‘Undone’ season 2 is beautiful and restless

Imperfect but beautiful, rotoscopic sci-fi show Undone’s second season loses some urgency but retains lots of enjoyable elements.

‘Undone’ season 2 is beautiful and restless

Amazon Studios

By Valerie Ettenhofer · Published on April 26, 2022

In the first season of Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Kate Purdy‘s rotoskop animation series UndoAlma Winograd-Diaz (Rose Salazar) tries to bend time and space to save his father (Bob Odenkirk). The show is cerebral, with Alma’s father teaching her the complex ins and outs of changing realities, but it’s also deeply emotional. When the season ends, with Alma sitting outside a pyramid in Mexico waiting for her dead father to return despite her family’s insistence that she is mentally ill, it’s all about leaps and bounds.

Undo season two, which premieres on Amazon Prime, wastes no time telling viewers whether Alma’s faith leap worked or not. The show’s second outing, shown close to three years after its predecessor, is beautiful, curious and sometimes frustrating. To speak of the central conceit of the second season would be to ruin its first and greatest surprise, but it is worth noting that the show finds a way to continue to incorporate Odenkirk, while focusing largely on Alma’s mother, Camila (Constance Mary).

In Season 1, Alma is a reluctant, if curious, time traveler. In season two, she is a relentless one who fiddles with different timelines, even when they have reached their most positive possible points. She can not help but mess with perfection, and it seems that the show can not either. Undone season two is still amazing, but it’s not quite the masterpiece that season one was. Most of its shortcomings are due to Alma herself. Salazar is excellent as the funny and adventurous young woman at the heart of the adventure across reality, but she is also a stubborn, careless and at times downright annoying protagonist. While season 1 presented her as what she would call a “family ** coup”, season 2 gives her a stable place in the family – one she does not know what to line up with.

Angelique Cabral plays Alma’s sister Becca, who in the new season struggles with questions about her marriage and a newfound ability to look into the memories of others. Cabral and Salazar have a realistic and captivating sisterhood, with Alma’s stormy muted by Becca’s optimistic practical qualities. The show makes sense to center their ties as the couple explores their devoted mother’s long-standing secret by diving into her and her family’s memories. If the first season of the series isolated Alma in the strange reality of a power resembling mental illness, the second season roots her in a power within her family lineage.

Undo‘s most unfortunate problem, which is also one that can not help, is a matter of timing. As the season digs into generations of family history and explores both Camila’s side of the family and her father, Jacobs, it is more than transiently reminiscent Russian dollsecond season. Of course, the similarities are random, but the fact that Undo will debut after Russian doll makes it impossible not to regularly compare the two. Yet the story the season tells ends up being powerful, far-reaching, and cross-generational.

Despite its imperfections, Undo continues to deliver some of the most effective animated acting on television. The rotoscope technique makes Alma’s life look particularly real, but still allows for freedom in trippy sequences, where she, for example, falls through misty temporal voids or sees someone fail through different phases of their lives. Manager Hisko Hulsing maintains an ambitious vision that anchors viewers and characters with key images – a locked door, a crying baby – that keeps coming back.

Undo‘s unique visuals, which at times give off the air of a moving painting, put its CGI contemporaries to shame. They also allow for unusually expressive acting, and Salazar, Cabral, Marie and Odenkirk all deliver great, free performances.

As beautiful as it is, Undo has lost pieces of itself between seasons. The show was most interesting when it’s most ambiguous, but the second season slips from science fiction to magically realistic territory, almost completely eliminating the plot of mental illness. Nor does it manage to incorporate the Aztec history that supports Alma’s powers. The season stays well enough alone, but by giving up some of what made its first part amazing, Undo is not quite as winning or heartfelt.

Finally, Undo is still good TV, even though it is no longer insane. Salazar’s enthusiastic performance and unique visual style keep the show compelling, though its season two plot feels more like an at times frustrating side mission compared to the astonishingly original mission. And though the show loses some existentialism along with its ambiguity, Purdy and Bob-Waksberg are always focused on deep, dynamic issues of family, history, and the repetitive patterns of both. Even with his restless heart, Undo still manages to deliver some magic on small screen.

Related topics: Undo

Valerie Ettenhofer is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, TV lover and mac and cheese enthusiast. As a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects, she covers television through regular reviews and her recurring column, Episodes. She is also a voting member of the Critics’ Choice Association’s TV and documentary departments. Twitter: @aandeandval (She her)

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