Talk about history repeating itself. Remember how in Season 1 the Hargreeves were introduced and just as quickly, split apart but the goal is to gather everyone, to save the world? Well, everyone’s favourite dysfunctional family is back for a second season and this time they’re just as dysfunctional and separated. Ok, maybe just a smidge more functional than before. But they still need to save the world.
Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy starts off like any other Netflix show would – a fun introduction! Picking up from season one, Pogo, the intelligent chimpanzee, reminds viewers that the superpowered siblings, in trying to stop their sister Vanya, destroyed the moon, and that whilst everyone else on the entire Earth died in mere minutes, the very six people who caused it, survived by jumping into a time portal created by their sibling Five (Aidan Gallagher). Where did they end up? Well, in Dallas, Texas. Across the 1960s.
Oh, and separated from one another.
Klaus (Robert Sheehan), despite Ben’s (Justin H. Min) nagging, started a cult called ‘Destiny’s Children’ and spewed TLC’s Waterfalls lyrics as religious scripture as he traveled across states. Vanya (Ellen Page) got hit by a car, lost her memories and is now living on a farm with a good ol’ American family. Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) has moved on and gotten married, while Diego (David Castañeda) is in a psychiatric hospital and Luther (Tom Hopper) is part of an underground fight club.
Of course, that leaves Five, the eldest of the Hargreeves, the very fun job of gathering around his rowdy crew of siblings to – wait a minute – stop the end of the world from happening. Again. This time, not created by Vanya but World War III between the Americans and Russians.
Tinted in warm yellows and oranges, the series sure knows how to recreate aesthetics from the 60s. The music score is phenomenal in trying to match up with the look and feel of the show, though we would’ve appreciated it if they featured songs of said era. Nonetheless, we’ve no complaints with hearing Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy over an amazing fight scene and a personal favourite – Perry Como’s Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo to introduce the season’s main antagonist.
Still, sticking to the visual aesthetics is one thing but The Umbrella Academy could have definitely done more to really drive in the idea that the Hargreeves are, in fact, stuck in the 1960s, especially since the only person who dressed like they belonged is Allison. And for people who came from 2019, they have no qualms about living without advanced technology which is incredibly hard to believe. You’re really telling us that these metahumans from the future have never looked at a giant hunk of metal and asked: “what’s that thingamabob?”
What the second season of The Umbrella Academy does well in reinforcing the timeline is the exploration of politics and social issues. Diego was hospitalised for trying to stop the assasination of President John F. Kennedy that wasn’t going to happen till a couple of days later, and Allison was an active participant in the Civil Rights Movement having recreated the famed Greensboro sit-in that protested against racial segregation and discrimination towards Black African Americans at the time. Perhaps that’s why things changed because the Famous Five participated in events that they shouldn’t have.
And in trying to weave in these new occupants in the timeline, the show overstretched itself somewhat.
In one of the episodes, Klaus fell victim to homophobia and was physically assaulted. That was also the first time we hear the word ‘Queer’ – a word proclaimed and used so proudly by LGBT folks around the world today – as a slur used to hurt and oppress. Vanya’s romantic relationship with a woman she lived with showed the struggles of queer women in the past who had to stay in loveless marriages because society would not accept “women like us”. Although these issues were definitely relevant to discuss given that they add value to the characters and their experiences in navigating the 60s, it’s highly unfortunate that they were portrayed as isolated events.
Allison’s sit-in turned violent and her husband was wrongfully arrested, yet none of the siblings seemed to notice? There were many missed opportunities to see how their lives could’ve come together and intertwined apart from just saving the world. Yes, seeing the Hargreeves reunited together once again, working through their trauma and daddy issues was great, but heck don’t break our hearts by showing Klaus getting beaten to the ground and then suddenly not address it again nor have any of his siblings show a tinge of concern. Was this a flaw in the storytelling? Probably, because there’s no way Gorilla boy wouldn’t have heard about his sister/ex-lover being manhandled for wanting coffee at a White-only diner.
Apart from that, the timeline being strictly in 1960 Dallas made the entire plot much more digestible and focused. Season one felt like a tiresome trip in gathering the family back together again – what with Vanya going rogue and deciding to stay with her psycho of a boyfriend and everyone else literally not putting in effort in doing things together. Don’t even get us started with Five’s journey in piecing together the fake eyeball from the future. It was confusing in trying to figure out the different timelines and knowing where the siblings actually were.
This season, we have the clear of mind that the siblings are in fact existing together in the same timeline and are all in the same place. They’re separated only because they’ve created their own lives and have responsibilities to the people they’ve kept close to them over the years. And that’s 100% understandable.
Remember when we said the family became more functional? The Umbrella Academy this time around shows us that an estranged family separated by years of resentment can eventually come together, learn to forgive one another and show up when they’re needed. Of course the learning takes time and requires a bit of nudging, but the development and progress of each sibling and the entire family unit is one that is commendable. If you didn’t already love the family in season one, you surely would’ve grown a soft spot for them this season instead.
That said, siblings who didn’t get as much screen time in the first season like Ben, Klaus and Diego, received more attention and exploration this time around. Fans of Ben will get to see what he can do with his powers (even more than what was revealed in last season’s finale) and see him more present and interacting with his siblings. Ben’s character exploration is well written and is one of the show’s highlights. His characterisation also leaves hints of an incoming plot list so if there’s any sibling that viewers should keep an eye on is the mysterious ghostly Ben.
Family politics and aesthetics aside, the second season of this comic-turned-series does not disappoint. It’s greatest strength lies with lines that are witty, funny and smart and a killer music score that doesn’t interfere with incredible visuals. With The Umbrella Academy’s big following coming from fans of the original comics and new watchers, the cast does great justice in bringing their characters to life and in making the viewers engaged in their development. Despite the dark themes the show dabbles on, it tries to remain light and gives you a good chuckle or two.
Old characters making a comeback like Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) who was obviously dead in the first season gives us a sneak peek into the Hargreeves’ upbringing and how their feelings of resentment and daddy issues were further manifested. More screen time of Sir Reginald Hargreeves also allows the viewers to explore The Monocle even more such as who he is, what he is and his life pre-The Umbrella Academy. We even learned about some of his relationships before his children came along, and even saw the incredibly adorable backstory of beloved Pogo!
On top of old characters, this season’s new characters like Diego’s new love interest Lila (Ritu Arya) adds spice to the storyline and is a pretty badass chick herself. Lila bringing out Diego’s vulnerability is a superpower in itself and you won’t even be able to see what she can really do till the finale.
Her addition is one that seems irrelevant at first, but she later continues to play a huge role in some of the major plot twists and big reveals of the show. Serving more than just the role of Diego’s lover, Lila teaches the Hargreeves that they truly aren’t alone in what they do. Heck, Lila could potentially set precedence for a whole new story that can be explored in later seasons – should there be any more.
Season 2 of The Umbrella Academy has been highly anticipated and there’s no reason not to look forward to it. The season one finale was rather climatic – is this the follow up we desired? Heck yeah. It might even be the follow up we need.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Big reveals, Destiny’s Child and familial love – The Umbrella Academy season 2 is both a geek’s and casual viewer’s dream of your traditional comedy-drama with the extra perks of superhero powers and aliens.
Story - 8/10
Direction - 9/10
Characterisation - 9/10
Geek Satisfaction - 8/10