The Umbrella Academy is one of those rare shows that has a perfect cast, an absurd plot, and just the right amount of fun, action, excitement, and intrigue. For whatever reason, the show just works. And now in its third season, we were happy to find that once again, showrunner Steven Blackman was able to deliver a solid third outing that was just as good as its predecessors, even if the story was filled with nonsensical time travel mumbo jumbo that didn’t make a lick of sense.
You see, the thing with televised entertainment these days, whether it be a movie or an episodic series, is that all too often the medium takes itself way too seriously or tries too hard and ultimately ends up missing the mark- something that showrunner, writer, and producer Steve Blackman must understand fairly well. Blackman’s vision for The Umbrella Academy may be significantly different from the comicbook source material the show is based on, but it’s still just as fun, if not more so.
The show’s third season picks up mere seconds after the season two finale. The Umbrella Academy kids are in their childhood home in a different timeline staring at the faces of a completely different “Sparrow” Academy that has replaced them after their mentor and father figure Sir Reginald Hargreeves opted to adopt a different group of children due to his disappointment with the Umbrellas.
Among these Sparrows are Marcus (#1), Fei (#3), Alphonso (#4), Sloane (#5), Jamye (#6), Christopher the strange energy cube that speaks in tongues (#7), and of course, their previously deceased brother Ben (now #2) who is alive in this timeline but also a total and complete dickhead.
With an assortment of new abilities the Sparrows bring to the table, as well as an overly-inflated ego, the two Academy groups battle each other with the Sparrows ending up the victor, leaving the Umbrella’s overwhelmed with the state of events leading to such an embarrassing defeat, among a handful of other disasters.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to either party, a concentration of energy so intense that it becomes an event horizon has appeared in the Hargreeves Manor basement. This mass of energy, which is the size of a basketball, then transforms into a black hole known as a “Kugelblitz” and begins chipping away at the universe slowly destroying it.
Elsewhere, Five explains the grandfather paradox to his siblings of which they are all responsible for creating which resulted in their current predicament. From here, the team has to figure out a way to handle both issues on their plate consisting of the Sparrows and the Kugelblitz along with the discovery that the Umbrellas do not exist in this timeline as all their biological mothers were killed before they were born. To make matters more complicated, the group also has to find a way to work with their estranged father, Sir Reginald Hargreeves, who seemingly has a mysterious agenda of his own.
While the show’s cast, both old and new, delivers a quality performance filled with emotion and humor, it’s hard not to acknowledge how wonky the time-travel explanations are in the show. There are numerous issues with the timeline of events and how much of it is easily debunked by anyone who has spent five minutes on Wikipedia reading about various theories on how time travel works. Of course, this is all just theoretical and it is for that exact reason you can ignore it. We aren’t here to educate you or debate on how time travel supposedly works but I think we can all agree that Back to the Future is a bunch of bullshit and, unfortunately, this is the theory that The Umbrella Academy seems to subscribe to, albeit with a handful of other eye-rolling nonsensities. Despite all that, the plot is still easy enough to follow if you suspend your disbelief on that topic as the cast delivers enough of a believable performance around that topic to move the story along and keep things entertaining.
As usual, Aidan Gallagher (Five) and Robert Sheehan (Klaus) steal the show any time they are on screen but each and every other actor/character gets enough screen time to shine with subplots of their own. Of course, the elephant in the room is Ellen Page (Vanya) going through her transition to become Elliot Page (now Viktor).
What I loved the most about Elliot’s transition is that the show didn’t seem to dwell or focus on it too much. The only time it was brought up was when a character who knew Vanya is told about the transition and immediately accepts it. We had heard the cast and crew off-screen was very supportive of the transition and the characters in the show are equally supportive which must have been greatly appreciated by both Elliot and Viktor. The transition itself was not a major plot point nor was it used as a crutch to hold the character back. In fact, the metamorphosis that Vanya underwent to become Viktor clearly aided her confidence and made her, now him, emotionally stronger. Plus, both the Umbrellas and the Sparrows had much bigger issues to deal with, like the universe collapsing in on itself.
Despite each season’s plot dealing with the apocalypse, we weren’t put off by the idea that the Umbrellas had to deal with it a third time. Really, we find all the characters to be so fun and entertaining in their own right that we just want to see them interacting with each other and finding solutions to these global and universal problems. Of course, the show likely can’t keep doing that indefinitely as the audience may experience a bit of apocalypse plot fatigue but for now, it all just sort of works.
With the plot focusing so heavily on saving the world and the universe from the opposite of the Big Bang, it can be hard sometimes to focus on the smaller details. Three seasons in and we still know very little about Sir Reginald and where he comes from and what his ultimate goals are. He most certainly always has a hidden agenda and by the season three finale credits, you sort of know a bit more about what he is up to. Unfortunately, once again, the season ends with leaving us far more questions than answers and that only makes us hungrier for season four which, hopefully, doesn’t take too long to hit Netflix. Still, we sort of kind of know where the show is going and considering that season three appears to follow the unreleased fourth comicbook storyline, we wonder just how crazy things can get in both the show and the comics.
I said this before but it bears a paragraph of its own that the cast performances are once again stellar. Each of the Umbrellas has its own personality with their own set of quirks and attributes but both Gallaher and Sheehan stand out as being the most fun. We always looked forward to Sheehan’s portrayal of Klaus and whatever shenanigans he gets up to while Gallagher’s Five is still the most interesting and fun among the lot. Gallagher’s performance stands out above the rest and while his resume doesn’t contain much other than The Umbrella Academy, we look forward to seeing what his future holds in entertainment as we know it will be something to watch with great interest. However, despite the high praise we feel it necessary to express of the cast, there was one that stood out like a sore thumb, and sore it was indeed.
Justin Min’s portrayal of Ben Hargreeves, now a sparrow, differs greatly from his Umbrella counterpart. The character, having been raised differently, is an incredible asshole, the complete opposite from the first two seasons. And while Min’s screen time was boosted immensely in the latest third season, his performance as a jerk was a bit too much at times. Mostly, it just felt over-the-top and unbelievable. Min tried way too hard to be a tough guy badass and it never really landed. Let me just put it this way, if your over-acting is less believable than a CGI monkey giving tattoos, then perhaps you may want to try a different approach next time.
For a Netflix show, it is clear that the streaming juggernaut cares a lot about making sure The Umbrella Academy looks good. All too often we have seen shows like Cowboy Bebop look cheap or low-budget but with TUA, that is not the case. The show’s CGI looked good even as the world was being swallowed by a Kugelblitz or when a certain CGI floating cube thing zapped the Umbrellas with laserbeams. The show’s visual form is top-notch but might be below what you would expect from a big Hollywood blockbuster film to which, the show is not nor tries to be. But it certainly is a lot more fun at times.
Overall, The Umbrella Academy Season 3 is just as good as the first two, if not better. The inclusion of an alternate timeline definitely stood out as feeling a bit bonkers at times, especially since it is filled with countless plotholes if you think about it for more than a minute but the cast does such a great job moving things forward that it is easy to overlook that bit. Sure, the majority of the cast is great but there are a few cringeworthy moments from Min’s Ben or even with Jordan Robbins’ Grace but neither of these occasionally lackluster presences holds the story back at all.
As it stands, The Umbrella Academy is one of our favorite shows and for good reason. It never takes itself too seriously and the formula just works in all the right ways even if there are moments where you are scratching your head wondering just what in the hell is going on. We certainly expect more of the same in season four but hopefully, it will address a few of the more glaring untouched plot points being teased such as “who created the universe?” and “just what in the hell is Sir Reginald?” and “will Ben Hargreeves shave that pathetic mustache?”
The bottom line is this: If you haven’t been watching The Umbrella Academy then you are most certainly missing out. And if you have been putting off its latest season for one reason or another, you have no justification for such a decision. That is, unless you want to go back and rewatch the first two seasons to catch up. That is definitely something that we wished we did as it was hard to remember everything that happened between seasons two and three. We just hope we don’t have to wait as long for season four.