The Umbrella Academy (Series Review)

The Umbrella Academy is the latest Netflix original show, that will hopefully try and fill the void of the Marvel Netflix shows Daredevil, Jessica Jones, The Punisher, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Defenders that were all cancelled. But is it in the same league as the others?
No it’s not, but that’s because The Umbrella Academy is in a league of its own. It’s not trying to be a Marvel product. It’s not trying to mimic a superhero show/movie. It’s not trying to be one more in the neverending formulaic superhero genre. It is different, it is weird, it is strange, it knows all of this and it doesn’t care, because it embraces all of that in a true bizarre way.

Based on the comic book series of the same name, created by Gerard Way. Yes, the same Gerard Way, lead singer and songwriter of the band My Chemical Romance. While I am not a fan of his music, I have to say I am a fan of this world and the characters that he has created. I will admit that I have not read The Umbrella Academy comic series, but I will probably check it out soon. Thanks to Netflix I was introduced to this strange and super dysfunctional family. However I have read several comics, and while Umbrella Academy is original in it’s execution, it does pay a narrative and characteristic homage to some comic series, especially Doom Patrol and X-Men. Now while I cannot get into details of what the tributes are because…SPOILERS, I will say that it did not take away the originality of The Umbrella Academy. It still is very much it’s own thing.

Gerard Way

The show has a lot of interesting plots and subplots with many twists and turns so I will not reveal major plot points.
“In October 1989, 43 women gave birth, none of these women had been pregnant when the day first began.” That right there was enough of a tease to have me intrigued in the show. This line of dialogue is said by the founder of The Umbrella Academy (Sir Reginald Hargreeves) in the trailer of the show and it is where the show begins along with the introduction of the characters.

Sir Reginald Hargreeves played by Colm Feore

We see two versions of the 7 kids Reginald adopts, we see a past version of them as teenagers and we see a present day version of them as adults. But since this isn’t your “typical” superhero family, the past and present versions we see or don’t see are not what you might expect.

Luther (Tom Hopper), Diego (David Castañeda), Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), Klaus (Robert Sheehan), Number Five (Aidan Gallagher), Ben (Justin H. Min), Vanya (Ellen Page), Hazel (Cameron Britton)

The best thing about this show has to be the cast, and I don’t just mean the 8 characters above, I mean everybody. From a small supporting character to a lead, this show gave proper character arcs to everyone. The chemistry all the main characters have with each other feels very natural and not to mention hilarious at times. The overall family dynamic is something I truly appreciated along with solid writing of the story. For me however I did feel that the show had some pacing issues, especially with the setting up and exposition of the story and the characters. I found the first few episodes to be quite slow paced with a cyclical reveal at the end of the episode that keeps you intrigued for the next episode. I am glad that I continued to watch the show, because after the “cliffhanger gimmick” at the end of the first few episodes, this show took a shape of its own. I was no longer interested in the reveal at the end of the episode, I was invested in the characters and the story, I wanted to know what was going to happen next. My suggestion to those who plan to try out this show, give it time, the first few episodes take some time to find their footing, but once they do it becomes a thoroughly enjoyable ride.

The members of the academy at the funeral.

In the first episode we find out that all of the brothers and sisters from the academy have gone their own way, but are “reunited” when they come to attend a funeral, it is this reunion that sparks the whole show and its wild story.

Mary J. Blige and Cameron Britton as Cha-Cha and Hazel.

Mary J. Blige and Cameron Britton are two of the shows numerous villains, they play your not so typical assassins. They are such strange characters that you can’t help but think how perfectly they fit in this bizarre world. The truly menacing and manipulative villains are beyond them, but I won’t get into those details. I will say that the multitude of villains is another aspect of the show I really loved.

I mentioned one thing I wasn’t a big fan of, which was the initial pacing of the show, apart from that, the only other thing that bothered me was the over use of a soundtrack. I felt in many scenes in practically every episode they just inserted an indie or commercial song when it wasn’t required. I would much rather have an original score that elevates the scenes through sound and music. But in the show it felt over enthusiastic and highly unnecessary at times. Some scenes felt like this, “I need a coffee” (cue song), “I have to go meet him for breakfast” (cue song), “she is our mom” (cue song). You might think I’m nitpicking, but honestly I found the overuse of songs a major distraction from the already engaging storyline.

The Umbrella Academy house.

The set pieces and on site locations of the show were aesthetically beautiful, from the practical locations of the house and the auditorium to green screens and everything in between. In particular I loved the actual Umbrella Academy. It has this somewhat Victorian interior design with a delicate yet grandiose feel to it. Which really works because even though it is their home, they never felt like any of the physical things around the house or the house itself belonged to them, except perhaps their personal effects in their rooms. The look and feel of the show isn’t jarring as it uses a warm but not oversaturated tone that let’s the colors pop yet also having the palette reflect the storyline at times by muting the colors.

I highly recommend The Umbrella Academy as your next Netflix show, especially if you enjoy superhero, sci-fi/fantasy genres.

Rating:
I’m giving The Umbrella Academy an 8.5 out of 10.
Although the show has some initial growing pains with pacing and an overactive soundtrack, it is a highly enjoyable show carried successfully by it’s brilliant cast. Along with a great story that keeps you guessing and a twist to the traditional superhero genre, The Umbrella Academy is a fantastic show that deserves attention and will be well liked by both comic book fans and general viewers alike.

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