One of the brightest lights in the Netflix catalogue last year was the superb The Umbrella Academy. Based on the Dark Horse comic series, season one buzzed with eccentric energy, its characters finding a place in the heart of every viewer. And now the gangs back with season two, the apocalypse at the end of the first outing throwing them back in time to sixties Dallas thanks to Number 5.
However, what may have seemed like a lucky escape as the earth burnt to a crisp. Is, in fact, another time-travelling blunder, with the world’s end merely following our intrepid group of misfits. With Number 5 (Aiden Gallagher) appearing just in time to play witness to a soviet led invasion of the USA. The result of which is a global nuclear holocaust. The mission is therefore set in reuniting each member of The Academy. All of whom seem to have appeared at slightly different times in the lead up to Kennedy’s assassination. Now at this point, you may be wondering whether the screenwriters have an obsession with the apocalypse? But believe me, the story that ensues is very much a continuation of season one, while also being both engaging and sophisticated in structure.
I have often proclaimed the challenges of following a highly successful first season with an equally engaging second run. So the big question is, does The Umbrella Academy manage to surpass expectations in its return to our screens? The answer is yes, with superb character development that takes us far beyond the realms of the first outing. And when you add to that high production values, excellent performances, and a score that dovetails contemporary with classical, you have a strong return.
Now, we are not in the habit of damaging your enjoyment with spoilers; therefore, you will not find any here. But, what we can say is that each character gains a vibrant and loving exploration of their background and motives. From Tom Hoppers Luther to David Castañeda’s Diego and Emmy Raver-Lampman’s Alison. However, once again, its Aiden Gallagher’s Number 5 and Robert Sheehan’s Klaus that steel the screen. Meanwhile, Ellen Page has the opportunity to build on Vanya’s character while Justin H. Min has the time and space to develop Ben.
But the real genius of season two comes from the decision to transplant a diverse group of characters into a world of early 60s discrimination. With the fight for black civil rights, women’s equality and LGBTQ freedom merging with delicious science fiction and fantasy. As past and future concepts of diversity collide in an ocean of time travelling complexity. Ultimately this gives the story added gravitas and emotional connection. While also allowing for a deeper dive into the motivations and beliefs of each character.
Of course, it would not be The Umbrella Academy without deliciously dark humour, and once again, the screenplay delivers. Whether that be in the form of Swedish assassins, talking fish or the return of a dastardly villain. However, the second season also feels slightly more serious in construct than the first. And it’s fair to say that some viewers may feel short-changed in the somewhat less eccentric aesthetic attached to this second outing.
All in all, The Umbrella Academy continues to offer something fresh and unique to the myriad of superhero tv shows currently on display. Its only real TV competition sitting in the DC Universe with the brilliant Doom Patrol. And after a stunning finale with twists and turns aplenty, who knows where The Umbrella Academy will take us next. But one thing is for sure; these characters have a hell of a lot more to offer. So bring on season three.