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The Umbrella Academy; A spoiler free review

I started watching this show in May of 2019, when I was procrastinating preparation for my finals. I was intrigued, because it was an adaptation of a comic series created by Gerard Way — someone whose music I was, and still am, quite fond of. It was the perfect way to put off the studying my grades sorely needed. And one episode in, I was hooked.

After a stellar season 1, the show was renewed for a second season which was released on the 31st of July this year.

The Umbrella Academy tells the story of seven adoptive siblings, Luther, Diego, Allison, Klaus, Five, Ben, and Vanya — the Hargreeves children. They are seven of 43 children born on October 1st, 1989 to women across the world who showed no signs of pregnancy when the day began. These 7 were adopted by an eccentric billionaire called Reginald Hargreeves, who trained six of them into a crime-fighting superhero team called, you guessed it, The Umbrella Academy. The shows follow the siblings in the present day i.e. 2019 — they are estranged (for reasons explained in the rest of the show), and they reunite for the first time in years at their father’s funeral. Five Hargreeves, who had been missing for seventeen years, is back and claims that the apocalypse is in 8 days (and it’s up to the Umbrella Academy to stop it).

The family that dances together, fights each other.

Yes, it sounds a little ridiculous. But there’s a balance between real and ridiculous in this show, and that’s what makes it great. It’s a combination of Marvel’s light-heartedness and DC’s grit, but it isn’t ripping off anything from either cinematic universe. It provides a completely new take on superheroes, and I found that particularly refreshing in the aftermath of ‘Avengers: Endgame’ and the superhero genre gaining massive popularity in film.

THe upcoming apocalypse, that Five needs his siblings’ help to avoid.

The “real” in this concoction of real and absolutely bonkers comes from the characters and their relationships with each other. Even through the strong dysfunctional family structure, you can see that they cared about each other and still do, despite everything they went through. They bicker and fight, but at the end of the day, they have each other’s backs.

In Season 2, they show the complicated relationship they have with their father extremely well — they hate him because he caused them so much pain, but they still want his approval, they want him to think highly of them. This could not have been pulled off without the actors — Aiden Gallagher as Five was perfect casting. He is the actual embodiment of an old man in a teenager’s body. Ellen Page and Robert Sheehan are acting powerhouses, and they delivered in this show. Hazel and Cha-Cha had very minor roles in the comics, but Cameron Britton and Mary J Blige took those essentially blank canvases and turned them into unforgettable masterpieces.

Hazel and Cha-Cha doing what they do best.

Another thing that sets this show apart is the stellar soundtrack. Not just the songs playing at the beginning and ending of the episode, but every single song used at any point in time in any episode. Especially the ones used for the fight scenes. In an interview, the showrunner Steve Blackman said, “I sometimes will be listening to a song and then I imagine a scene. Very early on, I’m thinking, ‘I want to put this song over a fight scene,’ and I work that into the script — which is often backward. A lot of people add music after the fact. I work the opposite way. A lot of times, it’s organic. I’ve got a great music supervisor, Jen Malone, and we work together. I pick a lot of songs myself, because I love doing it.”

It’s clear how important music is to the show. There’s this fight scene in Season 1 set to Istanbul by They Might Be Giants, and it’s one of my favourite fight scenes of ALL TIME. Look forward to that if you haven’t watched the show yet. Not just because of the music, but the choreography too. It’s fantastic.

The fight choreography in any scene isn’t some generic sequence put together and filmed after some practice. They take into account the abilities of each individual character while coming up with the sequence, and some of them took months to get right. I am no expert in fight choreography, but I think they did it right *cough * unlike Iron Fist *cough*.

Honestly one of the best fight scenes in the show.

Another thing I like about this show is the attention to detail — writers pay attention to tiny little things in the dialogue to give some sort of foreshadowing while still keeping the plot twist a surprise (one instance I noticed is in season two, where Five, exasperated by his siblings, says something and it ends up coming true by the end of the season), and so do set designers. There are so many easter eggs in the sets and the props — references to the comics and foreshadowing for future episodes. I really do want to talk about them, but I did promise a spoiler-free review. So, if you’ve watched the show, and if you’ve noticed any, put them in the comments (with a spoiler warning, of course).

The best thing about this show is the creators. They created something out of the love and passion they had for this story, and it was theirs for so long. But once it was out, it belonged to us too. And they recognized that. After the first season was out, they interacted with us, found out what we liked, and what we didn’t, and they took that into account while coming up with the second season. We asked for more Justin Min, and they gave us more Justin Min. There was a popular headcanon about a character’s identity, and they worked that into the script! That’s amazing! I wish Moffat and Gatiss can learn something from these guys (not thinking of fans like crazy people, and also writing better female characters, but that is a rant for another time).

Steve Blackman, the showrunner, and Gerard Way, the creator of the comics, on a press tour for the series.

Ultimately the creators are human, they are not perfect, and neither is the show. So much of the family dysfunction from Season 1 disappeared in Season 2, and though one could argue that it made sense given the events that led to the premise of Season 2, it’s still weird. I cannot imagine being genuinely nice to my sibling — all my compliments are wrapped neatly inside insults. The Swedes were not nearly as interesting as Hazel and Cha-Cha. The dynamic between two of the characters in Season 2 (no spoilers, I promised), while a good dynamic — one of my favourite tropes, if we’re being honest — felt slightly rushed. More time was spent on plot than developing characters and relationships. However, the pros outweigh the cons, and overall, The Umbrella Academy is a wonderful show. If you haven’t watched it already, I hope I have convinced you to.

And the best part? Our own Discount Batman, for no extra charge.

~ Chandana

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