The Umbrella Academy probably won’t surprise you much in terms of twists and plot direction, but it is still a fun, violent, and even heart-felt (at times) series that takes a look at a familiar genre through a slightly different lens.
Think Hit-Girl, meets the X-Men. This is what I originally thought where MCR’s Gerard Way was taking his comic ideals for a spin. There is some of that here, sure. But really, The Umbrella Academy has a mixed bag of plot devices that bring all that and more to the table in this 10-episode Netflix exclusive.
The first season of TUA is loosely based on the Dark Horse comic of the same name, but if you aren’t familiar with it (I wasn’t on Saturday, but became obsessed by Sunday night), then it doesn’t really matter. The show should still please you. And at first, I was very skeptical considering that Gerard Way and his music isn’t exactly my cup of tea, nor was I prepared to be interested in yet another medium of superhero stories what with the onslaught of media we get daily on the genre. But, despite the fact that the entertainment industry is convoluted and overwhelmed with heroes and vigilante projects, The Umbrella Academy is still super fun, and I can’t wait for season 2.
If what I am telling you is not enough to convince you, I don’t blame you. You don’t know me and it’s silly to think the lead singer for My Chemical Romance could write a comic book story so good that Netflix optioned to make it into a series. And even then, Netflix isn’t exactly filled to the brim with positive reviews of its own original content. But I assure you, TUA is fun. And there is plenty here to enjoy if you are a fan of kids in masks kicking the shit out of bad guys and ripping people a part (no. 6 is so cool). But I am getting ahead of myself, as there is a lot more to the show than that (considering the first season largely focuses on a plot that takes place when the kids have grown up). Let us talk about the characters and why they are worth the investment of your time.
In October 1989, 43 women around the world gave birth, all having not been pregnant when the day first began. An eccentric billionaire by the name of Reginald Hargreeves takes it upon himself to adopt as many of them as he could. Obtaining seven, he reveals to the world that they each of a set of unique supernatural abilities. He trains them to become heroes and the kids basically become super stars until they grow through adolescence and realize that their adoptive father used them like tools rather than showing them any love or compassion. It is also worth noting that the show takes place in an alternate reality to ours, with few subtle differences (fashion is still very similar, but technology went in a different directly such as no one seemingly owning or using a cell phone, for instance).
The story picks up in present day, where the ‘academy kids’ have all grown up, jaded, cold, and distant from one another. Only when their adoptive father is dead, are the seven reunited at the academy where they endured grueling training. They deduce that their father dying has suspicious circumstances, only to come to a much larger realization that an apocalypse is happening in about a week and they need to do all they can to stop it. Any more than that will have spoilers. So you will just have to watch for yourself to get there. But, let us meet the core group of kids and their powers.
From left to right (no.5 “Five”, no.7 “Vanya”, no.3 “Allison”, no.4 “Klaus”, no.1 “Luther”, and no.2 “Diego”. Not pictured: no.6 “Ben”.
- no.1 – Luther Hargreeves. Born with super strength, and the leader of the group, in a manner of speaking. Lives under the Academy roof the longest, with the strongest desire to please his father.
- no.2 – Diego Hargreeves. Born with the ability to manipulate thrown objects, mostly knives. Diego is constantly butting heads with Luther as the ‘number one’ of the household. Diego is also the only one of the seven to remain a vigilante through the present day.
- no.3 – Allison Hargreeves. Born with the ability to speak ‘I heard a rumor’ followed by anything she wants that commands it to come true (such as ‘I heard a rumor you jumped off a cliff’. to which you would then listen and jump off said cliff). She uses her power to manipulate those around her to become a movie star. Also likely to be the shows quicksilver equivalent, in that her powers are insanely op. But due to personal reasons, she vows never to use her powers again.
- no.4 – Klaus Hargreeves. Born with the ability to summon and interact with the dead. Klaus’ power causes him great stress and anxiety, as he is practically haunted by the dead and thus he resorts to numbing his senses by doing drugs and consuming alcohol. Battling his addiction is his biggest obstacle, aside from being haunted by dead family members.
- no.5 – Number Five. Born with the ability to teleport and jump through time. Also the only kid having not been given a name. In the beginning of the show, Five is revealed to have been missing for 17 years, and his disappearance took place just before the rest of the kids (13 at the time) were given names by their “mother”. Five will easily become your favorite character, and has the deepest plot and character development of them all.
- no.6 – Ben Hargreeves. Born with the power to summon monsters from another dimension at will. Not a spoiler, but Ben is dead once the series starts. Although his death is not explored. Ben constantly tags around Klaus, the only one of his family that can see him and talk to him. Ben is not really a major part of the show throughout, but he begins to come up more frequently when Klaus needs advice or a little teasing to set his head straight.
- no.7 – Vanya Hargreeves. Born with, no powers, apparently. Along with Five, Vanya goes through major development throughout the series. She struggles with fitting in as she never went on any missions with her brothers and sister, due to not having any known powers. She is constantly referred to as ‘ordinary’, which puts her at odds with everyone else and weighs heavy on her. Her lack of connection with her family comes from the fact that they are all special, so to speak, while she herself is not.
The worst thing about the show, is that if you have seen any other super hero story, in a comic or a movie, than you will likely be able to call how each episode plays out, scene by scene, from one moment to the next. Without question, TUA is the most predictable show I have ever seen. Yet, I still find myself so thrilled with the first season (not that it will win any awards or anything), that I would call myself a fan from the first episode. I will pick up the graphic novel, and research developments on the series as it absolutely has to get a second season. So, for whatever reason, I love this show. It is fun, emotionally grueling, often funny (largely due in part by the antics of Aidan Gallagher (no.5) and Robert Sheehan (no. 4 ‘Klaus’)). These two steal the show while the other cast mates round out the rest of the roles to fill in any gaps required to make the rest of the series feel complete.
Surprisingly, the production value on this series is much better than I would have thought. Netflix is not exactly known for quality original content by many critics, but this is one show that stands out. If you have no seen it, it is worth subscribing to Netflix for. No, this is not a sponsored advertisement. I simply enjoyed it that much. Besides, there’s other stuff on Netflix too. And it’s pretty cheap. So like, don’t get on my case about it. Anyway, with a few shortcomings here and there, TUA is still worth your time. Especially if you like comic book heroes.