By Sneha Jaiswal (Twitter | Instagram)
At the heart of it, ‘The Umbrella Academy’ is essentially about a bunch of adopted superhero siblings, who were mentally screwed over by their control-freak billionaire father. So unlike the ‘Justice Leagues’ and ‘Avengers’ of the comic-book world, their team (Umbrella Academy) disbands before the protagonist even register pubertal changes. Yeah…
So, season one starts off with a team reunion at their father’s funeral. Episode one is aptly titled ‘We Only See Each Other at Weddings and Funerals’, where each of the seven Umbrella siblings are slowly introduced, after a quick explanation of their genesis. On October 1st 1989, 43 children were born under unusual circumstances around the world – their moms weren’t even pregnant until a minute before their sudden violent birth. Eccentric billionaire Reginald Hargreeves adopts seven of these unusual children, by paying off the families who weren’t prepared for these baby Jesuses, since they didn’t come with an incubation period of forewarning. He names the kids simply after numbers, One, Two, Three…. you get it.
Also Read: The Umbrella Academy Season 2 Review
Created by Steve Blackman and Jeremy Slater, season one is spread over 10 episodes, each over an hour long, a duration that should’ve been shorter. Elliot Page plays Vanya Hargreeves AKA Seven, the only sibling who has no special powers and leads a regular life as a violinist. All the main characters are 30 something, and there is number Five played by the Aidan Gallaghar, who reverts to being a teen due to his botched attempt at time-traveling. He comes back from the future to warn his siblings the world is about to end in eight days – what follows is a mildly exciting time-traveling adventure. If it weren’t for the slight mystery over ‘what caused the apocalypse?’ and some stand-out performances, ‘The Umbrella Academy’ could’ve been just another forgettable show, largely due to it’s choppy pace and unlikable conceited characters. The Umbrella siblings are too caught up with their own shit, while Five runs around investigating what could’ve caused the apocalypse. It’s clear this was a deliberate juxtaposition of petty superheroes Vs end of the world, but it’s just not as entertaining as intended.
Teen actor Aidan Gallaghar is the break-out star of the show, his cocky ’58-year-old man stuck in a per-pubescent body’ act is perfection. The only other likable Hargreeves’ sibling is the drugged up Klaus, who can see the dead and is a lot more humane than everybody else. Cameron Britton and Mary J. Blige play time-traveling assassins Hazel and Cha-Cha (their characters are a direct lift-off from Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction’), who are out to kill Five, since he plans to change the timeline of world events. Even though Hazel, Cha-Cha’s mission to hunt-down Five is one of the more-exciting sub-plots, their characters are given way more space-time than necessary. Elliot Page as Vanya Hargreeves starts out likable as the ‘odd one out’, but her character lacks the depth it needed to make the climax explosive.
Even though the story is set in 2019, the technology used by everybody is extremely outdated. Nobody uses cell-phones, and people are still listening to music on record-players… while on the other hand, the tech is advanced enough for Luther to live on the moon and get a pager informing him of his dad’s demise. They should’ve just set the story in the 1970s, like in the comics, instead of making up their own weird world, with random tech. Viewers simply have to assume maybe this is an entirely different planet earth, if we want to make peace with the story and the lack of immediate communication. The gothic-style sprawling mansion where the siblings grew up in adds a lot of character to the story, giving it an old school fantasy touch to the tale, making it look like a set-piece from the Harry Potter universe.
Things get interesting when episode five introduces an organization called ‘The Commission’ that exists out of time and is “tasked with the preservation of the time continuum”… so whenever a human takes a decision that can alter a timeline, agents are dispatched to eliminate them. Kate Walsh as ‘The Handler’ looks like she is out of ‘The Stepford Wives’, but makes for a quirky minor villain in Five’s mission to stop the extinction of human race. In comparison, unfortunately, the final cause of the apocalypse is so underwhelming, you’d be left gritting your teeth in frustration over the superficial wipe-out of the entire planet. It makes little sense, doesn’t feel apocalyptic, and makes you really hate some of the Umbrella siblings.
For example, Tom Hooper plays ‘One’ Aka Luther Hargreeves, who has super-strength, he is a hulking man, whose intelligence is inversely proportional to his body size; his dumbness is cute at first, but his actions towards the end makes you wish he were dead before the others. It took me two seasons to understand number ‘Two’ Aka Diego’s superpower, which seems very useless at times. Portrayed by David Castaneda, Diego looks sharp, but has mommy issues and is almost as dumb as Luther. Each sibling has some or the other parental complex, from One to Seven, they are all messed up due to their strict upbringing. I mean who wouldn’t be, if they had distant control-freak for a father, a robot for a mother, and a talking chimp as their housekeeper/guide?
The angst and bad blood between the siblings both uplifts and sinks this season. That said, it’s still quite an entertaining show, and Aidan Gallagher’s performance as Five is one of the major highlights of this series, he is quite the show-stopper! The sound-track can be a total deal-breaker for some, luckily for me, I really enjoyed most the tracks in Season one. Just the groovy violin cover of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ at the beginning of Episode 1 was enough to get me hooked.
It’s a 7/10 from me. Stream it on Netflix.
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