[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Altered Carbon Season 2. Read at your own risk!]
Kovacs is dead. Long live Kovacs! Altered Carbon's Season 2 finale saw our leading hero, Takeshi Kovacs (Anthony Mackie), choose to sacrifice himself while the younger version of himself (played by Will Yun Lee in Kovacs' original sleeve) and Quell (Renée Elise Goldsberry) got second chances at life.
Kovacs came to this decision during a tense battle with an Elder, a member of the native alien species that the founders of Harlan's World thought they had wiped out when they arrived on the planet centuries ago. After the Elder woke up, it initially made a deal with Quell to use her body to exact its revenge on the founders. However, Kovacs interrupted this deal late in the season when he forced the Elder out of Quell in an attempt to trap it. But the Elder was able to find another host: Col. Carrerra (Torben Liebrecht), the alias of Kovacs' former mentor Jaeger.
Now seeking revenge against all of humanity rather than just the founders, the Elder sought to activate the orbitals surrounding Harlan's World and attack the planet using the deadly angelfire. Kovacs, Birth Sleeve Kovacs, Quell, Trepp (Simone Missick), and Poe (Chris Conner) teamed up to stop the Elder, with Quell planning on bringing it back into her body before turning the angelfire on herself, thus killing her and the Elder. But Kovacs decided this time he would play the martyr, killing Jaeger, becoming the host of the Elder, and ultimately sacrificing himself to save the planet.
In the wake of Kovacs' death, Birth Sleeve Kovacs once again made the choice to serve Quell, who left Harlan's World to restart the uprising. But where is Quell going? What will the surviving Kovacs do now? And whose stack were Poe and Dig 301 (Dina Shihabi) downloading?! Altered Carbon showrunner Alison Schapker answered all our Season 2 burning questions and teased what fans could expect from a potential Season 3.
The twist of having Kovacs double-sleeved was so much fun. What was it like developing the dynamic between the two Kovacses? What can we learn about how Kovacs feels about himself through how he interacts with his other sleeve?
Alison Schapker: We always knew we wanted to bring Will Yun Lee Kovacs into Season 2 and double-sleeving Kovacs seemed a super fun way to go about it, because Kovacs is able to face basically a younger self. And the thing that separates him from this younger version of himself is the Kovacs played by Will Yun Lee has not met Quell yet. So this is the Kovacs who was loyal to the Protectorate and loyal to his commander Jaeger and a believer. And [this was] before he turned and before he met Quell. And then you have Kovacs, played by Anthony Mackie, who's met Quell, who's fallen in love with her, who's turned against everything he once believed in. And the idea that these two selves would come and have a reckoning with one another felt like a potentially explosive combination. But also one that could lead to almost a kind of integration or healing or something we all do with younger versions of ourselves as we age — having to make a kind of peace with who we were and what we've done. And imagining those conversations [of], "What would you tell your younger self?" or "What would you want your younger self to understand about you? and the thousands of questions we discussed in the writer's room, we had a great time doing it.
Was this desire to find peace with his past self and give Lee's Kovacs a second chance why Mackie's Kovacs chose to sacrifice himself in order to defeat the Elder?
Schapker: Yes, yes, I think so. I mean, I think there was a lot going into that decision, but I think that was definitely an element of it. I also think there was a part of him that felt like Quell had a destiny and that for Kovacs there was growth in — if he spent centuries searching for Quell out of love and fulfillment and here she is, to have to sacrifice that for a greater good felt like growth. But also to do it knowing that his younger self would have a chance to go on and learn from his mistakes and do it differently was absolutely part and parcel of the decision.
Season 2 left off with Will playing Kovacs' current sleeve. Does that mean Will could potential take on the leading role next season or would you want to continue giving Kovacs a new sleeve each season?
Schapker: OK, I don't want to answer that specifically. I just want to say I have a ton of ideas for that. And that to me, Altered Carbon and Will are always intertwined in my mind. So I do think no matter what, the Kovacs played by Will at the end of Season 2 has a huge role to play, god willing. Algorithmic gods willing.
The first season ended with Kovacs off to find Quell, which he achieved this season. What is Kovacs' driving motivation at the end of Season 2?
Schapker: I feel like those are spoilers for Season 3! I really do have an idea of where he's off too. I think the Kovacs that leaves off in Season 2 feels like he is carrying forward what he learned from the Kovacs he interacted with, the older self he interacted with, and he has embraced a loyalty to Quellcrest Falconer, like his older self. So he's going to go forth and I think be guided by both of those things in Season 3. But what happens between Season 2 and Season 3, and where we pick him up and have things changed or has anything troubled that? We'll have to wait and see.
What can you say about the importance of the DHF that Poe had kept safe while he was rebooted?
Schapker: I think what's so interesting about Altered Carbon is this idea that once you separate the mind and you digitize the mind and you separate it from the body and you live in a world where that mind actually could be copied or there could be more than one of you, all kinds of storylines become possible. And there is a stack at the end of Season 2 with a consciousness of Kovacs digitized on it. And what becomes of that will also be a huge factor in Season 3.
I loved that this season taught us so much more about the Elders and the history of Harlan's World. But have we seen the last of the Elders?
Schapker: I don't think we've seen the last of the Elders, per se. I think that we had to, in Season 2, reckon with the past and that includes the past of Harlan's World as a planet and humanity's past interaction with this other species that came before. And the idea that the Elders, we sort of mined the bones of the Elders and made stacks out of them and built our immortality off the death of another species — it's interesting to me. And I wouldn't close the door on the Elders. But I think we have to wait and see what role they'll play.
We know that Quell is off to find a new world to rebuild the uprising. How much have you started mapping out about where she went and what her next steps might look like?
Schapker: Oh, well, those are my daydreams. Those are my current ruminations. Those are my shower thoughts. I think a lot about the world Quell is on now. I have ideas and want nothing more than to get in a writers' room and start kicking them around in earnest, but I do you have a direction. I do have an idea of where I think she's going.
Altered Carbon Season 2 is available to stream on Netflix.