Once again, so-called “Peak TV” has reached a new peak. The sheer volume of good stuff available on the small screen can be overwhelming. Some of it’s great, but a lot of it, well, isn’t. There is nothing like Amazon’s brilliant, Undone.
Undone, the new half hour drama slash cosmic sci-fi time travel adventure from creators Kate Purdy and Raphael Bob-Waksberg, breaks the mold as the first serialized TV show made with rotoscope animation. You might have seen it before in Richard Linklater’s 2006 film, ‘A Scanner Darkly.’ … a style that takes live-action footage and uses varying artistic techniques like oil painting to transform it into something a little more uncanny.
The expressive nature of the rotoscoping, uncomfortably realistic dialogue, and fascinating justification of an enlightened perspective on reality combined to create a very interesting series. One that was all the more digestible thanks to the short episode duration and limited cast members. Rosa Salazar as Alma is incredible. She managed to take a character that—in the hands of a lesser actor and writers—been a boilerplate “human disaster” character and make you want to understand her point-of-view.
I accepted the ending’s ambiguity as one helluva cliffhanger, since there’s plenty to unpack and speculate about from all previous episodes. So, what’s the consensus here: can heady animated series attract a wide enough audience? I can’t help but feel like we got a real treat here that won’t be replicated in the near future. I want more of this type of content, but I feel I’m in the minority.
My personal take, Alma’s father was in over his head and doesn’t know a tenth of what he’s doing but just thinks he’s hot ISHT for stumbling ass-backwards into the true nature of the universe. The past is the past and the only way Alma could truly reunite with her dad would be to disappear into that cave and leave that life behind in the changed timeline where she spent Halloween with her dad. So I kind of would like it if I could just stay imagining that there’s two Almas out there who’ve found new relationships with their dad.
However, there are questions about how she knows what she knows, and whether anything she is seeing is real or is merely the beginning of schizophrenia. I like to believe it’s not just schizophrenia (that’s much too convenient) and she knew things, like her mom in the lab the day her dad died, and the missing sisters name, Sophia. I was waiting for her to drop the “I’m sorry, said the duck” line on Sam near the end, but she never did. These little bits make it more likely that this isn’t actually an unreliable narrator. Now, whether the idea that mental illness = superpowers (or can at least resemble superpowers) is damaging, well, I don’t know. I think the show’s done an good job at differentiating the two and treating mental illness with care, empathy, and respect. But I can’t say I’m not interested to see where they go next. I like that at no point do they clarify the mystery and hold on to that for later, or possibly never revealing it. If the show doesn’t get a second season (a shame), it absolutely works as a one-shot story. Definitely a MUST watch.
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