'Altered Carbon': How Joel Kinnaman's Exit Could Impact Season 2

Netflix's new sci-fi drama will need to find a new leading man, should it return for a second cycle.
Courtesy of Netflix
'Altered Carbon'

[This story contains spoilers from season one of Netflix's Altered Carbon.]

It's official: Takeshi Kovacs will need to be resleeved.

Altered Carbon star Joel Kinnaman has signed on for a lead role opposite Mireille Enos in Amazon Studios' forthcoming adaptation of Hanna, signaling a reunion for the two stars of The Killing. It also marks the end of Kinnaman's reign on Altered Carbon, which premiered its entire first season earlier this month on Netflix.

Kinnaman headlined the first season of Altered Carbon as Kovacs, a time- and body-displaced soldier turned reluctant detective who lives in a future world where human mortality has been conquered. Hundreds of years after his most recent death, Kovacs wakes up in a brand-new body (or "sleeve," as it is called in the show's universe) and is recruited to solve a murder. Kinnaman played the dual role of Kovacs and Ryker, a police officer framed for a crime he didn't commit, whose "stack" (aka his soul) was removed from his sleeve pending further review. Using Ryker's sleeve, Kovacs embarks on a long and violent quest to unmask a killer, with unexpectedly painful and personal results.

In the finale of the first season, after finishing his investigation, Kovacs surrenders Ryker's sleeve to the authorities and assumes a new identity. The series stops short of revealing Kovacs' new sleeve; instead, his final appearance is as a silhouette, departing the futuristic Bay City for parts unknown.

In the Richard K. Morgan novel trilogy on which Altered Carbon is based, Kovacs wears different sleeves of different ethnicities across the three books. Indeed, his original form is of Japanese and Eastern European descent, with Fast and Furious veteran Will Yun Lee playing the role of Kovacs in numerous extensive season-one flashbacks — most notably the show's seventh episode, which features Lee as Kovacs for the vast majority of the runtime. Considering the character's shifting physical form, then, the decision for Altered Carbon to move on without Kinnaman is in line with the source material. It's certainly not a decision that comes as a surprise to the actor himself. (Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Kinnaman had only a one-year deal with the show.) And while the series is generating strong reviews, the streaming giant has yet to officially renew the drama.

"I don't think so, no," Kinnaman recently said when asked about the odds of returning for a second season of Altered Carbon. "We have no idea what the second season would be, but my guess is that they would follow the two other books, and they are all on completely different planets, completely different worlds, and my guess is — and I don't know — my guess is that it's sort of going to be an anthology show where maybe a couple of the characters continue into the next season. But no one knows what's going on in the second season."

The second book of Morgan's Kovacs trilogy, called Broken Angels, sees the protagonist resleeved as a mercenary, caught in the middle of a high-stakes conflict involving remnants of a fallen Martian empire. Whether Netflix's adaptation of the series follows suit is another question entirely — as is the matter of whether Altered Carbon will even return for a second season. If it does see a second year, however, we now know the show will follow the book's lead with a new actor embodying Kovacs' latest sleeve.

What's your take on the news about Kinnaman's Altered Carbon exit? Sounds off in the comments below and keep checking THR.com/LiveFeed for more on the series.