There is a lot that can be said about new Netflix original series The Umbrella Academy. Its got aged superheroes, time travel, a mysterious end of the world agenda and most importantly one of the best soundtracks to a TV show in years. But what really made The Umbrella Academy so damn good? And no, it wasn’t the fact that it was written by My Chemical Romance lead singer Gerard Way, although that is cool.
Firstly the art style and cinematography of this show, like all other Netflix Originals, has that super polished look. Sometimes the CGI can be a bit sketchy but for the most part, they manage to the superhuman abilities believable without having to downgrade the quality with over the top and unnecessary CGI. And I think that feeds very well into the fact that this isn’t a story about superheroes, or about the world being saved. It’s a snapshot into a grossly irregular family, that has all too familiar family problems.
With a group of kids born with random and super abilities all on the exact same day across the world, the premise is an odd and intriguing one. This is especially true when we see a woman dive into a pool, definitely not pregnant, only to emerge on the cusp of birthing a child, which she does poolside. Seemingly from an innocent kiss on the cheek. Like I said, Odd.
Now skip forward 25 years. We see a family torn apart by the cruelty they were subjected to by a seemingly ruthless father, who managed to adapt and house 7 of the 43 unexplainable births I referred to in the previous paragraph. No.1 through to 7 return to their family home by the untimely death of their father. With a family united, well mostly, we know that one member is dead (No.6) and the other has been missing since they were around 14 (No.5). We get an odd glimpse into things we aren’t accustomed to with superhero entertainment; an exhaustion of having to kill people. Feuds that feel real emotionally but are so abstract. Kids arguing over toys, except the toys are knives and playing is a training course.
Time travel then comes into play as No.5 seemingly returns from beyond the apocalypse in order to save the world. He informs his siblings he is in fact no.56, trapped inside of the body of his former 14-year-old self because Time is tricky and he didn’t iron out the variables. Not only that but he is pursued by some sort of time police who wear metal cartoon animal helmets (one of the coolest looks in the show).
My major gripe with TUA is that it can sometimes be a bit to meta for its own good, and on one than more occasion I missed a seemingly integral part of the story that led to a scene I didn’t understand because time. I, at least, had to rewind, not my favourite thing to do when binge watching.
With a star like Ellen Page attached to the program it was bound to make headway in viewings, but it really wasn’t her show. Yes I found some of the characters annoying, I’m looking at you no.3 (Played by the brilliant Emmy Raver-Lampman). She felt hollow and annoying, but the rest of the bunch outshone the star and really brought a sense of dynamism to the cast. Tom Hoppers slow and caring giant Luther (No.1) to the drug afflicted seance played by Misfits star Robert Sheehan really gave the lesser characters some depth that adds to the realism of this dysfunctional family.
The Umbrella academy had a noticeable theme, where the episodes picked up within the last 15 minutes to really get you keen for the next. It executed cliffhangers well and with a plot that kept me guessing and a soundtrack I found myself listening to over and over again, The Umbrella Academy was everything I enjoyed from Gotham but more interesting. Will it be able to go long distance? I imagine not, but I am willing to get myself behind a few seasons to see where the hell they actually went at the end of the last episode… Like I said cliffhangers…
The Umbrella Academy is available to stream in its entirety on Netflix now.