Netflix Just Quietly Released the Weirdest Apocalypse Show of the Year
After The Last of Us changed the way we see the apocalypse, this series is for the rest of us.
What would you do if you knew the world would end in eight months?
Would you quit your job and see the world? Would you reject society and move into a cabin with all your favorite books? Would you just want to spend that time with your loved ones? For a lot of people, myself included, the question is so overwhelming to fathom, the true answer is... probably nothing out of the ordinary. When they say, “Live every day like it’s your last,” that could just mean following your normal routine — why make a big deal out of something inevitable?
That’s the thesis behind Netflix’s animated series Carol & The End of the World, a ten-episode series following Carol Kohl (Martha Kelly), an ordinary woman coping with an Earth that’s scheduled to collide with another planet in a matter of months. Her world may be crumbling around her, but she clings to her routine and normalcy, and in that, Carol finds joy.
Carol’s world is falling apart around her: her sister is learning different languages, traveling around the world, and skydiving. Her parents are now nudists and part of a throuple. And she keeps finding herself going back to a now-abandoned Applebee’s. She finally finds some solace when she’s swept into a strange building and onboarded into a mysterious accounting firm called The Distraction. Suddenly, as an Administrative Assistant, Carol finds the normalcy and routine she desperately needs. She soon meets hardworking single mother Donna (Kimberly Hébert Gregory) and her carpool buddy Luis (Mel Rodriguez), who become the closest thing Carol has to friends as she navigates a world where she never fit in and now fits in less.
Though the show is created by Colbert Report and Rick and Morty writer Dan Guterman, the comedy is more Bojack Horseman than Family Guy. It’s first and foremost a character study of Carol, a woman who is too anxious to ever be sad, though it’s never clear what she’s anxious about. In one episode, she takes it upon herself to help a lost trick-or-treater, even though it’s April and she’s wine-drunk.
“I have like six things I say to strangers,” she tells a neighbor. “‘Hello,’ ‘How are you?’ ‘Nice to meet you,’ ‘Were you using that?,’ ‘Sorry, I thought you were someone else.’ But with kids it’s a free-for-all. You ask them their name and they say ‘You look sad’ and then forget they ever said it.” She needs to know what to expect from life, even if the only thing that’s left to expect is the end of the world.
We get glimpses of how other people are spending their last months, especially in the anthology episode “The Beetle Broach,” or an episode that splits its attention between Carol’s one-night-stand and his son, and her parents (and their third) on a cruise ship. But it all comes back to Carol, who just wants to find joy in her mundanity.
2023 has been the year of apocalypse media. From January’s The Last of Us to December’s Leave the World Behind, the concept of what will happen to our society during the End Times is too fascinating to ignore. But maybe, when we’re faced with it for real, ignoring it is the only way to truly live.
Carol’s been living like every day is her last the entire time. If everyone else doesn’t see that, that’s their problem. She’s just going to file her papers and make banana bread and be happy.