Undone Review: A Profound and Promising Sci-Fi Tale

Undone, the first adult animated series from Amazon Prime Video, ambitiously - and effectively - aims be a lot of things at once. The series, which hails from Bojack Horseman producers Kate Purdy and Raphael Bob-Waksberg, is equal parts a murder mystery, a mind-bending sci-fi fable, an intimate family drama, a love story, and a heart-wrenching look at millennial anxieties. The first five episodes of the show establish a poignant, claustrophobic, and deeply fascinating series, which visually and narratively shows just how much modern animation can be capable of.

Undone follows Alma (Rosa Salazar), a young woman who, following the news of her sister's engagement, is questioning what she wants out of her relatively boring life. Alma's outlook quickly changes when she gets into a car accident and begins seeing visions of her father Jacob (Bob Odenkirk), who passed away under mysterious circumstances when she was a child. Jacob tells Alma that through her accident, she has unlocked the ability to navigate space and time, which he wants her to use to uncover the truth behind his death.

On paper, that concept alone certainly has interesting potential, but the series' animation style helps elevate it into something truly special. The use of rotoscoping - or tracing over a recording of live-action performances frame-by-frame - almost immediately gives Undone a sense of magical realism, even before Alma's relationship to reality becomes complicated. The technique works incredibly well in establishing the series' tone -- creating a world that feels close enough to ours but is filtered through layers of performativity and perception. (Even many of the series' backgrounds, which feel rendered like vintage paintings, carry that duality in a subtle way.) This takes on a whole other meaning once the series does dive into a more fantastical territory, with rapid changes in visuals and aesthetic that couldn't be done nearly as effectively in live-action.

Even with (seemingly) all of time and space at its disposal, the narrative of Undone feels incredibly tightly-wound and genuine. Sci-fi elements unfold in an intimate, unpredictable way, to the point where the series even occasionally pokes fun at its bizarre otherworldliness. The tone ricochets from self-deprecating to heartbreaking at the drop of a hat, but still maintains this profound sense of humanity. Much of that humanity is thanks to Salazar's fantastic portrayal of Alma, who is unhappy with the routine of her life, but viscerally feels the freedom and fear that can come from suddenly breaking outside of that.

Like the tragically-canceled Tuca & Bertie (which Bob-Waksberg served as an executive producer of), Undone shows a wide scope of the ways that women function with trauma, but aren't defined by it. This is seen both with the complicated emotions Alma has around her father's death and with her history of hearing problems (something that is hinted at here and there in the series' trailer). Without getting into spoilers, Undone not only normalizes Alma's disability, but it uses it in a profound and tactful way. Alma's relationship with sound (which results in some inspired music cues) serves as a fascinating foil for her newfound relationship with time, in a way that genuinely elevates the entire series.

While Salazar's Alma is an engrossing protagonist, the other people in her inner circle (almost all of whom are people of color, something that still feels revolutionary in a mainstream animated show) make the narrative of Undone often feel magnetic. Odenkirk's Jacob proves to be a truly great foil for Alma, both in the emotional flashbacks to her childhood and in his mentor role to her throughout the series. Alma's sister Becca (Angelique Cabral) and mother Camila (Constance Marie) both bring wildly different, but interesting qualities, creating a complicated but relatable family story in the present day. And Alma's love interest Sam (Siddharth Dhananjay) is one of the most pleasant surprises of the series, especially once his and Alma's history is further explored.

Undone might not be as flashy or grandiose as The Boys or Good Omens, but it shows that Amazon's recent crop of original series continues to add something genuinely interesting to the streaming space. With dynamic performances, an inspired use of the medium of animation, and a binge-worthy narrative, Undone might be one of the most promising early entries of the fall TV season.

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Rating: 5 out of 5

Undone will be released on Amazon Prime on Friday, September 13th.