'Altered Carbon' Explained: Who Are The Protectorate and What Role Do They Play in Season 2?

Altered Carbon on Netflix is full of terminology and jargon that can leave casual fans totally confused about what the characters are talking about. One of the more crucial concepts in Season 1 and 2 of the Netflix show, however, is The Protectorate, or the United Nations Interstellar Protectorate, which has a long history with the series main character Takeshi Kovacs (played by Joel Kinnaman, Anthony Mackie and Will Yun Lee).

Altered Carbon posits a future hundreds of years from now (Season 1 is set in 2384, with Season 2 30 years later) where the United Nations has become the supreme governing body of Sol, the solar system that includes Earth and all of space in a 100-light-year sphere around it. This includes Harlan's World, a planet 80 light-years away from Earth that was colonized by humans in 2050 and is the home planet of Kovacs.

In the series' history, which we see in flashbacks featuring a young Kovacs (Lee), as humans spread around Sol, the long distances between planets became an issue. This led to the development of the "needlecasting" process, where a digital version of one's consciousness (known in Altered Carbon as a DHF) can be instantaneously moved from a body on one planet into a new body (or "sleeve") in another.

altered carbon protectorate
Takeshi Kovacs (played by Anthony Mackie in 'Altered Carbon' Season 2) is a prime player in the rebellion against The Protectorate Netflix

This process had the unexpected effect of making humans technically immortal⁠—after all, if your body was beginning to break down, you could just transfer your DHF into a new one.

Technically, this process was available to everyone, but the increasingly corrupt Protectorate want to keep the technology in the hands of the ultra-rich (known in the series as "Meths.")

It is this that led Kovacs, who had been trained as a super-soldier by The Protectorate to join the rebellion against the organization. Leading this rebellion was Quellcrist Falconer (Renee Elise Goldsberry), the engineer behind the first "stack," a receptacle implanted in humans that allow DHFs to be transferred from body to body, and wants her technology to be available to all.

With the rebellion growing, in Altered Carbon Season 2 The Protectorate start sending out fearsome warriors called Praetorians to take out any defectors.

Speaking to Refinery29, series stunt coordinator Melissa R. Stubbs said of these fighters: "These are Praetorians. They're basically black-outfitted stormtroopers. They are The Protectorate. They are these badass warriors who can't be killed. So they're coming after our team."

Altered Carbon Season 2 is streaming now on Netflix.