Anthony Mackie becomes the latest version of Takeshi Kovacs in the second season of Netflix’s Altered Carbon. The hardened soldier is hired with the promise of finding his long-lost love Quellcrist Falconer and uncover why she’s developed a new murderous streak as a civil war threatens the population of his homeworld. The sci-fi thriller takes the brutal universe audiences were first introduced to in 2018 and expands it in fascinating new ways.
From the very moment he’s introduced as the new sleeve for Takeshi Kovacs, Altered Carbon star Anthony Mackie excels in the Netflix series, proving that he can absolutely lead a show by himself. He’s completely in command as an upgraded elite soldier for Kovacs to use. The chemistry between Anthony Mackie and Renée Elise Goldsberry makes for excellent screentime as their relationship undergoes some drastic developments through the series. Anthony Mackie’s dysfunctional dynamic with Kovacs’ reluctant new partner Trepp, played brilliantly by Simone Missick, is also a delight to watch thanks to their snarky banter. If it wasn’t for Altered Carbon‘s core storyline following Kovacs’ hunt for Falconer, Missick would easily steal the show. Trepp’s own personal mystery is captivating alongside her family life, even though it seems to trail off by the end.
For those worried about the return of Kovacs’ fan-favorite A.I. butler, Poe (Chris Conner), fear not, as his story is arguably one of the most touching things in the Netflix series. The way his character progresses throughout the eight episodes is incredibly emotive, touching on themes about the loss of self and regressing beyond your control. It’s a pitiful sub-plot that sometimes gets lost in the huge tale, but whenever it resurfaces it’s hard not to feel sympathy for the delightful companion. Since the main story spans centuries as it examines Kovacs’ past military career and Falconer’s complicated history, it isn’t surprising that the writers don’t want to spend too long delving into an A.I. personality.
Netflix’s Altered Carbon rapidly throws futuristic ideas and in-world lore at the audience while setting up its new mystery, so it might be useful to rewatch the first season or at least recap on the series itself, as the jargon it sometimes uses can be overwhelming. It’s also easy to get occasionally lost in its complicated story as the series also develops its existentialism themes even further than the first time around. In particular, Altered Carbon star Anthony Mackie constantly has to grapple with exploring self reflection as Kovacs has to face the sins of his past.
In addition to Anthony Mackie, Altered Carbon is crammed full of familiar faces from other notable shows like Power and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. who all flourish in the sandbox of the expansive universe. Power‘s Lela Loren stands out as the formidable and ruthless Danica Harlan, but every member of the cast is on their A-game in the riveting thriller. While the obligatory shoot-outs in each episode do get a little tiring by the end of the series, they still manage to be entertaining thanks to the excellent stuntwork.
Netflix clearly wasn’t afraid to give Altered Carbon a huge budget, because the sets that Anthony Mackie and his co-stars get to explore are mind-boggling in scale. They’re some of the best sci-fi sets ever made for the small screen. Obviously where necessary, CGI fills the galactic sky and adds extra scope to the series, but it’s all the practical sets that really cement this sweeping dystopian galaxy. But just when the series starts to feel like it has outgrown its dystopian cityscape, it throws in a dash of intergalactic Tomb Raider as Kovacs and co. look elsewhere for answers.
While Anthony Mackie’s Altered Carbon sometimes gets lost in its own self-importance, it doesn’t let itself stay stagnant, constantly leaving room for expansion, new characters and new worlds. Although its impulsive body-swapping plot device and complicated story feels messy in places, Altered Carbon keeps audiences on their toes. The Blade Runner-style series is also undeniably fun and definitely worth a watch when it hits Netflix.