Based on the American comic book series, “The Umbrella Academy” centers on seven adult siblings who make up the eponymous family. All of them have distinct superpowers, save for the seventh child, Vanya. After years of separation, they reunite upon the death of their adoptive father. One of their siblings, Number Five, returns after vanishing years ago with news of an impending apocalypse. Now, the gang has to save the day again while facing off against bad guys, family in-fighting and years of psychological trauma.
The original comics were written by Gerard Way, former frontman of the rock band, My Chemical Romance (MCR). If you are familiar with their work, the stylistic choices in “The Umbrella Academy” make sense. To say scenes such as an expository action montage set to a violin cover of “Phantom of the Opera” fits MCR’s aesthetic is an understatement.
Watch the trailer for “The Umbrella Academy” below.
The themes of trauma and impending mortality in “The Umbrella Academy” are also familiar territory. The characters’ different arcs are a rhapsodic blend of bizarre and heart-wrenching.
Some elements initially appear off-putting, but within the greater context of the story, the results are emotionally resonant.
The creative choices and atmosphere is a welcome pastiche for longtime fans of Gerard Way’s work. There are fun Easter eggs to spot within episodes, and certain story elements are reminiscent of Way’s work as a musician. However, it never feels like the creators are rehashing the original author’s past work for references’ sake. The show serves as both an adaptation and a loving tribute while remaining a unique product.
Excellent performances from the entire cast buoy the camaraderie among these characters. While Vanya is arguably the core of the story’s pathos, the rest of her family carry their burdens to varying degrees of effectiveness.
Even the weak link, Luther, was enjoyable to watch at times. The side villains are Cha-Cha and Hazel, two assassins who are so maladjusted together, they make Team Rocket from “Pokémon” look like professionals. Each character is so tragically disillusioned, and it is fun to watch.
While “The Umbrella Academy” is beyond typical Netflix junk food, the show is not without its kryptonite. The pace is often so slow, it lulls the main story to sleep. The expository details tend to drag, indulging in information the viewer is already aware of. During these moments, it risks making the unconventional pit stops in the plot more frustrating than endearing.
Another weakness is the show’s least compelling character, Luther. What was supposed to be a poignant addition to a family of traumatized heroes instead turns out to be a mostly useless character who cannot go more than five minutes without indulging in his backstory.
Tom Hooper’s performance salvages the character from being completely unbearable, and there is hope that Luther will be redeemed in future seasons. Until then, he felt like little more than a sight gag.
“The Umbrella Academy” is an uneven show to get through, but the results are worth the watch. It makes for easily digestible binge-watch material while still engaging the audience with a strong story and memorable characters.“The Umbrella Academy” is a show that packs a punch.