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The truth about the mysterious beings at the end of Altered Carbon season 2

Spoilers follow for Altered Carbon season 2

Altered Carbon's second season threw a lot at viewers, from two Takeshi Kovacs characters, to the return of Quellcrist Falconer (Renée Elise Goldsberry), to a glimpse at the alien species that started it all, the Elders. On top of all that, the storyline of human consciousness being digitized in the name of immortality continued to unfold with more twists and turns. Altered Carbon is not shy about going big with its futuristic sci-fi concepts, and the mysterious beings that returned to Harlan's World have viewers wondering more about them.

Season 2 sees Falconer, the creator of stacks, being controlled by an extraterrestrial entity known as an Elder. The last remaining Elder wants revenge on the Founders because they took over Harlan's World, eradicated the other Elders, and, in typical bad guy fashion, stole their technology and conquered their world.

The last known Elder, having survived by attaching itself to the songspire tree's roots, takes over Falconer's body and kills the remaining Founders. All-hero Kovacs eventually takes the Elder into his own stack, virtual reality-style, and has angelfire — a powerful Elder technology that no one quite understands and that the Elders presumably created — destroy them both in order to save humanity. This was a huge sacrifice, considering that sleeves (bodies) are replaceable, but stacks (where human consciousness is stored) are not. Still, stacks can be duplicated, which is why there are two versions of Kovacs in season 2 to begin with.

The season ends with Takeshi Kovacs (Anthony Mackie) dying, Takeshi Prime (Will Yun Lee) surviving, along with a potential code for Takeshi's cortical stack, which could mean a potential return of Takeshi Kovacs (if there had been a third season, anyway). 

Overwhelmed? You're not alone. Even after an entire season spent exploring the truth about this ancient alien species, the Elders have viewers confused. Luckily, Richard K. Morgan, author of the original novel that inspired the series, knows the truth about the mysterious beings at the end of Altered Carbon season 2.

The Altered Carbon Elders are meant to be mysterious pterodactyl-like creatures

In an interview with Inverse, Morgan explained his model for the Elders. "Something I learned very early on in my trade, is that with aliens, the closer you get to them, the more difficult it is to make them stick," the author explained. "What I've done is sort of cheated by saying there are aliens but they're all gone and we don't know much about them or understand what they've left behind, and we're scrambling around for clues."

Although the show and the books have slightly different takes, as can be expected, it appears the Elders were always meant to be somewhat unknown and ominous. Viewers are, in fact, still scrambling around for clues, even after season 2, as so much about the Elders remains unclear. Whereas in Morgan's books all the aliens have been gone for tens of thousands of years, if not longer, the show has one of them still alive and well. Morgan admits that keeping the aliens a mystery makes it easier to not have to fully explain them while still alluding to the fact that they should be somewhat feared. The show appears to take these mysterious beings and shed some light on them — a change Morgan completely understands. "In the show, there's mention of them being an intensely militaristic species, but in the books, depending on who you are as a person, you project onto them what you want them to be."

That, of course, doesn't make the aliens any easier to pin down, but Morgan does make it clear that "we do know they were fighting either amongst themselves or fighting someone else."

While the Elders aren't from Mars in the TV series, the books featured an alien ship that belonged to Martians. Morgan imagined the aliens to be "pterodactyl-like," perhaps a combination of "a pterodactyl and a fruit bat." Even still, Morgan explains that the books don't tell much about the "mummified corpses" that are found on the ship. One of the biggest questions the audience has after season 2 is how the Elders' technology works, but Morgan doesn't hammer home a definitive answer. The audience, it appears, is supposed to accept the fact that these aliens created technology that's incomprehensible to humans — humans who are bound to have their own interpretations.