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YMMV / Carmen Sandiego

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For the 2019 animated show:

  • Adorkable:
    • While not so much as an adult, Carmen did show this as a child with how excited she was to be in the outside world, making her really cute with her determination.
    • Julia Argent can be like a lovestruck dork when she tries interacting with Carmen and saying one liners to impress her. "The Fashionista Caper" has her practicing what she'd say to Carmen when they meet again, all done in a cute way.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: In the first season finale, when Coach Brunt tries to kill Carmen via a bear hug, was she really trying to kill her for her betrayal or because she thought that giving her a quick death would be far better than whatever V.I.L.E. planned to do with her?
  • And You Thought It Would Fail: When the first trailer premiered, it was praised for its appealing art style but otherwise expected to be no more special than any other reboot that was capitalizing on both millennial nostalgia and "wokeness" by turning a 90's Villain Protagonist into a hero. Thanks to positive word of mouth about its gripping plot and excellent characterization once it premiered, it quickly became one of Netflix's most popular animated shows and is largely seen as one of the best reboots of The New '10s.
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  • Author's Saving Throw: A small one for fans who missed the franchise's initial premise. Towards the end of the final season Carmen is brainwashed into becoming a loyal V.I.L.E. operative, forcing A.C.M.E. and her allies to embark on a more traditional hunt for a now-villainous Carmen Sandiego whose morality is more similar to her original characterization within the franchise.
  • Awesome Art: DHX Media does a great job updating the character designs into a hugely appealing outline-free art style and the animation itself it gorgeous, especially the fight choreography. The backgrounds also do the numerous geographical locations justice.
  • Awesome Music:
    • It wouldn't be Carmen Sandiego without an awesome theme song.
    • Zack and Ivy's karaoke duet of "More Than A Feeling" by (who else?) Boston in "The Daisho Caper."
    • Both of them also get to do a freestyle version of Rockapella's iconic theme to Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? in the "To Steal or Not to Steal" special. The unlockable bonus scene takes it Up to Eleven by turning it into a Crowd Song, with every single recurring character, both villain and hero, joining in.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: In "To Steal or Not To Steal", Carmen has an Imagine Spot doing a sexy dance while reluctantly waltzing with a man.
  • Broken Base:
    • Zack and Ivy's Hollywood New England schtick. The show never stops reminding the audience that they're Bostonian. Some find it charming or even so stereotypical it Crosses the Line Twice and becomes hilarious. Others find it annoying or even distracting.
    • Carmen’s Adaptational Heroism is also debated by fans. Some find it an interesting new take on a classic character and like that she's more morally grey than outright heroic, while others feel that she would have been better as a full-on Villain Protagonist. This gets rectified during the end of Season 4, where the Brainwashed!Carmen is pictured to be closer to her original counterpart, albeit more ruthless than before.
  • Character Rerailment:
    • Julia's role in the first season is mostly to be the Only Sane Man of the duo of her and Chase compared to her Treasure of Knowledge counterpart, where she was an active agent with a personal history with Carmen. Near the end of the season, she finally stands up for herself against Chase shortly before V.I.L.E. captures him. In the season two premiere, the A.C.M.E. Chief promotes Julia to an agent without Devineaux as a partner, giving her a chance to shine.
    • Chase's characterization in the first season essentially boiled down to "act first, think later", a far cry from the competent detective his games counterpart was. Season 2 re-rails his original role as being Carmen's equal by showing that when he actually applies some brain power, he becomes very competent, to the point that he was able to locate V.I.L.E headquarters with just a few hints (although by the time he goes to apprehend them, they're long gone). He keeps his increasing competence up in the third season, and even comes around to accepting that perhaps Carmen isn't the primary threat he should be working to defeat. He carries it all the way forward to the final season in which he reunites with Julia and proceeds to be more deferential and appreciative of her talents.
  • Crosses the Line Twice:
    • The scene where Carmen mentions that Dr. Bellum's imitation rice tastes gross. She says that when she was a toddler, they fed some to her. It wouldn't be funny given the scheme to ruin Indonesia's rice crops so that the locals have to buy the imitation rice, except that toddler Carmen tries one spoonful, takes a Beat, and starts crying. So at least we know it's safe for consumption.
    • As mentioned above, for many, the show's near-constant jokes about Zack and Ivy being from Hollywood New England starts off kind of funny, then gets annoying fast, then just keeps getting more and more stereotypical until it's hilarious.
  • Crossover Ship: A few people have taken to pairing this incarnation of Carmen with Joker both platonically and romantically, as they're both thieves with noble intentions and an association with the color red.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse:
    • Despite having a comparatively smaller role to other characters, Paper Star received a lot of love for her unique design and Ax-Crazy personality. Many fans were not happy that her sole appearance in the final season was just a cameo with no lines.
    • Mime Bomb, despite having much fewer appearances than the other V.I.L.E. graduates has quite a few fans and a surprisingly large Estrogen Brigade.
  • Epileptic Trees: Pretty much the minute "The Deep Dive Caper" revealed that Carmen's mother is still alive, fans started guessing that her true identity is that of Cookie Booker, given how similar she looks to the woman seen in flashbacks. As a bonus, Cookie is voiced by Rita Moreno, so making her Carmen's mother would be a nice Mythology Gag. In the end, though, all these Trees were Jossed.
  • Evil Is Cool: Many of the V.I.L.E characters, with Professor Maelstrom in particular standing out as being deliciously diabolical.
  • Evil Is Sexy: Carmen in the series finale as a brainwashed agent of V.I.L.E.
  • Fandom-Specific Plot:
    • Plots about Gray getting his memories back are gaining steam in the fandom, especially among people who ship him with Carmen. This eventually became a canon plotline in Season 4.
    • Plots about V.I.L.E kidnapping a member of Team Carmen are also popular. Bonus points if they nab Player, thanks to the sheer Adult Fear such a situation would create. "To Steal or Not to Steal" ended up using this plot, with Zack and Ivy being the victims.
  • Fanfic Fuel: A good topic to write about would be what existing members of V.I.L.E. from other iterations of the series would look and act like in this continuity.
  • Fanon: A lot of fans like to think of Le Chevre and El Topo as actually dating, due to the Ho Yay between them (see below). Somewhat confirmed in the series finale as they're still together and leave the criminal world behind.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: Plenty of fans, especially Red Crackle shippers, have ignored Gray's decision to stay out of Carmen's life in the series finale. Fan works set between that and the epilogue tend to have the two of them interacting in some form — if not for shipping purposes, then at least so the two can get some closure with each other (given how distraught Carmen was when she thought she'd killed him).
  • Foe Yay: Carmen and Tigress, particularly in "To Steal or Not To Steal" where Carmen refers to Tigress as her "best frenemy", Tigress almost seems to be hitting on Carmen in their banter, and if Carmen makes the correct choice to help Tigress out of a pit she falls into then a grateful Tigress actually goes agaisnt V.I.L.E and helps Carmen rescue Zack and Ivy later on.
    • It gets more blatant when they end up working together in VILE again in Season 4, with Carmen at one point wrapping her arm around Tigress and keeping it there for quite some time, with Tigress acting grumpy about it and yet doing nothing to pull away.
  • Friendly Fandoms:
  • Genius Bonus: A brainwashed Carmen meets Zack on a Ferris wheel and refers to the people on the ground as "dots," referencing a scene in The Third Man where the hero is forced to realize how evil his old friend is.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Shadow-san deterring Carmen from a life in crime makes it hard to look at in "The Daisho Caper" when it's revealed that this way of thinking caused him to lose his connections with his older brother; he doesn't want Carmen to repeat the same mistakes he did.
    • In the Who is Carmen Sandiego? novelization, when young Carmen questions Shadow-san's sword, he states that it's a museum piece. As revealed in "The Daisho Caper" it was a museum piece that Shadow-san stole, from the same museum his older brother worked in and ruined his relationship with him for good.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight:
    • Shadow-san is the only V.I.L.E. teacher that still refers to as Carmen by her childhood moniker, "Black Sheep," even when saving her life in the first season finale. It's because he wanted her to escape the V.I.L.E. lifestyle before she was forced to commit murder or Trapped in Villainy. Shadow-san is essentially saying that no matter how much Carmen grows, she is still his child.
    • Shadow-san disapproving of Carmen wanting to become a thief becomes this when Coach Brunt reveals in "The African Ice Caper" and "The Deep Dive Caper" that Carmen's father tried to defect from V.I.L.E., and Shadow-san as a young trainee was sent to kill him. Shadow-san was honoring her father's memory by trying to steer her from a life of crime.
  • Ho Yay:
    • Those Two Guys El Topo and Le Chevre are rather close to each other; they never go on missions without each other, their areas of expertise complement each other (the former prefers going underground, the latter prefers going up high), they give each other pet names (including "mon ami", which typically only shows up in fiction in a romantic sense), and if one is in danger, the other will most likely prioritize rescuing him over whatever mission they have at the time. Dr. Bellum even refers to El Topo as Le Chèvre's "dear boy". In the series finale, the two go legit after the collapse of V.I.L.E., opening a food truck together.
    • There might be some with Julia and Carmen in "The Chasing Paper Caper" due to how Carmen compliments this poor Beleaguered Assistant on the train and how Julia reacts. Their initial encounter plays out like a flirtation, especially considering Julia's point of view: a stranger approaches and asks to join her. Julia mentions the seat is taken, but quickly qualifies that her "partner" is not a romantic interest, and invites the stranger to sit. They talk briefly about Julia's passion and discover a common interest in history. The stranger gives Julia an Affectionate Nickname before leaving, and Julia calls after asking for the stranger's name. It isn't until a few seconds later that Julia realizes that the stranger is the thief she's pursuing. It gets more blatant when Carmen specifically asks her to help steal the Medici gowns in "The Fashionista Caper", with Julia acting very flustered the whole way through like a schoolgirl with a crush. It does help that in Treasure of Knowledge, Julia and Carmen did have history together as partners and Julia spent the majority of the game begging Carmen to go back to Acme. Taken even further in the "To Steal or Not to Steal" interactive special. It is entirely possible to complete your objective without ever interacting with Julia, but the special's Golden Ending requires Carmen to put her trust in Julia for her rescue operation, which at one point involves Julia dressing up as Carmen. Once that's successfully completed, Carmen returns everything she stole for V.I.L.E. to Julia's apartment door, along with a bouquet of red roses. And Julia blushes in response.
    • In Season 4, there's a parallel to scenes of Julia meeting up with Chase and Carmen. With Chase, she is annoyed by him lamely trying to hide his presence at her lecture and doesn't bother to open herself up to him. With Carmen? She's flustered at seeing her in the class and is willing to help her out with her investigations.
  • Idiosyncratic Ship Naming: Carmen/Gray is called Red Crackle.
  • Inferred Holocaust: When the Chief talks to Chase, she mentions that V.I.L.E. is probably behind most of the economic and social disasters that occur all over the world, though due to their secrecy it's hard to be certain.
  • It's Short, So It Sucks!: The most reoccurring criticism regarding season 3 is its short length, clocking in at half the usual amount of episodes (5 episodes instead of 10). The reason for this shortened length is unknown, though theories have ranged from some Executive Meddling on Netflix's part (as they've split seasons of shows in half before) to the show becoming yet another entertainment industry victim to the Coronavirus Pandemic.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Shadow-san. What was initially a gruff teacher who stopped Carmen from becoming a thief, it is revealed that he was trying to steer her away from a life of crime and wished to join her when she left the island at the end of Season 1. Season 2 gives him a focus episode, showing how his desire for wealth and power caused a rift between him and his brother and he wants to return the sword that he had stolen as an act of forgiveness. The end of the episode has Shadow-san on his hands and knees, stating he doesn't deserve forgiveness and only asks to make amends. His older brother says nothing and just walks away in silence. By the time they reunite in "The Masks of Venice Caper", Hideo is willing to understand that Shadow-san is atoning for his crimes by stating that Shadow-san cannot go home until his mission is complete.
  • Launcher of a Thousand Ships: Carmen herself quickly became this. Her most popular ships are with Julia, Ivy, Paper Star, Chase and Gray.
  • LGBT Fanbase: A lot of lesbian/bi women really like this incarnation of Carmen, especially her Les Yay with Julia. In counterpart, gay/bi men like this incarnation of Chase, due to his rough good looks.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • Why is Carmen Sandiego? note  Alternatively, "How is Carmen Sandiego?"note 
    • "Shadow San is a Hanzo Main"note 
    • Dumb Bitch Juice note 
    • The V.I.L.E. Furry Squadnote 
  • Moe: We get to see Carmen as a child at various points in the series, and she is absolutely adorable.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • From "Becoming Carmen", Crackle preparing to kill that kindly old man who opened Carmen's eyes, and taught her what V.I.L.E. truly stood for, was considered this to Carmen.
    • To reinforce that what happened in the pilot was not just a one-time thing, the first scheme Carmen foils onscreen is Dr. Bellum releasing spores that would eat up all of Indonesia's rice crops, and force the locals to buy Dr. Bellum's nasty-tasting imitation rice. V.I.L.E. would starve innocents to make a profit.
    • And in the final episode of the first season, Coach Brunt clamped a mind probe to Chase’s head and stated that if the probe was on his head for too long, there would be permanent brain damage!
  • Older Than They Think: Carmen has always been averse to V.I.L.E. villains using violence, especially in the 1994 Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? series, where she got absolutely livid when her henchmen Lee Jordan tried to kill the protagonists. She was also perfectly willing to deal with criminals who were far worse than she was.
  • One-Scene Wonder: The kind man who leads the archaeological dig in the second episode, since it is through him that Carmen becomes the thief she is today.
  • Pandering to the Base: Fans of the classic theme song to Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? who were disappointed by its absence from this show were more than assuaged by its appearance in "To Steal or Not to Steal."
  • Portmanteau Couple Name:
    • Carmen/Chase is called CarChase.
    • Carmen/Julia is called Carulia or Julmen.
    • Carmen/Ivy is called Carmivy.
    • Le Chevre/El Topo is called Jeantonio.
    • Chase/Mime Bomb is called ChaseBomb.
  • Ships That Pass in the Night: A small but dedicated part of the fandom ship Mime Bomb/Chase, despite the fact that the characters have spent very little time together, and the likelihood that Chase would never go for a villain, which Mime Bomb is.
  • Ship Sinking: The series finale sinks Red Crackle, with Gray choosing to stay out of Carmen’s life forever.
  • Spiritual Adaptation:
  • Squick: In "The Day of the Dead Caper", Zack (having eaten too many tacos and isn't feeling good) finds Contreras' client list in a vase, which he then pukes into. A bit later Contreras reaches in to get it...and then realizes she has to keep digging around just to make sure the list isn't still there.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!:
    • A sizeable number of fans were upset at the show making Carmen more heroic (though she is technically still a thief herself), due to it being both an origin story and a Continuity Reboot of the source games.
    • Similarly, there are complaints about how different Ivy and Zack are when compared to their original Where on Earth? incarnations.
    • And there are fans that don’t like how different Chase Devineaux is when compared to his original incarnation in the computer games either. He starts becoming more competent in Season 2 and onward, however.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Player can still be considered one in the final episodes. Despite his vital role in the series and the end of "The Himalayan Rescue Caper" emphasizing his importance as Carmen's oldest friend, he was put aside after Carmen is kidnapped and brainwashed. He appeared for only a few minutes at the beginning of the final episode and didn't contribute to the final conflict, only reappearing near the final minutes of the episode when Carmen went to meet her mother.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: The fourth season introduces a number of interesting storylines to explore and then literally drops them in favor of wrapping up the series in eight episodes. Said storylines include Bellum's army of Robot-Robbers, the history of V.I.L.E. reaching back to medieval times, and most especially Carmen's mother, who gets neither an appearance nor a speaking role. The only saving grace is the Sequel Hook in the final episode that indicates V.I.L.E. is gone but their numerous members are not, meaning they could explore them if Netflix ever a approves a sequel series.
  • We're Still Relevant, Dammit!: In Episode 7, Player is shown with a fidget spinner. Of course, fidget spinners do have a functional use beyond being the current "popular toy"; their main, original purpose (and similar toys have existed since the 90s) is for focusing, stress-relief and anxiety, and popular as a stim toy for those with ADHD and Autism - as Player is shown as a teen genius with a major focus on computers and hacking, it is not unreasonable that he may have the fidget spinner because of those or related reasons.
  • Win the Crowd:
    • The trailer showing off the series' art style drew plenty of fans to the show.
    • Many fans have praised the series, saying that this is a proper reboot, mixing elements from the games, the old game show and the previous animated series and creating something new and interesting with it.
  • What an Idiot!:
    • At the end of season 2, Carmen gifts the Chief with a V.I.L.E. hard drive, but doesn't explicitly take her up on her offer to join A.C.M.E.
      • You'd Expect: For the Chief to check what's on the hard drive before uploading it.
      • Instead: She immediately uploads it to her organization's computers.
      • The Result: The hard drive contains a virus, which Player uses to hack into A.C.M.E. databases. The Chief is lucky that Team Carmen was just looking to confirm Shadow-san's story instead of anything worse.
      • For Bonus Stupidity Points: The password the Chief uses for her ultra top-secret organization's computers is the name of her cat, and not anything more secure. Which she casually shared with an asset of (from her perspective) questionable trustworthiness.
    • In "The Day of the Dead Caper", Ms. Contreras has a clients' list that she uses for all the stolen art Sonia nabs for her. She's also just managed to knock Carmen out cold with a trap.
      • You'd Expect: She takes the book on her person and keeps it in her car after she dropped Carmen off to the plane back to V.I.L.E
      • Instead: She slips it into a vase so that she can pick it up after dropping Carmen off.
      • The Result: While she's away, Zack and Ivy infiltrate her apartment, take the book and when she arrives she finds out too late that it's gone.
  • The Woobie:
    • Though Carmen would probably beat up anyone who pities her, she needs a hug after she finds out that Shadow-san failed her on his pick-pocketing final, and infers that he did it on purpose because the other teachers favour her. He was trying to keep her out of the thieving business, but she didn’t know that. Then it goes From Bad to Worse when she learns that working for V.I.L.E. would mean killing recklessly, and she makes the decision to defect and run away, turning her back on terrible people who love her. The only clue she has about her past is Russian nesting dolls, but she's questioning if the story V.I.L.E. told her about being an abandoned baby in Argentina was true. It also doesn't help that compared to most of the students, she's a Child Prodigy, which makes her seem more alone when she defects.
    • Poor Julia Argent; no matter what she does to convince Chase that Carmen has good intentions, she is brushed off every single time. Despite this, she remains calm and level about doing her job and catching Carmen, or at least finding the objects she stole, and Carmen gives her a moment of Villain Respect in "The Magna Carta Caper". She finally gets some respect when the Chief praises her for her knowledge on Vermeer's paintings, but Chase in the pilot belittles her for knowing "dry" facts. In Chase's defense, he does realize he's been rude to her in the first season finale.
    • Chase gets his own turn in Season 2, banished to Interpol's file room as the Chief seemingly just washes her hands of him after his repeated failures. And even after managing to locate VILE's base all on his own, they've already cleared out by the time he gets there and he ends up stranded on the island for a week, and is flippantly fired from Interpol upon being rescued. It's no wonder he jumps at the chance to go after Carmen harder than ever when ACME comes back to him.


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