Before Season 2 premieres on July 31, we take a look at The Umbrella Academy’s freshman year.
On October 1, 1989, 43 women (who were previously not pregnant) suddenly gave birth. Fascinated by this weird occurrence, billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) proceeds to adopt 7 of the children. They grow up with certain abilities, and The Umbrella Academy, established to save the world, is born.
The Beardict: 7.5 out of 10. We heard a rumor… that Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy is a fun ride full of surprises. Although the first half of the season (mostly family drama) can be a bit slow, the second half really picks up the pace and delivers action-packed scenes and intense storytelling. Watching the show makes us realize that a powered individual doesn’t necessarily translate to a better human being. Life is already hard, and throwing super powers into the mix is just a recipe for disaster, or should we say, a recipe for the apocalypse?
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Insecurity abounds. Sir Reginald was too concerned with saving the world that he didn’t realize that his children needed to be whole before they could do any saving. He trained them to be superheroes before they could become decent human beings. Broken and full of doubt, a family of powered people could barely defeat skilled normal folks like Hazel (Cameron Britton) and Cha Cha (Mary J. Blige), or a psychopath like Harold Jenkins. The Umbrella Academy is clearly not a superhero show—it’s about uncertain siblings trying to figure out how to live their lives. It just so happens that powers are involved.
The tragedy of Vanya Hargreeves. All her life, Number Seven (Ellen Page) was made to believe that she was not special. She was excluded from almost all activities of the Umbrella Academy, and when her siblings would go on missions, she would stay behind at the mansion or remain with Sir Reginald. She did not get sufficient attention from her family, so in an effort to be relevant, she wrote a book about the academy, which made her into an outsider even more. Vanya tried to be a successful violinist and author but failed at both. She became reclusive and miserable, and ultimately the perfect target for Leonard.
Even when she discovered her ability, she was still not good at handling it. During my commute, I overheard a conversation comparing Vanya to the X-Men’s Jean Grey (because of her power level). For me, Vanya is actually closer to Smeagol/Gollum from the Lord of the Rings franchise. She definitely has a good side, but the darkness in her is too strong that it consumes her. That ala-Norman Osborn (The Green Goblin) mirror moment where she talks to herself is just proof of how bad it’s gotten. Having said all of these, it will be pretty interesting to witness how she redeems herself in the next season.
Ben could have stopped the apocalypse… if he were alive. All his adult interactions are with Klaus, and he didn’t have a lot of lines during the flashback scenes, but Number Six (Justin H. Min) seems to be the most mature and level-headed among the seven children. I firmly believe that Ben would have been effective in uniting the group against the forces that threatened them (he did convince Klaus to remain sober). Maybe he would have been able to calm Vanya down? Anyway, how he died is still a mystery, and we’re hoping this is one of the major storylines of the next season. The Academy needs more of Ben if it is going to survive the mess that they’re currently in.
Klaus and Diego—the unlikely pair. Diego (David Castañeda) left the Academy to become a solo vigilante (he has this Nightwing vibe going on), while Klaus (Robert Sheehan) buried himself in drugs, so much so that it’s almost impossible for him to be responsible for anything. The two brothers are so different from each other, and yet they get to have the best bonding moments on the show. I suppose one thing going for them is they both hate Sir Reginald passionately. Everyone annoys Diego, but twice, he allows Klaus to tag along and ride in his car. They had a sincere chat about dealing with loss and escaped together while the mansion was falling apart. Both of them also underwent good character development: Diego went from loner to team player, while Klaus went from junkie to hero.
The music. The score and soundtrack of Umbrella Academy are spot-on. A couple of friends highlighted this to me, and I couldn’t agree more. During the introduction of characters, we are treated to Lindsey Stirling’s five-minute Phantom of the Opera medley. It is quite fitting that the show starts and ends with the sound of Vanya’s violin filling our ears. During Luther and Allison’s dancing sequence at the park, Dancing in the Moonlight plays, reminding us that Luther, in fact, spent four years on the moon.
The not-so-cheesy love story between Luther and Allison. It was obvious that Luther (Tom Hopper) and Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) already loved each other back when they were kids, but growing up made them respond differently. They both wanted validation. Luther wanted to prove to his dad that he was the perfect son/student, while Allison went to Hollywood to be noticed. Sir Reginald’s death brought them back together again, and that was all they really needed. It’s just too bad that their tent and soda date officially didn’t happen.
“We didn’t choose this life, we’re just living it. For the next three days, anyway.” Five (Aidan Gallagher) is integral to Umbrella Academy and serves as both the group’s savior and harbinger of doom. Possessing the powers of both teleportation and time travel, he is the most exciting to watch. He also happens to be the loneliest. Being stuck in the future for 45 years? No wonder he resorted to naming a random mannequin Delores and treated her like a lover. Desperate times made him into a killer, and saving the world from the apocalypse was his one chance at making everything worth it. Knowing all of this makes it even sadder that…
Five caused the apocalypse. Yes, you read that correctly. Harold Jenkins may have been the fuse, and Vanya the bomb, but Five ironically made the apocalypse happen. Think about it—near the end of the episode titled The Day That Wasn’t, Vanya already discovers Sir Reginald’s log under Leonard’s bed, and was still processing the information when Five rudely travels through time and disturbs the family meeting that happened earlier that day. This makes Leonard accelerate his schedule in training Vanya. If Five had not disrupted that day, Vanya would have taken out her anger at Leonard sooner, and would most likely not have sliced Allison’s throat. On the other hand, in a fit of rage, Vanya might have destroyed the world anyway. Who knows? Time travel may be cool, but it also sucks big time. Still, mad props should be given to how the show executed The Day That Wasn’t and the Day That Was—everything was familiar but still fresh the second time around.
Agnes the Doughnut Lady is the best humanity has to offer in the show. We first see Agnes (Sheila McCarthy) when Five craves for a decent cup of coffee. Her shop is where the first major fight happens, and at that point, I honestly thought that was the last time we would see her. However, she ends up having a connection with Hazel and slowly reminds him that a simple life is the most attractive one. She takes pride in making customers happy through her delicious doughnuts, and her breaks consist of watching different birds at the parking lot. To us, her life may be boring and repetitive, but she certainly didn’t view it that way. Towards the end, when Hazel rescues her from the clutches of the Handler, Agnes is quick to forgive him for what she went through. If only the Umbrella Academy were like her in disposition, the apocalypse would have had no chance of happening.
The mystery of the Commission. In one of the episodes, Hazel mentions to Cha Cha something about Manila 1902. It was not expounded on, but given the date and place, it would seem that the partners had a mission during the last year of the Filipino-American War. How about that for a fun fact? Anyway, during this season, we did get explanations on how the Commission works, and we saw their old-school office when Five was temporarily brought in as part of management (no wonder they used briefcases as time-traveling devices). However, apart from the Handler (Kate Walsh), we don’t know who else is part of it. How did the founding members start it? More importantly, how do they know which timeline should be observed? They actually remind me of the ill-fated Time Masters from DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Maybe our dysfunctional heroes will finally meet the Commission in Season 2 and ask these questions themselves?
“We’re all looking for happy.” While Leonard Peabody (John Magaro) is correct in saying this, happiness is different for everybody, and in this case, happiness for him was the destruction of the Umbrella Academy. When he was introduced, he already seemed a bit sketchy, but I was hoping that he was really honest about his intentions. Although he took advantage of Vanya’s vulnerability and wanted to use her as a weapon against her siblings, it seems he really was in awe of Vanya’s power and wanted her to maximize it. In his own twisted way, he celebrated Vanya’s uniqueness, something that he never felt about his own self.
Photos courtesy of Netflix. Based on the Dark Horse comic book series of Gerald Way (My Chemical Romance, Into the Spider-Verse) and Gabriel Ba (Casanova, Daytripper), The Umbrella Academy (Season 1) is now available for streaming on Netflix. Season 2 premieres on July 31.