Review: Umbrella Academy by Netflix doesn’t give you more than you’d expect

While it is clear that the show did not suffer a sophomore slump, it still couldn't make a case for itself in an already crowded line up of superhero shows and films

Umbrella Academy

Netflix’s Umbrella Academy is quickly becoming a flagship series for the streaming service.  Based on Gerard Way’s comic books of the same name, the series centers on a group of 7 super-powered kids adopted by billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves and turned into child superheroes who then grow up and grow estranged.

Umbrella Academy: Season 1 

The first season premiered back in 2019 to much fanfare, with Netflix reporting that 45 million households had seen the series within a month of its release. Season 2, which released on July 31, continues the adventures of the gang to significantly superior results.

After the apocalyptic ending of the first season, the show thrusts its ensemble into the 60s.

Writing this review, I felt rather conflicted as to what my exact take on this series was. While it is clear that The Umbrella Academy did not suffer a sophomore slump and rather improved vastly, the show still doesn’t quite make a case for itself in regards to its presence in an already crowded line up of superhero shows and films.

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Despite Netflix’s dazzling effects and flawless stunt work, you don’t really get anything more than you’d expect from the basic premise of the show. There are a dozen other superhero ensemble and time travel superhero shows on air at this point, and while one could argue that Umbrella Academy remains the best produced of them all, there’s still a lingering kernel of doubt as to whether that even needs to be the focal point of this show.

Umbrella Academy: Season 2

Yet that’s not really too strong a criticism when the series has taken so many things up a notch in its second season. Gone is the dull almost muted look and feel of the show and in its stead there is a far more enjoyable kaleidoscope of colorful imagery that uplifts the entire series.

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In going back in time, rather than worry about ripple effects and all the other typical genre plot points, the series gets a chance at updating and essentially rebooting several of its characters. The ladies in the show, Ellen Page’s Vanya and Emmy Raver-Lampman’s Allison get to become far more likable characters in the show thanks to much-needed character development.

With Vanya the series does a cop-out, removing her memory early on and allowing Page to just play herself. Considering how dull her season one character one, this is a marked improvement. Similarly, we get to know Allison a little better as she finds herself in an America that doesn’t look too kindly upon black men and women.

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Everyone, save for Tom Hopper’s Luther, gets interesting storylines this time around. Among them is David Casatenda’s Diego, who for the large part of the second season seems to be in his own little spy film.

Arya is a fine addition to the show

Pairing him with newcomer Ritu Arya proves to be an excellent decision and while their arc together is predictable, Arya is a fine addition to the show with her neurotic Lila being both unpredictable and immensely easy to root for. Casatenda also gets a large brunt of the season’s fight stunts and the team behind him makes sure that each one of those fights is better than the previous ones.

The show doesn’t have Watchmen’s relevancy, though it would be fair to dismiss Umbrella Academy’s attempts at scraping beneath the surface. The 60’s setting makes issues like race and sexuality rise to the forefront of Allison and Vanya’s journeys, and given that returning to their own time for these characters was imminent from the get-go, these stories now, are good threads to be followed in the yet to be green-lit third season.

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I would argue that the plot to bench characters, like Luthor in this season, is to be expected given the number of players in the mix and isn’t a quibble. However, more could have been done with the ghostly Ben whose camaraderie between with Klaus is the single selling point of his character thus far.

However, the fabulous direction, particularly early on in the season, is a high selling point and those looking to binge-watch a series that is growing increasingly more entertaining and enjoyable should not hesitate to give Umbrella Academy a gander.

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