By Derrick Jean-Baptiste
The Umbrella Academy is this week’s Netflix Pick of the Week.
In 1989, a mysterious event caused 43 unrelated women to immaculately conceive and birth children; immediately afterward, the enigmatic billionaire Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) adopted seven of them, sensing their extraordinary nature and grooming them to become a superhero team known as the Umbrella Academy
Fast-forward to modern day, and the remaining Hargreeves kids are by no means all right. Luther (Tom Hopper) is a hulking daddy’s boy living in isolation on the Moon. Knife-wielding Diego (David Castañeda) is a brooding solo crime-fighter. Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) is a celebrity estranged from her daughter after misusing her ability to utter ‘rumors’ that become true. Klaus (Robert Sheehan) is a reckless drug addict who stays doped up to dampen his ability to commune with the dead. And Vanya (Ellen Page), ostracized for having no powers of any kind, is just trying to live a normal life.
However, they’re all brought back to the Umbrella Academy by the one-two punch of their benefactor’s sudden death and the re-emergence of the unnamed Number Five (Aidan Gallagher), their teleporting sibling who disappeared when they were kids. Back in his teenage body, Number Five brings news of doom from the future: the worlds about to end in eight days, and that he needs to stop it.
The story builds slowly, making ample use of flashbacks (and some flash forwards) to tell the tale. Even by the fifth episode, I still wasn't sure where the plot was headed, despite the looming apocalypse.
I absolutely loved the clever use of music. There's a scene in which all the siblings retreat to their own rooms before the funeral, a song begins playing, Tiffany's I Think We're Alone Now, and everyone starts dancing to the music. It's a poignant moment of solidarity that reflects the familiarity found in there unit. It's clever and the choice of music really sells it.
In regards to the story, I really enjoyed the twist on "how are they going to save the day?" when I realized, halfway through the series, this was going to be more about how they are going to continue to mess up by being emotionally stunted.
Spoiler alert, true to form, they really mess everything up through the very end! I felt the tension all through just wondering, “Wow this is surprisingly going well they’re actually working together. So whose personality dysfunction will screw it up this time?"
One of the more surprising positives of this show was how well it depicted the impact abuse had on the kids. I always wanted to be angry at them for resenting each other and holding on to the roles that their father forced on to them, even while they recognized how fucked-up their childhood had been. I wanted to get angry at Luther for only hating Reginald when he found the unopened letters from the moon. But when his siblings were being tortured he didn’t blame his dad, he probably blamed them. But that’s what it’s like. Everyone’s relationship to the abuser is different. Everyone’s relationship to the abuse is different.
The Umbrella Academy is a show that I would readily recommend. It’s just like the X-Men, but with the need for more therapy.