As of this writing, Altered Carbon has yet to be renewed for season 2, but if it is, we’ve got some ideas for how Netflix’s latest series could improve.
Altered Carbon clocks in at just 10 episodes, but the series packs as much visual stimulation and narrative information into those episodes as possible. Our review warns of the mess it makes of the present-day storyline, and heralds it for the time spent on the flashbacks detailing the main character’s backstory.
Just like our review, I agree that the show, while messy, it worth your time for a variety of reasons. In some areas, I wanted them to push harder. In others, I wished they would have taken a step back. Either way, here are five lessons I think Altered Carbon season 2 could learn from its first installment.
1. Reverse the whitewashing of the main character
This has been a talking point since the series cast each version of Takeshi Kovacs. Morgan Gao, Byron Mann, and Will Yun Lee all play past versions of the main character, while Joel Kinnaman plays Kovacs in the present. Lee’s performance is particularly gripping, and considering Kovacs spent the most time in that body, I would love to see that actor return for season 2.
But that’s not how Altered Carbon works. The whole point of the show is that any consciousness can be planted inside any body, at any time. The strength of the show is seeing different actors playing the same character, or in reverse, seeing the same actor play different characters.
Joel Kinnaman doubts he’ll return as Kovacs, so I think it’s vital that Takeshi’s next body, if it’s not the one he’s most familiar with, should make another major change. I would love to see a woman play Takeshi in season 2. The show did little to explore what it’s like to have the same mind and a different body when crossing between different races or genders. The best we got was Ava, when she was placed inside a man’s body, but other than the initial shock, it was never again addressed.
I would applaud the show for treating racism, homosexuality, and transgender issues as if they weren’t a problem when Altered Carbon takes place if I thought it was intentional. I fear, however, it’s because the series had no time to confront such complex topics. Which leads me to my second point.
2. Bring more LGBTQ+ characters to the forefront of the story
There was one homosexual couple in the entire season of Altered Carbon. Nothing was said about the fact that Isaac Bancroft’s partner was another man, which could mean homosexuality isn’t a big deal anymore. Why, then, were there so few gay couples featured in the show? It seems absurd, given the way bodies are treated merely as vessels for the consciousness, that there wouldn’t be more.
Of course, when you can choose to live inside any body you want, most people will stick to the sex they were born with. But the show has specifically talked about how the poor don’t have the same luxuries as the rich. Murder victims get transplanted into anything that’s available. People are curious. And some people are just gay.
Altered Carbon has an incredibly diverse cast, and it would be a shame not to see that diversity expand to more LGBTQ+ characters, considering a show like this has the perfect conditions to explore that narrative.
3. Cut back on the objectification of women
It seemed like every episode put another half dozen breasts in front of the camera. Half of Miriam’s wardrobe was see-through. We got full-frontal shots of two of the main characters, as well as a fight scene in which one of them was completely naked. In comparison, we saw full frontal shots of two men, and quite a few glimpses of Joel Kinnaman’s butt.
I understand that much of the story took place in futuristic brothels, which means you’re bound to see some naked bodies, but most of it seemed so unnecessary — sexy lingerie, for example, doesn’t have to be see-through all. the. time. — but what really bothers me is how unbalanced it was. We saw a few male sex workers, but none of them were highlighted the way the women were.
The series was created by a woman, Laeta Kalogridis, but the entire writer’s room was made up of men. I commend them for going as far as they did (Americans are notoriously prudish when it comes to nudity and sex), but if you’re going to write a show where bodies are treated like clothes — once you’ve outworn it, get a new one! — it seems strange to me that there’s still such an unequal focus on women’s bodies as compared to men’s.
And despite there being some incredibly strong female characters in this show, it astounded me that, especially in the first three episodes (which are the series’ weakest, and almost got me to quit altogether), there was such sexism and condescension directed toward women. Especially when you remember a woman invented the technology for stacks in the first place.
4. Don’t fridge any more female characters
We’re dropped into this story knowing Quell is no longer alive, meaning her death catapulted Takeshi’s story forward, the very definition of fridging. She’s the reason why he’s angry and sad, why he tries not to get close to anyone else, why it’s such a big deal when he does. I love the fact that, despite her death, Quell is still a huge part of the season, both in flashbacks and as a hallucination in the present day.
But the amount of times women are killed compared to men is astounding. They’re often used as clues in Kovacs search to figure out who “murdered” Bancroft. Both the woman who fell from the sky and Lizzie were major players in solving the case. Luckily for Lizzie, she was able to reclaim a body. Takeshi was forced to kill Rei, although those circumstances are quite different from Quell’s, given the fact she was ultimately revealed as the main villain.
Violence toward women, much like objectification, is rampant in Altered Carbon. The fact that several of these characters have been resurrected, in a sense, does not diminish this. Though we don’t yet know if Netflix will follow suit, book 2 of the series takes place on a different planet with different characters. I’d love to see Lizzie return, since we barely got to know her, in addition to Ortega, who was a powerhouse of a character. At the very least, I hope Kovacs finds Quell’s data and we can see her in the present day (and hope she doesn’t end up an antagonist like his sister).
If Netflix does decide to follow Broken Angel‘s lead, I hope there are plenty of kickass women to fill the void the others will have left behind.
5. Streamline the narrative
As much as I loved the flashbacks in Altered Carbon season 1, I don’t think they’d have a place in season 2. The worldbuilding is done. Kovacs history has been unveiled. His sister has been defeated. The story has been told with emotion and clarity. Now use those same principals to improve the main plot of the second season.
The present-day story of Kovacs finding Bancroft’s killer was less immediately emotionally impactful than the flashbacks, and a huge part of that was because it felt so rushed. There was too much going on in such a short span of time. Now that we don’t need the flashbacks to understand why the world is the way it is, more time can be spent making sure the present-day story is more cohesive.