Netflix review: 'Umbrella Academy' second season kicks off on high note

Fred Hawson

Posted at Jul 31 2020 02:58 PM

A scene from the second season of 'The Umbrella Academy.' Netflix

The first season of "The Umbrella Academy" came out around February of last year. However, despite the positive word of mouth surrounding it, I did not really watch TV series at that time, so I never got to see it at all. However this year, ever since the quarantine was imposed and an excess of free time opened, I relented and began to watch various TV series streaming on Netflix as well, English language or otherwise. 

"The Umbrella Academy" was a series based on a Dark Horse comic book series written by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá. This TV series version was created for Netflix by Steve Blackman and developed by Jeremy Slater. 

The members of the academy were: Number One was Luther (Tom Hopper), who had super strength. Number Two was Diego (David Castaneda), who had mad skills with knives. Number Three was Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), whose voice can order and control behavior. Number Four was Klaus (Robert Sheehan), who can communicate with spirits of the dead. Number Five (Aidan Gallagher), who was left unnamed, had the ability to teleport himself in space and time. Number Six (Justin H. Min) was Ben, who had four powerful tentacles for fighting. Number Seven was Vanya (Ellen Page), who had been excluded from the group exploits, for her apparent lack of powers.

The first season began in 1989, when Sir Reginald Hargreeve (Colm Feore) adopted seven children with special abilities and trained them to become a group of superheroes, with the help of his chimpanzee assistant Pogo (Adam Godley and Ken Hall) and their android mother Grace (Jordan Claire Robbins). The kids lived under Sir Reginald's draconian rules, which later led to rebellion and disbandment when they grew up. 

Years later, they reunite as adults (except Five who remained a 13-year old boy as time traveling messed up his growth) to solve the death of their father and how it related to a major event which was about to destroy the earth in 10 days. However, hot on their heels was a pair of ruthless assassins Chacha (Mary J. Blige) and Hazel (Cameron Britton) who had been sent by the mysterious Handler (Kate Walsh) to foil their plans. 

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After the cataclysmic event which ended Season 1, this second season finds the brothers and sisters thrown into the tumultuous early 1960s in Dallas, Texas, before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The season starts on a high note as Five dropped in to witness a colossal fight of his siblings against Russian soldiers threatening a nuclear end of the world. As the episodes went along, the siblings all get involved with several other important issues of that day, like false religious cults, homosexuality, autism, the Vietnam War draft, and specially, the black civil rights movement. 

The second season still featured the same aspects I liked about the first. There was still that tense dysfunctional family dynamics going on among the siblings, which can be as funny as they were exasperating. The special effects of the fight scenes seemed to have been upped a few notches upwards as the action became more violent and destructive, with those scenes set in a board room and on a dental clinic being the bloodiest. This new season also brought back those eclectic choices of pop songs (ranging from jazz standards to rock & roll, from '80s New Wave to Billie Eilish) which appropriately accompanied key scenes. 

This series cannot really escape comparison with the X-Men and their mutant superpowers. Similarities between Seven and Jean Grey, or Five and Nightcrawler, may certainly seem uncanny. However, their characters and their powers were given their own additional twists and dimensions to make them fresh. One's dim-wittedness, Two's hero complex, Three's seductive grit, and Four's flamboyance will lead them to their own individual adventures with new colorful characters. Time travel scenarios usually result in big plot holes, but this one had no obviously glaring ones unless you nitpick. 

Since Season 1 already settled all the heavy backstory of this family, Season 2 was able to have more fun with the siblings' characters. Every episode ended with a cliffhanger which made it irresistible to go on and watch the next show right away to see what happens, making this engaging series easily binge-able. Season 3 could not come too soon.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."