The Umbrella Academy, a comic book created by My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way, is anything but original. Sure, the names and some of the style choices might be but for the most part, I could not help but feel that since the debut of the Netflix-exclusive series, the show felt overwhelming derivative. And yet, I still love it.
The comic allegedly tells a similar but albeit different story than the show which takes upon itself to venture into its own creative liberty. Even so, having not read the comic myself, I can say that while Umbrella Academy is anything but unique, it is certainly a hell of a good time. And also, since this is a review of Season 2, I need not focus on Season 1 so much since presumably, you have already seen it (otherwise, why would you be reading about Season 2?) but I will touch base on a few points from the first season nonetheless.
The second season picks up where the first left off and follows a different storyline with a similar plot in that once again, this season is all about saving the world from yet another apocalypse indirectly caused by loving sister Vanya. However, this time around Vanya has let go of her hate (because she got amnesia at the start of the season and completely forgot) and found peace and love in a woman she met in the 1960s. Oh yeah, everyone went back in time due to Five’s time jumping. Only thing is, everyone was scattered across various points in the 60s and therefore they have to find a means of locating one another all across different years within the era.
While most characters are experiencing a thought-provoking lifestyle change that reflects upon who they are, none more so than Allison Hargreeves, Klaus once again steals the show with his antics and hijinks while the others sort of coming into their own eventually midway through the season. I say this knowing that most of the Umbrella Academy members maintain a stoic or often reserved demeanor, its easy for characters like Klaus and Five to stand out- the latter of which usually with violence and impatience that makes for entertaining action sequences.
Each member experiences different things during the 60s, as mentioned before with Allison likely going through the hardest time in a period of ignorance that would not see reason or fairness among the black community. An absence of equality saw to Allison joining the Civil Rights Union (but still not using her powers for the greater good) while Klaus instead used his powers to create a cult following that saw to riches and wealth into his possession, much to Ben’s dismay and displeasure. Five is Five, trying to save the world and get the others to clean up their act, Diego is in a hospital for the insane with all of his talks of time travel and being a superhero, Luther is muscle for some club-owner gangster types, and little Vanya is living out a fantasy as a care provider for a needy child in the countryside.
The difference this season has, most of all when compared to the first season, is the tone. I felt that there was a lot more humor and light-heartedness this time around, even if the plot sort of copied itself with various levels of nuance. Even still, the formula works, regardless of originality, and the characters, more so the actors, all have a chemistry that plays very well with one another. Plus, we get a bit more Ben this time, which will likely be a major plot point in Season 3.
The plot focuses on what to do to stop the apocalypse once again due to Vanya. Only this time, it isn’t exactly her fault. The group, after collecting themselves and focusing on the mission, realizes that their father is in Texas and is among the mysterious Illuminati with a plan to assassinate JFK. Diego desperately wants to stop it from happening but ultimately, the apocalypse takes place if JFK lives. You see, Vanya’s powers are discovered by American Intelligence and they, during their probing of her identity (thinking she’s Russian due to her name and ability to speak Russian), press hard that she is a Russian spy. This leads to torture which causes Vanya to lash out. During all the commotion, JFK escapes with his head and assumes the explosion caused by Vanya’s emotional distress was an attack from the Russians. This puts the two countries at war with one another, causing the US and Russia to resort to nukes and therefore the apocalypse happens anyway.
The plot is wild but I found the interaction with a younger Sir Reginald Hargreeves to be far more interesting. The Academy’s interaction with their father 20-some years before their birth vastly changes his perspective on what to do with the kids down the road. He, while in the 60s, eventually believes their tales but falls to Five for a serious conversation, believing that he, while appearing to be the youngest, is the most reasonable of the bunch. And after a nice father to son chat, they go on their way of saving the world. However, another person born on the same day as them is also in the past and gets in their way, meaning that while the Academy only consisted of seven extraordinary youths, there certainly are more out there (this was something that wasn’t exactly confirmed as it was suggested many died during birth and others may have been born without powers).
Of course, in a story of heroes, the good guys always win and eventually make their way back to the present with everything seemingly back to normal. But you know, not really. Turns out Sir Reginald is alive, and with all their actions in the 60s, the Academy unwittingly altered the future and by extension, Reginald’s view not only on the Academy itself but the children he would adopt. You see, Reginald realized the colossal f*** up that were his children, the original seven (six, technically, since Ben was dead and was not seen in the 60s or heard from as Klaus told the others “ghosts can’t time travel” and thus he had kept Ben’s presence a secret). Because of this, back in the present, it seems as though that Sir Reginald adopted six different children with powers (not entirely clear whom), and went ahead with adopting Ben, who became the defacto numero uno. Oh yeah, Ben is alive and is now the leader of the
Umbrella “Sparrow Academy“.
Ben remarks upon seeing the Umbrella Academy that he is not only unaware of who they are but refers to them as “assholes” during his inquiry. The shot then pans to show a handful of students on the balcony above which either includes other doppelgangers (this timeline’s Ben being a doppelganger of the dead one we know and love) of the original Umbrella kids or consists of a whole new assortment of members of which we have never seen. I believe it to be the latter, what with that green, glowing cube thing. This theory is even more supported by the fact that Reginald, while knowing the original Umbrella members would show up to their home one day, expressed deep regret for the outcome of his children, possibly even deeming them as failures (as well as himself) and sought to change things by going about their training a different way and enlisting a whole new class for the Academy under a different name and identity entirely.
Umbrella Academy Season 2 was a good time, if not original. The actors deliver superb performances, the action is worthy of a top-notch superhero flick (give or take), and the cliffhanger ending has left me wanting to know more about what we can expect from Season 3, whenever the hell that is.