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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

TV Series Review

Albert Einstein said that time was the fourth dimension. Funny that we experience it as one.

Time is wholly linear as far as we know—past begets present begets future. It’s quite one-dimensional when you think about it. You can’t know what the future holds. You can’t go back again. We are stuck on the line, inching only forward second by second, day by day, year by year.

But what if you can go back again? What if you can get off the line? And what if all it took was a near-fatal car accident, your dead father and perhaps a healthy dose of mental illness?

Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Roads.

Welcome to the world of Alma Winograd-Diaz, a hard-drinking, hard-thinking, hard-luck twentysomething who’s lost her tether to time.

And, of course, that’s her dad’s fault. Most everything wrong with Alma is.

When Alma was just a little girl, her father, Jacob, took her out on Halloween for a little extra late-night trick-or-treating. But then “work” called. He told Alma to stay right where she was—on that sidewalk—and he’d be right back.

He wasn’t. He died in an accident, she’s told. And she never saw him again.

Never, that is, until Jacob materialized right in front of her as she was crying and driving—causing an accident of her own.

Ever since then, Alma’s been unfettered by timelines. She relives the same conversations over and over again in one juncture, skips ahead weeks in another. That adds another level of difficulty to Alma’s already challenging life.

Alma was already a troubled young woman. Her past is littered with drugs and detention centers and suicide attempts, and she’s keenly aware that her grandmother—her dad’s mom—went completely crazy.

Now Jacob is telling her that his mom wasn’t always crazy. Just special, like Alma. They both had the ability to perceive things that other people couldn’t. Sure, that ability did ultimately drive grandmama insane. So Jacob’s going to gently train Alma to use those abilities as only a dead dad can to help her avoid a similar fate.

Oh, and by the way, would Alma mind solving Jacob’s murder while she’s time-hopping? He’d sure appreciate it.

What a Time of Waste.

Undone, from the creators of the thoughtful, crass and rather nihilistic toon BoJack Horseman, is unlike anything else on television.

First, the animation. Yes, this is, technically, a cartoon. But its animation is done via rotoscope—a technique in which regular ol’ actors are filmed, as you would as live-action movie, and then re-traced—blending some characteristics of both live action and animation. (Well-known examples are few, but 1980s-circa band a-ha’s old video for “Take on Me” was an example of rotoscoping.) The effect feels less like BoJack and more like a surreal, often dreamy world that allows Alma to soar in the cosmos and then land back in her hospital bed. It narratively allows the viewer to feel just as unhinged from reality as Alma does.

We find a certain beauty in the storytelling, too. The time-shifting conceit is, on some level, secondary to Alma’s poignant struggle to find connection and reconciliation. Let’s face it: This girl is messed up—lost and confused and angry and dealing with issues she should really see a counselor about. To watch her heal a bit—to embrace her family’s imperfect love, for instance—is one of the show’s rewards.

But those rewards cost the viewer something, too.

First, we’ve got to grapple with Undone's mental-illness-as-superpower conceit. Those who haven't grappled with mental illness in real life might embrace this idea without a hitch. But I do worry that for those who suffer from mental illness—and some forms can make the sufferer think that he’s the only sane one in a mad, mad world—the show could potentially undercut the efforts of many a counselor.

Undone also features a messy sense of spirituality. While Alma’s mother is a firm Catholic, Alma’s abilities seem pegged to a more pagan, animist ethos. Repeatedly, we hear about how shamans and medicine men back in the day had the same abilities she has—abilities that the Western world dismisses out of hand (according to Alma’s dead pops). A Catholic priest—who's something of an amateur anthropologist, too—seems to keep an open mind about the experiences of more ancient, less “advanced” cultures, too.

Then, of course, we've got the show’s content issues, of which it has plenty. Alma lives with her boyfriend, and we see them in bed together. In the opening episode, Alma, her sister (Becca) and a bartender they just met hunker down and play a stripped-down game of truth or dare—one that winds up with the bartender and Becca (who’s engaged to someone else) at the very least making out.

While intimate moments such as these are animated, as are the show’s moments of violence, the rotoscoping lends more reality to these scenes than you’d find in more traditional animated programs. And there’s obviously no way to soften the language we hear (which can be quite harsh, despite its ostensible TV-14 rating) or its liberal use of alcohol.

Undone is, on one level, a scintillating achievement. It’s also deeply problematic. And for many, that may push Undone into its own special timeline: never.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Sept. 13, 2019, Episode 2: "The Hospital"
Sept. 13, 2019, Episode 1: "The Crash"

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Rosa Salazar as Alma Winograd-Diaz; Bob Odenkirk as Jacob Winograd; Angelique Cabral as Becca; Constance Marie as Camila Diaz; Siddharth Dhananjay as Sam; Daveed Diggs as Tunde

Director

Distributor

Network

Amazon

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Released

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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