Amazon Prime’s Undone season 1 review: An Absolute Treasure

Undone-Courtesy of Amazon Prime
Undone-Courtesy of Amazon Prime /

Amazon Prime’s Undone is an absolute treasure. The writing remains grounded, the acting draws you in, and the imagery carries you away. Let’s review!

Undone was created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Kate Purdy of BoJack Horseman. The two also wrote a majority of Undone. All eight episodes were directed by Montage of Heck animator Hisko Hulsing. The cast was led by Rosa Salazar (Alita: Battle Angel) and Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul). It also included the always great Constance Marie (Elena of Avalor), Angelique Cabral (Life in Pieces), and Siddharth Dhananjay (The Real Bros of Simi Valley).

When Alma (Salazar) has a car crash, she awakens to find her dead father Jacob (Odenkirk) at her side. Is Alma ill? Is this PTSD from the crash? Can she alter time to save her dad’s life? Undone explores how everyone perceives reality differently and the roles that loss, regret, and FOMO affect that perception. It’s truly one of my favorite shows ever.

Grounding Time Travel

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The story revolves around Winograd-Diaz family. Alma is the older of two daughters. She feels crushed by the mundane repetition of daily life. Her boyfriend, Sam (Dhananjay), lives with her. Sam is in love with her, but the thought of marriage doesn’t work for Alma right now. Meanwhile, Alma’s younger sister Becca (Cabral) is newly engaged.

She craves stability, but her fiance might not be the one for her. The matriarch of the family, Camila (Marie), is a rule driven mom who is all about her daughters. Jacob was a physicist who ran some shady experiments in the belief that time travel and manipulation were possible. He died in a car crash on Halloween night when Alma was around 13. That loss and abandonment follows her through to her late 20’s.

How does a show where time travel may exist stay grounded without turning goofy? Well, Bob-Waksberg and Purdy create fully formed characters in a real world who make decisions that track for their characters. This is key. Sure, there are doubts and leap of faith moments. But these are earned with the storytelling that’s preceded them. You can never tell what’s coming on Undone. But, when it happens, it always fits the character or relationship.

Undone-Courtesy of Amazon Prime
Undone-Courtesy of Amazon Prime /

Also, we’re never really sure if time travel does exist. Alma doesn’t believe it at first, but her father convinces her that she has the gift. Once she starts to believe, Alma is all in and progresses in her training faster than her father expects. To her mom and sister, Alma’s beliefs are a sign of mental illness. There are revelations about a family history of schizophrenia that aren’t just forced on the audience. It’s slowly revealed that Alma’s communication with her dad could be illness related. And, schizophrenia is treated as the serious disease that it is. It’s never played off for laughs.

But, Undone is savagely funny. It’s a real joy and release from some of the heavier moments in the show. Also, it should be used as a guide for all of those who believe we can’t be funny in politically correct times. I’ve always thought that blaming ‘political correctness’ was a cop-out for lazy writing. In Undone, there is a lot of hard core gallows humor that punches way up at the establishment. We’re talking Mortal Kombat II with the “whoop-ey” level punching up that sheds a light on our current society. Nothing is said just to get a cheap reaction. Again, the level of savage fits the character and situation.

Rosa Salazar Rules

Rosa Salazar rules. At minimum, she should get an Emmy nomination for her work in Undone. The entire story lives and dies with her performance. Yes. Undone is rotoscoped, but Salazar acted everything that we see. She draws you in with her performance. Alma could have come off as a very whiny, entitled character. But, Salazar plays it straight up with all of the emotion that a scene could handle. When she was excited, I was on the edge of my seat. When she was sad, I cried along with her. Alma becomes such an earnest person, it was difficult to not root for her to succeed in her quest to alter time.

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 06: Kevin Bigley, Angelique Cabral, Rosa Salazar, Constance Marie, Siddharth Dhananjay, Raphael Bob-Waksberg, Kate Purdy and Hisko Hulsing of 'Undone', Jennifer Salke and guests attend The Paley Center for Media's 2019 PaleyFest Fall TV Previews - Amazon at The Paley Center for Media on September 06, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 06: Kevin Bigley, Angelique Cabral, Rosa Salazar, Constance Marie, Siddharth Dhananjay, Raphael Bob-Waksberg, Kate Purdy and Hisko Hulsing of ‘Undone’, Jennifer Salke and guests attend The Paley Center for Media’s 2019 PaleyFest Fall TV Previews – Amazon at The Paley Center for Media on September 06, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images) /

Bob Odenkirk should get award recognition for his performance, as well. For most of the series, Jacob felt like a character driven by his own selfish needs. But, Odenkirk still managed to ground him as an average dad who was just trying to do his best. When we find out that Jacob was obsessed to the point of using Alma, his own daughter, for scientific testing, it would have been easy to hate him. But the writing and Odenkirk’s reading of it showed a man who was just as shocked and disappointed as the viewers were.

Constance Marie became the mom who went from being a little strait laced to completely rules driven by life events. I felt the pleading and sadness coming from her every word. Angelique Cabral played the perfect little sister who ended up being way deeper than we expected. Again, because of her performance, the turn in her character completely tracked. And, Siddharth Dhananjay makes Sam the lovable clingy guy that takes things a little too far. You can see Alma understand why he made the choices he made. That’s how they’re able to move on. That, plus Dhananjay’s total non-broey performance.

Realities Colliding

The rotoscoping and direction of Hulsing define the possibilities of the Undone world as limitless. This could have been achieved with edited film, but the past smashing into the present just looks more believable rotoscoped. The beautiful oil painting that creates the background match Salazar’s emotional intensity. When she strains to change history, you can see her surroundings strain with her. In one of the key moments of the show, Alma learns that she has always had an Aztec dance in her. When she dances across the decades, the images behind Alma are buoyant. The screen is alive and moving with her. It’s just not possible to do this without the rotoscoping.

Undone manages to be the trippiest show out there, but the way the interpersonal scenes are handled is completely relatable. When Alma wants to shut Sam out completely, she removes her hearing aide. There’s no embellishment of that moment. It’s a powerful act of physically removing someone from your sensory world. Alma does this a couple of times. It’s left there as a real action. Both times it made me gasp. When the writing and acting are on point, there’s no need to add anything else.

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The ending of Undone leaves Alma’s reality in our hands. I thought it was beautiful. It avoided offering easy outs that would cheapen the time we had spent with these characters. This is likely the only season for Undone. If it comes back, I would prefer an anthology approach with a different story, completely. I love this show and I would enjoy spending more time with these characters, but the story they set out to tell was told. Plus, if season two opened up with Alma under psychiatric care, I’d just start bawling.

All eight episodes of Undone are streaming on Amazon Prime. You can check out my individual recaps of each episode on