Time for Netflix: The Umbrella Academy

I am very sorry for the delay in posting – I don’t know where the week went. But here we are, back in superhero-world. So, let’s jump right in with a knee-bending superhero landing on Umbrella Academy. 

In a world without Avengers and without the Justice League, a billionaire picks up 7 children born under weird circumstances to train them to become a superhero army. They have different powers ranging from super strength to the ability to contact the dead – and one sadly develops no power at all. They become a crime fighting unit in their teens and lose two members in the process and eventually disband. We meet them years later when the father figure dies and they come back together, each with their own demons and grudges. They are not a team anymore and barely a family but the world is about to end and people are dying. 

How was that for an enthralling synopsis to start off the review? The Umbrella Academy is a Netflix Original and currently has one season with 10 Episodes. It is based on a comic series by Gerald Way who most people know as the singer/songwriter of emo band My Chemical Romance. It was published by Dark Horse Comics, so it’s not part of any of the big franchises.

Photo by Ehud Neuhaus on Unsplash

The biggest name in the cast is Ellen Page who I will always see as Juno, so it’s really no surprise that her character Vanya – the kid without powers – is at the center of much of the drama. In addition to her we have her adopted siblings: 

  • Luther aka number 1 with superhuman strength who never left the father except for a mission to the moon
  • Diego aka number 2 whose knives never miss and who wants to do badass assassin things but was too much for the police force
  • Allison aka number 3 an international celebrity whose power is that any rumor she tells immediately comes true 
  • Klaus aka number 4 whose ability to see and talk to the dead made him turn to alcohol, drugs and partying
  • Number 5 who can jump through space and time but is stuck in the body of a teenager at over 50 years old 
  • Ben aka number 6 Klaus’ shadow and confidante who could turn into horrible giant tentacled monsters before he passed away
Photo by Aline de Nadai on Unsplash

The plot sets in when the remaining siblings come back home after the news break that their adoptive father, billionaire Reginald Hargreeves has passed away. I say remaining because of course, Ben is there with Klaus but Number 5 has been missing in action for over ten years. And while they are mourning and questioning the suspiciously normal death of their father, Number 5 emerges from the space/time continuum looking just as he did when he got lost over a decade ago but claiming to be well over 50.

There are a couple of themes and plotlines explored throughout the season, each interesting in its own way and twisting together beautifully. They range from the looming end of the world and a pair of space travelling assassins to the mystery of their father death and Vanya’s lack of power and new boyfriend. Over all these topics hangs the umbrella theme (get it?!) of the broken family dynamics, which I found really compelling because it is a mixture of the usual superhero-angst, the issues of siblings growing up in an abusive household, the kind of boarding school drama between kids being thrown together and the trust issues of a broken team.

Photo by Mario Gogh on Unsplash

Keeping in stride with the twisted plotlines and layered issues, the shows look and feel is just as gritty, dark and at times downright confusing. My favorite character was definitely Klaus, who is not coping well with his ability to speak to the death because he is deeply caring by nature. He has addiction problems, a fluid sexuality, very interesting sense of style and his dead brother Ben as his very own sidekick. 

I usually gravitate towards liking the strong protector types, the badass assassins or the strong female characters but Luther, Diego and Allison respectively all put me off in some way – there were just a lot of moments of “oh grow up already”. And since we took a bit of a turn to critiquing, I’ll just add this: Despite the show being twisted to the point of confusion with some of the plot lines and themes, one of them – the one around Vanya – is just downright predictable. It really irked me that everything I though would obviously happen, did in fact happen.

Photo by Jack Finnigan on Unsplash

I got bombarded by the trailer on all channels when it first came out but in case the algorithms haven’t pegged you as superhero trash yet, watch the trailer here.

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