The Umbrella Academy: Season 1 – Recap, Review (with Spoilers)

The Umbrella Academy Season 1, Episode 1 We Only See Each Other At Weddings and Funerals [Series Premiere] - Title Card
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The Umbrella Academy‘s first season is a bit hit and miss, but by the final, it seems to have found its footing.


Network
Netflix
Creator Gerard Way, Gabriel Ba, Steve Blackman
Genre Sci-Fi, Drama, Comedy
Good If You Like Melodrama
Isn’t For You If You Don’t Like Superheroes Who Don’t Use Their Powers Often To Fight Crime

Like Charismatic Villains

Think Most CW Shows Are Trash

Noted Cast
Reginald Colm Feore
Luther Tom Hopper
Diego David Castañeda
Allison Emmy Raver-Lampman
Klaus Robert Sheehan
Number Five Aidan Gallagher
Ben Justin H. Min
Vanya Ellen Page
Cha-Cha Mary J. Blige
Hazel Cameron Britton
The Handler Kate Walsh
Leonard John Magaro

Summary

It all began October 1st, 1989 when 43 women gave birth to kids immaculately. Originally, the whole world was supposed to end approximately 25 years later. However, the members of The Umbrella Academy, founded by eccentric billionaire Reginald Hargreeves, were recruited to stop that, and various crimes. The members, who began their training before they were even 12 were the following: Number 1 (Luther) who had strength beyond the average human; Number 2 (Diego) who is a master with projectiles; Number 3 (Allison) who with saying “I Heard A Rumor” could manipulate anyone to do or forget anything; Number 4 (Klaus) who has the ability to communicate with the dead, and more; Number 5 (No Alias) who can teleport towards the future, past, and to different locations in the present; Number 6 (Ben) who could unleash a monster with tentacles to fight for him; and Number 7 (Vanya) who we are led to believe is powerless.

Together, minus Vanya, these children were trained for great things. However, by the time they are adults, most have left Reginald and The Umbrella Academy behind for various reasons. Be it Allison wanting to become a famous actress, Diego wanting to operate outside Reginald’s assigned missions, or just not wanting to deal with the indifferent nature of Reginald who barely seems to like most of his children. But, upon his death, they all come together and between investigating how he died, and Five returning after disappearing for years, so begins the first season which focuses on how to stop a pending apocalypse. One which will require them to work together unless they want to meet the same fate Five escaped from.

Highlights

What Ellen Page Brings To This

Vanya (Ellen Page) in the Umbrella Academy
Vanya (Ellen Page)

Recognizing not everyone is an Ellen Page fan, I honestly think she was the best actor out of all of them. As noted in the recaps, she brought a seriousness to the show, consistency in emotions, that we don’t really get from everyone else. While we hear the other actors, and their characters, vent about their childhood, adult life, and have these very forced upon emotional moments, it feels rather natural for Page.

For whether it is just her character being unwilling to hold most people’s glance, apologizing for existing sometimes, and other little things, you get a quality performance. Albeit one which barely fits in with the tone the show has, but towards the end, it becomes less of an outlier and more so something for this show to aim towards. Thus pushing the writing and Page’s peers to the point of trying to match her.

Low Points

The Superhero Element Isn’t Tapped Into Much

Ben's powers in animated form.

If you’re expecting powers to be used in masse, crime fighting to happen, epic fights, and things of that nature? Well, you might be disappointed. There are only two to three big fights in the entire season, and two of the three are in the season finale. A finale which finally lets us see Klaus’ power in force, as well as see how Ben’s power works – since Klaus passively conjures him up, even when high – which makes little sense considering being high is supposed to numb his powers.

As for the rest, again, it is only in those three fights we really see their powers, sans Allison who doesn’t use her skills for reasons noted in the season.

In The Beginning, It Cheaply Tries To Make You Emotional

We’re told, fairly often, that things weren’t good in anyone’s childhood and with each other so for 12 or 13 years, the family didn’t speak to one another. Also, we see Reginald, while testing his kids’ capabilities, would borderline torture them. Klaus, for example, was locked in a mausoleum to get over his fear of the dead – didn’t happen. Also, Allison was used and allowed to use, her powers to manipulate people – including for Reginald’s use. Making it so, when she became a mom, she found herself even using that power on her daughter.

But, there are other things. People die, and you can tell that it is supposed to affect you. There are multiple betrayals as well, and a bunch of drama which is made to be a big thing, but likely won’t hit you emotionally. They are just things noted to keep things chugging along, not so much the type of events which deepen your investment.

The Villains Were Lackluster

Being that this is based on a comic book, you’d think the villains would be spectacular, the organization they worked for would be sinister, complex, and more, but that’s not the case. The Commission’s mission is explained, and we do get to see inside of it, but how it was created, whether there is competition, and how does it decide what timeline is correct, that isn’t gone into. Mind you, most episodes are almost 60 minutes so not learning those nuggets make it so there is a bit of a gray area. Not the kind which complicates things, but more so leaves fans to make theories or feel pushed to read the comic if they want answers.

But, setting aside the organization and talking about their representatives, things aren’t much better. Cha-Cha and Hazel come off fearsome at first. However, like the majority of the characters, they are infected with this tone of appearing serious, but being low-key bumbling fools. So with each failure and their reaction being to strip away any and all mystique, it kills any sense of them being menacing or people to worry about.

Then with the Handler, while she isn’t as exploited as Cha-Cha and Hazel, she doesn’t have the appeal of the villain with Cha-Cha and Hazel being her minions. She makes it clear she is just a recruiter, if not middle management. Thus taking away from any power or mystique she could have. Leaving us essentially without a villain besides the childhood trauma everyone, especially Vanya, are dealing with.

On The Fence

Some Call It Weird, I’d Say Awkward

Delores just being a mannequin.

 “Weird” is a term often used when this show is described, and I’d say the show is more so awkward. Acknowledging the source material began nearly a decade ago, there are times when you feel the show, in an effort to not be compared to X-Men, among other properties, tries to dodge comparisons and ends up in a ditch. There is also a problem of either trying too hard, like Klaus being a comic relief and not going far enough.

Now, the Klaus example one could write off easily as Robert Sheehan giving the fans what they want. However, when it comes to the “not going far enough” comment, the issue is how the show develops its characters. When it comes to Leonard, for example, there is no subtly when it comes to revealing who he is. He is made suspicious early on, and it makes the big reveal fall flat. The same could be said for Allison and Luther’s relationship and Diego and Eudora’s relationship. This show, awkwardly, tries to make these emotional connections, craft what should be major betrayals, but often times they feel dialed in.

Leading to, as seen in episodic recaps, the show coming to the point where it is hard to get through since it doesn’t seem to have much going for it beyond a budget and big-name stars. Yet, one could write the awkwardness, weirdness, are first season jitters. Both the writers and actors getting a groove, if you will. For by the time we’re in the final two episodes, there is some kind of rhythm, the emotional moments are set up better, and could get a real reaction out of you. That is, compared to what they were early on which often felt cheap and desperate.

Overall: Mixed (Stick Around)

Reginald talking to Klaus.

I feel like many of Netflix’s shows, this wasn’t necessarily adapted to be binged. It was made for a six to seven day forgiveness period so its flaws could be excused, its pacing wouldn’t seem so slow, and you didn’t experience the production as a whole, fatigue and all. Which I feel is a factor in the mixed rating. However, the bigger issue was not having a hook until damn near the end. The characters were a bore, the storyline never made the villains or the apocalypse that big of a thing, and the relationship drama, be it family or romantic, never reached a point where you could use that as a selling point.

Yet, because of the ending, that is why it is being noted to stick around. In general, most shows are figuring out how to handle their writers and performers and how to get the best out of them. Add in this being an established property, and that means trying to figure out what stories should be saved, held for the second season, and what can be done considering the budget. So while, by no means, over the moon when it comes to season 1 of The Umbrella Academy, this is getting a mixed label since it seems it can get better and is trying to. Rather than it feeling settled in the way it is, so you can take it or leave it, the last two episodes pushed the idea season 2 could give us everything season 1 struggled with. And sometimes, just leaving people with hope is all that is necessary to maintain their loyalty.


Has Another Season Been Confirmed?

Yes


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How Would You Rate This?

Negative Mixed Positive