Review: Altered Carbon Season 2
I inhaled Altered Carbon Season 2, the dystopian Netflix series. The first season established the logic of the future (or lack of logic), along with backstories driven by arrogance for longevity among the rich and powerful.
This season, don’t look for too many familiar faces as the premise of the show allows for people to inhabit a sleeve, or body, taken from someone else. Brains get backed up regularly. As long as the cortical stack remains viable, new bodies reboot lives. Clones also act as sleeves, but double sleeving remains strictly forbidden, except…
Season 2 travels 30 years into the future as Takeshi Kovacs, played now Anthony Mackie rather than Joel Kinnaman as he continues his search for lost love and understanding. The target of his quest: Quellcrist Falconer (Renée Elise Goldsberry) who turns out to be more and less than expected once found. Chris Conner as Edger Poe, the faithful AI borrowed from the inner-city hotel he ran continues as a companion, confidant and punching bag.
Everybody faces existential threats, even the AI Poe.
Look for bounty hunting, secret identities, twisted alliances, non-transparent leadership and more than one possession—all taking place in beautifully built sets and gorgeously rendered CGI.
Every actor brings their A-game as they navigate multiple personalities, flashbacks, innumerable brawls, several murders—but the possessions prove the clincher as ancient forces overlay on familiar faces. And different people playing the same person is also a good study in acting.
The premise, humans who swap out the bodies, sometimes in multiple iterations over hundreds of years, creates a divergent future. Altered Carbon does a good job of setting up the dynamics in a believable way. With a 300 plus leap into the future, the alignment of human memory and computing infrastructure will likely converge.
The massive mapping required to align non-organic circuits with human memory, the ability to capture patterns that simulate human brains will likely arrive—and with it, the wealthy and the powerful will find ways to maintain a hold over a populace with little equal opportunity for immortality, and an expectation of the underclass to act as economic fodder. Perhaps the most unbelievable aspect of the 2380s plus world is the lack of robotics with that much AI around.
Of course, fully synthetic bodies run by the AIs or as vessels for the uploads create alternative homes for cortical stacks in search of a cheaper alternative than a real human body. They also offer limitations for integration sense, for instance.
I’m not convinced with all of the phenomenal changes in the human brain that the social and physical constructs will be so familiar, but go too far out and too innovative a look into all aspects of the future will challenge audience accrual.
Altered Carbon balances between picking one really out their idea as the core, with several less outlandish propositions used to flavor the context. Once you buy into the cortical stack, its purpose and the reason to protect it become clear. The only way to really die is to have your stack destroyed. Think about hundreds of years of connection to that piece of hardware that is really the soul. I think the people in this future would probably be even more screwed up than they are—and I’m not sure mutually assured destruction wouldn’t act as a deterrent more often than it does in the show.
For those looking for a good science fiction take on the future among the increasingly huge array of options, Altered Carbon fits the bill.
Altered Carbon established its roots from the Richard K. Morgan book of the same name. The television series was created by Laeta Kalogridis.
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