[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for “Altered Carbon” Season 1.]
Although “Altered Carbon” came to a satisfying end with no word on a second season yet, fans are already speculating on what a return to that world could bring. Based on the novel of the same name by Richard K. Morgan, the story takes place more than 350 years in the future, when mortality is a thing of the past if you have the money to have your consciousness transferred into a new body or sleeve. Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman) wakes almost 250 years after his own sleeve was terminated and is tasked with solving a murder.
Creator Laeta Kalogridis has already told IndieWire that if the series were to earn a second season, she probably would not adapt the next book in the series because of the vast, financially prohibitive scope of the story that takes place during an interstellar war. That leaves the door wide open for a fresh plot — a brand new storytelling sleeve, if you will. If Season 2 does happen, IndieWire would like to offer a few suggestions:
1. Tone Down the Violence Against Women
We get it: Sleeves are disposable, and sexism is still rampant in the future. But the extent of the depictions of violence, especially of a sexual nature, against women in the first season was far from necessary. Let’s move past the obvious fetishes and move on to more creative uses for re-sleeving. (See No. 3 below.)
2. Equal Opportunity Nudity
The parade of full-frontal female nudity is only interrupted twice, when men deigned to show their stuff in Season 1. If a show is going to objectify bodies as its central premise, then by god, objectify them equally. There’s no reason for why female sleeves are shown more completely than male sleeves.
3. Unleash the Minority Sleeves in Lead Roles
Katie Yu / Netflix
“Altered Carbon” features a huge cast that includes many people of color, but its hero Takeshi Kovacs, who is of Asian descent, was largely portrayed by a white man (Kinnaman) in Season 1 because of re-sleeving shenanigans. While it’s understood that a body of any age, ethnicity, and gender is fair game when re-sleeving, this whitewashing choice was done at the creative level, both in the source material and Netflix’s adaptation. Although there’s a brief flash of Kovacs freaking out upon seeing the reflection of his white Riker face for the first time, that crisis only felt like lip service.
Crazy thought for Season 2: Actually make Kovacs a person of color, a woman, or non-binary person of color even. Since sexism is still alive and well in this future, we’d wager that other prejudices related to gender and race persist as well. The new season could dig into how people take on certain sleeves to achieve different outcomes, such as privilege, fetishization, and perpetual stereotypes.
4. Present a Compelling Central Mystery
Frankly, none of us were really invested in finding out who killed the wealthy and corrupt Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy), and the eventual revelation of who did was anticlimactic on top of that. Either let us care for the victim or attach some sort of urgent stakes to solving the mystery. Season 1 also lost much of its noir-ish, gumshoe flavor when it got distracted by the technological marvels of this futuristic world, so striking more of a balance will thus give the show more cohesion.
5. Stick to One Strong Villain From the Get-Go
In the first season, Kovacs had so many people wanting his head that he appeared to have numerous enemies. But most of the time, the people who were going after him thought he was someone else or weren’t acting on their own. It wasn’t until the back half of the season that we were finally introduced to his sister Reileen (Dichen Lachman) and then were almost immediately told that she was the bad guy. This wasn’t even misdirection; it was avoidance, and felt like a cheap revelation. Going forward, having an ongoing antagonist would focus the action and storytelling more.
6. Ditch the Dialogue Dumps
Now that the series has already established its complex world, the show should use exposition sparingly going forward. These paragraphs of information were clunky, and often didn’t really help the scenes at all. Both actors and viewers will be grateful.
7. Bring Back Poe!
Katie Yu / Netflix
Last we saw, the manager of The Raven Hotel was perishing from an electronic destabilizer, his AI spirit to be lifted nevermore. Ah, but since when does anyone or anything stay dead? Poe (Chris Conner) was hands down one of the most intriguing characters on the show, as his AI had developed its own morality, which was a welcome contrast to all the decadent, sleeve-happy humans who’d lost their way. He was also one of the more entertaining characters as well, with a real sense of style and able to pour a mean drink.
The return of Poe would provide Kovacs with a helpful right-hand man, but more importantly, offer some comic relief and humanity. In addition, the show could explore the AI community much deeper. After seeing that regular card game, we’re curious about how that world could open up even more, maybe with additional Edgar Allan Poe references sprinkled throughout.
8. The Quest for Quell
By the end of Season 1, Kovacs actually finds a reason for living: the love of his life, Quellcrist Falconer, may not be permanently dead after all. Her consciousness was downloaded and hidden… somewhere out there. That may not be much of a lead, but it gave Kovacs something he was sorely lacking: hope.
In an interview with IndieWire, Kinnaman said that when it came to Season 2, “I hope Kovacs finds Quell. That’s the big thing, finding Quell. [He] finds out she’s alive, and that’s everything.”
And we agree that Season 2 would be wise to continue Kovac’s journey to find Quell. Not only does this relationship humanize him, but Quell is tied to humanity’s biggest blessing and curse: The creation of the cortical stack which enables a sort of immortality.
Kalogridis wisely moved Quell’s storyline up from the third novel to give insight into Kovacs’s past. Not only does she bring out Kovacs’ tender side, which gives him some dimension, but she’s intriguing in her own right. As the creator of the stacks, she now actively opposes how its purpose has been subverted.
“It’s never what she meant to create, which I think is a fundamental truth about some of the greatest inventions that humanity has ever come up with,” said Kalogridis. “It wasn’t what she set out to do. What she wanted to be was an explorer and an adventurer. To have it perverted in that way, that to me was the deeply tragic part of her character and her life.”
9. Use the Song “If We Were Vampires”
Look, this song might be too on the nose when it comes to addressing how humanity would squander immortality with lines such as, “Maybe time running out is a gift.” But hey, this Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit song is amazing, and we can envision it being sung in some sort of AI club or karaoke bar.
“Altered Carbon” is streaming now on Netflix.
Additional reporting by Liz Shannon Miller