Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios / IMDb

Amazon's 'Undone' Is a Beautiful Illustration of an Ugly Disorder

Picture this: a woman speeding down the road in a tear-filled rage crashes after seeing her long-dead father in front of her car. This is the first episode of Amazon’s new series Undone. Intrigued? So was I. The show came out earlier this month on Friday the 13th, which is fitting with the show’s heavy and mind-bending portrayal of reality.

Created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Kate Purdy, the show puts a spotlight on Alma, its 28-year-old protagonist who clearly shows signs of schizophrenia. With this diagnosis, that opening sentence I asked you to imagine starts to make a whole lot more sense. So, she’s dead right? Wrong. Instead of dying, she starts seeing her father more and more, and before long viewers learn that she gained the power of time-travel. Using this ability, she is challenged by her father to help him find out who killed him years prior.

To recap, the main character gets into a car crash after hallucinating her dead father before finding out that she really just saw him due to her “superpowers,” and he now needs her help. If you are confused, then you are surely in good company as the entire show bends and breaks reality and our conception of time. In this way, the show is one of the greatest disability studies I have ever seen, read, or otherwise heard of. It gives the audience a look into the horrific and twisted view of a person suffering from schizophrenia in a form that anyone could enjoy. The show in many ways fits the mold of any good streaming series: easy to watch, enjoy, and binge. This “binge-ability” allows it to bring some much-needed attention to mental disability. 

For those who are unaware of schizophrenic symptoms, the National Institute of Mental Health notes that most cases appear between the age of 16 and 30, which happens to be right where our main character lands. Symptoms often include hallucinations, delusions, thought disorders, and movement disorders. Now it should be noted that even without that list, I likely could have named all of those while watching the show. Alma switches back and forth through time like a see-saw, and encounters people long since dead, even seeing herself in the past before returning to the present for dinner with her boyfriend. The show does an astounding job of showing the public how deformed and confusing the lives of schizophrenics can be. 

Furthermore, it does all this in a form that is unlike any other show you can find on internet streaming services (and I mean all of them). The show was shot live-action like normal before a team of artists came in afterward and painted over each scene. The show feels like a walk through the MFA. It is astounding—a breath of fresh air. In a crowd of shows highlighting different aspects of society, Undone stands out with its painted art style. It is in this style where the show truly shines. The jumps in time, spatial alterations, and changes in perception all seem so fluid. The visuals carry you through Alma’s thoughts as if you are thinking the same way. 

After watching a few episodes of this show, you’ll need a break. The amount of visual action and heavy themes are enough to tire anyone out—similar to how those with schizophrenia find their disorder confusing and overwhelming. 

It seems that shows these days on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc. all mesh together. They all are supposedly unique and many of them are critically acclaimed. But if you're anything like me, then you’ve likely gotten bored with them all. It’s hard to pick out a really fresh show in a sea of thousands, but Undone undoes this difficulty (pun intended). It stands as a show that is truly unique and one that gets across a message without pounding it down your throat. You’ll want to watch more, but you’ll be disappointed when you realize that there are only eight episodes at a measly ~20 minutes each.

As I see it, the show doesn’t need another season. The one it has is perfectly good and I wouldn’t want it to be ruined, as many shows that prioritize quantity over quality are. But I am not worried about that for this show. Undone is a piece of art, and not one to be easily reproduced for Amazon’s profit. My only hope now is that there can be more shows that are as unique, interesting, and clever as this one. 

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