Kate Purdy and Raphael Bob-Waksberg have both an attraction and a talent for writing about relationships between broken people, which has been responsible for all of BoJack Horseman‘s most devastating moments. Their new Amazon Prime series, Undone, harnesses the same brokenness that made BoJack such a sensation and applies it into a more contemplative and cerebral streaming experience.
Filmed entirely through rotoscoping animation, Undone blends awe-inspiring visuals with brilliantly-realized writing to create an overwhelming sensory and emotional experience. But beyond solely creating something unique for our current era of television, Undone‘s mesmerizing visuals are compelled by its temporally shifting story.
Undone is an examination of the fluidity of time and relationships. Its protagonist, Alma, is a hearing-impaired woman whose quarter-life crisis is fracturing her relationships with her family and boyfriend. When an accident nearly kills her, it also untethers her from time itself. Scenes and people and places begin to melt away in front of her as she tumbles from her present to her future and back again. Guided by her long-deceased father, the first season follows Alma as she masters her new gifts and uses it to solve and prevent her father’s death.
The way the series whooshes through strangeness and fluidity of time is ingeniously contrasted with the tender, poignant and even awkward moments in which Alma manages to sojourn. Her once-appallingly dull life becomes an intricate tangle of mysteries. As she moves through time, Alma uncovers details about her family and her father’s life to solve the mystery of his death. But every time she lands back in her San-Antonio world, her life moves dramatically forward before she can comprehend how. As the secrets pile up and her grip on her power grows, the limitless power of time travel catalyzes the distance growing between Alma and the people around her with sobering impact.
BoJack Horseman fans looking for more absurdist pop culture humor can look elsewhere. Undone is a harrowing and contemplative relationship drama with a surrealist finish. Just like BoJack, Alma’s anxieties and brokenness feel hauntingly relatable. As such, the terror and wonder she feels at discovering her powers crackle with authenticity, as do the splintering relationships around her. But the conflicts they generate all stem from places of brilliantly flawed humanity. The story’s non-linear framing device makes each crack in their relationships a puzzle box, and each is given enough detail to reward multiple repeat viewings.
The secondary characters of Becca, Camila and Sam each evoke a different side of Alma that Rosa Salazar executes with ease.
This is a star-making turn for Salazar, bolstered by her mo-cap performance in Alita: Battle Angel from earlier this year. 2019 has been a big year for her. thanks to her partially mo-cap performance with Alita: Battle Angel earlier this year. By her side, Bob Odenkirk pivots to a new era of his career as Alma’s father, Jacob. Executed with tragic gloom but also sparingly-used playfulness, Jacob is one of the best characters of Odenkirk’s career.
The season plays like its pivotal opening car accident: It starts slow and gradually picks up speed until it is barreling toward an absolute catastrophe. But unlike the opening, the series cuts out an instant before impact. The abrupt close to the season sends the mind reeling as to the entirety of the Undone experience. How much trauma, tragedy, pain, confusion, and information it can effortlessly convey in the span of an afternoon and then leave viewers hungry for more. Its friendly and inviting five-episode, 22 minutes run time all at once feels maddeningly short.
Purdy and Bob-Waksberg might be the best writers working in television. A new series seldom emerges so assuredly as an indispensable masterpiece of the era. Not even BoJack could accomplish that in season one. But Undone is a visual and cerebral experience unlike any other. It inspires dozens of more hours of contemplation and analysis than it even requires to watch. It is a project so poignant and unique that it deserves to elevate every artist and creator attached to new heights, which firmly cements its status as one of the best shows of the year.