‘The Umbrella Academy’ puts a twist on superhero shows

courtesy photo

courtesy photo

“The Umbrella Academy” is the newest take on schools for young superheroes. Beneath the multiple narratives and a chimpanzee butler, the Netflix series’ main theme is how the heroes overcome their childhood emotional abuse as adults and work together to save the world.

When the show first released, I had no interest in watching it because we did not need another “X Men” saga. “The Umbrella Academy” is a Netflix original created by Steve Blackman, based off the Dark Horse Comics. It’s been called the “superhero show for people who do not like superhero shows.” The series is a mix between drama and comedy and is very narratively driven.

The story begins when 43 children are born at the same time on the same day. When Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) adopts seven of these children, he trains them to become child heroes while submitting them to emotional abuse and trauma. Instead of giving each child a name, Sir Reginald Hargreeves assigns them each a number. His cold and inhumane tactics of raising the children caused them to go their separate ways into adulthood.

In the first episode, the viewer is introduced to the seven children who each have their own narrative. A movie star, an astronaut, a drug addict, a time traveler, a vigilante and an outcast.  Sir Reginald Hargreeves dies unexpectedly, creating a cause for the siblings to come together. As the story progresses, the siblings soon find the world is coming to an end, and they must find a way to prevent it.

At first, the multiple narratives seem confusing for the viewer as it is easy to mix characters due to the quick introduction. Once the main storyline pulls together, however, the show becomes entertaining in a fresh way.

The first element I noticed was the music choices throughout the season. Composer Jeff Russo did a fantastic job, in my opinion, with picking songs. Artists range from Queen, The Doors and Radiohead, while several songs were made by Jeff Russo and Executive Producer Gerard Way. The music added to the quirky quality the show has that separates it from other superhero shows.

The audience can truly connect to the well-acted and well-developed characters. Ellen Page (Vanya Hargreeves/Number Seven) and Emmy Raver-Lampman (Allison Hargreeves/Number Three) played the long-separated sisters in “The Umbrella Academy.” Both actresses created a believable relationship between the two siblings through relationship advice and a love/hate sisterly love.

To add to the story, two assassins are sent to hunt Number Five, the time traveler (Aiden Gallagher). The characters Cha-Cha (Mary J. Blige) and Hazel (Cameron Britton) add an element of comedic relief to the heavy “end-of-the-world” mood of the show. Both actors pull off the details and emotions of each character in a fine way.

The season ended in a definite cliff-hanger, leaving the audience wanting more. Netflix has not ordered a second season, however, with the positive reviews the first season has had, I believe the call will come soon. Although there was a bit of lull during a few moments of the show, “The Umbrella Academy” adds a neat twist to the superhero genre, and I would recommend adding it to everyone’s Netflix list.

photo courtesy ign