It’s been a two-year wait since Altered Carbon first debuted on Netflix, but season 2 is set to hit the streaming service this Thursday. Although the show retains the same basic concepts (a dystopian future setting where human consciousness is contained in “stack” devices that can be transferred between different bodies known as “sleeves”) it features a whole new cast. The sleeve mechanic allows recasting for certain characters, so Anthony Mackie takes over the role of protagonist Takeshi Kovacs from Joel Kinnaman. But there’s also a plethora of new characters too, including Danica Harlan, played by Power star Lela Loren.
The name “Harlan” might already be familiar to Altered Carbon viewers. It adorns the planet known as “Harlan’s World,” where Kovacs once fought alongside revolutionary leader Quellcrist Falconer (Renée Elise Goldsberry) and her followers, known as the Envoys. Centuries after their defeat, the re-sleeved Kovacs is known as “the last Envoy” and Harlan’s World is governed by Danica, daughter of founder Konrad Harlan. Following in her father’s footsteps, Danica is a “Meth” (short for “Methuselah”), one of the galaxy’s privileged few who live for centuries by transferring their stacks to successive clones.
“Danica is purely her father’s daughter,” Loren tells EW. “She has literally no mother. Harlan used technology to bring an embryo and created a daughter and really raised her in his image; he groomed her and taught her everything he knows. And so the thing is, as much as she wants to maybe take things in a different direction than Konrad did, particularly his relationship with the Protectorate and their use of alloy, Danica only knows what her father has taught her.”
Loren continues, “Ultimately it’s sort of what corrupts revolution, right? Often the people who are trying to free themselves from the grip of oppression only have the model of the oppressors to lead things. As much as Danica wants to be a governor of the people, she is so disconnected from the populace by her privilege. The difference between Meths and the rest of the population is exponential compared to the gap between the 1 percent and the rest of us now. We often have an easier time understanding the chaos and ignorance that poverty causes, and a much harder time understanding the chaos and ignorance that privilege and wealth cause. Danica only knows the goldfish bowl that she grew up in, which comes with a huge disconnect.”
Danica shares a gripe with many people who live under the thumb of an imperialist regime like the United Nations Protectorate: She wants self-determination for her people. Namely, she wants the planet’s inhabitants to control the precious resource known as “alloy” that is produced there. Under the current status quo, the Protectorate takes most of it for their own purposes. She has a master plan in mind to change that dynamic, but things start to go awry once Kovacs returns to Harlan’s World.
As an Envoy, Kovacs fought against the new world order of stacks and sleeves. Quellcrist, his leader and lover, fiercely believed that extending human life in such a way was morally wrong. Loren basically agrees, and compares the arc of Altered Carbon to Greek tragedies that also wrestled with the crucial differences between immortality and mortality.
“One of the things that I love about Altered Carbon is these deeper philosophical themes that the Greeks really explored in the tragedies between gods and mortals,” Loren says. “The immortal gods are these capricious amoral tyrant toddlers. This whole idea of virtue and goodness, the Greeks believed, was a result of our human frailties and limitations. These ideas of compassion and collaboration come from needing to rely on each other. So what happens when you have so much wealth and privilege that you don’t need that anymore? I loved playing with these old themes of antiquity in this sci-fi environment. That was a lot of fun.”
Loren continues, “When you’re vulnerable, that’s what makes you need community. In some ways, all money does is make you not have to rely on other people. Wealth is basically so you don’t have to hang out with other people. You can pay to get your needs met, you don’t need goodwill and community of others. But then it’s sad because that’s part of the joy of living. You lose something in that. Wealth comes at a very, very high price that most people don’t realize. That’s a little bit what the Greeks were saying: It’s our need to lean on each other, that keeps us good. When you’re immortal and invulnerable, you devolve into assholes.”
Altered Carbon season 2 hits Netflix on Feb. 27.