I hadn’t even heard anything about The Umbrella Academy before, let alone read any of the Dark Horse comic series on which this Netflix show is adapted from. The premise, and the trailer for the show, didn’t initially appeal to me if I’m honest. But, it turns out that Netflix have only gone and done it again, turning out yet another binge worthy little gem of a show.
The setup for Umbrella Academy is that one day in 1989, 43 babies were born to mothers who were not pregnant when that day began. An eccentric billionaire, Sir Reginald Hargreeves, purchases seven of those babies and raises them, training them to become a powerful crime fighting team. Living with them at the Umbrella Academy is an android Nanny, who the children refer to as Mom, and a well spoken elderly chimpanzee butler called Dr Pogo (impressive work from Weta, the team behind the recent Planet of The Apes trilogy). Each child is known only by a number given to them by their ‘Father’, Sir Reginald – Number 1 through to Number 7 – ranked in order of their usefulness to him!
Fast forward to present day and the team have all but disbanded, with what’s left of them living out problem filled adult lives. Number 1 (now known as Luther) has been living on the moon for the past 4 years. He possesses super strength and has a very bulky appearance, wearing roll neck jumpers and a long coat. Number 2 (now Diego) is a vigilante and a bit of a knife expert. Number 3 (Allison) is now a famous actress, gifted with the ability to alter reality with her voice. Number 4 (Klaus) is a junkie who can communicate with the dead. Number 5 is able to perform small teleportations, or time jumps, but has been missing since they were all teenagers. Number 6 (Ben) was killed prior to the events in this show and Number 7 (Vanya) is believed not to have any special abilities, always being neglected and overlooked by the others while growing up. When news reaches them all that Sir Reginald has died, they all return to the academy.
The opening episode of The Umbrella Academy is packed full of thrills, mystery and a very exciting setup for the remainder of the season. We get a taste of the childrens abilities and teamwork, impressively taking out a bunch of bad guys. Then in present day, Number 5 suddenly appears from a portal in the sky. He claims to have spent decades living in a post-apocalyptic future, having jumped there all those years ago, but unable to return. He survived there until the age of 58, but on his return to present day he returned to his 13 year old appearance. We get a glimpse of the apocalyptic world that Number 5 arrived in and discover that whatever causes it is due to happen in just a few days from present day.
From there, the show suffers with what a lot of high concept shows tend to suffer from – second episode drag. That’s not to say that it’s boring, but we begin to delve into some of the Daddy issues that the various team members have, along with issues some of them have with each other and it’s a sharp contrast to the impressive opening episode. If I’m honest, by the end of episode 3 I was considering giving up, but I stuck with it. I really grew to like this dysfunctional family, and as the show dips back and forth between their teenage years and the present day, I really became invested in the show and its characters. They begin to band together to work through their issues and try and find a way of working out what causes the impending apocalypse, and how to stop it.
There are certainly consequences which play out throughout the season though. We discover that during his time in the future, Number 5 became involved in an organisation which works to correct events in time in order to ensure the destined timeline plays out as it should. Because of Number 5’s return to the present, he is now being hunted by a pair of black suited assassins called Hazel and Cha-Cha. Consequently, the body count in this show is pretty high, usually accompanied by a killer soundtrack!
I’m glad I stuck with it, because the whole thing soon became compulsive viewing, building to an incredibly entertaining and satisfying finale. With the apocalypse imminent, the whole team finally work together once more – a few twists and turns along the way, and a great cliffhanger setting things up for another season. I really loved everything about this show and the way that something so completely bonkers is presented so well, so believable and so intense.