How do you even begin to describe a show like Undone? A cosmic murder mystery? The strangest 'superhero' story you'll see this year? A stunning meditation on loss, trauma and mental illness?
Undone is all of these things and more, shifting back and forth between the mundane and the extraordinary with a gorgeous fluidity akin to the visuals themselves.
It's no wonder then that critics are loving the first season of Amazon's groundbreaking animation, and with that open-ended finale, plenty hope to see Undone return for a second season too.
Unfortunately, doing so would undermine not just the ending, but the entire show, undoing *ahem* its key message.
Watch out for Undone season one spoilers from this point on.
Early on in the pilot, a young woman named Alma (Rosa Salazar) crashes her car after noticing her father standing by the road. Jacob (Bob Odenkirk), a theoretical physicist who died years before, tells his daughter that she possesses the ability to move through time and space, something which she must use now to travel back and prevent his murder.
As Alma becomes more and more disconnected from reality, the close relationships she shares with her sister Becca (Angelique Cabral), her mother Camila (Constance Marie) and her boyfriend Sam (Siddharth Dhananjay) begin to buckle under the strain as we too begin to question if these powers are real or if Alma inherited schizophrenic traits from her grandmother.
Is Alma mentally ill or does she really possess special abilities?
Whether she's helping with wedding preparations or revisiting the death of her father, this question underpins everything Alma does throughout all eight episodes, and it's no accident that viewers are made to second-guess everything they see on screen.
Speaking to Uproxx, co-creators Kate Purdy and Raphael Bob-Waksberg revealed that Undone is deliberately open-ended in this way. As Bob-Waksberg mentioned in the interview, "I definitely want the show to be open to interpretation," and Undone wouldn't work any other way.
If it's made clear that Alma really can manipulate reality, then the show would veer dangerously close to other, more formulaic interpretations of time travel. And if it's revealed that all of Alma's cosmic experiences are actually just a symptom of mental illness, then that could drastically change the tone of Undone.
Instead, season one walks a delicate balancing act between these two interpretations, providing evidence for both.
On the one hand, Alma knows things that she shouldn't know — including the sad backstory of a woman she'd never met before — and the implication here is that she must have learned this information via those extraordinary abilities.
However, it's also established early on that schizophrenia runs in the family, and Alma herself has struggled with mental illness in the past, most notably during her attempted suicide.
After the first five episodes where everything we see is filtered through Alma's viewpoint, episode six suddenly switches things up and forces us to watch her through Sam's eyes instead. Suddenly, the notion that Alma might be talking to herself instead of Jacob, her deceased father, suddenly takes on a tragic realism that's hard to shake.
Undone season one ending explained
Viewers hoping for a definitive answer to this core question in the Undone finale were out of luck.
Whether she really has powers or not, Alma seems to complete her mission in the final episode of season one, saving her father by changing past events. However, we never discover if this actually worked.
Believing that Jacob will emerge from a specific place in Mexico, Alma travels down to the temple she once visited in her youth and waits for the new timeline she's created to merge with our own. Unfortunately, this takes longer than expected, and she ends up waiting all night alongside Becca, who came to check if her sister's okay.
In the very last scene of the final episode, Becca leaves Alma for a moment and suddenly, the camera draws into a tight closeup of her face. As the music rises in time with the sun, Alma's eyes open wide in astonishment, but what she sees is never revealed and the scene then fades to black.
Did Jacob really come back to life thanks to Alma or is she simply imagining that outcome in her head?
If Undone is renewed for a second season, then the writers will have to deal directly with the implications of this ending, and that would miss the entire point of the show.
Why tackle these questions in a second season when Alma's journey is already complete? There's nothing to be gained from giving her another mission in the future, whether that involves time travel or her recovery from mental illness.
Whether Alma is schizophrenic or really can travel back in time, the impact this makes on her loved ones is essentially the same, and either way, everything we've seen so far is real to her regardless. All of the trauma she's processed on this journey is still genuine, and too many answers could undermine that in future instalments.
As much as we would love to revisit this world, the first season of Undone is perfect the way it is, and while some might find the lack of answers frustrating, anything else would betray the spirit of the show.
Hopefully then, Undone is done for good, and we can give no bigger compliment to the show's creators than that.
Undone season one is now available to watch on Amazon Prime.
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