Why Some Fans Are Disappointed in Season 2 of ‘Altered Carbon’

Movies and shows about dystopian or post-apocalyptic worlds continue to resonate, with Altered Carbon becoming a recent breakout hit on Netflix. When the first season began in 2018, there was an instant positive response to the show faithfully sticking to the first novel by Richard Morgan.

As with other shows going beyond the scope of an original book, though, the second season of Altered Carbon took things in wild new directions. Not everyone is on board with the continuation of the series.

On social media, many fans of Season 1 are complaining Season 2 jumped the rails in quality. What is it about it making people so upset?

Part of it starts with a lack of character development, something only occurring from ignoring key scenes in the second book.

What is ‘Altered Carbon’ about?

The cast of 'Altered Carbon'
Dichen Lachman, Joel Kinnaman, screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis and Martha Higareda | Han Myung-Gu/WireImage

Starting in the year 2384, the earth is now a far different place with attention focused on a mysterious place called, simply, Bay City. Memories of individuals are kept in a device called a cortical stack, something embedded in the back vertebrae of a person’s neck.

These cortical stacks can be transferred to new bodies after someone dies, basically making anyone able to keep on living with their former memories intact. In this world, bodies are called “sleeves.” However, only rich people (called Meths) can gain access to these new bodies.

The protagonist of the series is Takeshi Kovacs (played by Joel Kinnaman, Anthony Mackie, Ray Chase, and Will Yun Lee respectively) who was once the leader of the Envoys. The latter group tried to fight the new world order but clearly lost.

In season one, a wealthy sleeved man named Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy) offers to grant Takeshi a new body if he can help Laurens solve the murder of his previous body.

The second season of ‘Altered Carbon’ jumped ahead 30 years

By Season Two, Takeshi has gained himself a new body. He’s now on the search for Quellcrist Falconer (RenĂ©e Elise Goldsberry) who was a former leader of the Envoys and a past lover.

Season Two is somewhat of a reboot of the entire story since it jumps 30 years into the future, the correct time used in the book sequel (Broken Angels). Everything else is newer territory and going slightly beyond the scope of the second and third books.

Doing things like this isn’t unusual if going by Game of Thrones and even The Handmaid’s Tale. Not everyone was happy that the latter Hulu show went beyond the scope of Margaret Atwood’s original novel. Although the creative team still made it intense and compelling, if annoying purists.

On Reddit, a lot of fans are expressing their discord for Altered Carbon Season Two. Much of this is about not so much going beyond the book, but because of illogical plot choices.

What bad plot changes did the writers make to ‘Altered Carbon’?

As one Reddit user notes: “Envoy in the show doesn’t mean the same as in the books. From season 1, being an ‘envoy’ referred to people in Quell’s movement. Yes, it’s kinda dumb.”

Book changes (like Envoys) have already irked some of the original fans, not including making Quell an Envoy member. Even more egregious for some is eliminating key scenes to help with character development. For instance, the showdown with Aiura from Woken Furies in the book helped demonstrate the complex personalities of Takeshi, something ignored in this new season.

Other reviewers note that, despite Anthony Mackie joining the cast as Takeshi, writers made the character far too one-dimensional. All the more reason not paying attention to character development from the original source material makes all the difference in how it translates to a streaming screen.

Because of the necessary cast changes as the story moves through time, character evolution was already a challenge. Hopefully it won’t lead to a cancellation, even if fans will argue Season Three should try to adhere closer to the third book (Woken Furies) as much as possible.