Sometimes, it’s the most obvious things you tend to not see. Like most Netflix users, I pretty much binge watched both seasons of the Umbrella Academy as they came out. And, for some reason, I never bothered to review any of them! Well, it’s time to fix this oversight by reviewing Seasons 1 and 2 of the Umbrella Academy in one go!
The Umbrella Academy series on Netflix is based on the Dark Horse comic series of the same name. The basic summary of it all is that eccentric billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves adopts/buys seven children who were mysteriously conceived and born on the same day. There are reportedly 43 of these children but we only focus on the seven Reginald Hargreeves *ahem* acquires. Each of these children are trained to become superheroes and they form The Umbrella Academy. While they received wide acclaim during their heyday, these days are long past as The Umbrella Academy has fallen into disarray with the children consistently bickering between them.
The first season takes place during the present day with the patriarch passing away suddenly and the surviving members of the Umbrella Academy coming together for his funeral. Number Five, who has been missing ever since an errant time jump, returns on that day to warn his siblings of an impending doomsday event that will destroy most of the life on Earth. Season two is set in the ’60s as the Umbrella Academy failed to stop the doomsday event (spoilers?) but Five manages to transport all of them into the past. However, it seems as the doomsday has followed them as they discover that the planet will soon end due to a nuclear war. Once again, the Umbrella Academy have to come together in an attempt to fix things and, perhaps, finally bond together as a family.
I will say I really liked both seasons of The Umbrella Academy. However, I liked the second season just a bit more than the first. I’ll go into more detail later but I’d like to start this review by explaining what I generally liked about the entire series in general as well as some of the issues I have with it before delving into the nitty gritty of why the second season is better.
The first thing I liked about the show are the characters. There may be someone that I liked more and someone I liked less. But there was no one that I actually hated or disliked. At the very least, the characters that I didn’t like initially grew on me. Honestly, this is impressive as the Umbrella Academy has a big cast and making everyone likable must have been a huge challenge. Oddly enough, my least favorite character is Vanya, played by Ellen Page. That’s basically because she’s the most mopey and depressed character among The Umbrella Academy. Unfortunately, that’s by design as she’s supposed to be the estranged member of the family. Still, she does have her moments. On the other side of things, hands down, my favorite character is Five (portrayed by Aidan Gallagher) because, one, is power of teleportation and time travel is awesome and, two and the more important factor, he has the best personality among everyone in the show.
Speaking of the powers they’re given, it’s kind of a mixed bag regarding usefulness and creativeness. I mean, you have the prerequisite super strength from Luther/Number One, and teleportation for Five, which is basically super speed. Not very creative. There are also the weird powers that don’t really seem all that useful in crime fighting like the ability to talk to ghost and make them corporeal, which is Klaus/Number Four’s power, and the ability to change the trajectory of anything in motion, which is Diego/Number Two’s ability. Honestly, the only two powers that really seem handy in combat would be Alison/Number Three’s ability to control minds and Ben/Number Six’s ability to summon a tentacle demon from another dimension from the pit of his stomach! Oh, there’s also Vanya/Number Seven’s power to convert sound into destructive energy… but you don’t find that out until the near the end of the first season. Spoiler?
To a certain extent, I like the supporting characters and the bad guys a smidge more than the actual Umbrella Academy members because they’re filled to the brim with personality. Well, most of them anyway. Hazel and Cha Cha from the first season are standouts and The Handler who appears in both seasons is also really good. Sadly, I didn’t care all that much for the supposed big bad from the first season nor The Swedes from the second. At least I didn’t outright hate them.
Now, while I like both seasons of The Umbrella Academy, they still both have the same problems that most Netflix shows have and that’s the feeling they had to pad the story a little bit to fill in a ten-episode season. You can basically trim out some of the fat from both seasons but it does feel like the the first one had much more filler than the second. In fact, I will say there were some moments from Season 1 that kind of dragged on for a bit too long. Season 2 also had this problem but mostly moved at a brisk pace and almost all of the plot threads do tie up nicely together by the end, at least much better than the first season of Umbrella Academy.
While this fact might have contributed to why I liked the second season more than the first, it isn’t the main reason. What made me enjoy watching latest season was its more lighthearted tone. The first season had a more decidedly grim atmosphere, almost distractingly so, in fact. The first season felt rather oppressive at times, even with the number of lighthearted moments mixed in. It’s not that I’m against dark tones in television programs but, with the more humorous moments mixed in, things came off as kind of inconsistent. Season 2 still had these darker moments but they were handled a little bit better and the more playful moments worked to compliment them.
My biggest issue with the Umbrella Academy’s two seasons is also one of the central reasons why the show works, strangely enough. One of the central themes of the show is how dysfunctional and broken the family members are. This does work to explain their radically different personalities and to make them feel like fleshed out characters. It’s also fun to see them bicker at each other because of how estranged they are.
However, at the same time, a lot of the issues and problems they do face can be easily fixed if they just put their differences aside and talk like regular human beings! I understand that’s one of the primary gimmicks of the show. But when they fight amongst each other or they value their own selfish reasons ahead of putting the fate of the entire planet in jeopardy, it can feel trite and annoying. This issue reels its ugly head more often in the first season than the second, which may be another reason why I liked the latter one more.
With that being said, both seasons of The Umbrella Academy are definitely worth a watch. Like any Netflix series, it does seem like they could’ve cut out a couple of episodes to tighten up the pacing but the phenomenal character work done here and general tone is enough to give this a thumbs up.
Have you seen The Umbrella Academy? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!