The dysfunctional family of seven former superheroes known as the Umbrella Academy has two things in common: they were all born on the same day and all work – some more consciously than others – through the trauma of father abuse.
Under the exploding stuff of the end of the world, the first season of Netflix’s sparkling live-action adaptation The Umbrella Academy, The Eisner Award comic by Gabriel Ba and Gabriel Ba, he also had that emotional heart. In season one, we met Hargreeves’ children, now adults, all confused by their lives when their father, Reginald Hargreeves, dies. His death brings them all together, forcing them to confront unanswered questions about forgiveness, abuse and family ̵
With their dead bad dad, finding closure should be easier for children. Or at least, that’s what they believed. Their hope is that any of their traumas or scars will die with the person who caused them. But complicating matters is that these superpowered humans must stop the end-of-world event that they inadvertently caused.
Although they had powers such as super-strength, shooting, communication with the dead and psychic manipulation, they failed. But instead of dying with the rest of humanity, they traveled through time to return before the apocalypse to try to stop it again. They are now found scattered around Dallas in the early 1960s.
That first season spent a lot of time explaining all this, making some parts seem a bit ungrateful. But all that time spent in extreme exposures pays off in a more flashy, funnier and tighter second chapter.
First season of Umbrella Academy set the table and the second season play the game.
There’s a lot more zapping and superpowers in season two, which should appease comic book fans who want to see superheroes do that sort of thing. But it also oscillates for something more emotionally resonant, which wants to comment on the imperfect, the human way in which we heal and the gap between people who want to change their ways and actually do it. And in its best moments, The Umbrella AcademyThe second season manages to balance both humanity and superheroes without sacrificing either.
The Umbrella Academy use superpowers to tell a very human story about complicated relationships
One of the main devices in Umbrella Academy is that the Hargreeves are each known by a number, assigned to them by their father: Luther (# 1), Diego (# 2), Allison (# 3), Klaus (# 4), Five (# 5), Ben (# 6) and Vanja (# 7). It’s like they’re players on a basketball team whose names you’ve never learned. Or in the case of the Academy, numbers are a way of differentiating the seven different superpowers they possess. The dark limit is that reducing your children to a number is just one of the many emotionally offensive things that Reginald Hargreeves, the patriarch of the family, has done.
Hargreeves turned his adopted children into a team of superheroes, subjecting them to incessant physical training, teaching them violence, pitting them against each other and punishing them when they failed. Eventually they failed when the world needed it most, causing Ben’s death and Cinque’s disappearance, hence the breakup. And they failed again at the end of last season, when Vanja’s power manifested itself to destroy the moon before everyone, including Ben, decided they could save the world if they had just traveled through time.
Believing that you can avoid an armageddon caused by you and your siblings is in itself a slightly selfish thing. But these are the Hargreeves, and they are truly the only ones who can stop him.
After going through that portal, Hargreeves’ adult children are separated and scattered in various pockets before November 22, 1963 – the day President John F. Kennedy is shot in Dallas and about 26 years old before they were all born. It also turns out that although they have skipped time, there is another cataclysmic event that they must stop. But it is very difficult to do when the brothers are not in the same place or at the same time.
As tantalizing as that mysterious, intrusive doomsday is, the best thing about season two is how we get there and how we can get the Hargreeves brothers on the same page.
The time jump forces the brothers, for a few short moments, to live independently of each other. Time travel, for the brothers, is a kind of forced immersive therapy. These brothers and sisters, their feelings and identities were so closely related to each other. Now they are forced to live as if the others and their father did not exist.
Which means that we see each of them trying to heal their wounds for life in their own way.
Luther (Tom Hopper), with his supreme strength, becomes a bodyguard by day and an underground fighter by night to ease the pain. Diego (David Castañeda) ‘s superhuman ability is useless in the mental institution where he is stuck, but he is planning to go out every day. Klaus (Robert Sheehan) drinks and drinks and somehow begins a cult. Five (Aidan Gallagher) is the only bridge to others, thanks to its time-jumping powers.
And then there’s Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), who can force people to do anything by preceding an action with the phrase “I heard a voice” (like “I heard a voice that you ate a cheesecake”), which unfortunately plummeted in 1961. Unlike his white brothers, Allison faces further threat from the 1960s time travel due to American segregation laws and rampant racism. The privilege of white, apparently, extends to time travel.
The central presumption in Allison’s story is that it could easily change the world around her. “I heard a voice that you weren’t a flagrant racist,” involving everyone around her, but she never says so. The show doesn’t explicitly explain why it doesn’t, allowing you to come to your own conclusions as to why the racism it is facing is too overwhelming to resolve. Or maybe the excuse is that it’s not powerful enough to stop racism. Or that racism is more complex than simple actions to be controlled in one way or another.
Or maybe Allison is afraid of how truly capable she is.
In season one, Allison lost custody of her daughter when her ex-husband revealed that he had captured Allison using his voice power to make his daughter fall asleep. Although Allison loves her daughter, she still used her powers to make her daughter do something against her will. Allison takes a hard lesson on the human consequences of her powers, something that her father encouraged her to use and allowed her to ignore the consequences.
In fact, we see her using her powers in a “White only” diner in an end of season episode. The diner manager has always been a racist dick. The manager is said to serve his coffee. She is so mad at him, though, that she tells him to fill the cup until it spills continuously, blanching his raw, red hands. The skin peels off. It still pours. He can’t stop inflicting pain.
Allison could easily have told the man to serve her and stop him when the cup of coffee was full, saving him from the burns. But it inflicts pain on him because he feels in line with the racism and injustice he is fighting in this timeline and because punishment and pain are what his father taught her.
The fascinating thing is that the show does everything to prove that Allison is not an evil person. This scene doesn’t happen until after Allison has refrained from using her powers against injustice for most of the season. Instead, its time frame shows us that being “good” or being healed is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Healing and improving yourself requires constant work.
Likewise, the brothers Allison and Hargreeves face a bad truth when they reconnect with Vanja (Ellen Page): Each of them had treated her as badly as their father.
Before being teleported in the 1960s and before the adult Vanya completely unleashed his power that caused a piece of the moon to collapse, the adult brothers locked him in a padded room because they thought it was too dangerous. Instead of defending or protecting her from her father’s abuse when they were children, they neglected her and treated her as a problem.
This is the kind of behavior you would expect from people whose entire family life is training, punishment and competition, but while it is explainable, it is not excusable. In the end, the brothers spend this season learning to ask for forgiveness and being able to forgive each other.
This is not to say that everything inside Umbrella AcademyThe second season is touchy ooey-gooey.
Since we know what everyone’s powers are now, the show loosens its grip on the show and allows you to have multiple battle sequences, scenes inspired by music and action scenes conducted throughout the season. This includes an explosive armageddon with all the siblings in full force – people are said as long as their brains explode and don’t melt, they crumple up their artillery shells with their bare hands, Kraken-like tentacles that throw soldiers around – that it happens in the first seven minutes of the first episode.
But viewers already know this from the second season Umbrella Academy is always ready to offer entertainment. It’s just that this season, he’s finally ready to deliver everything else on the same level.
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