REVIEWED: SEASON 1 (ALL EPISODES) | WHERE TO WATCH: NETFLIX
Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? Or rather, ‘who’ is Carmen Sandiego? If you’re from the UK or under the age of 25, you’d be forgiven for asking the latter. Starting off as a series of educational video games in the US in 1985, Carmen Sandiego spawned a whole range of ‘edutainment’ products, including a couple of TV shows, and eventually the animated series ‘Where on Earth is…’ in the ‘90s, complete with the then requisite catchy yet repetitive theme tune.
Netflix’s new incarnation of the property tells the story of a young girl initially known as Black Sheep. Found and taken in by a school for thieves run by an organisation known as V.I.L.E., Black Sheep (voiced by Annihilation’s Gina Rodriguez) is one of the most promising students, but when she fails her final test,
she sees her classmates all graduate ahead of her. Unwilling to accept this, she flees V.I.L.E.’s island with the help of a hacker from the outside known as Player (an obvious nod to the video games), by disguising herself as the organisation’s bookkeeper (voiced by Rita Moreno, Carmen from the ‘90s cartoon), donning the iconic long red coat and hat. She tags on to the first mission of the graduates but discovers that their methods and intentions for thievery are, who’d have guessed it, pretty evil. Changing her name to Carmen Sandiego, her and her crew - consisting of Player (Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard), and an annoying brother/sister duo - attempt to hurt V.I.L.E. by stealing from them over the course of the series, all the while being chased by ACME agent Devineaux, an ex-Interpol operative complete with dodgy French accent.
Other than the opening two-parter, most episodes are fairly self-contained, eschewing Netflix’s usual binge-watch style; though a nice twist in the series’ finale does tie up some loose ends. The show also still retains some of its educational background in the form of clumsy little back-and-forths between Player and Carmen, clearly there to just tell the audience a bunch of facts about the place that they’re going to. As stylish as the animation style is, none of the characters (Carmen aside) have much going for them, and the writing is lazy and generally lacks wit. Sadly, it’s hard to see anyone whose age has hit double figures taking much enjoyment out of this.