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Review: Season two of 'Altered Carbon' continues dystopian story

Review: Season two of 'Altered Carbon' continues dystopian story

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Altered Carbon imagines a far-flung version of our future where human consciousness is preserved in stacks, technological disks that reside at the base of the skull. The preserved consciousness can be transferred from body to body with ease, even across the long distance between stars. As long as your stack survives, you are immortal. The consequence of this longevity is that there are more souls than there are bodies, creating a world where the rich have virtual immortality and the poor struggle to come up with the resources needed to re-sleeve their friends and loved ones.

Season two continues to capitalize on the unique setting and generally lives up to the bar that Altered Carbon set with its inaugural season, but there is bound to be some trepidation going into these new episodes. After all, the main character has been recast for season two, an inevitable consequence of the body-hopping technology that serves as the backbone of the series. Season one of Altered Carbon succeeds in no small part due to the efforts of Joel Kinnaman in the lead role of Takeshi Kovacs. Fortunately, Anthony Mackie is up to the task, doing the hard-boiled mercenary character justice this time around. Ultimately, this gives Altered Carbon a bit of an anthology feel, and may likely add to the program’s longevity. In this case, the setting allows the lead role to be recast indefinitely without all the awkwardness and the risk of alienating fans—think Doctor Who, but with less time travel, more automatic weapons and plenty of fistfights.

Despite its overall quality, the second season of Altered Carbon falls apart a bit in its third act. In this case, there seems to be a big push to make the final episodes expansive, throwing a few too many plot twists and new ideas into the mix at once. The end result doesn’t make for a fully satisfying conclusion and leaves the show feeling jumbled and uneven as it wraps for the season. Still, at the end of the day, it is the interesting backdrop of technologically manifested immortality that really sets Altered Carbon apart from its contemporaries. We’ve seen any number of shows with a science-fiction mercenary vibe, but the stacks and their consequences add a new element to the mix, making it feel fresh and new. The result is that Altered Carbon gets to touch on some big ideas about the nature of life and death and the struggle between the haves and have nots.

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