Poe Is The Glue That Holds Altered Carbon Season 2 Together-Will He Be Back For Season 3?
Season Two of Netflix’s Sci-Fi drama based on Richard K. Morgan’s novels drops February 27th with a glitchy Poe, a resleeved Takeshi Kovacs and a mostly new set of characters. All of the main players, for the most part, have moved on to their own lives far from the violence and heartbreak of last season. Altered Carbon Season 2 brilliantly brings back some of our favorites in unique ways(no spoilers) without ruining their resolutions of last season. In a world where anyone can look like anyone at any time the skies the limit for the future.
Anthony Mackie who has been killing it in the science fiction market this past year with emotional turns in Black Mirror Season 5 and Benson and Moorhead’s Synchronic takes the helm as the badest bounty hunter turned vigilante in 2385. Mackie who both looks and acts as if he could easily step into the combative shoes formally filled by Joel Kinnaman, somehow channels the same quiet threat Kinnaman’s Kovacs did in Season 1. Kovacs new sleeve brings new enhancements, and new outlook on life, but the same swagger. In Season 1 he had very little to live for. He believed he had lost basically everyone and everything he had ever loved and was working for the very thing he once rebelled against.
Season 2’s Kovacs doesn’t just have physical abilities like magnetic plated hands that can call weapons and another even more timely talent seen later in the season but a less pessimistic view on his place in the world. Kovacs is a flawed man capable of as much compassion as violence. He is a walking dichotomy and Kinnaman played him with just the right touches of both extremes. Mackie seamlessly steps in bringing a new sense of purpose while still maintaining the essence of the enigmatic warrior. He has something to live for and a goal worth seeking. By midway through the first episode, you forget you are looking at another actor and find yourself lost in the person, not the actor playing him.
In Altered Carbon Season 2, Kovacs is searching for his lost love Quellchrist Falconer played by Renee Elise Goldberry. He is closer than he has ever been to finding her. She so perfectly compliments Kovac in temperament, intelligence, and dangerousness it is easy to see why our protagonist believes in forever love. His “crew” from season one has moved on or died save for one loyal friend. Poe, the hotelier AI turned best friend whether you want one or not is back with plenty of side effects from last season. Having somehow survived his near-death last season he has been afflicted with a degenerative virus similar to Alzheimer’s in humans.
The heartbroken Poe is now a shell of his former self. The hotel which was effectively his physical body has fallen into ruin. Kovacs carries his ally around with him on a Star Trek-esque communicator that allows him to appear wherever Kovacs is. He has developed a glitch to go along with his dogged stubbornness and signature style. It is his story that the most compelling life questions derive.
Last season immortality and power were explored Morgan’s concept of resleeving and stacks. In Season 2, Poe refuses to reboot himself fearing he will be losing his mind in the process. He would lose his memories of Lizzie. For those that don’t remember, she was Ava and Vernon’s daughter who was driven insane in VR after being beaten by Miriam Bancroft. Her stack was uploaded to a VR world by Poe in an attempt to help her heal. The two developed a deep friendship. In the season finale, she instructed him to upload her to Head In The Clouds. All of this he did while dying himself of a deadly virus.
His quest now to save himself and thus help Kovacs is the best side plot of the second season. Exploration of his vulnerability, power, and eventually love bring weight to the ultra moody series. Rather than cheapen Poe’s death in Season 1, this new existence is even more tragic. He is losing pieces of himself daily and can no longer help Kovacs as he wants. Similar to a parent who can no longer protect their child, Poe is an aging parent who reluctantly needs help himself.
Kovacs is loyal to the one friend he has remaining but Poe’s glitch puts both of them at risk. Often, Kovacs behavior towards Poe is abusive but its more out of fear and frustration than disrespect. The power dynamic between the two has been skewed since the beginning. Thirty years later, it is an entrenched part of their relationship.
This damaged Poe is desperate to save himself and ventures out on desperate quests of his own. Connor was concerned about his increased workload in season two saying to SYFY magazine, “So in some ways, I’m apprehensive, and I definitely hope the audience goes on the journey with me.”. He definitely shouldn’t worry. For as much as the story revolves around Kovacs, Poe is the beating heart of the dystopian series.
Poe’s predicament is where the moral questions of the season derive from. What does it mean to be a person? These two have shared history and conflict. For Kovacs, the decision to reboot Poe’s operating system should be easy. It is as simple as taking medication. Poe understands that as much as the glitch could be “cured” by a reboot he may risk losing who he is as a person. Basically, it is asking Poe to undergo brain surgery. It would cure him but he may lose everything he remembers and everything he is.
Season 1 fan-favorite Poe was so popular because the quirky AI was quick with a joke or a well-placed bullet. The AI businessman was lonely before Kovacs walked into his hotel. Kovac was the first to stay there in 50 years. For Poe, who finds humans fascinating, it is Halloween and Christmas Day rolled into one. His enthusiasm is offputting at times but makes him very sympathetic to all who get to know him. He was a constant wellspring of usefulness and did it all with literary panache. Most of those things are still true but he is unreliable in Season 2 because of the damage to his program.
Most of Altered Carbon Season 2 allows Poe the ability to explore his humanity, become a hero of his own, and potentially find a love interest. When he relinquishes his hotel he is in effect giving up his physical body. The addition of fellow program Dig 301(Dina Shihabi) provides the opportunity to explore agency and control and surrender. There is a particularly intimate scene that takes place in the latter half of the season which shows Poe grappling with that loss while embracing what could be. It is an intriguing view of acceptance and love shot through a futuristic lens.
Technology, immortality, preservation. These conceits change, humanity never does. Poe is the best of humanity without knowing it. With plenty of stories left to tell and a plan for five seasons of Altered Carbon, you can rest assured that as much as some things change others stay the same. You can change the game pieces if the game master stays the same. Spin up whoever you want to play the next Takeshi Kovacs as long as you leave our beloved Poe alone. He is Altered Carbon’s, Annabel Lee.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love Of those who were older than we Of many far wiser than we And neither the angels in Heaven above, Nor the demons down under the sea, Can ever dissever my soul from the soul Of the beautiful Annabel LeeEdgar Allen Poe
All eight episodes of Altered Carbon Season 2 are available on February 27th. With countless resleeving options and compelling characters, this cyberpunk series is only getting started.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.