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Tuesday, Sep 21, 2021

Review: Umbrella Academy has a strong but not self-contained first season

Inspired by the comic series of the same name, Netflix’s “Umbrella Academy” centers around a dysfunctional superhero family trying to save the world while dealing with their own myriad of personal issues.

The ensemble cast consists of the Hagreeves children and members of the titular Umbrella Academy. The series begins by telling the story of the odd circumstances behind the children’s birth, Sir Reginald Hargreeves’ adoption of them and their return home upon his death.

On Oct. 1, 1989, 43 women miraculously give birth, despite not being pregnant when the day began. Sir Reginald Hargreeves, an eccentric billionaire, adopts seven of them and turns them into a superhero team. The children are originally only named by numbers, before being given names by their robot mother figure.

Gifted with unique superpowers, the Hargreeves spend their childhood fighting crime for an apathetic father, whose emotional neglect drives away all of his children, besides Luther, or Number One. Even outside of the famed Academy, most of the children have difficulty with coping with their childhoods, each turning to different methods.

Diego continues his work as Number Two, now working solo, while Vanya writes a tell-all book on her life as Number Seven, the only member of the Umbrella Academy without powers. Number Four Klaus struggles with his addiction and his powers to see the dead, often talking to Ben, who died in his duties as Number Six. Even Alison, seemingly the most well-adjusted Hagreeve, ultimately fails to escape her past as Number Three.

The siblings, now adults, return to the Umbrella Academy upon Sir Reginald Hargreeves’ death. Once there, some of them become suspicious about how he died and begin to investigate it. At the same time, Number Five, who has been missing for over a decade, reappears in the present to stop the apocalypse. Alongside these story arcs, the show follows two time-traveling assassins as they try to stop Number Five from changing the timeline, under orders from an agency that works to keep the time-space continuum intact.

The show is overflowing with interesting and intriguing plotlines, between the overall main story arcs and the character arcs for each individual character. The only issue is that the show tries to fit too many arcs into 10 episodes, which leaves little time for the audience to catch their breath from each new twist and turn. While the biggest arcs are wrapped up, there are still just a few too many threads still hanging for viewers, leaving a desperate need for a second season to adequately answer everything.

All of the characters are unique and three-dimensional, with individual arcs and relationship dynamics. All of the Hargreeves carry psychological damage from their childhoods and the way it manifests fits each sibling’s personality and issues perfectly.

While some of their choices can be frustrating, the audience almost always understands why they made them. Despite their differing personalities, the siblings are all sympathetic and try their best. Other main and recurring characters are just as fleshed out, undergoing their own development and arcs.

The dynamics between characters tend to be hit or miss, especially romantic relationships. Dynamics implied earlier in the show, such as Vanya and Five’s relationship, are ignored in favor of completely different dynamics later in the season.

The show’s handling of most of the romantic relationships are clumsy, with only a few of them being handled well and two of them ending in tragedy. However, as the show goes on, more platonic dynamics are created and play a larger part in the last half of the show.

Overall, “The Umbrella Academy” is a fascinating show with a great plot and interesting characters, even with its poorly-handled relationships and convoluted story arcs. While a second season is unconfirmed, the series is definitely worth a view.

Final Score: 4/5


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