“Carmen Sandiego” Steals Back Our Hearts with Strong Season 2 Storytelling [SPOILER REVIEW]

Welcome back, ACME agents, VILE, agents, and unaffiliated agents of goodwill! Welcome to our look at the second season of Netflix‘s Carmen Sandiego. Want to know if it’s worth your time after a loose first season? No worries! We’ve got you covered.

Now, there are of course major spoilers for the first season as well as this one – so if you care about that, this likely isn’t the article for you at this time.

If you need to get up-to-speed on where Carmen Sandiego season one left off, we’ve got you covered here!

“The Hot Rocks of Rio: Part 1/2”

We left the bumbling Agent Devineaux having taken a nasty fall onto the roof of his car and Julia Argent, his partner, finally getting noticed for her genius by ACME.

Shadow-San turns out to not be so vile (ha) as he was the one who rescued abandoned Carmen as a baby and raised her with all the tools to bring down VILE. Turns out he’s secretly good? Who knew!

Mind you, it was just an episode ago that Carmen found all of this out, as well as her “origin story”, so she’s still reeling from all those discoveries.

Haunted by her past at V.I.L.E. and her mysterious past before that, Carmen is officially off her game.

Shadow-San gave team Carmen a VILE hard drive full of the plans of their various worldwide operations; all that’s left to do now is to put a stop to them all, one by one.

First up is stopping a (presumably illegal) gem mining and harvesting operation in Brazil.

carmen sandiego
Carmen Sandiego/Netflix

Did you know that Alexandrite is more valuable that diamonds? It’s true – and in this case, VILE hopes to exploit that by mining all the remaining stones and smuggling them out of the country, so they have a complete corner on the market and can presumably sell them at incredibly inflated prices.

So, we see the scheme. With the help of her very Bostonian sidekicks (twins Zack and Ivy), Carmen tracks Tigress, El Topo, and Le Chevre to their base of operations and brings them down with the help of Shadow-San.

She takes the profits from their mining operation and gives it back to the people of Rio de Janeiro in a move right out of Robin Hood’s playbook.

It’s no secret that the first season had a little bit of a rocky start – the story was there, but the mechanics and pacing were a little forced and stiff. It seems that season 2 is off to a better start so far – I think the expanded time of a two part story really helps the narrative.

While the story may not be as complicated as other 44 minute episodes of television, Carmen SanDiego’s action-based story benefits from having the full “hour” of time to catch up with all the stories and serve all the characters without feeling rushed.

Things made sense, the action served the story, and it didn’t feel quite so formulaic as the other 24 minute episodes in the first season.

Overall, the characters are bright and colorful, the world is just dangerous enough to have stakes and VILE is appropriately menancing for a children’s cartoon, and ACME fills the role of “misguided good guys who are always just a step behind”. It’s a fun start to the season and I can’t wait to watch the rest – I hope it continues with this momentum and delivers less of the lulls in story we saw stall out season 1.

“The Daisho Caper”

Shadowsan’s sword has a mate – one that VILE is hoping he will come for. Oh, they’re coming for it – but his real purpose there is to return the relic he stole so many years ago. Spoiler: the sword he carries is the relic that he stole from his brother’s museum. Classy, dude.

But, all’s well that ends well: we get backstory, Shadowsan gets peace for his new life of doing good, and Japan gets a historic artifact back.

“The Fashionista Caper”

Priceless Medici gowns are in a fashion show? Sounds like the perfect target for VILE. But! Never fear: Carmen and crew are here…trailed by ACME Agent Ardent? Yep – and she’s actually competent. Oh boy.

It turns out that Agent Ardent is willing to give Carmen a chance – she actually helped steal and secure the Medici gowns before VILE brainwashed super models could grab them!

Oh – and Shadowsan has a new style and it’s very “trendy Japanese business man” and I am here for it.

“The Boston Tea Party” / “Need for Speed Caper”

Finally, the answer to the question, “How did Carmen pick up these two wacky Boston ginger twins in the first place?” Well wonder no more!

This is a flashback episode and the one that directly follows it is a current caper that centers heavily around their past. The long and short of it all: Zack and Ivy were race car drivers who got in over their head with who they borrowed money from to soup up their car. They lost and instead of getting knee-capped (because this is still a children’s show), they have to jack cash from a VILE donut shop.

Little do they know that fate shined down on them all that night; that was Carmen’s first caper, and she learned quickly that she needs more that her and Player to pull off heists…especially the newest one – a super race car being shown off in Dubai.

Too bad for all involved that the twins bungle it and wind up in jail. Carmen is mad, but they get offered spots on a pro racing team. Luckily for Carmen, they decide to stay with her and the life of stopping VILE.

Carmen Sandiego/Netflix

“The Crackle Goes Kiwi”

Carmen and crew are infiltrating a New Zealand VILE operation…and they are in dire need of someone to handle the electrics. Much to Carmen’s insistence otherwise, they bring Graham (aka Crackle) back into the fold, despite VILE having erased his memories. They construct an elaborate diversion for him so he thinks he’s lighting a ballet, but really he’s helping Carmen.

Spoiler: despite being back in the fray of it all, he still has no memory – and according to Carmen, he’s safer that way; just like he’s safer without Carmen in his life. Womp womp.

“Stockholm Syndrome”

This is another single episode story with lasting effects. In Sweden, Carmen is cornered by ACME as they attempt to recruit her, which ends extra poorly for her. She finds herself stranded in the snow and ice, no way out except to call the chief via pen hologram, who’s the one who got her into this mess.

Meanwhile, Ivy is kidnapped (er, Carmen-napped) while impersonating her to lead ACME agents away from the real Carmen…which went well for both of them. Luckily, Ivy channeled her inner super-spy and not only got what they came to Sweden for, but took down the baddies all by herself.

Ivy and Zack finally get Carmen’s location and go collect her from ACME, who fished her out of the icy pit she was stuck in, half-frozen.

So, Carmen is now less than frosty with ACME and the Chief, but she needs to fully recover first before traipsing back out into the field.

“The African Ice Caper”

With Carmen still recovering,  Shadow-san takes the lead…but another case comes in, and Carmen can’t sit around forever. With Zack and Ivy keeping an eye out for her, Carmen is on the case of a VILE diamond mine.

“The Deep Dive Caper”

Desperate to find out what happened to her family once and for all, Carmen tracks down the file from the operation that brought Shadowsan to Buenos Aries 20 years ago. What she finds is a little shocking: her father was a VILE faculty member who wanted out, for the sake of his family. Unfortunately for him, there is no getting out of VILE, and Shadowsan was sent to “steal his life”.

He never did though, because there was something he didn’t count on: a baby. Carmen, specifically. Before Shadowsan even got the chance to approach him, INTERPOL got there first. A young agent got a little trigger-happy and got to Carmen’s dad. End of the line.

This young agent was never seen by Shadowsan again…until recently, when he saw Carmen talking with ACME’s Chief. So, Carmen hatches a little bit of a nefarious plan to get information.

She (with a lot of help from Player) hacks ACME. In their files, she confirms Shadowsan’s story, and also finds out that her mother is out there somewhere.

Chief reignites her commitment to nabbing Carmen after her little computer stunt, and gets Agent Devineaux back on the team.

Overall, this season of Carmen Sandiego is miles ahead of the first. I’m not entirely sure if it’s the pacing or the fact that now we know what to expect, but this season felt like it told more cohesive stories that didn’t stall out or slow down. That’s important to me especially, because I have the attention span of a jelly donut. Mmmm, donuts…

About Adriel

Adriel is a jack of all trades, but television has been her obsession almost as long as writing and storytelling have. Currently, she works helping bring a myriad of television shows to life through work on screen, on the page, and in production.

twitter   envelope