‘Altered Carbon’ Recap: Everything You Need to Know Before Streaming Season 2

     February 27, 2020

Takeshi Kovacs is a chameleon of sorts. But in the world of Altered Carbon, that doesn’t make him unique at all. In fact, just about every human born (within the Protectorate, at least) has this ability, because the technology exists to upload a person’s consciousness as digital data which can then be downloaded into a variety of bodies, or Sleeves. Trippy stuff.

If you had trouble following that, you’re gonna have a tough time keeping up with Altered Carbon Season 2, which just arrived on Netflix today. That’s okay, we’ve got you covered. We’re recapping the events of Season 1, along with some terminology to explain why Will Yun Lee, Joel Kinnaman, and Anthony Mackie (and others) can all play Kovacs. It’s still pretty complicated stuff. Luckily, Netflix has a handy video recap before you jump into Season 2. Check it out below or watch the auto-play when you head over to the title’s launch page itself:

The past is haunting you. Anthony Mackie is Takeshi Kovacs in Season 2 of Altered Carbon, streaming February 27. Get ready to watch with this recap of Season 1!

Our quick recap of Season 1 follows below, after a handy terminology guide:

  • Stack, or Cortical Stack – A device (of extra-terrestrial origin) implanted in the spinal column that houses the “true” self, consciousness, or Digital Human Freight (D.H.F.). This essence of what it means to be a human is stored digitally in what are essentially server banks, which can then be downloaded from or uploaded into Stacks. Materialists can think of this as the brain while the more spiritual among us can think of it as the soul, consciousness, or mind.
  • Sleeve – If the Stack is the mind, the Sleeve is the body. The D.H.F. can be downloaded into a body, making a person’s physical appearance both highly variable and customizable while also making the flesh more “disposable”, since a consciousness can be “resleeved.”
  • Synth – A synthetic sleeve
  • Needlecasting – The process of transmitting a Stack consciousness into a Sleeve; the original purpose of this technology was to facilitate interstellar travel.
  • Real Death – If your stack is destroyed–or “slagged”–you die, unless you happen to be a Meth…
  • Meths – Derived from the Biblical figure Methuselah, these are the ultra-wealthy who can afford to basically live forever by using a potentially endless line of cloned sleeves. Meths can also afford a duplicate remote stack, a D.H.F. backup that serves as protection against “real death”
  • Envoy – “Super-soldiers” with varying allegiances, perceived as freedom fighters by some and terrorists by others; these outstanding fighters and skilled tech-users were developed long ago. The Envoys, including Takeshi Kovacs, were led by Quellcrist Falconer.
  • Dipper – Needlecast hackers who sell memories on the black market
  • Wedge – A mercenary organization