Amazon’s Undone is the kind of show that can ONLY really shine in an animated medium. The rotoscope style-animation is beautiful, uncanny and perfectly suits the story Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Kate Purdy were trying to tell. I usually really don’t like rotoscope because of how creepy it can be and because people just look like they’ve been traced over.
But this is a story that really benefits. It wouldn’t have worked in live action and any other kind of animation would have cheapened the experience.
Undone is the story of Alma Winograd-Diaz, who after getting into a car accident starts see to communicate with her dead father who helps her with her new ability to manipulate time, so she can solve the mystery of his death. The show plays a lot with time; in the second episode, she goes through a time loop and it’s unclear to the audience, what the exact order of events is.
The show itself has been said to be like 10 episodes of “Time’s Arrow” from Bob-Waksberg’s BoJack Horseman, and that’s pretty true. Except here, there is even less of a divide between reality and fantasy. There are a lot of similarities between the two in regard to themes regarding family and mental illness, though clearly the Winograd-Diaz family is far less fucked up than the Horseman clan.
Undone has a heavy emphasis on family relationships. Alma struggles with relating to her mother and her sister; her sister resents her for getting more attention as a child due to being Deaf and for still acting immature; her mother is upset that Alma isn’t more responsible and is trying her best to keep her family together. Alma gets frustrated with her mother and dislikes her sister’s rich WASPy fiancé.
None of them are truly monstrous. Except maybe Alma’s boyfriend, Sam. But even then, they all have their very human and understandable reasons for acting the way they do.
Throughout the course of the story, we see how these relationships change in the aftermath of Alma’s accident. She was already kind of an impulsive and outspoken person, the accident emphasizes those bad behaviors. And the fact that she refuses to do anything about her issues, doesn’t make her the best person in the eyes of her family.
And it of course, it also starts affecting other people and putting them in harm’s way.
It’s nuanced. Alma isn’t a shitty person; just selfish and truly believes she is helping solve her long-dead father’s death, which is a huge source of trauma in her life. I mean, you’d be messed up to if your loving father suddenly abandoned you on Halloween night in a strange neighborhood and never returned home.
And it’s not like he was a bad father. He was the only one who really accepted Alma being Deaf and allowed her to explore the Indigenous part of her heritage (on her mother’s side.) I do wish we had gotten see some of the Jewish influence: her father is supposed to be Jewish but not very observant and her mother is seemingly a devout Catholic.
If the show gets into a second season, I’d like to see that explored. I don’t think the show needs it, the ending works well but working on the assumption it will, that’s a theme I’d like to see.
Though, it seems more focused on the Indigenous side, as her father claims they’re part of the key to time traveling. It doesn’t come off as fetishtic in the show, which is impressive. A lot of shows try to place Indigenous beliefs as somehow more magical than Abrahamic beliefs, without really researching them.
And while Alma certainly wouldn’t necessarily be a good person in real life much in the same lines as Bojack, she’s very much a real person. And the driving force of the show: her desire to solve her father’s murder is played very seriously and is what makes Alma such a compelling character.
Even if we’re not sure what’s real and what’s fake.
The fact that much of the real world investigation matches the conversations she has with her father is what keeps that tension going, because it further blurs the line between reality and non-reality. How much of this is just in her head? Or is it all real and people can manipulate time in this universe?
It’s a compelling mystery.
I would also love to add that I really like how this show made Alma Deaf and how they handled that. She was pushed to get a cochlear implant, and throughout most of the show, you forget she has it, since it’s so naturally incorporated. But that surgery affected her relationships, and she often takes the device off when she doesn’t want to listen.
(To be honest, I’d probably do the same.)
It’s just a nice little touch. They didn’t have to do it but it adds so much. If there is a second season, I hope they’ll discuss whether this factors in with Alma’s time-travel capabilities.
It’s a good show, though a lot like BoJack not really one you should binge-watch. Each episode needs to be savored, which just isn’t something I have the time for.
And that’s the scoop.
Year of release: 2019
Length: 8 episodes, 22-24 minutes
Executive Producers: Raphael Bob-Waksberg, Kate Purdy, Noel Bright, Steven A. Cohen, Tommy Pallotta
Creators: Raphael Bob-Waksberg, Kate Purdy
Director: Hisko Hulsing
If you like this review read: Bojack Horseman Season 5 is over and everything is worse (for BoJack) now