Carmen Sandiego was a game created in the eighties to help children learn geography. In the nineties, a show was made to reflect the game, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? The show focused on the same elements with Carmen as the leader of VILE, a criminal organization stealing items from around the world, chased by ACME, a clandestine group trying to stop VILE. I loved the show. It didn’t talk down to kids and actually taught them facts in a fun way and the theme song was incredibly catchy. Now Carmen Sandiego is back and we have a new version that’s equally well written with all the elements that I loved about the original.
Carmen Sandiego (Gina Rodriguez of Jane the Virgin stardom) in this version is no longer the leader of VILE but she’s still a world class thief being chased by Interpol, a modern day Robin Hood who’s actually fighting VILE herself. This is the fourth version of Carmen Sandiego and the first one created since 1999. Carmen succeeds with the help of her best friend Player (Finn Wolfhard) who is a white knight hacker. As we watch the introduction, we learn that Carmen is an orphan who was raised in a school run by VILE. When she learned the truth, she set about dismantling them one robbery at a time as she attempts to learn about her past and stay free of the law enforcement agencies hunting her.
As Carmen and her crew head around the world stealing items, most of them have historical or geographical significance. One of the best parts is the way the show shares information about the items without talking down to the audience. It manages to impart knowledge in a fun and exciting way while still having an underlying plot that threads the season. I think if you’re a parent the topics introduced in the show really will lead to great conversation and allow children to learn so much more than just in a traditional way.
One of the great changes to the show is that Carmen is no longer a villain. When she was introduced, she was one of the first Hispanic characters on television and certainly one of the first animated Hispanic characters. But in today’s society to have her be a villain might have been questionable. In changing that dynamic, you create a stronger, more dynamic character and give Latina girls a true hero to root for and emulate. I think young girls will love her and I know I appreciated the work in creating a new, distinct version, providing a huge plus for the new show.
Not only is Carmen a wonderful character but so are the others. While not all of them are as well developed, they all add to the story and are full of surprises, even the members of VILE. There is a massive diversity to the world, with characters from all around the world. Among Carmen’s crew, she has Ivy and Zack, brother and sister who she has assisting her in her capers. The pair are from Boston, played by Abby Trott and Michael Hawley. Chasing her is French Interpol agent Chase Devineaux (Rafael Petardi). Assisting him in his pursuit is Julia Argent (Charlet Chung), British Interpol agent. Dawnn Lewis plays Chief, Head of ACME, the law enforcement agency after VILE. Beyond their diversity, we also see a similar range in VILE, having characters from around the world. This not only creates a broader world but helps with the teaching of geography and history. It also makes for far more interesting and intriguing characters.
The animation style is well done. While this might seem like damning with faint praise, really it stands up to some of the best animation I watched when I was younger and seems like a match to the current animation on television and in film. Netflix has brought their usual quality to the visuals and the design of the characters is as striking as it was in the original. Carmen looks younger but that will help engage younger viewers while still wearing her trademark red coat and fedora. All of the characters have a unique look and will appeal to both children and adults.
Overall, the show, even with some predictable beats in the plot for children to guess the mystery, allows for plot twists and surprises along the way. Carmen is a very approachable and likable character, a true hero for girls to relate to and watch. The world is full of diversity and the content is enjoyable while still being educational. Both parents and children will love the new version of Carmen Sandiego. If you haven’t watched it yet, I highly really urge you to go add it to your binge list. I know I’m waiting with excitement for the next season already. Catch the trailer on Netflix, I’m sure you won’t stop watching.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Fedoras.