I originally planned to make this a spoiler-free review but as I got further and further into the 8 episodes I knew most of the parts that need to be talked about are going to be spoiler heavy. So, the first half of this review will be about the show in general and then I’ll put a big fat spoiler warning to tell you to stop reading.
Amazon Prime made a really interesting move with this series that pays off in a big way. Undone comes from the creator and producer of Bojack Horseman Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Kate Purdy and definitely shares some similarities with the Netflix comedy.
The story follows Alma Winograd-Diaz, who wakes from a car crash to find she has unlocked a part of her brain that allows her to perceive and manipulate time in new ways. The series explores her past and her relationships with her friends and family as she struggles to deal with her changing mental state.
The most obvious thing to talk about first is the animation style. Undone uses a new hybrid style of rotoscoping that combines live-action performances with oil painting, 2D animation, and 3D animation. Rotoscoping involves drawing over live performances to create a really unique and surreal feel for the show.
When the character is falling through space and time or blending in and out of moments this animation style really shines. The visuals throughout the first season are incredible and mind-bending. While these effects may be achieved in live-action with a massive special effects budget, the rotoscoping style works perfectly for this. Because you never enter or exit the “effects” it leaves you in a constant state of questioning reality and not being sure what’s real and what isn’t.
These sequences are where you can see the similarities to Bojack Horseman, which does occasionally use some surreal effects and flashbacks. However, Bojack as a series isn’t really positioned to go all-in on this psychedelic style – Undone is.
Rosa Salazar shines as the main character, Alma, and is probably the strongest part of the show. Salazar goes through an absolute rollercoaster of emotions throughout the season and makes you feel everything. She also manages to maintain her sarcastic, pessimistic humor at the right time to break the tension and keep you in her shoes.
The rest of the cast does a great job supporting, including Bob Odenkirk has her father and Constance Marie as her mother. The complex relationship with her sister Angelique Cabral is also a highlight. I really enjoyed the chemistry between Alma and her boyfriend Sam, played by Siddharth Dhananjay. They have a great rapport that adds some lightness to the show. Another great dose of humor is the white-bread, frat boy Reed played by Kevin Bigley.
If you haven’t checked out this show, I highly recommend it. It is very unlike anything you’ve seen and definitely something you need to experience to truly get what they are trying to do here. Okay, let’s dive into the real meat of the series now…
After waking up from her car accident, Alma learns she can perceive, move through and manipulate time. This connects her with her father, who died in a car accident when she was a child. The rest of the season is about her trying to figure out who murdered her father as she gets a handle on her new reality.
I took this all at face value until about halfway through the season. Then the doubt started to slowly creep in. As Alma starts to share information with Sam and starts to display more erratic behavior, her family starts to become concerned that she has schizophrenia.
There is definite evidence that she isn’t crazy based on the information she continues to pull from her connection to time. The security guard’s sister’s name, the fact her mother was at the lab the night of her father’s death and the names of people connected to the case like Darrold (thank you for the good long chuckle at Darrold). But she also could have gotten that information from other places.
My official belief: she is absolutely time traveling.
But…there is enough doubt in there to stick in the back of your mind. You really feel for her situation and for her family as they try to support her.
Schizophrenia isn’t the only mental illness the show tackles either. Before any trippy time travel stuff crops up, the show starts with Alma in a deep depression, drifting through her day feeling unconnected with everyone around her. She breaks up with Sam because she feels broken and doesn’t want to force her brokenness on another person. Her sister Becca also feels broken and deals with it in her own ways. The big driving force for Alma in the season is to “fix” things in their past so they won’t feel broken anymore.
The show also represents a mixed-race and religion family and a child with disabilities. Constance Marie does a great job as Alma’s mom, Camila, as she deals with being looked down upon by Becca’s future mother-in-law. The flashback sequences where Alma and her parents cope with her deafness definitely paint a picture of all the difficulties their family faces. This is beautifully mixed with flashbacks of Sam’s struggles moving from India to America as a child.
Above all, the show has a lot of heart. The scenes where Alma is able to set aside her time travel craziness to be there for her sister are really nice. The montage where Alma looks back at her relationship with Sam is really touching. The moments between Alma and Camila are heart-breaking as you see a mother-daughter relationship continue to struggle.
I came into this show for the unique style of animation, stayed for the mind-bending time travel and will continue to tune in to a hopefully second season because the amazing journey these characters go on. This show really has something for everyone and I definitely recommend it.