Title: The Umbrella Academy (Season 1)
Air Date: February 15th, 2019
Genre: Action, Drama, Superhero
(This review contains a non-spoiler section and a spoiler section. I’ll mark each one accordingly)
The Umbrella Academy is an amazing surprise to Netflix’s TV lineup and it probably couldn’t have come at a better time. Netflix has just officially severed its ties with Marvel and has canceled five of their shows. That’s an enormous chunk of programming that Netflix had to fill. The Umbrella Academy tries (and succeeds) in filling those shoes.
This is a show adapted from The Umbrella Academy comic series, developed by artist Gabriel Bá and My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way. When 43 women who weren’t pregnant when the day began give birth, billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves sets out to adopt as many of the children as possible. Hargreeves is only able to adopt seven of them but six of those seven begin to develop superpowers. If you are at all familiar with the X-Men, I think you know where the story goes from here.
Where The Umbrella Academy strays off from the Marvel property is with its stunted characters and totally unlikable “father”, Reginald Hargreeves. The series takes place decades after the formation of the superhero team as the siblings reunite to solve the mystery of their father’s death. Everyone is fractured in their own way, and a lot of that blame is clearly on Hargreeves for his lack of parenting skills.
The characters are clearly broken but still, somehow, remain likable. I don’t think I hated any of the Hargreeves siblings, regardless of their questionable actions at times. Which is a testament to the writers and the actors involved. My favorite has to be Klaus, who has the ability to communicate with the dead. Robert Sheehan, who plays Klaus, puts on a fantastic performance throughout. He’s just so charismatic and, as you’ve probably heard from other reviews, steals almost every scene he’s in. Aidan Gallagher as Number Five and David Castañeda as Diego are also amazing as well.
Overall, this is just an incredibly talented cast that has great chemistry with each other, especially Sheehan and Gallagher’s characters. Whenever these two share a scene, you can bet it’ll be comedic gold.
You can easily see Gerald Way’s fingerprints all over this series when you hear the many spot-on music choices. Just about every song here worked and clicked with its situation. As for the story, it was a good arc to get me invested. However, I’ll go over it in the Spoiler Section but, there are some moments you can easily guess from the get-go. The pacing was fine for me as the show knew exactly when to slow down for character development and when to ramp all of the story arcs up for an epic conclusion.
This is a weird show with hilarious assassins who wear kids’ masks and love doughnuts. There’s also a talking ape who is constantly interacting with the Hargreeves family. The Umbrella Academy is so weird in fact, that I actually think it may not be for everybody. Some people just won’t like these outlandish personalities and characters.
For a short, unofficial verdict, I would highly recommend you check out The Umbrella Academy. The story is good enough to keep you intrigued throughout but the performances and chemistry between the main cast is the driving force behind this series.
(Again, Spoilers ahead. This is your last warning before I delve into the heavy spoilers of this season of The Umbrella Academy.)
Okay, so screw that ending. Seriously. By no means was it bad (the exact opposite actually). But, the decision to leave us on that cliffhanger is a risky one. Luckily, the ratings for The Umbrella Academy season one have reportedly been stellar so far, making a second season almost inevitable at this point.
There’s a lot of big-time character details to discuss and that’s the main reason why I split this review up into two sections. I’m going to go through each member of the Hargreeves family so I don’t leave anyone out:
Luther/Number One – I like Tom Hopper and after seeing this, I can see why people think he has the charisma to pull off a role like Batman. But, Luther is probably one of the weakest siblings this season. He didn’t “ruin” the show or anything like that for me seeing as I enjoyed every one of these characters. He was just the weakest link (what he did to Vanya at the end of the season pretty much cemented that status for me). His gorilla torso looked surprisingly great though.
Diego/Number Two – Diego had two compelling arcs worth talking about. The decision to kill his mom due to her deterioration and avenging the death of his on-again/off-again girlfriend, Detective Eudora Patch. The latter had a satisfying conclusion, as Diego honored Patch’s memory by sparing Cha-Cha. Now that’s done with, I wonder if he will be set up to take the leadership role away from Luther, who has struggled with the pressure so far.
Allison/Number Three – Although her relationship with Vanya was complicated, I would put Allison with Luther as the two weakest members of the family. The reason for this being her ability. If she could rewrite reality in any way she wanted by just saying “I heard a rumor”, I felt like her power was vastly underused so we can have the series happen. With her powers either gone or diminished now due to her injuries, Allison should have a better arc in The Umbrella Academy season two.
Klaus/Number Four – Hands-down the best character in the series. His relationship with Dave was handled nicely and it was heartbreaking to see him go from an addict with nothing to lose to a guy who lost everything. And the funny/sad thing is, we really didn’t see him change during this time as it mostly unfolded off-screen.
He’s becoming more powerful now due to his sobriety (i.e using Ben to kill all of the agents), and with his father telling him that he has untapped potential, Klaus is set up to be one of the most interesting characters once again next season.
Number Five – Although Aidan Gallagher was great at playing a jaded 50+ year-old man with great one-liners, Number Five as a character needs some time to grow. Other than being a killing machine who is in love with a mannequin, Number Five doesn’t have any other personality traits to talk about. Luckily, this was hinted at in season one so I’m guessing Number Five will begin to develop more as a character in season two.
Ben/Number Six – I don’t know what to say about Ben. Based on his interactions with Klaus, he actually seems happier as a ghost than when we see him in the flashbacks. The mystery surrounding his death is certainly captivating as well and will definitely keep many guessing on the internet for months to come. With the Hargreeves siblings back as kids, I’m assuming Ben’s alive again but if not, his interactions with Klaus and ability to interact with the world again will be fun to see.
Vanya/Number Seven – I’m not a big fan of Ellen Page but I’ll admit, she was extremely entertaining throughout as the only Hargreeves sibling without powers. Her relationship with Leonard was equal parts touching as it was worrisome. And her newfound ability is just…wow. She looked stunning there at the end when in full-on White Violin mode. Was it predictable that Leonard was a psycho and that she had hidden abilities? Most definitely. But, the end result was that cliffhanger, which I’m not sure anyone (who hasn’t read the comics) saw coming.
Some probably have issues with her decision making and emotional instability near the end but I think that was the point of her meds. To keep her more sedated and less emotional. Now that she was off her medication, all of those repressed emotions came boiling over at the absolute worst time. What’ll be interesting is if the show will decide to redeem her in season two or have her turn evil once again, making her the Doctor Doom to this team’s version of the Fantastic Four.
(End of Spoiler Section)
Verdict: The Umbrella Academy is a twisted love-child of the X-Men and the MCU’s Guardians of the Galaxy. And I say this as a ringing endorsement. It knows when to take itself seriously and when to slow it down with hilarious comedic moments. Although it may not be a show for everyone and can be a bit predictable at times, I believe it’s at least worth checking out.