REVIEW: ‘The Umbrella Academy’ Season 2

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The Umbrella Academy Season 2

The Umbrella Academy Season 2 premiered last Friday and features the return of the super-powered and super dysfunctional Hargreeves family. Picking up after the end of the first seasonThe Umbrella Academy finds the Hargreeves scattered throughout various points in 1960’s Dallas. Five (Aidan Gallagher) learns that the world will end in ten days, and seeks to reunite his family. The Hargreeves deal with Swedish assassins, secret societies, and the impending death of John F. Kennedy as they try to save the world.

Though the plot is essentially the same as the first season’s, what sets it apart are two things. The first is the setting; much like the second volume of the comic, the majority of the action is set in Dallas. Showrunner Steve Blackman and the writing staff utilize this to their advantage, showing how our characters react to-and even influence certain events. The production design is also stellar. Attention is paid to every detail, from the automobiles being used to the insides of several stores. It genuinely feels like you’ve traveled back in time with our heroes.

The Hargreeves themselves remain the beating heart of The Umbrella Academy Season 2. When Five made the decision to pull them all into the timestream, they ended up in different places. Vanya (Ellen Page) suffered amnesia and now serves as the nanny for an autistic boy Harlan. Luther (Tom Hopper) ekes out a living as a boxer/bodyguard for a crime lord. Klaus (Robert Sheehan) has a cult that hangs on his every word. And Diego (David Castenada) was locked in a mental asylum for trying to kill Harvey Lee Oswald.

The fact that the characters are in such a different place than the first season allows them to dig deep and find new depths to their characters. Vanya has a chance to start fresh, without her family’s expectations hanging over her. Klaus learns that he can’t run away from his problems (or drink them into oblivion). Diego struggles with the fact that he might have a hero complex. So much of the Hargreeves’ lives are defined by their past; the irony that it takes being trapped in the literal past for them to grow will not be lost on the audience.

The character that undergoes the biggest change is Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman.) Not only is she married and running her own barbershop, but she also is a figure in the budding civil rights movement. The fact that Allison is a black woman living in the 1960’s was bound to be touched upon; even bigger is the fact that she has a life anchoring her to the past. Raver-Lampman gets some surprisingly heartwrenching material here, particularly in the season finale. I found myself tearing up during several of her scenes.

The show also tackles issues of sexuality and mental health with surprising care. Harlan is shown to be autistic, fixating on his record player and getting upset when it breaks. As a child, I tended to get upset whenever anything separated me from the books I was reading; I’m glad the show treats this issue with care. We also see several same-sex relationships between Vanya and Harlan’s mother Sissy, as well as Klaus reuniting with his Season 1 boyfriend Dave. Both relationships wind up taking a tragic turn, but unlike other same-sex relationships on TV it doesn’t end in death and it doesn’t feel out of left field.

I also have to give props to the new cast members, including Yusuf Gatewood as Allison’s husband Ray and Ritu Arya as Diego’s fellow inmate Lila. Both of these characters are not only tied to our main cast, but they also lead fleshed out lives of their own. Lila has a surprising connection to a character from Season 1; Ray is willing to stand up for civil rights and struggles to make sense of Allison’s powers. Again, this is a refreshing take for superhero media; not many films and television shows take this kind of care with supporting characters.

The Umbrella Academy Season 2 builds on the things that made the first season great, especially its characters. The season finale is a perfect set up for a third season, and I hope it continues the strong character work and bold choices its predecessors have made.

The Umbrella Academy Season 2 is currently streaming on Netflix.

 

The Umbrella Academy Season 2
  • 10/10
    Rating - 10/10
10/10

TL;DR

The Umbrella Academy Season 2 builds on the things that made the first season great, especially its characters. The season finale is a perfect set up for a third season, and I hope it continues the strong character work and bold choices its predecessors have made.