If you recall my write-up last year on season one of The Umbrella Academy, I didn’t hate the trending Netflix series, but I wasn’t exactly a full-fledged fan either. For me, at the time, the show seemed to closely ride a fine line between being an original twist on the superhero genre and a pop-culture rip-off … an opinion that was met with scrutiny by some wonderful trolls hoping for absolute praise over something they so dearly love. Fortunately, for them and for me, the series outdid itself with the recent Netflix release of The Umbrella Academy Season 2.
Admittedly, some of my initial observations of season one were perhaps unwarranted, such as my thoughts on the retro domino masks that actually serve as a nod to comic book classics. However, I still stand by my X-Men comparison since an eccentric billionaire trains a mansion full of super-powered kids, not unlike Professor Xavier. Maybe this is intended to be a respectful homage to the beloved franchise. Or maybe it was due to the lack of ideas in the room. Either way, the series’ original premiere failed to win me over completely due to its teen-pop touch, likely a reflection of work from pop-singer Gerard Way who founded the graphic novels on which The Umbrella Academy is based. If you like dancing around your bedroom to “edgy” emo music, you won’t find any judgement from me … it just isn’t my thing.
Thankfully, this teen vibe didn’t seem quite as prevalent in the newly released followup season. When we left The Umbrella Academy team of superheros, reunited by the death of their foster father, Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore: Thor, The Chronicles of Riddick), the world was coming to an end. In a fit of desperation, Number Five (Aidan Gallagher) utilized his ability to jump through time and space to transport his foster brothers and sisters out of harms way.
However, if you’re familiar with how this band of misfits operate, it should come as no surprise that things don’t go quite as planned. As season two opens, we see all seven Academy members, including the ghost of Ben (Justin H. Min), each dropped in a different year of the early 1960s. With Five arriving in the latest year within the decade, the bewildered time jumper witnesses horrific nuclear events leading to yet another apocalypse. Taking another leap back in time days before this travesty, Five locates his super-powered siblings in hopes to correct historical events, repair the timeline and return home. However, things are never so simple when it comes to The Umbrella Academy.
Setting the stage with the ’60s made for a riveting story-line that, while it may not have been intentional, is relevant to today’s current events. The Counterculture and Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, a threat of nuclear war, and a pending historic presidential assassination all play a part in this season’s engrossing plot evoking an array of emotions ranging from laughter, anger, outrage, and sadness. Emmy Raver-Lampman returns as Allison Hargreeves giving a phenomenal performance as a person of color finding herself fighting for social justice and change alongside local Civil Rights leader Raymond Chestnut (Yusuf Gatewood: Good Omens series) in Dallas, Texas.
Another favorite is Robert Sheenhan returning as Klaus, the free-spirit addict who communes with the dead. During his time stuck in the ’60s with the ghost of his deceased brother Ben, Klaus hilariously forms a cult inspiring members with old TLC song lyrics … a fitting scenario for such a lovably impulsive character. Meanwhile, David Castaneda returns as Diego who finds himself in a mental hospital after a botched rogue mission to prevent the upcoming assassination of President JFK. Tom Hopper returns as the sweet man-boy beast, Luther, who is spending his time in the ’60s using his super strength in an underground bare knuckle boxing ring. And, of course, Ellen Page (Juno, Inception) returns as Vanya who, upon her arrival to the ’60s, is hit by a car giving her a case of amnesia.
As the dysfunctional family of super-humans deal with the lives they’ve formed in the ’60s, they uncover evidence that places Reginald, who is alive in this decade, in the grassy knoll at the time of JFK’s upcoming assassination. Working to unravel this mystery, the plot thickens when The Handler (Kate Walsh: The Perks of Being a Wallflower), The Commission and their time bureau of assassins join the party.
With so much happening crammed into merely 10 episodes, it’s shocking how well The Umbrella Academy Season 2 performs such a juggling act. Making outstanding use of each moment, every character’s side-story is interwoven in a way that serves a purpose in some way shape or form. With more brutal, action-packed scenes, historical significance, and comic book relevance this season sheds its teen-pop vibe becoming a must-see for fans of anything superhero. Even Min gets a chance to shine in his portrayal of Ben in one moment that’s sure to pull at the heartstrings.
While a third season of The Umbrella Academy hasn’t received a green-light, the comics consist of three volumes and the enticing second season ends on quite the cliffhanger. A third season seems to be almost inevitable – something I warmly and excitedly welcome.