Altered Carbon season 2 ending explained: your biggest questions answered

(Image credit: Netflix)

While the series may be one of the most confusing show's currently on air – thanks to the characters’ habits of changing bodies so flipping often – the Altered Carbon season 2 ending was quite something.

The Netflix series, set 30 years after the events of season 1, follows Takeshi Kovacs (now played by Anthony Mackie) as he tries to solve the case of a mystery killer targeting the founders of his home-planet Harlan’s World. 

While the identity of the assassin is discovered relatively early on in season 2, by the finale, Takeshi and his team face several bigger threats. Below, we’ll try to answer some of the biggest questions coming out of the Altered Carbon season 2 ending.

Warning: Spoilers for the Altered Carbon season 2 ending ahead

(Image credit: Netflix)

What happens in the final scenes?

Altered Carbon season 2 ends with a tragic twist. We learn that Colonel Carrera is actually a re-sleeved Colonoel Jaegar – from season 1 – who's now sharing his mind with an Elder alien after it's separated from Quellcrist Falconer. Having escaped the firewall prison through a backdoor Jaeger created, he goes on a rampaging mission to harness Angelfire in order to destroy the whole of Harlan’s World.

Meanwhile, Takeshi Prime (Will Yun Lee) has learned enough about his other self, mentor Jaegar, and the ruthless plans of the Protectorate to switch allegiances to Quellcrist and takes out his own men. He lets the other Takeshi, as well as Quillcress, know about the Elder’s escape through Jaegar and, together, they reach out to Danica Harlan in an attempt to take out the threat.

Quellcrist says that they can persuade the Elder to forgo its plan to destroy the planet by just giving it the stack of Danica’s father Konrad Harlan, the founder and former governor of Harlan’s World who orchestrated the destruction of the alien’s species. It wants justice against those who murdered its people. 

Danica agrees and confirms that she was the one who led the coup against her father – all because she felt he was giving too much of the alloy, used for the stack technology, to the Protectorate. She manufactured a war by creating a fake uprising in the name of Falconer and made it look like she had achieved peace to secure her position of power.

Turns out, Danica has destroyed every lasting memory of her father except one stack. Because she and Quellcrist both hate the Protectorate – after all, the enemy of my enemy is my friend – they agree to work together in order to stop the Elder.

Poe, despite glitching more and more, is able to locate where the Elder-Jaegar will most likely carry out its plan – the place where the Orbitals that power the Angelfire converge. The coordinates take them to the needlecast station. The Elder-Jaegar has, however, already located a piece of human technology to boost its signal and is able to control the Orbitals and Angelfire without destroying the sleeve it is in. 

Hoping to buy them some time before the Elder-Jaegar attacks, Takeshi Prime goes to find Trepp, hoping she can stop the Angelfire. Trepp is obviously mad at Takeshi for her murdering her father, but, knowing that her family could be killed if the alien succeeds, she agrees to help.

Danica, Takeshi, and Quellcrist are at the top of the needlecast station and they manage to persuade the Elder-Jaegar to stop its attack in exchange for Konrad’s stack. But, in another twist, Danica double-crosses them. She shoots the Elder-Jaegar, yet the villain manages to final death her. It's left to Takeshi, Quellcrist, and a newly arrived Takeshi Prime to prevent the decimation. 

Quellcrist knows she will sacrifice her life to stop the Elder and the two Takeshis work together to stop her. Instead, Takeshi manages to incapacitate the Elder-Jaegar, and gets him to shoot himself (remember, Mackey's sleeve won't allow him to shoot a member Protectorate). Using his Last Envoy training, Takeshi brings down the Angelfire on himself. This kills both the Elder and Takeshi, whose stack is destroyed in the process.

It’s a devastating moment for both Quellcrist and Poe, the latter who, moments before, is about to have his whole system rebooted and potentially lose his entire memory of his friend. Before he disappears, he writes a note on a post-it hinting that all is not lost.

Meanwhile, Quellcrist has renewed ambitions to lead another uprising, while Takeshi Prime becomes a mole in the Protectorate. Trepp has taken over her father’s workshop while Digg, now going by Annabelle (as in Annabelle Lee from the Edgar Allan Poe poem), has taken over the Nevermore. 

In the final moments, we see a rebooted Poe return three months later, and it turns out that. not only has her program managed to extract his fragmented data, but tangled in it is a decryption key leading to a raw human DHF (Digital Human Freight).

Clearly, the story of Altered Carbon is far from over, with Quellcrist and Takeshi Prime now working together to stop the Protectorate and a rebooted Poe and Annabelle teaming up to potentially bring back their Takeshi. This finale sets up a third season, teasing purposeful plotlines that give the audience a good impression of what’s to come.

Is Takeshi Prime in love with Quellcrist?

(Image credit: Netflix)

Bringing a second Takeshi into the world was a great move by the writers, giving Will Yun Lee more screentime. However, it does create a dilemma. The OG Takeshi (Macki) is the Last Envoy and fell in love with Quellcrist Falconer. Takeshi Prime’s consciousness was stored before he switched allegiance from the Protectorate to the Uprising, and has no memory of falling in love with Quell. 

By the end of season 2, though, Prime joins Quellcrist's team and works with OG Takeshi to stop her sacrificing herself to the Angelfire. By the end, Prime is working for her as a mole in the Protectorate. With OG Takeshi out of the picture (for now) and some somewhat longing looks at Quell from Takeshi Prime, a romance could potentially spark between them. And, if the OG Takeshi returns, it would make for quite the bittersweet love triangle.

Of course, double-sleeving (having two or more of the same consciousnesses resleeved in separate bodies) is illegal so if he does return the pair have more pressing concerns than romance.

Where is Quellcrist Falconer going?

(Image credit: Netflix)

We see Quell enter a needlecasting booth, which means she is transferring her mind (DHF) from the Cortical Stack in a sleeve to an offsite location. She tells Takeshi Prime that she is finding a new planet to lead a new uprising, but doesn’t tell him the location, in order to protect them both. He has a team collect her body, but it's unclear just which sleeve awaits Quell on a new planet. Before her original uprising was thwarted, she had wanted to end immortality by downloading a virus that would ensure cortical stacks would only survive for exactly 100 years.

She may well redo this mission or find a new way to end eternal life and the manipulation of the technology she created. All we know is that she wants to “fix it and live,” and she is just the imposing and heroic individual who might succeed.

Where does Altered Carbon go from here?

(Image credit: Hunters Entertainment)

So far, each season has begun with a mystery to be solved but, at this point, there is a clear motivation for the surviving characters. Quellcrist is on a mission to rebuild her uprising and take down the Protectorate while Takeshi Prime is working with her as a double agent.

This could mean that Renee Elise Goldsberry and Will Yun Lee might lead the season instead of a new actor being hired to play the OG Takeshi. It is, of course, suggested that he will return thanks to Poe and Annabelle, but given the conceit of the show, an actress could certainly fill Anthony Mackie’s shoes. 

There’s no word on a third season yet but given the improved critical reception of season 2 compared to season 1, the Netflix series may well get re-sleeved once more.

Read more: Altered Carbon, Watchmen, and the new female action hero

Freelance writer

Hanna Flint is a freelance film and TV critic who has bylines at GamesRadar+, Total Film magazine, Variety, BBC Culture, The Guardian, British GQ, IGN, Yahoo Movies, and so many other publications. Hanna has also appeared as a critic and commentator on Sky News, Sky Cinema, BBC World Service, and BBC Radio 5 Live, and can be frequently found as a Q&A host at MTV UK, BFI, and BAFTA. When Hanna isn't writing reviews, interviews, and long-form features about the latest film and TV releases, she specializes in topics concerning representation and diversity.