Hard-boiled mercenary Takeshi Kovacs is back on a new case back and in a new body (or “sleeve”) in the trailer for season two of Altered Carbon, the Netflix adaptation of Richard K. Morgan’s 2002 cyberpunk novel of the same name.
(Some spoilers for S1 below.)
Like the novel, the series is set in a world more than 360 years in the future, where a person’s memories and consciousness can be uploaded into a device—based on alien technology—known as a cortical stack. The stack can be implanted at the back of the neck of any human body (known as a “sleeve”), whether natural or synthetic, so an individual consciousness can be transferred between bodies. Income equality still exists, however, so only the very rich can afford true immortality, storing their consciousness in remote backups and maintaining a steady supply of clones. Those people are called “Meths” (a reference to the biblical Methuselah, who supposedly lived for 969 years).
In season one, the cortical stack of Takeshi Kovacs, a former warrior for a rebel group known as the Envoys, is brought out of long-term storage and uploaded into a new body (Joel Kinnaman, Hannah). He’s been revived at the request of a Meth named Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy, The Following), who wants Kovacs to solve Bancroft’s own murder in exchange for his freedom and fresh start.
Kovacs finds useful allies in an AI named Edgar Poe (Chris Conner, American Crime Story), who runs the hotel where Kovacs is staying, and a police officer named Kristin Ortega (Martha Higareda, Into the Dark), who finds that her case and Kovacs’ are linked. Through a series of flashbacks, we also learn about Kovacs’ background and the people he has lost—most notably, his sister Reileen (Dichen Lachman, Dollhouse) and Quellcrist Falconer (Renee Elise Goldsberry, The Good Wife), leader of the Envoys who trained Kovacs. They fell in love, but she was supposedly killed when the rebels were wiped out—although in the finale, he learns her cortical stack may have survived.
Altered Carbon S1 was rumored to be one of the most expensive series Netflix has yet produced, and the result was conceptually ambitious and visually stunning, merging sci-fi/cyberpunk elements with a classic noir detective story. Like Morgan’s novel, it featured a complex, multi-layered narrative and plenty of sex and violence, including Kovacs being subjected to a gruesome, extended virtual torture session. Plot-wise, it was a slow burn, with the murder mystery often taking a back seat to the elaborate world-building. But all the threads converged neatly in the last few episodes to deliver a satisfying finale, even though Ars’ Sam Machkovech wished the season had pulled “a few of its needlessly violent and sexual punches—let alone the egregious moments that gratuitously combine those two extremes.”
The series was successful enough for Netflix to renew it for a second season, with Anthony Mackie (Falcon in the MCU) taking over as Kovacs. (There is also an anime in development, slated for release later this year.) Morgan wrote two sequels to his original novel, and it looks like S2 will draw on elements from the third novel, Woken Furies (2005), in particular.
Per the official synopsis:
After decades of planet-hopping and searching the galaxy, Kovacs finds himself recruited back to his home planet of Harlan’s World with the promise of finding Quell. Haunted by his past and responsible for investigating a series of brutal murders, Kovacs is stunned to discover his new mission to solve the crime and his pursuit to find Quell are one and the same. With the help of his loyal AI Poe, Kovacs must now partner with new allies to outwit his enemies and find the truth: Who is Quellcrist Falconer?
The S2 trailer opens with Kovacs awakening in his new body: a very pricey, military-grade bioware body with rapid healing capabilities, among other enhancements, courtesy of a new wealthy benefactor in need of his particular set of skills. “I crossed the stars in a colony ship before stacks were invented,” we hear said benefactor declare in a voiceover. “Left a dying Earth behind to seed a new world. Mr. Kovacs, I know what you dream of.” That would be Quell, of course, although we see Yakuza boss Tanaseda Hideki (James Saito, Eli Stone) warn, “That’s not love. It’s obsession. In time, even love turns to dust.”
We get a brief glimpse of Quell in the trailer, as well as Kovacs’ original body (or a pricey clone, played by Will Yun Lee), now inhabited by someone else’s stack. He seems to have new adversaries in the planetary governor, Danica Harlan (Lela Loren, Power), and Colonel Ivan Carrera (Torben Liebrecht, X Company), head of a special forces unit called the “Wedge.” Carrera is hunting for Kovacs at the governor’s request. (Carrera is actually a character from Morgan’s second Kovacs novel, Broken Angels.) “I can destroy you so utterly nothing will be left,” Carrera growls, to which Kovacs responds, “I’ve heard that one before.” Our money’s on Kovacs.
Altered Carbon S2 debuts on Netflix on February 27, 2020.
Listing image by YouTube/Netflix