Netflix version of Carmen Sandiego lacks originality

Ian Wesselhoff, Staff Writer

When watching Netflix’s new series Carmen Sandiego, centered around a Robin Hood-type thief, the question on viewers’ minds isn’t “where in the world” she is. More likely, it’s “how many more cliches are they going to be able to fit into this?”

Whether it’s the expert hacker who easily dismantles a museum security system, the generic eccentric French detective, or the not-so-subtly-named “Black Sheep,” it feels like this series is filled with bits and pieces of other, better shows.

In Carmen Sandiego, the protagonist is raised on an island host to a school for thieves. She soon realizes her classmates were using their abilities for evil, and she vows to use her skills only for good. In the second episode, it’s revealed that the whole time she was only stealing from other thieves.

It has its good moments as something that could potentially attract an older audience in addition to the younger target demographic. Detective Chase Devineaux’s rooftop scene, ending with a car alarm and a broken windshield, was somewhat unexpected and relatively funny. Another clever bit was when Graham, a classmate of Sandiego’s, ponders a new code name and lands on “Graham Crackle.”

Those glimpses of what the show could be makes it more disappointing when one looks at what it actually is. Of course, when reviewing a kids’ show, it’s necessary to keep the audience in mind, but I believe there needs to be a balance between jokes for kids and jokes for their parents.

Take Phineas and Ferb, essentially the gold standard for kids’ TV, they don’t cut down on cleverness just because it’s meant for a Disney Channel audience.

The acting isn’t bad, but the writing is occasionally very awkward, probably unintentionally. Most of the lines belonging to “Player,” the preteen hacker who works with Sandiego, put Finn Wolfhard in a difficult situation trying to make them sound normal.

Carmen Sandiego isn’t a bad show. In fact, compared to others like it, I think it’s above average. But until the show demonstrates more consistency in the clever moments it’s capable of, it can’t get any higher than a three out of five stars.