Carmen Sandiego has been traveling the world for the past 3 seasons. The world asks if she’s a force of good or evil as she secretly goes behind the scenes to thwart the evil organization known as V.I.L.E. Going into the season, questions were asked. Who was Carmen’s mother? What does A.C.M.E. want with former V.I.L.E. agent Gray? Will Carmen ever get the chance to stop V.I.L.E for good? Last week we got an answer to those questions during its 4th and final season. However, did the buildup warrant what we got? Why did it feel so rushed? If anything, the final season feels like yet another caper. A caper where fans are bait and switched.
Buildup in the Wrong Places?
“Carmen Sandiego” does many things right as a whole but the final season also has some missteps. To be specific, it introduces plot threads and drops them before they have a chance to fully develop. Some of these plotlines even feel like they belong in a season finale rather than jammed in the middle. Granted, the season only has eight episodes to work with but it juggles three different plots with very little time to breathe in between.
The final season of “Carmen Sandiego” also suffers from unnecessary buildup and foreshadowing in places the show never touches upon again. For example, super thieving robots are developed and shown to pose a serious threat near the start of the season. The following episode goes on to show that an entire army is being created and could result in the theft of millions of historical items if unleashed. However, by the end of that second episode the threat is defeated and never mentioned again.
Almost immediately after that threat ends, another high-stakes plot is introduced. V.I.L.E. discovers ancient ruins that relate to the original founders of the organization. The series quickly becomes a race between Carmen and her former instructors to solve puzzles and discover an ancient secret sealed away for centuries. However, while this premise is interesting and entices viewers with a closer look at the founding of V.I.L.E, the secret turns out to just be a stack of gold. The concept of exploring each of the original five members is also dropped pretty quickly despite making an effort to give one of the founders a V.I.L.E style intro.
Tying up the Loose Ends?
Carmen Sandiego gives us pretty fitting ends to most of our main protagonists. We see Carmen reunite with her mother or at least the implication. We see Vile fall and our sidekicks get promoted to ACME agents. Plus, Detective Chase is finally appreciating and respecting Julia more. All seems fine and dandy though right? In a way. The final episode of “Carmen Sandiego” feels way too rushed. Especially in regards to how it handles V.I.L.E’s downfall. The show does provide some potential for amazing writing with dialogue hinting at some sort of ironic defeats or betrayals.
One tease for an ironic defeat comes in the form of Dr.Bellum’s value of machines over humans. She believes that human error is the cause for all of V.I.L.E.’s previous defeats but goes on to show rash emotions when her robot army is destroyed. It almost seems like her comments about human error are setting up for her own final downfall. Instead, the buildup kind of sizzles out, and her defeat is clumped together with the rest of the Faculty during the final episode
The identity of Carmen Sandiego’s mother has been a source of inquiry since she was revealed to be alive in season 3. Who was this mysterious woman? How did she fake her death? The show wrote that character to be just as mysterious as Carmen Sandiego. However, the final season never touches on that. Instead, the mission to find her is given to A.C.M.E. midseason and set aside to make room for the other plot threads introduced in the season. This perfectly encapsulates what the final season does wrong. It creates interesting plots and alludes to deeper writing only to cop out at the last minute.
What Does It Do Good?
Now that we’ve heard the negative qualities of the final season, what does it do right? Well, the art direction is still on point and gives viewers something gorgeous to look at. It has a very picture book-like quality to the design which allows each episode to have very vivid colors.
While the writing for the season’s story is all over the place, the individual writing for each episode is extremely satisfying. Each caper is unique with its location and each character’s skills are used in clever ways to enhance the experience. We do also get some good closure for some of the supporting characters that bring certain plot threads full circle as they become better people. Detective Chase, for example, goes from being a hot-headed detective to someone who is willing to listen, respect his colleagues, and keep an open mind.
One of the highlights in writing a season-long story comes in the form of Gray’s allegiance to V.I.L.E. against his friendship with Carmen. We see him live a happy life only to be brought back in as a thief. The show even goes as far as to make Gray question his true nature. Is he a better person now because he is capable of being better on his own? Or is he only a better person because V.I.L.E. altered his mind to be more docile? This kind of scenario shows that Carmen Sandiego is capable of good plots and twists. It’s a shame the rest of the season didn’t have the same focus.
Where to Next?
As a whole, the “Carmen Sandiego” reboot was one hell of a ride for viewers of all ages. The final season, however, suffered from trying to do too much in too little time. This is not the end for “Carmen Sandiego” though. A live-action movie is currently in the works. It was originally slated for a 2020 release however the current planned release is unknown. It will star Gina Rodriguez who voices Carmen in the Netflix series. For now, Carmen will have to up her signature red coat and hat. Another Netflix series gone too soon. Until the next time we see her brought back we’ll keep asking, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?