The Umbrella Academy Season 2 Review
Whereas its cast may be time traveling to the past to save the future from impending doomsday again, The Umbrella Academy‘s second season oppositely takes major leaps forward in its overall production. The follow-up year to Netflix’s hit adaptation of Gerard Way’s preposterously fantastic comic book run manages to successfully retool its narrative and core story structure for the small screen, albeit with some new and familiar flaws getting in the way. Despite a slow buildup- that remains exceptionally well-executed in retrospect, The Umbrella Academy manages to create a noteworthy continuation with a back half that is an absolute banger. It is still forced to sacrifice some more conventional story beats the narrative needs due to time constraints, but overall fans of the Hargreeves’ television interpretation will not be disappointed by their weirdest new journey.
Season two is unsurprisingly based loosely on The Umbrella Academy: Dallas with some of Hotel Oblivion bleeding in every now and then. During their jump to the past Five (Aidan Gallagher) accidentally manages to scatter his family in different time periods ranging from anywhere between 1960 and 1963 before the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy. After Five encounters Hazel (Cameron Britton) in 1963 and witnesses that doomsday returned to the past with them, he is sent back ten days before the crisis with enough time to save the world again. It may sound like groundhogs day and it certainly feels like it at several points, but the similarities in the two season’s main plots should not push viewers away immediately. The newest batch of episodes is packed with plenty of twists and turns as the team is forced to leave their newly accustomed lives in the ’60s to save Earth from their mistakes. It wounds up being a satisfying continuation of the dysfunctional family’s story for nearly everyone.
The Umbrella Academy‘s second year improves on almost all of its characters, but one and seven still fall a little behind.
Without going in-depth into each characters’ new livelihoods, almost the entire main cast has been given far more engrossing and complex story arcs this time around. No one falls completely flat or meaningless by the end of the narrative due to the important role they each play, yet that does not mean everyone is fully developed to the extent you hope they would be. In the same vein as season one, Diego (David Castañeda), Fives, Klaus (Robert Sheehan), and Ben (Justin Min) still steal the spotlight with the most satisfying storylines and character group dynamics as they explore the majority of the show’s main themes, the development of our villains, and all-around solid comedy. If you enjoyed what these characters were doing before then you are not going to be complaining here. They may be stuck in the past, but this season aims to continually push their original story’s forward in familiar and original ways.
As for the other three members, only one of them can sadly join the high horse their siblings ride on. The biggest concern viewers should have come into season two with was what the writers were exactly going to do with Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), Luther (Tom Hopper), and Vanya (Ellen Page). These were the most polarizing characters the show had to offer previously. They were the three individuals that needed more convincing end goal purposes and overall compelling journeys than any other character in the series. Allison is the only character to come out victorious due to getting entangled in a plotline fueled by realistic racist sentiments that noticeably stands out from what the rest of the cast attempts to accomplish. Vanya continues to be The Umbrella Academy’s biggest burden with Luther falling behind for far different reasons. The two undoubtedly have seen several steps in the right direction, but not enough to justify their placements with the rest of the show’s cast.
Besides helping guide other characters or being supportive, Luther upsettingly has little next to no involvement in the overarching narrative, which is shocking because he has a marvelous start that could have heavily tied him into the Kennedy assassination the season builds up to. He somehow comes down to merely serving as the glue of the team when needed. Number one- though never a bad character by any means- often feels as if he is just there because he has to be there and for no other reason. As for Vanya, she still feels as if the writers have her trapped in a void of confusion never knowing what they should do with her- ironically literal in a sense as she suffers from amnesia after being struck by a car in the opening minutes. Vanya is both figuratively and literally the outcast of The Academy which can not only harm the show’s pacing as her adventures introduce characters that viewers can only hope will hold a larger meaning in the future, but it takes up tremendous amounts of time that could be spent with others who arguably have so much more to do when it comes to pushing the core narrative forward.
When it comes to storytelling, season two takes a welcoming though unorthodox approach to conflict for its universe that nearly always pans out as important.
What The Umbrella Academy’s second season does exceptionally well with for all of its characters (including Vanya) is diving into internal and external conflicts that do not roam around the typical hero complexes we are traditionally used to viewing due. Race, gender, and sexuality all strikingly play a major role as the characters are living during the red scare. I will certainly not say a modern setting limited the show before in any way, but placing the cast of diverse heroes in the past gave season two a chance to embrace its problems differently. This season treads a fine line between telling its own fictional story while incorporating the actual harsh reality America presented for minority groups and outcasts. Whereas the first season the characters were free to do as they choose in a world that widely accepted their existence, here we have an era where several of its members are constantly subjected to the general public’s close-minded thought process of others.
This successfully helps bring out emotional and even shockingly physical conflict in some of our heroes. Allison and Klaus notably manage to score some of the series’ most unexpected emotional moments because of this. It may come off as feelings pointless by incorporating these long yet appropriate arcs early into the story, but in the end, everything manages to pull itself together and connect brilliantly. That’s what season two does best though when it comes to storytelling. It is able to provide a tale that is constantly shifting expectations and playing well with how exactly characters connect with one another. The placement of the cast in the ’60s gives a way for The Umbrella Academy to explore key story points viewers are dying to know with benefits. You would have expected the series to introduce viewers to some important moments through flashbacks, but instead, it ops to bring viewers directly to the events while allowing its characters to discover the truth too.
Returning veterans like Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore), his then future wife Grace (Jordan Claire Robbins), Pogo, and other names I can not mention due to spoilers are given great moments to shine which helps develop not only themselves but the main cast in a variety of ways. However, some of the newcomers lose needed screen time because of the focus on their appearances- for better or worse. Specifically, Diego’s new psycho friend Lila (Ritu Arya) he finds himself in love with is one of the best new characters season two has to offer, but by the time the ending rolls around the corner, you will only be wishing we had seen so more of her. Everyone does their job in helping the cast get to where they need to be by the end of the season, yet it feels as if some of the newcomers yearn for more involvement versus the veterans who are given special treatment. It will be interesting to see what the writers decide to do with all of the survivors next season, but the audience will not be seeing that for a long time from now.
Viewers will be more than happy to endure a steady opening so they can receive six exciting episodes.
Whereas graphic novels can jump from panel to panel, character to character, television shows are a completely different beast that needs to tackle pacing differently. The Umbrella Academy still feels a bit too jumpy at times with its general pacing as it constantly shifts spotlights during its opening episodes between its cast, but luckily this is something that only affects the first few hours of the show. The main plot of season two is partly the reason why the first three episodes play out slower than the rest. The Umbrella Academy is forced to sacrifice its time rebuilding its known cast because of the three years Five and the audience never got to experience. There are a handful of new character introductions and reintroductions that are completely necessary to get the ball rolling. Thankfully, the time spent on these moments has a worthwhile payoff and is well worth enduring. After that, the rest of the episodes go along significantly faster- the last three episodes flew by faster than the rest of the series. Arguably one of the most important aspects to a show based on a comic book though is the visuals.
For a series helmed by seven children all born at the same second from mothers that were never pregnant, it is mind-boggling how The Umbrella Academy is so afraid to embrace its chaotic side of reality. Just as before, it remains cinematically engaging the whole way through except this time Netflix has allowed the production team to more so cater in on Gerard Way’s bat-shit crazy atmosphere that seemingly went missing in action last time. It is not what fans of the source material are begging for, yet it is a step closer. Rather than cutting back on alien creatures and flying Eiffle Towers, this season embraces what other comic book adaptations that Mr. Way inspired have succeeded with. From Swedish assassins dressed as milkmen to goldfish running the show, the insanity of The Umbrella Academy’s sophomore year helps build upon this ridiculous world that continually seems madder then it already is at it shows fewer fears of holding itself back. Setpieces and costumes have thankfully ditched the darker color pallets as the show highlights the extravagant designs of the 1960s which just makes the production feel more in line with the source material’s vision. It has that right amount of balance between goofiness and seriousness that other shows like Daredevil and Gotham thrived from.
Season two is definitely going to leave die-hard fans of the series famished for more and that is what really matters most.
Like its predecessor season, The Umbrella Academy‘s follow-up year achieves on bringing Gerard Way’s dysfunctional family to the streaming front on a successful though flawed note. It is still far from the best ongoing comic book show available due to some opening difficulties with its buildup and minor plotlines that could have arguably been way more exciting or involved with the core narrative, however, at the end of the day, Netflix has done a fine job adapting one of Dark Horse’s most popular comics series into live-action. It takes major steps in the right direction as it continually aims to push the narrative forward, but in doing so it still manages to hit a few unreasonable hurdles that should have probably been resolved already. For those who were turned off by its freshman year, season two’s improvements still likely will not drag you back in. If you enjoyed the show’s first outing then you will no doubt be having a blast once again as the team engages in more world-ending action.