ALTERED CARBON Season 2 Spoiler-Free Review; "The Series Might Now Benefit From A Reboot"

Altered Carbon season two is now streaming on Netflix, and while Anthony Mackie makes for a great Takeshi Kovacs, does the rest of the series live up to his stellar performance? Find our verdict here...

While Netflix's Altered Carbon has always felt like Blade Runner-lite, the first season was still a fun ride. With some clever twists and turns, and a phenomenal performance from Joel Kinnaman, it wasn't necessarily essential viewing, but you would have been foolish to skip it. Honestly, that's a pretty accurate way of describing this second season too, but this time it's Avengers: Endgame star Anthony Mackie who serves as Takeshi Kovacs' "meat sack." 

He's fantastic from start to finish here, and uses this series to effortlessly prove that he's leading man material ahead of this August's The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. Mackie takes the groundwork laid by Kinnaman during that first batch of episodes and successfully builds on it to make Takeshi a continuously compelling and exciting presence. This time, he's joined by a supporting cast which includes strong turns from Luke Cage star Simone Missick and Renée Elise Goldsberry. Chris Connor gets more to do this time as Takeshi's helpful A.I., but his subplot doesn't add much to the series, and instead proves to be a mostly irritating distraction which doesn't really pay off until the final few episodes. Will Yun Lee also gets quite a bit more screentime as the original Takeshi, and while we won't delve into what that entails here, we can safely say that he's every bit as excellent as Mackie and a welcomed addition to season two. 

Altered Carbon remains somewhat convoluted, and takes its time heating up. Going with eight episodes was the right move, though, and the overall story is a mostly satisfying one, even if it feels a little lacklustre in places. However, those of you anxious to see the first season's dangling plot threads followed up on will be happy, and we end up with what proves to be an emotional and satisfying conclusion. The only problem is that such a strong focus on picking up with what's come before means that some of the newer additions - such as Lela Loren's Danica Harlan - underwhelm (in terms of villains, this second season definitely disappoints). 

When it comes to action, the show still delivers in a big way, and there are plenty of incredible fight scenes and gun battles to enjoy. That doesn't really make up for a plot that fails to take full advantage of its premise, though, and this second season of Altered Carbon is nothing if not inconsistent in terms of quality. Some episodes are fantastic, while others are entirely forgettable, and while delving into this world's past is fun in some ways, it's frustrating that more time isn't spent exploring what made the first season so great: the ramifications of swapping bodies and essentially living forever. It's certainly addressed, but not in an overly meaningful way.

The mystery this year is nowhere near as strong, and there are too many forgettable characters to ensure that it makes a long-lasting impact. Overall, it's another enjoyable enough experience, but it already feels like Altered Carbon's premise is wearing thin, and while the door is open for the series to continue, it's hard to say how desperate you will be for that to happen after this season.

Anthony Mackie and Will Yun Lee's stellar performances save this often underwhelming second season of Altered Carbon, and while it remains enjoyable and exciting viewing, the series might now benefit from a reboot. 

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