Amazon's Undone Season 1 Review

The Time Traveller's Daughter

by Casimir Harlow
Movies & TV Review

13

Amazon's Undone Season 1 Review

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Taking rotoscoping to the next level, Amazon's Undone gives Alita's Rosa Salazar yet another animated persona to bring to life in this quirky, witty time-distorting mystery drama.

Although the style will take a bit of getting used to - a little bit like that effect which can turn your photos into cartoons - it soon becomes understandable why they chose to make the show like this (it was that or likely dumping a lot of money into the show for CG) and it actually works quite well with the comedy-infused dramatics, whilst literally illustrating the increasingly strange time-travelling shenanigans very effectively.

Rosa Salazar's Alma has just crashed her car, and as we dip back into her life on the run up to this, we realise that not everything is perfect: she's tired of her daily routine with her boyfriend, struggles with her overbearing mother, and is prepping for her sister's wedding. What really sends her over the edge, however, is the appearance of her dead father, who explains to her that his death wasn't an accident - he was killed for his cutting edge scientific research. Moreover, he wants her to find the culprit and, since the car crash affected her brain, he wants to teach her how to travel through time so that she can go back and stop him from ever being killed.

Undone is well-scripted and well-acted, slow-burning the more complex time-travel aspects, and the wilder effects, and integrating them into a dramatic family-and-friends dynamic which feels authentic and... natural

Undone is well-scripted and well-acted, slow-burning the more complex time-travel aspects, and the wilder effects, and integrating them into a dramatic family-and-friends dynamic which feels authentic and... natural. It initially feels like just another (admittedly witty) family drama, This is Us-style, as Alma struggles with the various intrusive personalities in her life. And then when her dad pops in and she starts skipping around in time, the show goes to a whole new level, coming up with increasingly inventive ways to illustrate Alma's 'powers', as she bends time and reality in her quest to help him.
Salazar makes for a great lead, given much more to chew on than in Alita (although a sequel might have helped with that), and enjoying her sarcastic, troubled protagonist here whose antics could easily be the behaviour of someone with serious mental health issues (her skipping through time sometimes leaves her with memory holes, and her talking to her dead father looks particularly odd).

There are also a number of recognisable supporting players - Life in Pieces' Angelique Cabral is good as the sister and Blindspotting's Daveed Diggs looks hilariously bewildered as her co-worker, whilst we get cameos from bigger names like Waterworld's Jeanne Tripplehorn - but the series is driven by Alma and her dad, and Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), is tremendous as the dead scientist father.

Undone blends drama, comedy, sci-fi and murder mystery adeptly

Just as comfortable kicking around in a bar, or mooching around at home dealing with the ostensibly mundane day-to-day, as it is testing the boundaries of time-travel, dipping back and forth unpredictably, and using interesting ideas to keep the characters at once grounded and seemingly insane (Alma has to perpetually play blackjack on a little handheld device to avoid skipping around time uncontrollably - which obviously sets off alarm bells with everybody who interacts with her whilst she's constantly clicking away), Undone blends drama, comedy, sci-fi and murder mystery adeptly. It's also delivered in nice bite-sized 20 minute chunks, and with just 8 episodes the whole damn thing amounts to little more than a long movie, making a binge watch all the more practicable, even if the flip-side to this is that, come the end, you'd happily have more.

The gimmick of the rotoscopic animation technique will undoubtedly put off some - a little imagination and some restrained effects and they could have live action'ed this with a Quantum Leap vibe, so there's no denying that a part of this stylistic choice is to attract viewers through labelling this as 'the first ever TV show with this type of animation' (c.f. A Scanner Darkly) - but it works quite well in the more dream-like/nightmarish sequences, or floating around in a galaxy of stars as our leads chat about what the hell is going on. And, after a few episodes, you should be hooked by the rest of the mystery, and the quirky characterisation anyway.

Scores

Verdict

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8
8
AVForumsSCORE
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10

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