The dysfunctional family of seven ex-superheroes known as the Umbrella Academy have two things in common: They were all born on the same day, and they all work – some more consciously than others – because of the trauma of abuse. from their father.
Under the End of the World Stuff, Explode the Moon, the first season of Netflix’s bubbly live-action adaptation of Umbrella Academy, The Eisner Prize winning comic book by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba, had that emotional heart too. During the first season, we met the Hargreeves children, now adults, all bewildered by the death of their father, Reginald Hargreeves. His death brings them all together, forcing them to face unanswered questions about forgiveness, abuse, and family – questions they have buried over time.
With their bad father dead, finding closure should be easier for the kids. Or at least that’s what they believed. Their hope is that one of their traumas or scars will die with the person who caused them. But to complicate matters, these overpowered humans must stop the doomsday event they inadvertently caused.
Although they have powers like supersforce, marksmanship, communication with the dead, and psychic manipulation, they have failed. But instead of dying with the rest of humanity, they traveled back in time to return before the apocalypse to try and stop it again. They now find themselves dispersed in Dallas in the early 1960s.
This first season spent a lot of time laying it all out, making parts of it feel a bit like a chore. But all that time spent in extreme exposure pays off in a flashier, more entertaining, and tighter second chapter.
Season 1 of Umbrella Academy put the board and season two plays the game.
There’s a lot more zapping and superpowering in season two, which should appease comic book fans who want to see superheroes do this sort of thing. But it also rocks for something much more emotionally resonant, wanting to comment on the flawed, humane way of healing and the gap between people who want to change their ways and actually do. And in its best moments, Umbrella AcademyThe second season manages to balance both humanity and superheroes without sacrificing either.
Umbrella Academy uses superpowers to tell a very human story about complicated relationships
One of the main devices of Umbrella Academy is that the Hargreeves are each known by a number, assigned to them by their father: There’s Luther (# 1), Diego (# 2), Allison (# 3), Klaus (# 4), Five (# 5 ), Ben (# 6) and Vanya (# 7). It’s like they’re players on a basketball team whose names you’ve never learned. Or in the case of the Academy, the numbers are a way to differentiate the seven different superpowers they possess. The dark edge is that reducing your kids to a number is just one of many emotionally abusive things that Reginald Hargreeves, the family patriarch, has done.
Hargreeves developed his adopted children into a team of superheroes, putting them through relentless physical training, teaching them violence, pitting them against each other, and punishing them when they failed. They ultimately failed when the world needed them most, resulting in Ben’s death and Five’s disappearance, hence the disbandment. And they failed again at the end of last season, as Vanya’s power manifested to destroy the moon before everyone, including Ben, decided they could save the world if they just traveled around. time.
Believing that you can avoid an armageddon that you and your siblings have caused is in itself a slightly selfish thing to do. But they’re the Hargreeves, and they’re really the only ones who can stop him.
After passing through this portal, Hargreeves’ adult children are separated and divided into various pockets of time before November 22, 1963 – the day President John F. Kennedy was shot dead in Dallas and approximately 26 years before their birth. It also turns out that, although they have timed, there is another cataclysmic event that they must stop. But it is very difficult to do when the siblings are not in the same place or even at the same time.
As tantalizing as this mysterious, pervasive apocalypse itself is, the best of the second season is how we get there and how we put the Hargreeves siblings on the same page.
The time jump forces siblings, for a few brief moments, to live independently from each other. Time travel, for siblings, is a kind of forced immersive therapy. These brothers and sisters, their feelings and identities were so closely linked to each other. Now they are forced to live as if the others and their father do not exist.
Which means we see each of them trying to heal their wounds for life in their own way.
Luther (Tom Hopper), with his super strength, becomes a bodyguard by day and an underground fighter at night to ease the pain. Diego’s (David Castañeda) superhuman sniping is of no use in the mental institution he’s stuck in, but he plots every day to get out. Klaus (Robert Sheehan) drinks and drinks and somehow begins a cult. Five (Aidan Gallagher) is the only bridge to the others, thanks to his time-skipping powers.
And then there’s Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), who can force people to do anything by preceding an action with the phrase “I heard a rumor” (like “I heard a rumor that you ate cheesecake ‘), which unfortunately plunked down in 1961. Unlike her white siblings, Allison faces an additional threat from their 1960s time travel due to US segregation laws and endemic racism. White privilege, it seems, extends to time travel.
The central vanity of Allison’s story is that she could easily change the world around her to “I heard a rumor that you weren’t a blatant racist” – everyone around her , but she never says it. The series doesn’t explain exactly why it doesn’t, allowing you to draw your own conclusions about why the racism it faces is too overwhelming to correct. Or maybe the excuse is that she isn’t powerful enough to stop racism. Or that racism is more complex than simple actions to be ordered in one way or another.
Or maybe Allison is afraid of all she’s really capable of.
In the first season, Allison lost custody of her daughter when her ex-husband revealed that he surprised Allison by using his power of rumor to put their daughter to sleep. Even though Allison loves her daughter, she still used her powers to get her daughter to do something against her will. Allison is given a hard lesson in the human consequences of her powers, which her father encouraged her to use and allowed her to ignore the fallout.
We actually see her using her powers at a “White Only” dinner party in a season-ending episode. The restaurant manager was a racist asshole over and over again. She says the manager is serving her coffee. She is so angry with him, however, that she tells him to refill her cup until it overflows over and over again, burning his hands raw and red. The skin peels off. He always pours. She can’t stop inflicting pain.
Allison could easily have just ruminated that the man was serving her and would stop her when the coffee cup was full, saving her from burns. But she inflicts pain on him because it seems to fit the racism and injustice that she’s struggling in this timeline, and because punishment and pain is what her father taught her.
What’s fascinating is that the show goes to great lengths to show that Allison isn’t a mean person. This scene only occurs after Allison refrains from using her powers against injustice for most of the season. Instead, its failure shows us that being “good” or being healed is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Healing and improving oneself require constant work.
On a related note, Allison and the Hargreeves siblings face a horrific truth when they reconnect with Vanya (Ellen Page): They all abused him as much as their father.
Before being teleported back to the 1960s and before adult Vanya fully unleashed her power that crashed a piece of the moon, the adult siblings locked her in a padded room because they thought that she was too dangerous. Instead of standing up for her or protecting her from their father’s abuse when they were children, they neglected her and treated her as the problem.
This is the kind of behavior you would expect from people whose entire family life is training, punishment and competition, but while it’s explainable, it’s not excusable. Ultimately, siblings spend this season learning to ask for forgiveness and forgive each other.
This does not mean that everything in Umbrella AcademyThe second season of is ooey-gooey touchy-feely.
Since we know what each other’s powers are now, the series loosens its grip on the exhibit and allows more of its signature fight sequences and action scenes, punctuated by music and sprinkled throughout the season. This includes explosive armageddon with all the siblings in full swing – rumors from people until brains explode and faces melt, crumpling unarmed artillery shells, Kraken-like tentacles hurling soldiers – this happens in the first seven minutes of the first episode.
But viewers already know by season two that Umbrella Academy is always ready to put on a show. It’s just that this season he’s finally ready to deliver everything else to that same level.
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