Grab some tissues before pressing play on Carol & the End of the World, because you’re in for a bittersweet viewing experience. This poignant animated dramedy imagines how humanity might respond if we discovered the world had an expiration date just months away. Yeah, it’s one of those “make you think” kind of shows.
Created by Dan Guterman, writer on subversive hits like Rick and Morty and Community, Carol certainly isn’t afraid to get weird. But it also isn’t the rapid-fire gagfest you might expect. Instead, Guterman opts for a slowly unfolding character study wrapped in melancholy, following introvert Carol Kohl (voiced by comedian Martha Kelly) as she processes apocalyptic chaos in her own understated way.
While party-crazed optimists live each day like it’s their last (sometimes quite literally), Carol seeks refuge in the mundane routine she’s always known. Her modest ambitions to tidy her apartment or find the perfect burrito feel extra poignant against a backdrop of farewell blowouts and lawless abandon.
It’s a clever premise that uses absurdism and irony to hold a mirror to the human condition. Do we need a looming doomsday to shake up our status quo? What truly constitutes “living your best life” when faced with oblivion? Guterman invites us to see the beauty in supposedly boring goals that give one’s day meaning. And where there’s beauty, there’s also sadness, hence the waterworks.
Between Guterman’s meditative pacing and Kelly’s brilliantly subdued voice acting, Carol makes depression feel quiet, relatable, and yes…almost comforting. It’s one intimate indie film spread compellingly across ten 25-minute episodes. Anchored by a breakout lead turn from Kelly, prepare to fall in love with the beauty and humanity of it all. Just make sure there’s ice cream handy for when ugly crying inevitably ensues.
Anxious Carol in a Carefree Apocalypse
If anyone has an excuse to ditch routine and indulge some bucket list bonanza behavior, it’s the characters of Carol & the End of the World. Set seven months before Earth goes kablooey via incoming rogue planet, the animated comedy finds most humans blowing their savings on extravagant adventures. Every day is spring break in this end of days party!
Well, except for our gal Carol Kohl. Voiced flawlessly by comedian Martha Kelly, Carol is more or less the human embodiment of anxiety and awkwardness. While friends enjoy consequence-free hookups and her own family traipses about in the buff, Carol struggles just to order takeout or do laundry without hyperventilating.
As you can imagine, watching your planet’s population morph into a nonstop circus of exhibitionism makes agoraphobia look mighty reasonable. Carol would much rather hide away in her apartment, thank you very much.
Creator Dan Guterman uses Carol’s disconnect as a nifty metaphor for depression and loneliness. As literally everyone else on Earth chases bliss by living loud and proud, Carol remains paralyzed in her own quiet panic. She’s always seen herself as an outsider peering in at all that elusive “normalcy.” Now, with normalcy extinct, she feels more isolated than ever.
What’s a wallflower to do when mandatory hedonism becomes the new normal?
It’s a clever existential twist that uses the supernatural to comment on the all-too-familiar modern predicament of social anxiety and fear of missing out (FOMO). Carol’s journey becomes increasingly cathartic as she inches out of her comfort zone, one baby step at a time.
Of course, the impending apocalypse makes for colorful background decoration as Carol quests for meaning. Guterman’s animators fill this gonzo world with wild debauchery, sometimes glimpseable just at the edge of the frame. Let’s just say standards of decency have relaxed a bit knowing oblivion is imminent.
Carol may be a panic attack personified, but she’s also inheriting one liberating silver lining from mankind’s imminent demise – the freedom to get really, really weird. Will it be enough to help this underdog finally shake her loner status? This humorous fable holds some profoundly moving insights on how we cope with change, depression, and the human need for connection.
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Carol’s Kooky Inner Circle
Our soft-spoken hero Carol may be a bit of a loner, but she’s got no shortage of offbeat friends and family along for the apocalypse ride. And when the world is ending in seven months, “offbeat” is quite the understatement!
Leading the wackiness are Carol’s elderly parents Pauline and Bernard, played fabulously by veteran actors Beth Grant and Lawrence Pressman. Liberated by doomsday, the adventurous couple have adopted nudism and added Bernard’s hunky male nurse Michael to their relationship as a thruple. Their clothing-optional antics escalate even further when the trio goes full-on polyamory, inviting Michael into their bedroom. What can I say, impending doom makes you frisky!
Carol also has a polar opposite sister in Elena, voiced perfectly by comedian Bridget Everett. If Carol is a wallflower, Elena is basically a firework – loud, colorful, always the center of attention. She fills Carol’s voicemail with travelogues from her global expeditions, quoting poetry while skydiving or mountain climbing abroad.
As Carol timidly re-enters the dating scene, she meets recent divorcee Eric (Michael Chernus) who seems intriguingly normal. That is, until she discovers his intense emotional issues post-breakup. Let’s just say Eric would also benefit from some group therapy in coping with apocalyptic stress.
Finally, Carol finds her kindred spirits in two co-workers – Donna and Luis (Kimberly Hébert Gregory and Mel Rodriguez). The three bond through the shared orderly comforts of their office jobs, clocking in every weekday despite imminent armageddon. Their understated ambitions become an endearing and often hilarious commentary on workaholism in the face of utter futility.
Somewhere between nudist sexagenarians, base jumpers, and emotional basket cases lies the quiet wisdom of Carol and her cube-mate allies. For all its absurdity, Dan Guterman has crafted quite the thoughtful ensemble to dissect life priorities when time is running out. After all, who BETTER to ask than those already set to expire alongside the world?
Big Existential Questions in a Little Animated Package
At first glance, Carol & the End of the World looks like any other raunchy, absurdist adult cartoon. And while it certainly has its fair share of visual gags involving orgies or nudist sexagenarians, creator Dan Guterman has loftier themes on his mind. This melancholic mini-series explores some profound existential questions through the lens of its awkward heroine.
What does it mean to truly “live life to the fullest” when oblivion is imminent? The world’s population answers with a collective yolo, plunging headfirst into wild hedonism. Meanwhile our girl Carol seeks purpose through the comfort of routine office tasks and occasional trips to Applebee’s. Far from a one-note downer, Carol’s mourning for the mundane things we take for granted reveals an underlying celebration of nonconformists.
Guterman reminds us that passion takes many forms – a lust for travel, for new thrills and lovers…or simply joy in the ritual of starting one’s workday. Fulfillment isn’t one-size-fits-all, and facing the end only clarifies how Carol fits into it all.
Beyond titular star Carol, the show frequently shifts perspective to those around her – quirky family, friends, coworkers and more. We discover connections between seemingly disparate characters experiencing the same pivotal moment in different ways. Loneliness and isolation emerge as universal themes, no matter one’s background.
With mortality in the near distance, Guterman has crafted space to ponder life’s essence from all angles. Whimsy and profundity make natural bedfellows here; sometimes all it takes is a nudist traipsing by in the background to trigger an existential crisis.
And handling such weighty themes in animation allows Guterman to pepper pathos with magical realism. Ghostly visions haunt Carol’s dreams, while surreal imagery crops up in her waking life too. Animation renders the apocalypse at once more palatable and more chillingly visceral.
Make no mistake though – beneath the belly laughs lies an emotional minefield. Heartbreak and anxiety bubble below the surface before spilling over. Yet the show finds hope and inspiration in how we handle darkness…together.
While most end-of-days tales either wallow in cynicism or peddle saccharine sap, Carol & the End of the World carves a delicate balance. Guterman has crafted a mature animated parable that celebrates the bricks life is built upon – connection, purpose, applebee’s…meeting our mortality with a little dignity. His vivid cast becomes a collective mirror reflecting back who WE are and how we might hope to carry on.
Visuals and Animations Are a Feast for the Eyes
Visually, Carol & the End of the World recalls the exaggerated aesthetic of adult hits like Family Guy or Big Mouth. The animators paint in broad, cartoony strokes, with an eye for absurdist gags. Jokes litter the background – parachuting couples, impromptu dance parties, the occasional R-rated tryst.
The animation contrasts uniformity and chaos for symbolic effect. Carol’s office space brims with bleak order – monotonous computer monitors under harsh fluorescent lights. Yet outside those stale walls, utter pandemonium rules.
As with workplace comedies like The Office, visual humor derives from this dichotomy between Carol’s sterile, familiar cubicle and the world’s no-holds-barred Bacchanalia. Sight gags imagine a utopia free of inhibitions or consequences – just because the planet has an expiration date doesn’t mean comedy does!
Yet the animators render this mania with thoughtful detail too. Lush sunsets cast an apocalyptic glow, their beauty undercut by the hazy green orb obscuring the horizon. Desolate cityscapes become poetic symbols of Carol’s loneliness. And subtle visual cues echo her slow emotional thaw – cold muted tones giving way to bolder hues.
The series also wields silence and space deliberately, often allowing scenes to breathe where others might cram a frenetic joke. Lingering shots will focus on a falling leaf or piece of litter carried on the wind. These placid moments encourage reflection between punchlines.
It all amounts to a balanced animation style mirroring the show’s tonal medley of melancholy and mirth. The vivid visuals keep us laughing through impending doom, while leaving room to contemplate mortality’s profundity. Or maybe just chuckle at a three-way trapeze act happening nearby.
While many shows take a season to hit their stride, Carol clicks right away in a binge-friendly first episode. But creator Dan Guterman still manages to one-up himself as the series unfolds. Let’s spotlight a few standouts you absolutely can’t skip.
First is Donna’s spotlight Christmas episode “Yule Never Walk Alone.” Carol’s co-worker Donna visits extended family to prematurely celebrate Christmas, knowing the actual holiday will sadly never come. The bittersweet tone intensifies as Donna reflects on past regrets, lamenting time lost to her career that can’t be reclaimed.
Voice actress Kimberly Hébert Gregory layers incredible pathos into this storyline, her moving monologues making us weep alongside Donna. We witness the relatable anguish of hindsight and roads not traveled. Pair it with hot cocoa and tissues.
We also get nice continuity payoff in this episode for gags from the pilot, including Donna’s very own “Carpe Diem” battle cry. It’s a funny ongoing bit that underscores her secret lust for life, percolating now that oblivion has arrived.
Another highlight is episode four, “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” This road trip episode builds sisterly bonding between the eccentric Elena and her reserved sis Carol. Elena films their travels Blair Witch-style on an old video camera, lending intimacy and nostalgic warmth.
We gain poignant insights into both women here – Elena’s remorse over lost time with Carol, and Carol’s difficulty articulating dreams even to loved ones. Their countryside wanderings become a long-overdue confessional, with a picturesque covered bridge serving as both symbolic milestone and speed bump.
Finally, a non-stop rollercoaster of emotions awaits in the perfectly balanced series finale “Last Days on This Strange Rock.” I dare not spoil its plots twists and cathartic moments. Let’s just say Carol’s arc culminates in redemptive fashion after key points threaded through earlier episodes receive masterful resolution.
Bring tissues for ugly crying amidst rousing laughter. It’s just the full-circle gut punch we need as Guterman sticks the landing. From start to inexplicable yet perfect finish, Carol’s journey satisfies.
Finding Meaning Amid Mayhem
Like any good apocalyptic fable worth its salt, Carol & the End of the World uses impending doom as a reflective springboard towards what truly matters. And while hilarious hijinks and visual gags punctuate the journey (nudity abounds, folks), creator Dan Guterman never loses sight of the resonant emotional core beneath the madness.
It’s a delicate balancing act he pulls off well. Laughs coexist naturally with themes of loneliness, isolation, and the universal need for purpose. As anxiety-prone Carol emerges from her shell, she models small triumphs we can all relate to – overcoming fears, putting yourself out there socially, learning to articulate buried dreams.
Her self-discovery feels cathartic because it runs parallel to our own struggles for meaning and connection. Carol’s initial inability to pin down her ambitions in the face of “carpe diem” fanatics serves as a sly metaphor not only for depression, but modern discontent.
Likewise, the show fluidly blends absurdity with painful reality as part of Carol’s awakening. Glimpses into her troubled subconscious manifest as ghostly visions or eerie doppelgängers. Animated flourishes render tangible the surreality of processing trauma.
Yet the most irrational moments are often the most emotionally authentic. Carol’s parents may be nudists embroiled in a throuple with their live-in nurse…but their love feels absolutely real. Punctuating these big character arcs with zany comedy makes the payoffs more earned.
Guterman ultimately gifts us intimate access into the lives of outsiders we’re conditioned to overlook. Traffic managers, data entry clerks, cubicle dwellers…these supposed background players may lack flashy ambitions, but their daily triumphs and tribulations prove truly universal.
By daring to find nirvana inside an Applebee’s, Carol and her allies become subversive everyman heroes. And their quiet journey through Armageddon’s carnival funhouse offers hope that we all can sustain purpose and dignity – right up ‘til the bittersweet end.
The Apocalypse We Need Right Now
Fortunately for fans, Netflix has renewed Carol & the End of the World for a second season, so we can expect more melancholy musings when the series returns. This first season cements the show as a celebration of outsiders coping in their own ways, wrapped in earnest profundity.
Carol herself ranks among the most endearing animated leads in years – a feat owed to Martha Kelly’s uniquely affecting vocal performance. She locates endless pathos in the smallest of reactions, gifting humanity to hyperbolic scenarios.
Backed by strong writing that blends weight and wit, Carol & the End of the World makes a case for honoring life’s subtler pleasures without descending into total mopiness. Darkness of spirit only brings the moments of levity into starker relief.
And while not every episode lands solidly, Guterman and his team clearly approached this high concept premise with great care. Flashes of brilliance punctuate the series, across both comedy and drama spectrums. Visually too, the animation impresses in moments while excelling at more intimate character pieces.
For all its whimsy and sight gags surrounding doomsday, the show harbors profound takeaways on isolation, purpose, dignity and our universal need for connections big and small. It pushes existential buttons in the most ridiculous, resonance-rich package.
We may not know precisely when oblivion awaits, but Carol & the End of the World compellingly explores how we might hope to carry on in the meantime. Just where DID that rogue planet come from anyway? Perhaps season two holds answers…alongside further proof that Applebee’s just may be humanity’s salvation.
Carol & the End of the World
For anyone who feels perpetually out of step with a loud world obsessed with #YOLO hedonism, Carol & the End of the World makes an outcast's anxieties feel familiar, purposeful, and even precious. This dark dramedy uses impending doom to celebrate the understated triumphs that make life deeply meaningful, if not always flashy for the Instagram feed. Quite simply, it's one of the wisest and most resonantly heartfelt apocalypse tales ever crafted – animated or otherwise.
- Strong lead performance by Martha Kelly
- Unique, melancholy tone mixing comedy and drama
- Creative animation and visual design
- Empathetic exploration of isolation and anxiety
- Balances silliness and emotional resonance well
- Some side stories less compelling than Carol's journey
- Absurd comedy won't appeal to all tastes
- Uneven mix of tones from episode to episode
- Ending could feel abrupt to some viewers