A couple posts ago I mentioned that I was anxiously awaiting the release of the final eight episodes of Bojack Horseman, and I was not disappointed. The show’s ending was somber, bleak, yet somehow managed to be optimistic at the same time. It was a satisfying ending, with a final scene that I felt was pitch perfect, cementing its place among my all time favorite TV shows. If you never jumped on the Bojack bandwagon, I can’t recommend it highly enough. However, I’m going to talk about a different show created and produced by the same team behind Bojack, Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Kate Purdy. I’m here to tell you about a show called Undone.
Alma is living her life, working at a daycare, bickering with her sister and mother, when, after a fairly intense argument with her bride-to-be sister, she is in a serious car accident. Seconds before the accident, she thought she saw (hallucinated?) her dead father standing on the sidewalk watching her. In the hospital, she sees him again, and he speaks to her. He tells her that the accident and the subsequent coma she was in have awakened an ability in her—the ability to jump through time. He needs to help her hone this new skill, he explains, so she can go back in time and prevent his murder when Alma was eight years old.
The first episode of Undone is very straightforward, for two reasons: to give you a sense of who these characters are and what Alma’s life is like, and to get you eased into the rotoscope animation style used to brilliant effect in the show. Perhaps best known from the Richard Linklater film A Scanner Darkly, rotoscoping involves animators tracing over actual motion picture footage frame by painstaking frame. Once Undone gets to the meat of the story and Alma begins hopping through time, the animation helps push the surreality of the story.
Much like Bojack, the characters on Undone are complex and well-written, with flashes of humor thrown into the drama. As Alma explores her newfound powers with help from her dad, the circumstances of her dad’s murder begin to reveal a hidden story that shocks everyone involved. Despite not being the biggest Sci-Fi fan, I’ve always had a soft spot for time travel (the time hopping around season five of Lost was when I really hit my peak fanboy for that show). The problem with a lot of time travel plots, though, is that it’s easy for them to get incredibly complicated and hard to follow. I’ve long heard about the movie Primer, a time travel movie that by all accounts requires multiple viewings to even begin to understand what’s going on. This is another area where Undone succeeds—Alma’s father (played by the wonderful Bob Odenkirk, from Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and the cult sketch show Mr. Show with Bob and David) explains the science and theory behind the time hopping in a (fairly) easy to understand way, helping Alma, and us, follow along. Also helpful is the fact that rather than the normal hour long episode length for a show of this type, the show is instead spread over eight half hour episodes, making the mind-bending concepts easier to digest.
Undone has been renewed for a second season, so take the time to get up to speed on the first season so you’re ready to go when the next one comes along. Between this show and Bojack, I’m seriously beginning to think that Raphael Bob-Waksberg may be the most exciting storyteller working in TV today.