How my heart was stolen by an actual thief

"Carmen Sandiego" review.

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Carmen Sandiego, the fierce female icon to many small children of the 1990s, is just like the murderous manly icon to many grown men and women of the 2010s, The Punisher. The Punisher does bad things to bad people because bad things happened to him, and Carmen Sandiego does the same thing for the same reasons, just way less violently and completely different. She’s a thief, but she only steals from other thieves. She’s Robin Hood, but you can call her Carmen. She’s not violent, as it is a show made for children, but she does give some bad thief-guys a few kicks. Other than that, Netflix’s Carmen Sandiego consists of great suspense, humor, and learning. So, a little unlike The Punisher, I guess.

This minimalistically animated show has wonderful scenery. The action scenes are exhilarating and the quiet moments are stunning for the peepers. When the character’s talk, it doesn’t look unnatural, like it does in lots of other animated media, but this is also helped by the (mostly) fantastic voice-acting. Carmen’s voice actress, Gina Rodriguez, gives a wonderful and crisp performance, as does her hacker sidekick’s voice actor, Finn Wolfhard. There were some voice-actings that just didn’t feel right to me; Rafael Petardi as Chase Devineaux (a guy who keeps chasing Carmen), and Charlet Chung as Julia Argent (that guy’s assistant), to name a few. Their voices seemed very unnatural, even though they fit the animated mouth movement perfectly.

I wasn’t hooked by the first episode of this first season, or even by the second. The first two episodes tell Carmen’s origin story, which isn’t the most original origin story in the world, but is still mildly interesting. She was found on an island as a baby with no parents, (she doesn’t know by whom, which is a big question in this season), and was raised by some thieves, to do some thieving. She went to thief school and met a cool boy, Gray, who was too cool for her, but was still nice. She met a mean girl, Sheena, who thought she was better than her, and did everything she could to prove she was. Forbidden romance and petty rivalry, it’s pretty basic writing. By the third episode, it had finally reached present day, Carmen Sandiego was kicking butt and taking riches, and I was so into it.

I was so into it until the suspense was completely blocked by very blatant and awkward schooling lessons. Every time Carmen was about to go on a mission, she would be taught a bunch of new things about where she was going by Player (her sidekick) in some pretty ugly infographic-looking animation. This was great for kids (for which the show is intended), but for a hardcore crime lover like me, it wasn’t. This didn’t ruin the show for me, but it didn’t boost it either.

The show has some super interesting mysteries and some intense fight scenes, but it also develops its plotlines, characters and relationships so well, to where the final few episodes almost only consisted of hugely rewarding payoff. By the final episode, I had been pleasantly surprised and emotionally hurt so many times, I was starting to dread its conclusion. However, that conclusion was masterful and the last few minutes were packed FULL of wild twists, action and still all tie together for an exciting, yet quiet, sendoff. Luckily, it’s been renewed for a second season, and hopefully season two is more like the last three episodes of season one. Carmen Sandiego season one starts slow, but builds up enough momentum by the final episodes to make it a show I would confidently recommend (to a child). I give it 3.5/5 stars.

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