‘Carol and The End of the World,’ a Netflix animated show for the adult audience, follows its titular character, Carol Kohl, as the end of the world brings a metamorphic change in her life. A mystery planet, Keppler 9C, hangs over the Earth, signaling the latter’s impending doom upon contact. Thus, society adapts with humanity, turning to the hedonistic pleasures of life to bring meaning to their existence in their species’ last few months. Yet, 42-year-old Carol lacks the unrestrained drive that seems to have taken over the world. Instead, she craves routine and monotony, which she inexplicably finds in the accounting division of perhaps the only nine-to-five job still standing at Distraction Company.
The show strives to highlight Carol’s plain and unassuming characteristics in contrast with a world rid of its inhibitions. For the same reason, the first season’s ninth episode, titled ‘Saltwater Lullaby: A Surf Odyssey,’ depicts a strange reality where Carol has shed her shy nature and delved into the spiritual culture of surfing. Therefore, given the quizzical nature of the world created in that episode, viewers must be wondering about its meaning. SPOILERS AHEADS!
Saltwater Lullaby, A Surf Odyssey: Carol’s Dream or Reality?
‘Carol and The End of the World’ is a show that doesn’t shy away from unconventional storytelling in favor of painting an analogy or a metaphor. In numerous episodes, cryptic dream sequences provide crucial insight into the characters, conveying their fears and ambitions through puzzling imagery. Therefore, the ninth episode doesn’t necessarily stand out of the crowd.
Yet, the episode’s just perplexing enough to invite the viewers’ confusion. Throughout the episode, we follow Carol Kohl, who has drastically changed since we last saw her as a timid office worker. Now, Carol is confident and adventurous, chasing waves around the world with no worry or care for responsibilities that would have waited for her back at home. She mingles with interesting people, inspires mystery novels, and rekindles old flames only to leave them after a night.
There’s no doubt that this version of Carol decidedly does not lament the loss of the euphoria gained by paying bills on time. She seeks out thrill and adrenaline in a way that drastically sets her apart from normal Carol, who shirks away from adventure and finds comfort in a cubicle. However, those aren’t the only distinctions between Surfer Carol and Regular Carol.
The most striking difference between the two remains their differing eye colors. Where Regular Carol sports brown eyes, Surfer Carol is green-eyed. Furthermore, the former lives in a world where the planet’s upcoming apocalypse hangs in the sky like an omen. Inversely, in the world within episode 9, the sun, the moon, and the stars are the only celestial bodies that populate the skies.
As such, we can conclude that the two worlds, and subsequently the two Carols, are distinct. Since Regular Carol lies about being interested in surfing to please her parents, perhaps the ninth episode is a glimpse into Carol’s psyche. In that sense, it could be a gateway into the woman’s imagination, where she pitches herself in a new light. Instead of a dream influenced by her desires, the episode is a fantasy Carol conjures up where she’s a different version of herself.
Furthermore, when discussing the episode, we should also take its format into account. Unlike the other episode, ‘Saltwater Lullaby: A Surf Odyssey’ opens with an old-school intro, establishing Carol Kohl’s central role in the narrative. As such, the title card remains reminiscent of old character-driven franchises where a certain individual was thrown into a separate, unconnected universe to live through a specific instance.
Consequently, perhaps the ninth episode simply showcases an alternate version of Carol and how her self-actualizing journey could have gone if the circumstances were different. After all, despite their differences, both Surfer Carol and Regular Carol share an overarching narrative of finding their true selves through a sense of community as they strive to achieve something bigger than themselves. Thus, the episode ultimately serves as a self-contained conclusive story about a different version of Carol.