The first season of Undone finished with deliberate ambiguity. Throughout the first eight episodes, the Amazon Prime original walked the line between what was real and what was not, and by the end, never confirmed anything. After making contact with her dead father, Alma (Rosa Salazar) slips in and out of time trying to solve the mystery of his death. In the finale, we’re not sure if she was able to — or even if Alma was actually time traveling or if she was exhibiting symptoms of the mental illness that led to her grandmother’s institutionalization.
But in the second season, Alma now faces a new challenge. Where she once alienated her family, she now pulls more and more of them into the fold, turning Undone from an exploration of one woman’s mental health into a generation-spanning saga. The show, which comes from Bojack Horseman writer Kate Purdy and creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg, feels both the same and different. It expands the scope and tackles different issues than the first season, but ultimately builds up to a similar climatic point — and similarly ends with more questions than answers.
[Ed. note: This review contains major spoilers for Undone’s first season and slight spoilers for the second.]
While season 1 of Undone left it unclear whether the timey-wimey escapades were real or symptoms of Alma’s splintering mind, season 2 answers that immediately: It was all real, and Alma walks through a mysterious temple to another timeline, where her father, Jacob (Bob Odenkirk), is alive and her life is pretty good, all things considered. The other version of herself is a PhD candidate who helps her father in his research. Initially, it’s easy for Alma to enjoy this new life. But she slowly grows restless, and begins to notice that this idyllic timeline isn’t as peaceful as she thought it would be. Alma discovers that her younger sister, Becca (Angelique Cabral), also has time travel powers — and that her mother is having a rough time right now with a problem she refuses to talk about.
Unlike the first season of Undone, the second is a family affair — and for the better. The first season was very much Alma at odds with her mother and sister, devastated by the loss of the special bond she had with her father. When it ends, she has more or less accepted that she needs help and reluctantly turns towards her sister. In this season, however, Alma is the one actively pulling her family in. She realizes that these powers don’t just affect those who have them but everyone in proximity, spanning back in time to her enigmatic grandmother.
Confronting generational trauma is a common theme in movies and television these days. Much like Turning Red, Encanto, and Everything Everywhere All at Once, Undone uses magical elements to examine one family’s complicated past and how the trauma one person undergoes ripples through generations. Just when Alma thinks she’s solved one mystery, she discovers another, and she believes she needs to keep going back in order to get it all right.
Like the first season, Undone’s season 2 animation is done in a rotoscoped style, drawn over filmed clips of the actors. The choice was particularly evocative in the first season, when Alma wasn’t sure what was real and saw the world around her twist and shatter depending on the choices she made. Now, Alma and her family mostly use their powers to slip into other people’s pasts and memories. Instead of the painted backgrounds reflecting how Alma viewed the world, they become different moments of the past, smoke and fog obscuring the memories that some do not want to face. It’s similarly resonant, pushing past the animation clouding whether everything was real or not and into new, vivid territory.
Ultimately, in all that twisting, Undone’s themes end up getting a bit muddled. Alma insists on using her family’s powers to go back and fix things time and time again, pushing Becca and her father to the brink. At one point, Becca asks her if maybe they should spend that effort on the present, but Alma ignores her. It feels like Purdy and Bob-Waksberg are arguing equally for these separate points of view (trying to change the past versus focusing on the present), which undermines each of them. Alma constantly wants things to be good and happy and will take any chance she can to use her powers to fix things, even if that means pushing her family away in the present. But even time travel cannot fix everything, and sometimes you have to accept the bad stuff. This would hit harder, however, if she, her father, and her sister did not use their powers to dive deep into their family’s past in order to reach that revelation.
Then again, Undone built its premise on being unclear, blurring the lines between what was real and what was in Alma’s head. Most of this season does seem like it actually plays out in reality, especially as Alma brings more characters into the fold. But in the end, it is once again ambiguous. And in that ambiguity, those murky themes don’t feel like they necessarily have to be resolved one way or another. Undone is a bit of a slow burn this season, taking time to reveal secret after secret and undo (pun very much intended) each layer. The conclusion is equal parts devastating and hopeful, and even if the specifics of its journey could be stronger, it’s still an emotional and aching gut punch that makes us all wonder what could’ve been.
All eight episodes of Undone season 2 are out on Amazon Prime on April 29.