TL;DR – It continues the story gallantly, but the second outing is more restrained and does not fix the problems of the first season.
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
A couple of years ago, there was this odd TV series on Netflix that I described as “if Westworld and Blade Runner had a baby with Ghost in the Shell as the midwife.” It was odd, it was out there, and even though it had some limitations it kept powering through. Well, I have finally caught up with the second season and I have to say it is more of the say, which is both good and bad.
So to set the scene, we open in a dive bar on some desolate system out in the deep black. On the stage is a singer (Jihae) singing a haunting song when a synth that had just needle cast in-system. Trepp (Simone Missick) is a bounty hunter, and a good one at that, and she is looking for one Takeshi “Tak” Kovacs. But in what sleeve is he in? Possibly only the malfunctioning AI Poe (Chris Conner) behind the bar knows? Well, Trepp buts a bullet in his back and brings him to her employer Horace Axley (Michael Shanks). All Tak has to do is protect Axley and he gets to keep this new body (Anthony Mackie). But more importantly, he knows where he can find Quellcrist “Quell” Falconer (Renée Elise Goldsberry), the person he has been searching for all these years. It’s a good bargain, right up until the moment he needle casts in and finds Axley dead on the ground, and all of Harlan’s World is out for his blood. Now we will be looking at the season as a whole, so there may be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
One of the things I thought was going to be interesting with this season is how would it work with basically a new cast if not entirely new characters. We have Anthony Mackie replacing Joel Kinnaman, and only really Chris Conner and Renée Elise Goldsberry from Season 1 continues on. It works because the show set the groundwork, so when Tak didn’t quite land last season they could switch it up. It was also a nice touch to have a lot of the main cast from last season pop up in cameo roles.
With a show which you need a strong character to propel it forward, it continues to be the case that the least interesting character in the show is the main lead. Anthony is trying here, but while it is a slight improvement over last season, it does still feel like a wet blanket at times. Chris Conner as Edgar Poe continues to be the emotional core of the show, even though the main plot of the show is meant to be focusing on the love between Tak and Quell. Poe’s smaller moments with Miss Elliot (Hayley Law) and Big 301 (Dina Shihabi) is where the show really shines.
One a production side of things, it is clear that they are still throwing a lot of money at this show, and I for one appreciate it. The worlds feel lived in, from the swish palaces to the grimy warrens. One of the benefits of keeping the show on Harlan’s World for the season is that whenever you want to reinforce the alien nature, you just need to show the hexagonally shaped lighting in the sky. It is a small thing, but it helps shape the show. Add to this, all the costumes, sets, and effects, and you get a polished presentation.
The overall story arc of the season is both more restrained and more focused than last season, with there being two fewer episodes this go around, there was no real-time to sit there twiddling their thumbs. This means that the story more at a face pace, with few distractions outside of the main story. However, this also meant that that the show felt more reserved than it did last season, which is notable until Episode Six, Bury Me Dead, shifts it all up. To add to that, some of the big surprises, were not that surprising.
In the end, do we recommend Altered Carbon Season Two? Well, if you liked the first season, then you will more than likely enjoy this. If you found the first season had really big problems, well season two might not help you there.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Altered Carbon
Directed by – Ciaran Donnelly, M. J. Bassett, Jeremy Webb & Salli Richardson-Whitfield
Written by – Laeta Kalogridis, Sarah Nicole Jones, Michael R. Perry, Sang Kyu Kim, Cortney Norris, Adam Lash, Cori Uchida, Nevin Densham, Alison Schapker & Elizabeth Padden
Created by – Laeta Kalogridis
Based on – Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
Production/Distribution Companies – Skydance Television, Mythology Entertainment & Netflix
Starring – Anthony Mackie, Chris Conner, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Lela Loren, Simone Missick, Dina Shihabi, Will Yun Lee and Torben Liebrecht with Martha Higareda, Dichen Lachman, Ato Essandoh, Daniel Bernhardt, Hayley Law, Sharon Taylor, Michael Shanks, Sen Mitsuji, Orlando Lucas James Saito, Neal McDonough, Jihae, Sen Mitsuji & Salli Richardson-Whitfield
Episodes Covered – Phantom Lady, Payment Deferred, Nightmare Alley, Shadow of a Doubt, I Wake up Screaming, Bury Me Dead, Experiment Perilous & Broken Angels