Scene it: Let’s get metaphysical with ‘Undone’

A hand reaches out of a hole in a rippled space pattern.
(Bella Pettengill • The Student Life)

A show that makes you laugh and have a small existential crisis at the same time. Aesthetically pleasing rotoscoping. Family drama. This is successful entertainment and also the premise of “Undone,” an outstandingly executed, animated limited series on Amazon Prime.

Ever since Alma, a 28-year-old woman, almost dies in a car crash, she keeps having weird visions, particularly of her long-dead father. Soon, Alma realizes these are not just visions: She can navigate through different timelines of reality. But her family thinks she needs help. Season two tracks the exploration of Alma’s genealogical roots in Mexico and Poland, all while underscoring the strength of the familial bond.

The creators of “Undone” handle the topic of time travel with incredible deftness: The metaphysical element is given just the right level of exposition, and the show knows how to make fun of itself.

While helpful in short bursts to ease a viewer’s questions, too much explanation strips a sometimes entertaining element of mystery that both allows for loopholes — in case the explanation doesn’t, in fact, make sense — and allows for the audience to fill in the blanks with their imaginations (much like the “Don’t Show the Monster” rule in horror films).

Too little explanation can also prove irritating: see my previous column discussing “Nope,” though I have been approached in dining halls by people (respectfully) disagreeing with my opinions.

“Undone” falls into the Goldilocks zone of exposition. When I accidentally stumbled across the show via autoplay, I was hooked. As the plot is full of family drama that could stand on its own, the introduction of multiversal travel is entirely unexpected yet somehow so natural.

At the same time, “Undone” doesn’t take itself too seriously. While a serious tone is not necessarily a bad thing, I appreciate the addition of another show that is endearing for the sake of its emotional content as well as thought-provoking.

On the broad spectrum of science fiction, there are the polar opposites of uptight Sci-Fi and slapstick sci-fi. On the spectrum of uptight sci-fi (think “Inception” and “Star Trek”) to slapstick (“Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”), “Undone” falls somewhere in the middle.

“Undone” is neither serious nor exaggeratedly comedic; it falls in the middle of the spectrum in a pleasing way. The heavy topics of mental illness, multiple universes, cancer, suicide, cultural identity and ethical research (to name a few) are offset by the creators’ delightful senses of humor. The protagonist, Alma, is relatable in her bold, blunt sarcasm. She takes life head-on, whether this comes in the form of bringing her dead father to life in a different reality or helping her sister navigate marital problems, and all with a biting quip.

Though I more readily associate my favorite kinds of sci-fi with a dramatic tone, “Undone” provides an excellent example of balancing the playful with the pensive.

Rorye Jones PO ’22 gaslit herself into thinking she was part of the Roy family after she was spiritually wrecked from watching “Succession” in two weeks while in New York, and spent the rest of her time there aggressively staring down every suited pedestrian (there were a lot) in search of Matthew Macfadyen. She writes for TSL’s TV and film columns.

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