I tried watching this show when it first premiered however something about its first few scenes did not hook me. It could have been my mood but I suspect it had to with the show having a lot of cynical characters shrouded in an air of mystery. These ‘edgy’ characters are tough to hook onto and that might have been it. However, with the launch of the second season and the pandemic running me dry of shows to watch, I decided to give the misfits of The Umbrella Academy another chance.
The show follows seven siblings who were all born on the same day to women who till then had shown no signs of pregnancy. And though all these siblings have unique abilities, their lives, led under the shadow of their adopted father, Hargreeves, have shaped them to be emotional wrecks, estranged from each other.
This is a unique and promising premise and one of the main reasons I wanted to watch more of the season. Ellen Page is the other reason. Superhero stories are a dime a dozen but ones that bring new perspective and insight are rarer finds. The Umbrella Academy looks at the family dynamics through the framework of a superhero story. This is wholly refreshing as most superheroes are simply orphans. Spider-man, Batman, Superman, you get the idea. Newer superheroes have moved away from these tropes but I can’t think of many stories where they are siblings. Which is odd cause Umbrella Academy shows just how hilarious the whole situation can be. For example, the main threat of the season, established fairly early on, looms closer with each passing day and episode. And yet, the heroes never seem to care for it as much as they do about their in-fighting.
This level of selfish shortsightedness is hilarious and realistic. I would argue that if the world ends, it won’t be because no one saw it coming, it’s because humans will have prioritised their own problems over that of the collective. One could say that I came to embrace the very cynicism I criticised at the beginning of the review, but I would argue that the show actually revealed over its course, the depth, trauma and hope hidden behind its cynical facade. In which case it made a case for perseverance, thus subverting my initial expectations.
Heightening this cynical superhero family drama is its period blending style. The show feels like it’s set in a Tim Burton 90s film but with some sensible fashion inputs from the 00s. It has the looks of that town time forgot. This certainly appeals to the nostalgic viewer base that has been lapping up shows like “Stranger Things” but also gives the whole show a slightly dated feel as if its a story from, ‘Once upon a time’.
While not as subversive as Watchmen and not as accessible as Daredevil, The Umbrella Academy feels more like a Gothic version of Malcolm in the middle and if that doesn’t get you to watch the show, nothing will and that’s fine too.