There’s nothing more relatable than family drama. Everybody has scars they don’t want others to see, and even the tightest of broods can fall apart at the seams when those wounds are exposed. While this is rarely a good experience for those personally affected, it’s almost always a source of interest for those who aren’t, and frankly, it makes for some great television. Perhaps this is why there are countless shows on the air about dysfunctional families, all doing more or less the same series of tropes with varying degrees of success. From This Is Us to A Million Little Things, it’s simply large groups of people in small towns who consistently refuse to give each other their whole truths. This is why Undone‘s unprecedented second season, coming soon to Amazon Prime, is so wildly refreshing.
It’s been a long while since the show’s first season dropped in 2019. The world was a vastly different place, and it’s easy to forget about anything “normal” that happened just before a global pandemic permanently changed society’s way of life. However, it would be a shame if nobody came back for another round of Undone, which is the best “family drama” program produced by a studio in the last several years. Developed by BoJack Horseman creators Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Kate Purdy, the series revolves around a young woman played by Alita‘s Rosa Salazar, whose near-death experience reveals she has a unique connection with time. Her character, Alma, can travel through memories (both her own and others) to interact with time in a non-linear fashion, and as she discovers at the end of the first season, even hop between different timelines and dimensions. The initial set of episodes featured Alma attempting to access a world where her father, played by the always delightful Bob Odenkirk, never died, leading to a surprising series of revelations about her family history.
The second season continues this plotline with a twist. After leaping from her own universe to a better one, in which pops avoided making some critical errors and Alma is not considered the family screw-up, she quickly learns her dad wasn’t the only parent with a dark past. It turns out her mother has secrets too, and Alma can’t stop herself from using her abilities to figure out what they are. The problem is, Alma’s abilities are on the fritz due to some to-be-determined inner turmoil, and now she must recruit her more responsible sister to help in the investigation. That’s the set-up, and from there, chaos ensues in the only way the creative team of Bob-Waksberg and Purdy know how to construct. It’s a string of glorious, trippy, emotional, well-written lineal squabbles that might make you laugh and cry at the same time. Or at least do both in the same episode.
Despite the surreal imagery and off-kilter framing device, the real magic of the series is how genuine it manages to feel through all the increasing absurdity. As far down the chronological drain as they go, Alma and Becca, played by Angelique Cabral, never become detached from the task at hand. Where some shows may lean too heavily into the time travel device, Undone is able to use it as a complimentary utensil in its storytelling. The series maintains its focus and uses its distinctive traits to heighten the drama instead of bogging it down. Most importantly, all of the characters involved remain incredibly human. Very rarely is the entire main cast of a series fleshed out so wholly, and even more rare that’s executed with such cleverness. Constance Marie especially, stepping up to a central role in this season, shines with an emotional realism against a dreamlike world.
Speaking of which, the series continues to make good work of its novel appearance. In case anyone is in the dark on this, Undone is animated using a stylistic rotoscoping technique. Live-action performances are drawn over, giving them a cell-shaded outward form, and then placed on top of oil paintings used as backgrounds. The result is something familiar, if not just a little bit off. It’s the perfect imagery for a show whose purpose is to explain that nobody is normal, or completely sane, and that embracing what’s hurt us and what makes us different is the only true path to fully healing. In the eyes of Undone, the world is a beautiful place and everyone in it is just a tad bit obscured from perfection.
It doesn’t seem like a shoo-in for the show to get a third season, but it would be alright if another volume never came. The latest batch of episodes are a perfect conclusion to a two-season arc, wrapping up everything with a purposefully messy bow. If Bob-Waksberg and Purdy are able to think up any more installments to the Undone saga they’d better be every bit as refreshing and satisfying as their previous outings, because what they have right now is a perfectly lovely hidden gem. It’s strange, but I almost hope this is it for the series. Happily ever after, or at least as close as a person can get.