August 4, 2020

“The Umbrella Academy” Season Two Review: The Seven Stages of Fun

Note: This review was originally published in The Cape Cod Chronicle in August 2020.

by Rowan Wood

Time travel is a tricky business, that arrives, much like the heroes in the latest season of Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy, with a whole host of questions: how do you avoid cliché time travel pitfalls? How can these characters grow and evolve, beyond their first-season selves? Most of all, how do you keep things original, and unique to the world you’ve created?

Thankfully, Netflix’s big-budget, ten-episode format is the perfect medium to tell the story that the show needed to tell. After the massive cliffhanger of the first season, the superpowered Hargreeves siblings are stranded at different points in the early 1960s, and must reunite to stop a world-ending apocalypse on November 25, 1963.

The first season, while definitely bold, doesn’t take the risks and rise to the outlandish nature of the comic book the series is adapted from; however, with a successful outing already under their belt, the creatives behind The Umbrella Academy have seen fit to delve deeper into the weirdness and oddities that the comics present, to incredibly entertaining effect. They’ve learned lessons, and it certainly shows onscreen.

Where else on television will you see three silent Swedish assassins caring for a house full of cats, or a goldfish with a human body?

The wacky misadventures of Klaus Hargreeves continue.
The season also manages to be timely and effective in discussing current issues through the lens of the past, which I always enjoy in time travel stories (as long as it’s done right). In particular, Allison (played by original Hamilton cast member Emmy Raver-Lampman) deals with the injustices of the time against people of color, and is a leading part of Dallas’s chapter of the Civil Rights Movement. I can think of no better time than now to consider how far, and how little, we’ve come in nearly sixty years.

One of the things that makes The Umbrella Academy amazing is the cast. This season, Robert Sheehan (portraying Klaus, who can talk to the dead), Aidan Gallagher (playing the time-traveling Five, stuck in the body of a thirteen-year-old) and Justin H. Min (in the heartbreaking role of Ben, the only deceased member of the Umbrella Academy who Klaus keeps around). The cast has grown along with the show, but I was very glad to see more screen time given to those who deserve it. Hopefully the inevitable third season continues the trend.

Once you get started on The Umbrella Academy, you won’t want to stop. The captivating second season only serves to accentuate that fact. It’s enormously different from its predecessor, but that’s the way it should be: every season should bring something new to the table, and explore new areas of the established world. I’m happy to say that The Umbrella Academy accomplishes that and more. [Grade: A+]

Showrunner: Jeremy Slater
Starring: Ellen Page, Tom Hopper, Emmy Raver-Lampman, David Castañeda, Aidan Gallagher
Rated: TV-14 (violence, language)
Available: Netflix

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