Dysfunctional, violent, and powerful—The Umbrella Academy shows audiences a group of unordinary individuals who are trying to prevent an apocalypse.
This post for The Umbrella Academy Season 1 contains spoilers.
Based on the comic books of the same name by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, The Umbrella Academy Season 1 (2019, created by Steve Blackman) follows the story of seven gifted children who are adopted by a wealthy reclusive businessman named Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore). The children are trained to fight crime and evil under the name the Umbrella Academy, but as they grow into adulthood, each sibling—except Luther (Tom Hopper)—leaves the academy in pursuit of their own careers. They are then reunited again in present day when their father passes away.
The Umbrella Academy does a great job in setting up the characters and story right at the beginning. Things do get a tad bit complicated when the story plays around with temporal dimensions—jumping back and forth with the past and present. But it’s easy to catch on with what’s going on as long as you pay close attention to the expository intertitles that pop up on-screen.
I’m most impressed by the performances from Robert Sheehan and Ellen Page—they respectively play the roles of Number Four “Klaus” and Number Seven “Vanya”.
Klaus is such an eccentric character. He is a drug addict, but I honestly think he mostly relies on drugs to avoid activating his powers—which is to speak to the dead. Sheehan brings his own flair and nuance to Klaus, which helps perk up this series that can get a little serious at times.
If you watch a lot of content like me, then you probably know that there is more to Vanya than meets the eye. Like who would believe that she is actually ordinary and has no powers at all? 🤔 Halfway through the series, I had already guessed that Vanya is the main cause of the apocalypse—this was a dead giveaway. Her powers—which totally reminded me of Jean Grey from X-Men—seem like a form of telekinesis that is generated through sound waves, and how fitting for her character that she grew up playing the violin. Also a complete sidenote here, but if anyone has played or watched the PlayStation game Beyond: Two Souls; the resemblance between Page’s game character Jodie and The Umbrella Academy’s Vanya is eerily identical, especially in terms of the characters’ personality and powers.
It’s quite shocking that for the entirety of this series, Aidan Gallagher—who is just a teen actor—takes centre stage and has the most screen time out of the main cast. His role as Five shows him being trapped in the body of his 13-year-old self, but he retains the consciousness of his 58-year-old self. For almost all the episodes he is just a 13-year-old boy running around and jumping through space and time, insisting that he is the only one who can save the world and his family. It’s only in “Number Five” (S01E05) where audiences gets a glimpse of his older self. It’s difficult to separate the 58-year-old Five from his 13-year-old body, so at times when Five is cussing and drinking coffee as an adolescent—I can’t help but feel unconvinced by Gallagher’s performance, as I just don’t believe that the kid is a 58-year-old. After all, seeing is believing. However, it is still quite impressive that he is able to blend in with the six other adult actors and own the fight scenes he appears in.
As for the four other members of the Umbrella Academy, Number Three “Allison” (Emmy Raver-Lampman), in my opinion, has the coolest power amongst everyone. She’s like Kilgrave “The Purple Man” from Jessica Jones who can mind control anyone with words, but it’s a shame that the only time she tries to use her power in the present day, she also gets it temporarily taken away. Number Two “Diego” (David Castañeda) is a natural born fighter with the talent to curve knives without missing any of his targets. Luther is just your typical beast man with super strength. And the deceased Number Six “Ben” (Justin H. Min)—who is the only form of Asian representation in the series—is like a real life Doctor Octopus from Spider-Man brought to life.
One thing that I absolutely love about this series is the juxtaposition of upbeat music with violent fight scenes. In “We Only See Each Other at Weddings and Funerals” (S01E01), Five fights with a bunch of agents at Griddy’s Doughnuts and the song Istanbul (not Constantinople) by They Might Be Giants plays in the background. In “Run Boy Run” (S01E02), when Five is being attacked by Cha-Cha (Mary J. Blige) and Hazel (Cameron Britton), Queen’s iconic Don’t Stop Me Now plays in the background. And in “Number Five”, a cover version of The Turtle’s Happy Together by former My Chemical Romance members Gerard Way and Ray Toro—the last time I heard this song was in the movie Freaky Friday—plays at the end of the episode in yet another fight scene. So you get the idea that The Umbrella Academy loves to surprise its audiences with refreshing song choices in the most unexpected situations.
Even though The Umbrella Academy feels reminiscent of a DC or Marvel television series, it still contains its own elements that makes it unique. Perhaps, this power filled series can take over all the disappearing Netflix Marvel superhero series. There are certain subplots that take a back seat in Season 1, but hopefully things like Ben’s death does eventually get addressed properly in future seasons. I’m pretty sure The Umbrella Academy is gunning for a second season as the story has only just begun.