations. Visually, the new season is very good and the world-building that made the previous season so engaging is nearly as interesting this time around. The action sequences aren’t spectacular, but they’re solid. The cast, particularly Mackie, are very good. And the plot in season two is more focused, with fewer side-stories, evidenced by the episode count being reduced from 10 to eight. At times, the first season felt long. This season does not have that issue. Overall, I think season two is good…
But, I don’t love it for three main reasons. First, season two is almost the antithesis of what I consider “philosophical”. Although it’s certainly quotable, it isn’t particularly thought-provoking, which is a damn shame considering that the first season’s near-obsession with contemplating what makes a life worth living was one of my favorite things about it. Second, season two suffers significantly from a lack of Reileen Kawahara, Takeshi’s sister, played compellingly by Dichen Lachman. Reileen’s role in the first season as a complex, tortured villain isn’t replaced well in season two. That’s not to say that this season’s villains are awful or anything like that, but Takeshi’s relationship with his sister is just more interesting to me. Somehow, someway, a third season needs to find a way to get more screen time for Kawahara/Lachman. And finally, this season’s story simply didn’t inspire me to develop much of an emotional attachment to what happens. I was interested in the outcome, but not invested in it. Season two is much more of something that is watched than it is experienced, unlike the first season.
All in all, I’ll say that Altered Carbon: Season Two is certainly bingeable, and largely enjoyable, but left me feeling…not much (at least until the end. I like the ending for some reason that I can’t fully explain to myself). The problem basically boils down to an issue of scale: by shortening the season and tightening the plot, there is less room for “extraneous” considerations like philosophy and non-romantic love. That doesn’t make season two bad, but it does make it somewhat unfulfilling. Yes, the first season felt long at times, but that extra time also gave it the ability to delve into issues that are fundamental to human existence, instead of just lightly touching upon them. I recommend this season without hesitation, but those who were fans of the “flaws” of season one, may find themselves disappointed this time around.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.