The Umbrella Academy – Season 1 Overall Review

Umbrella Academy S1

Another day, another Netflix show that I didn’t immediately jump on but ended up enjoying immensely. Umbrella Academy is at its heart a superhero show about a dysfunctional group of heroes getting together to stop a threat, but it doesn’t take itself seriously, its cast is a mishmash of troubled souls quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and it’s just generally bonkers. At only 10 episodes it doesn’t overstay its welcome either! Let’s take deeper look, anyway…

Synopsis:

In 1989, forty-three women simultaneously give birth, despite showing no signs of pregnancy prior to each birth. Seven are adopted by eccentric billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves, who turns them into a superhero team. Years later, Hargreeves’ children reluctantly reunite for his funeral…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

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The lead cast during the “good old days”.

Luther Hargreeves / Number 1 (Tom Hopper) – Luther has super strength and is the most loyal of the seven Hargreeves children, having willingly spent the last four years living on the moon…all by himself… with the body of a gorilla… Loyalty, eh?

Diego Hargreeves / Number 2 (David Castaneda) –Diego has the ability to control knifes in mid-air, and believes he should use this ability to fight crime directly, rather than faff about in masks…

Allison Hargreeves / Number 3 (Emmy Raver-Lampman) – Allison has the ability to convince people of anything she says by starting a sentence with “I heard a rumour that…” With such a convenient power, her life has been blessed… until it wasn’t.

Klaus Hargreeves / Number 4 (Robert Sheehan) – Klaus can commune with the dead, and possibly more, if he wasn’t constantly drunk and/or drugged up… That’s what happens when you can see dead people all the time, I guess…

Number 5 (Aidan Gallagher) – Number 5, who never bothered to come up with a name for himself, can teleport short distances… and as it turns out, can also travel to the future, which is where all the trouble begins…

Ben Hargreeves / Number 6 (Justin H. Min) – Ben can tap into another dimension and unleash a horde of tentacle like beings on his foes… or at least he could, when he was alive. Still, now he’s dead, at least he can still talk to Klaus… when he’s not too drunk or high, anyway…

Vanya Hargreeves / Number 7 (Ellen Page) – Vanya has always been the odd one out, the member of the family with no powers, despite being born the same way as the other six. Her violin abilities are about the only thing that makes her stand out, if she can get the self-confidence to do them, or stop taking the meds given to her at a young age, mysteriously…

Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) – Reginald adopted seven of the mysteriously born children and made them into a superhero team capable of saving the world. Sadly he was cold and distant, and extremely harsh with training, eventually driving them all away…

Pogo (Adam Godley) – Pogo is a talking monkey in a suit that has been Reginald’s close friend for some time now. He cares deeply for the children, but his loyalty to Reginald has meant keeping some pretty harsh secrets from them…

Leonard Peabody / Harold Jenkins (John Magaro) – Harold was born with a father who abused him, the stories of the Hargreeves and their Umbrella Academy the only thing that spurred him on. When he was denied entry to their group and humiliated, it lead to a rather drastic downturn in his life…

Hazel and Cha-Cha (Cameron Britton & Mary J. Blige) – Two agents from a time travel company whose goal is to make sure the timeline stays on track, and that includes the apocalypse event taking place in a few days’ time that Number 5 is hell bent on stopping, meaning they’re now hell bent on stopping him…

Plus more!

The Good:

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Vanya is a good lesson in motivating your children… and not fearing their super powers?

You can see the original comic series being pitched like “what if Professor X was a complete bastard?” as that’s pretty much what happens here. A group of super-powered kids grow up in a posh academy with a leader who ends up sending them on missions, but a leader who puts their training and powers ahead of literally anything else. This leads to a whole bunch of issues, starting with Number 6 / Ben’s death (which is never shown or even elaborated on…) and gets more and more crazy, which is why I loved this show!

Luther / Number 1 was the only one who stayed loyal to Reginald, but that ended up with him fighting for his life and getting injected with a serum that turned his body into that of an ape, an act so unpleasant that Reginald pretended he needed Luther to do some recon work on the moon but in reality he just wanted him out because he couldn’t bear to look at him any more. Allison got so used to her powers that she used it around the house, including mundane things like getting her daughter to go to sleep, an act that freaked her husband out and lead to their divorce.

After Reginald locked a child Klaus in a crypt over night to “train him” to commune with the dead, he ended up falling to drink and drugs to get the cries of the dead and the memories out of his head forever (with the exception of his brother Number 6, who can seemingly always talk to him…), and Diego is… well, just a parody of the violent vigilante crime fighter, but does have quite a serious attachment to his Mum… or the android that was used as their Mum…

Then we get to the big two, Number 5 travels to the future to find it an apocalyptic wasteland, and also find that he can’t get back, so he grows up for decades by himself with just a mannequin dummy for a “wife”. Soon he meets a company of time travelers who kill people who might upset the timeline, but won’t fix the apocalypse because it’s supposed to happen. He acts as one of their best assassins until he finds himself able to use his powers again and jumps back to a week or so before the apocalypse, but thanks to scientific mumbo-jumbo, finds his body is the same child one he original jumped into the future with…

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Oh yeah, Klaus at one point time travels to the Vietnam war and falls in love with a soldier called Dave, before finding himself back in the present with his lover’s blood on his hands. Forgot about that bit.

Vanya, and this is the big spoiler here, was always told she was just normal and there was nothing special about her, always seeing her brothers and sister going out on missions without her, but it turns out she was the most powerful of them all, able to convert sound into explosive air blasts, but due to being unable to control it, she was depowered with medicine and Reginald had Allison tell her a “rumour” that was she was just ordinary.

This is where the big core storyline comes from. While everyone is trying to get to know each other again and deal with their “Dad’s” death, Number 5 is trying to prevent the apocalypse and Vanya is going out on a date with a new guy, a guy who got his hands on Reginald’s diary and found out the truth and a guy who killed his abusive father with a hammer after he was rejected from joining the Umbrella Academy. Seriously, hats off to John Magaro, he’s so genuinely nice for the first 7 or so episodes, and when his true nature comes out, you still almost don’t want to believe it… then he manipulates Vanya into unleashing her powers, an act that he was thrilled lead to the previously powerless sister to slice Allison’s throat open. Seriously, the look of absolute delight on his face when he comes in and sees what happened is priceless… and creepy.

It’s hard to do the 10 episodes justice because there are so many plot threads and mini story arcs at play that I’d be here forever, but that was the jist of the main cast and big plotlines. The final episode was a great “big showdown” as the family finds out its Vanya that causes the apocalypse and try to stop her (including a clean Klaus finding out he can “summon” Number 6) but they only end up causing a different but nonetheless equally deadly apocalypse. In the last moments they use Number 5’s ability and travel through time as a unit…

I’d also like to mention the duo of Hazel and Cha-Cha, who were great in their double act of sarcastic time travelling hitmen who see this as just another job while complaining about their wages being cut. In the end Hazel falls in love with an older woman, which was actually kind of sweet. The two were brilliant in their roles and deserve a lot of credit.

Overall it was a weird and wonderful journey, so weird I forgot to mention a talking monkey butler… FORGOT about him. It really was properly entertaining.

The Bad:

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Cha-Cha and Hazel stole the shows in many scenes together.

This is honestly one of those shows that so long as you were into the genre, it’s constantly engaging, always funny and entertaining. The only negative would be if you don’t like some of the trappings of the genre, and even then the show often intentionally parodies them…

Overall Thoughts:

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Crazy that such good CG is now able to be used on a TV show…

I can’t recommend Umbrella Academy enough. It gets the tone of humour over dour seriousness just right, while still making you like and care enough about the core cast that by the end you’re legitimately happy to see them all work together. A second season can’t come soon enough!

5 Star Watch

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