'Altered Carbon': 7 Burning Questions for Season 2

Netflix's wildly ambitious science fiction series has only just arrived, but eyes are already firmly on its future.
Courtesy of Netflix
'Altered Carbon'

[This story contains full spoilers for the first season of Netflix's Altered Carbon.]

For Takeshi Kovacs, the future is an uncertain prospect indeed.

The protagonist of Netflix's ambitious new science fiction series Altered Carbon, from the mind of showrunner Laeta Kalogridis and starring Joel Kinnaman as the time- and body-displaced mercenary turned pseudo-detective, has more life in him yet, based on the events of the Richard K. Morgan novel series on which the show is based. Will we ever see what's next in his life? That's another question entirely.

In the world of Altered Carbon, humanity has access to a technological advancement that effectively allows for eternal life. Souls are contained within devices called "stacks," which can be transferred into an endless amount of different bodies, now known as "sleeves." The first season of the series sees a man of Japanese and Eastern European descent waking up in a completely different body, several centuries after his most recent death. This man, Kovacs, sets off on a mission to solve the murder of a fantastically wealthy individual named Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy), and by the end of the season, the mission is accomplished — some deeply personal emotional wounds notwithstanding.

Unlike so many other shows of a similar size, Altered Carbon ends its first season with a significant amount of closure. Given the finality of the narrative, what's next for Kovacs? Of course, should Netflix stick strictly to Morgan's script, there are two full novels' worth of story material to adapt in the future: "Broken Angels" and "Woken Furies," the final two entries in the Kovacs series. With that in mind, and with the ending of season one in mind as well, here's what we're wondering as we ponder a possible season two.

1. Will it even exist?

It's the first and most important question on the board, given how season one wraps, and given how much was invested in creating the first season to begin with — time, money and otherwise. By the end of the Netflix series' 10 episode run, the core mystery has been solved. Kovacs has found the answers he was set out to seek, with very few loose ends left hanging. If Altered Carbon goes on ice after its extreme first season, it ends with more than its fair share of closure. With that said, two additional books in Morgan's novel trilogy exist, meaning there's plenty of material to mine should Netflix proceed with a second season. Given the streaming service's track record of renewing most of its original series for second seasons, the smart bet is that we haven't seen the last of Kovacs. Speaking of which...

2. What's next for Kovacs?

Given the premise of Altered Carbon, characters can and do exist across multiple different bodies — or "sleeves," using the show's parlance. The sleeve Kovacs, played by Kinnaman, wields for most of the first season is returned to its original owner, Ryker, by the end of the tenth episode. Viewers watch as Kovacs walks off into the proverbial sunset, his next moves unknown, and his new sleeve equally mysterious. If Altered Carbon returns, it will almost certainly feature Kovacs once again — and if it sticks to the source material, it will almost certainly include a new actor in the role of Kovacs. Indeed, it's now known that Kinnaman signed a one-year deal for Altered Carbon, which means it's time to start wondering who could replace the House of Cards and The Killing alum as "the Last Envoy."

3. Who else will return?

Beyond Kovacs, which other characters in the world of Altered Carbon should we expect to see in a second season? Again, so many of the faces introduced in season one walked away with resolution: the reunited Elliot family as one example, as well as the reunited Ryker (Kinnaman) and Ortega (Martha Higareda) as another. It's a wrap on the Bancrofts, too, as much as one wants to see them feast on their just desserts in a second season. For others, returning for season two would require coming back from "real death," including tragically deceased virtual hotelier Poe (Chris Conner) and antagonist Reileen (Dichen Lachman). In both of those cases, one can imagine work-arounds, whether it's another Poe program, or Rei having a back-up plan for her stack given her vast resources. What's more, Rei factors into Kovacs' backstory, which means there's plenty of reason to believe we could see Lachman in a second season, as well as Will Yun Lee as the original Kovacs in flashback form. What's more…

4. Is Quellcrist Falconer still alive?

Despite her apparent demise centuries earlier, the revolutionary played by Renée Elise Goldsberry might still be alive — at least, that's what Rei suggests toward the end of season one. Quellcrist provides the closing narration for the season, adding further fuel to the suggestion that her stack is still intact somewhere in the Altered Carbon universe. Even if she's truly dead, death was not enough to stop Kovacs from seeing visions of the love of his life throughout the first season of the show. With that in mind, few series regulars stand a better chance at a return trip to Altered Carbon than Goldsberry.

5. Are you prepared for an alien invasion?

If not, then you're unprepared for Altered Carbon season two, assuming it sticks to the books. The second entry in Morgan's trilogy is called "Broken Angels," and it takes place decades after the events of Altered Carbon, with Kovacs embroiled in a new crisis involving an ancient civilization with ties to Mars. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, series visual effects supervisor Everett Burrell made it clear that the "elder technology" that fuels so much of the Altered Carbon world has already been teased out: "The elder tech and getting into that — who the elders are — we sort of hint at it. In fact, you see an elder artifact hanging on a wall in the last episode, the skeletal remains of an elder. Getting into that in the next seasons should be interesting."

6. Are you prepared for more action?

The first season of Altered Carbon was positively packed with violence, with every single episode featuring at least one major action sequence. Believe it or not, it's entirely possible that season two will escalate the action considerably, as "Broken Angels" ditches the neo-noir aesthetic that defines the first iteration of Altered Carbon in favor of a story centered on space marines and mercenaries. It's a crude and imperfect example, but think of it as similar to the leap from Alien to Aliens. 

7. When will we re-sleeve?

Assuming Altered Carbon returns for a second season, when should we expect to see it? Given the long road Kalogridis and the rest of the Altered Carbon team traveled in order to bring the first season to life — and given the recent trend for blockbuster shows to take more than a year off between seasons (i.e. Game of Thrones, Westworld and even Netflix's very own Stranger Things) — it feels likely we won't see hide, hair nor stack from Altered Carbon for quite some time…if not quite centuries, as it might take within the show's universe.

What are your burning questions ahead of an Altered Carbon season two? Let us know in the comments below, and keep checking THR.com/LiveFeed for more coverage of the show.