REVIEW: THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY – SEASON 1

Ellen Page, Robert Sheehan, Tom Hopper, David Castañeda, Aidan Gallagher, and Emmy Raver-Lampman in The Umbrella Academy (2019)

Starring

Ellen Page (Hard Candy)
Tom Hopper (Game of Thrones)
David Castañeda (Forces of Nature)
Emmy Raver-Lampman (Wednesdays)
Robert Sheehan (Mortal Engines)
Aidan Gallagher (Jacked Up)
Mary J. Blige (Body Cam)
Cameron Britton (The Girl In The Spider’s Web)
John Magaro (Overlord)
Adam Godley (Breaking Bad)
Colm Feore (The Chronicles of Riddick)
Jordan Claire Robbins (Anon)

T.J. McGibbon, Cameron Brodeur, Eden Cupid, Ethan Hwang, Blake Talabis, and Jesse Noah Gruman in The Umbrella Academy (2019)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Kate Walsh (13 Reasons wehy
Ashley Madekwe (Venus)
Emily Piggford (Killjoys)
Cody Ray Thompson (The Man In The High Castle)
Peter Outerbridge (ReGenesis)
Rainbow Sun Francks (Stargate: Atlantis)

Ellen Page, Tom Hopper, David Castañeda, and Emmy Raver-Lampman in The Umbrella Academy (2019)Move over, Marvel – Netflix has a new superhero franchise, and if anything, it’s even more twisted, bloody, and unpredictable than the street-level adventures of The Defenders. Despite Netflix’s decision to jettison many of its Marvel properties, it’s somewhat unfair to compare The Umbrella Academy to the likes of Daredevil and Iron Fist – aside from their comic book origins, the shows are attempting to do very different things; The Umbrella Academy focuses on a dysfunctional family of heroes, who are drawn together by an eccentric and emotionally distant billionaire and tasked with saving the world from annihilation (with a healthy dose of time travel, dancing, and a talking chimpanzee thrown in).The Umbrella Academy (2019)In that way, it has much more in common with DC’s Doom Patrol (a comic that creator Gerard Way has long cited as an inspiration for his own team of misfits, and even previously wrote for), which is why it’s both ironic and strangely poetic that Netflix is launching the series on the same day DC Universe is debuting its decidedly NSFW adaptation of Doom Patrol (check out our premiere review here), based heavily on the Grant Morrison run of comics that also inspired Way’s writing.The Umbrella Academy (2019)Basically, 2019 is an embarrassment of riches for comic book fans – The Umbrella Academy and Doom Patrol are two of the best superhero shows in recent years, blending self-aware humor with stylish storytelling as a way to deconstruct an already overpopulated genre. Plus, their different delivery methods (DC is debuting new episodes of Doom Patrol weekly, as opposed to Netflix’s binge model) ensure that we’ll have plenty of time to compare their approaches as they carve out a very different niche from Marvel’s streaming shows.Ellen Page, Tom Hopper, David Castañeda, and Emmy Raver-Lampman in The Umbrella Academy (2019)The first episode of Umbrella Academy has to do a lot of heavy lifting to introduce viewers to the seven super-powered children who were adopted – or, more accurately, bought – by Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) as babies to be raised into a world-saving team, while also establishing the troubling family dynamics that left them estranged as adults. The show throws a lot of information at viewers up front, but manages to make the exposition engaging and fairly zippy – thanks in large part to its charismatic cast and some truly inspired needle drops. (The soundtrack is consistently awesome throughout, adding a madcap energy to even the most incongruous scenes.)Colm Feore, Dante Albidone, Aidan Gallagher, Cameron Brodeur, Eden Cupid, Ethan Hwang, and Blake Talabis in The Umbrella Academy (2019)There’s something to love about every member of the Hargreeves family, from Tom Hopper’s super-strong – and super repressed – golden boy Luther (aka Number 1); to Robert Sheehan’s mischievous, drug-addicted Klaus (Number 4) who can speak to dead people; all the way through to Ellen Page’s Vanya (Number 7), who can… play the violin really well, but has spent her life left out of her super-powered siblings’ adventures.Ellen Page in The Umbrella Academy (2019)But the true revelation of the show is Aidan Gallagher as Number Five, a crotchety time-traveler who has lived into old age after getting stuck in the future but is now trapped in his teenage form, and has witnessed the impending apocalypse firsthand. Five’s return (and his warning about the end of the world) is the catalyst for much of the story, and Gallagher strikes the perfect balance of worldly and world-weary without ever seeming precocious. After a couple of episodes, you’ll be convinced that the 15-year-old really is a grumpy old man in a kid’s body, and his snark – especially in combination with Sheehan’s gleeful lunacy – is the highlight of the series.Ellen Page in The Umbrella Academy (2019)While the show is a fairly faithful, if simplified, adaptation of Way and Gabriel Bá’s comics (with a few pivotal deviations), the interplay between the siblings is more compelling than the mystery at its core, which can sometimes feel like an afterthought compared to the family drama. You’ll likely have more fun trying to figure out the various rifts, rivalries, and connections that have forged and fractured this team than you will attempting to decipher all the clues that are leading towards the apocalypse. Diego (David Castañeda), aka Number 2, is a prickly loner who has spent his life trying to step out from Luther’s shadow, but the deep wounds he carries from a lifetime of playing second fiddle make for a surprisingly poignant character arc. Likewise, Emmy Raver-Lampman’s Allison (Number 3) is the only member of the family who seems to be trying to learn from her past mistakes, and her connections with both Luther and Vanya give the season much of its heart.Tom Hopper in The Umbrella Academy (2019)The show is also stylish as hell; the action scenes – of which there are plenty – are filmed with a kinetic, visually inventive flair, utilizing slo-mo, split-screen, and constantly-moving cameras to create an impressive sense of momentum without ever feeling messy or confusing. Netflix and Universal Cable Productions, the studio behind the show, definitely haven’t skimped on the scale – many of the effects are cinematic in scope, especially Weta’s gorgeous work on Pogo, Sir Reginald’s chimpanzee assistant, who looks like he wandered right off the set of War for the Planet of the Apes. Tonally, Umbrella Academy isn’t quite as meta as the likes of Deadpool or Doom Patrol, but its wicked sense of humor is in full effect throughout, giving it a playful and sometimes deliciously sick attitude, with a smattering of gory visual gags.Ellen Page, Robert Sheehan, Tom Hopper, David Castañeda, Aidan Gallagher, and Emmy Raver-Lampman in The Umbrella Academy (2019)The Umbrella Academy should comfortably fill the void that Netflix’s Marvel cancellations have left in our viewing schedules. (Okay, we’re still not over Daredevil, but the other two, at least.) Showrunner Steve Blackman has created a hilariously twisted, subversively stylish, and surprisingly poignant new superhero series that serves as both a witty deconstruction of our favorite comic book tropes and an ambitious, time-bending romp. Despite some bloat around the midseason mark and a few underdeveloped supporting characters, this is an undeniably super new series.