Undone Season 2 Asks Us To Live in the Truth

Alma looks towards us
Courtesy of Amazon Prime

The following contains spoilers for Undone Season 2 in its entirety (written by Kate Purdy & Raphael Bob-Waksberg and directed by Hisko Hulsing)

Undone Season 2 begins and ends with Alma (Rosa Salazar) at the cave and the immediate aftermath of this scene. Of course, the two times are different in terms of what that aftermath looks like. The first takes us on a journey through time that runs for virtually the entirety of the season, while the second leaves us wondering if any of that really happened and leaves Alma wondering the same.

But as I argued in writing on Season 1, whether things “really happened” isn’t the point. It’s in the space of ontological ambiguity that Undone explores meaningful questions pertaining to the human condition. I worried in the front half of Undone Season 2 that this ambiguity might have been wrecked, as it seemed very clear that everything was really happening. And it was. The question becomes what we mean by “real”—in metaphysical terms Alma’s journeys through time and space may not have occurred, but in terms of her psychic life at least, they definitely did.

Quickly my worries faded and I was sucked into the stakes of the narrative. Alma and Becca (Angelique Cabral) sense something is wrong with their mother, Camila (Constance Marie), and set down a path to find out what it is so they can fix it, despite Becca’s reluctance and the repeated admonitions of Jacob (Bob Odenkirk).

Jacob looks on, concerned, through fog
Courtesy of Amazon Prime

The thing is, both that reluctance and those admonitions are well-grounded. Becca doesn’t want to pry into their mother’s secrets out of respect for her privacy, and Jacob doesn’t want to either, if for somewhat different reasons. He’s happy with the life he has—or any life at all—after he and Alma managed to change the timeline such that he didn’t die that Halloween night. And he wants her to be happy, too.

Alma’s insistence on fixing everything, or undoing the past, indeed verges on the maniacal over the course of Season 2, and we shouldn’t lose sight of that despite her success. But the successes are immensely satisfying, as digging back to the source of Geraldine’s (Holley Fain) trauma leads to immense catharsis and joy.

Geraldine and Alma look upwwards, with some fog around them
Courtesy of Amazon Prime

As S2E7 (“Rectify”) came to a close, I found myself bawling in front of my screen, as the path Alma and Becca started down at the beginning of the season led to Geraldine’s reconciliation with herself, which rippled forward through the timeline. The past was undone in a way that is simply not possible in real life, where we can’t ever go back and rectify the things we regret. But here it feels fully earned. Not everything is fixed of course—the Nazis still take Ruchel’s (Veda Cienfuegos) parents—but Undone brings home the lesson that bad things will happen, and it may be hard to accept them, but we can. Therein lies the path of salvation. What gets rectified is not the traumatic situation in Ruchel’s childhood, but Ruchel herself, in light of that trauma.

And then we see the whole family, happy together and loving each other. Alejandro is now in the fold, as he always should have been. And they dance. And they smile.

Alejandro's face surrounded by flowers, in a way that resembles something like a Frida Kahlo painting
Courtesy of Amazon Prime

The season finale doesn’t pull the rug out from under us and reduce all of the events of the preceding episodes to mere delusion. They may amount to that from a certain point of view, but even so I would suggest it all represents what Jacques Lacan would call traversing the fantasy. I would resist calling all of this a delusion precisely insofar as the term is reductive. Things are not that simple, and it is to Undone’s great credit that the show consistently tarries with just how complicated lived experience is. Even if most of the events of Season 2 lack objective reality, they are subjectively real for Alma, and one might posit that what we’re seeing is her coming to terms with herself.

The most striking thing is the fact that the end of the season in S2E8 manages not to undermine the power of everything in the season that precedes it. Maybe it didn’t happen. Certainly it didn’t happen insofar as we’re watching a TV show. But it did. Emotionally it did, spiritually if you like.

Empirically speaking the most likely thing is that the bulk of Season 2 is in Alma’s mind as she sits in front of the cave. In particular, we’d tie ourselves in knots trying to explain her concern for herself in this timeline otherwise. Doesn’t it seem as though the “bad” timelines have been erased for others? The very perdurance of the consciousness of the Alma we know and love risks becoming the stumbling block to a coherent interpretation that grants the time travel objective reality.

Regardless of how we approach such questions, it’s clear that helping others to confront their truths leads Alma to realize that she has to confront her own. She can’t ignore what’s behind the door—that version of herself sitting outside of the cave in Mexico, right where we left her at the end of Season 1.

Alma sits in front of the opening to a cave
Courtesy of Amazon Prime

Knowing oneself, truly, involves accepting who you are. It involves forgiving oneself. We have to be careful in generalizing this lesson, but what is clear is that in Undone at least, the perils lie in trying to hide from the truth. Camila is afraid to tell Jacob about her past and her son, Alejandro. Geraldine is afraid to acknowledge the little girl she was before she changed her name. All of this cycles back to Alma needing to confront herself and her own truth. Her father is dead and that’s OK.

Or, well, it is not OK, but she can be.

Alma looks back at herself wearing a mask
Courtesy of Amazon Prime

Alma’s journey in Season 2 is more about her connections to Becca and Camila than anything else. She comes to see the way that love exists even in the original timeline of the series. Maybe it’s not so bad to have opinions about beans. Bathtubs are fun, too.

Also Sam (Siddharth Dhananjay) is there, and his brief moments in S2E8 are deeply affecting precisely due to his absence for the bulk of Season 2, save a short conversation with Alma in a reality where they don’t know each other.

Alma and Sam talk outside a restaurant
Courtesy of Amazon Prime

Undone Season 2 is poignant throughout, deepening our insights into Becca and Camila in ways that surely carry over to all of the timelines. It suggests that we are more than what happens to us, which of course we all already know—we are also at least how we deal with it. But beyond that, it gets at the difficulty of the imperative to know thyself, which is easier said than done. We constantly try to hide from ourselves, as Geraldine tries to foreclose consciousness of Ruchel and Camila tries to ignore her past despite its pull.

The ending of the season is again uncertain. We not only don’t know for sure whether the time travel was real, we also don’t know whether the growth that Alma has managed within herself will hold. And yet the stakes of her car ride away from the cave with Becca have been transformed. Alma no longer wants to go back and fix what once went wrong; she wants to move forward, with those she loves.

I sat in the glow of this series as the credits rolled, feeling literal awe in the wake of it. There is a lot of great TV out there, but few things that land so exceptionally. I am astounded that anyone could make anything so beautiful.

And so once again I find myself thinking that this should be the end of the series, but I thought that at the end of Season 1 of Undone, only to have Season 2 blow me away. So if Kate Purdy, Raphael Bob-Waksberg, Hisko Hulsing, et al. want to make more I hope they have the opportunity to do so, and I’ll be first in line to watch it.

Written by Caemeron Crain

Caemeron Crain is Executive Editor of TV Obsessive. He struggles with authority, including his own.

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