“BoJack Horseman” creator’s characters follow an aesthetic formula: self-destructive, self-abasing and utterly relatable. As Amazon Studio’s first adult animated series, Bob-Waksberg’s “Undone” launches into the existential crisis of the central character, Alma, as she ponders her mundane day-to-day routine, and leads to a penetrating exploration of human reality. The show is animated by Dutch artist Hisko Hulsingm, whose works include HBO’s “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck,” using rotoscope animation to live-action performances. This process has never been used to animate episodic television before.
Following a near-death car accident, Alma (Rosa Salazar), discovers her ability to warp time. With her newfound ability, she sets off to investigate the truth behind her father’s (Bob Odenkirk) death. Using her new relationship with time, Alma’s understanding of connection and family expand to help her journey through exploring the mystery of her father’s car accident. The series contextualizes the elastic nature of reality, memory, human capability and relationships in a half-hour stylistic comedic drama. And though funny, the show also tackles some more serious issues, such as mental illness, suicide and loss. It questions the nature of the main character’s reality, doubting whether her powers are real or if she has simply inherited a familial mental disorder.
Alma is quirky and funny, but at times unlikable. Her facetious way of dealing with problems is not only exasperating to her family members but can also be off-putting to viewers. Coupled with her new ability to change time, her arrogance in dealing with relationships doesn’t seem to have any consequences. In multiple scenarios, instead of dealing with her actions, Alma runs away or completely ignores them.
Packing all these sensitive issues into only eight half-hour episodes can sometimes feel inundating, especially in the era of binge-watching. But with a thoroughly charming cast: Constance Marie as Alma’s mother, Angelique Cabral as Alma’s sister and Siddharth Dhananjay as the easy-going boyfriend, these subjects feel more relatable and understanding than the average money-hungry production cooperation pretending to understand the human condition. Or in Alma’s words, “Every part of our natural lives has been commodified, taken from us and then sold right back to us.”
With intelligent and thought-provoking episodes, the show had a very stimulating start only to sadly have an ending as mundane as Alma’s daily routine. Though unsatisfying and vague, the open-ended finale proves “Undone” might indeed not be done just yet.
A version of this article appears in the Monday, Sept. 30, 2019 print edition. Email Nyssa Joseph at [email protected]