[Editor: There are some possible spoilers here, so if you haven’t watched any of Umbrella Academy then consider yourself warned!]
I really loved the look of the trailer. As intrigued as I was by the concept, the actual show blew me away. My husband and I sat down to watch it the day it released and finished it that same day. The acting is engaging, the writing never misses a step and the cinematics are breathtakingly good.
Umbrella Academy is a new Netflix show based on the two graphic novel collections by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá. I haven’t read the comic but I am now highly interested after watching the Netflix series. 43 children are all born on the same day to women around the world, women who weren’t pregnant when the day began. An eccentric millionaire, Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore), decides to adopt as many as he can. He ends up with seven special children. When he dies, the seven must come together to solve the mystery of his death, the apocalypse and more, discover the various secrets each of them has hidden.
The series begins by introducing us to the world, a world where a girl jumps into a swimming pool after kissing a boy and comes out giving birth to a child. This sets the tone that this is not your average show and allows the viewer to embrace the unusual qualities within the storyline. From there, we are slowly introduced to the Umbrella Academy. Number one, Luther (Tom Hopper), is living on the moon when he learns of his father’s death. Why he is up there we learn later but we do see quickly his super strength. Number two is Diego (David Castaneda), living life as a crime fighter, throwing objects with perfect aim and generally annoying the police, especially Detective Patches. Number three is Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), who can make wishes a reality. Number four is Klaus (Robert Sheehan), who sees dead people. Five (Aidan Gallagher) can jump through space and time which got him caught in the future for years. Number Six Ben (Justin H. Min) died during a mission. Number Seven Vanya (Ellen Page), has zero powers but wrote a book about her family, which means they aren’t happy with her. Included in the dynamic is Pogo (Adam Godley), an ape who can talk, dresses as a man and keeps Hargreeves’ secrets. Last is Grace (Jordan Claire Robbins), a compassionate robot who appears to have a soul and has fulfilled the role of mother to the seven all their lives.
The music sets the tone for me, pop, dark, and full of songs that resonate and make you want to sing along. They are as catchy as the dialogue and the characters. I want to go out and buy the soundtrack. If you get a chance, check out the music. What makes it great is that it gives you a sense of the characters, their dysfunction, and their father issues along with the multiple issues with each other. Every track creates a sense of the episode as well as the characters. One of the best scenes in the show is in episode two when Luther plays the song “I Think We’re Alone Now” and everyone in the family dances, each alone and separate from the others. It creates a sense of the total dysfunction of their family dynamic and how they interact with each other but also shows a sense of each character.
The tone of the series is Mystery Men meets Watchmen, with the campy feel of Mystery Men mixed with the darker tone of Watchmen, especially some of the more adult themes. Side note, this is PG-13 rating so watch out for little ones watching. What makes this work for me is all the secrets, intrigue, time elements and mysteries that surround the group. It builds the mystery slowly, starting with the death of Reginald Hargreeves, adding in the mystery of where Five was and what he experienced and includes what the apocalypse is and how to prevent it. Vanya’s romance with a mysterious man, Leonard Peabody (John Magaro), is part of the intrigue, Alison suspicious of Vanya’s seemingly perfect boyfriend. But she has her own problems as do the rest, as two unknown assassins, Cha-Cha (Mary J. Blige) and Hazel (Cameron Britton), are after Five. As the Six try to find answers, they take the rest of us on a wild ride.
I absolutely love the time elements in the story. First, there is Five’s ability to go back and forth in time and space. What makes it so intriguing is that is credible. His abilities aren’t perfect, he got stuck and he can’t just figure out all the answers by going back and forth. Then we have the assassins who are also time travelers but they are restricted by the use of a device and when the device is taken from them, they can’t just go back to where they came from. While believing in time travel is a leap of imagination, the writers create believable scenarios that work within the context of the show and I love a good time travel show. Plus, none of the time travel elements are forgotten about. Even the conclusion includes an aspect of dealing with time. That connected quality, all the details tying together and changes in time rippling through the world, make this show incredible.
The cinematography is equal to the music and the story. The special effects as Five travels in time works well visually. The way the fight scenes are designed are vivid and pop off the screen, great visuals as the group use their powers. The end sequence as, surprise, Vanya has powers, is incredible. We see how Vanya slowly glows, first her eyes and then her entire body turns white until her powers explode out of her through her violin. The end sequence is one of the best in the show, capturing the feel of the show in one fantastic sequence.
The acting is rich and complex. Ellen Page is fantastic as Vanya, her range of emotion beautiful as you feel her pain at being an outsider to her own family. Tom Hopper is the right amount of awkward and strong as Luther, as he attempts to be there for his family. Emmy Raver-Lampman is beautiful, dynamic, and heartwarming as Allison, her attempts to include Vanya part of what makes her character so easy to connect with. David Castaneda is just the right amount of vulnerable and angry as Diego. My favorite is Robert Sheehan who is absolutely crazy and nutty as Klaus. His performance is part of what builds the tone of the story and he gets some of the best lines. I also really liked Justin H. Min as the ghost of Ben. He does a great job interacting with Robert Sheehan and even though he doesn’t get to interact with the others, he still is just an important part of the story.
Overall, this is one of the best new shows Netflix has put together. I love the quality of the visuals and the music rocks while setting the tone for the series. The characters are unique, giving us a dysfunctional family as a group of superheroes. The acting is complex, dynamic, and full of zany moments between the characters. I absolutely love the feel of the show, Mystery Men meets Dr. Who, time-traveling mixed with characters with superpowers and I want to see so much more. The only sad note was that the ending was on a cliffhanger and I now have to wait for the next season to see how everything is resolved.
Rating: 5 out of 5 violins