By Dave B.
Carmen Sandiego (Netflix) follows the exploits of the eponymous thief as she travels the world stealing from and thwarting the plots of V.I.L.E., the globe-spanning criminal organization that raised her since infancy. While battling V.I.L.E henchmen (who are her former classmates), Sandiego must also evade Interpol and A.C.M.E., a shadowy organization with an agenda of its own. Because her Robin Hood-esque heroics and ability to evade the most dogged pursuit despite always wearing her bright red coat and hat, Sandiego is the most wanted woman on the planet, leading everyone to ask, where in the world is Carmen Sandiego???
There are two lenses through which to view Carmen Sandiego. The first is how it’s target audience of children is likely to respond to it. The second is how adults who choose (or are forced) to watch it will feel about it. Well, as to the former, kids will LOVE this show. The animation is superb, the fight scenes are surprisingly competent, and the story strikes a pretty decent balance of backstory, mystery, and moral certitude. Each episode also delivers some interesting little factoids about the setting where the episode is taking place. If I were a pre-teen, I would definitely watch Carmen Sandiego.
As for older audiences, Carmen Sandiego will be less enjoyable. It’s certainly not bad. But it’s lacking in complexity and can be overly repetitive and predictable at times. Some degree of simplicity is to be expected in a show made for children, but Carmen Sandiego represents a rather extreme case of it. Every episode centers around Sandiego as an individual, instead of how she fits into a more complex, intertwined world. And each episode’s unceasing avalanche of puns devolve from mildly amusing to mind-numbingly annoying very quickly.
In short, Carmen Sandiego is a few years behind the curve in modern children’s show storytelling and script-writing. It makes up for that to some extent with its technical proficiency. But my main issue with this show is that I don’t believe its ceiling in subsequent seasons is much higher than what it achieved in Season One, which is solid, but unspectacular. Netflix certainly deserves credit for making quality shows that appeal to younger demographics. But Carmen Sandiego is definitely more middle of the pack than some of its other offerings such as The Dragon Prince or The Hollow. I’ll recommend Carmen Sandiego, especially for younger audiences, but with the caveat that future seasons are unlikely to be much better (or much different) than this one. This isn’t a series that one should get overly attached to because it may not be around for very long.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.