Most superhero shows fall somewhere on the spectrum between “all action” and “all feeling.” Do you, as a viewer, go to Capes-‘n-Powers for pure fighting and meanness, or for complicated moral dilemmas and prickly relationship dynamics? If you’re a fan of the latter (and have a high threshold for weird stuff), chances are you’re already a fan of Netflix. the umbrella academy. Steve Blackman’s adaptation of Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá’s comic book series is an outlier in television’s increasingly crowded superhero landscape: amid unexpected plot twists, surreal-style battles and a cast in expansion, the series devotes most of its runtime to the wages of trauma, resentment, and love between one of the most screwed-up families on television. Oh, and it’s wickedly fun to boot. Now in its third season, the umbrella academy has become the most cult of cult favorites.
The show’s history is as deep and twisted as the Mississippi, but here are the basics: On a single day in 1989, 43 women around the world experienced spontaneous pregnancies and gave birth to superpowered children. Enigmatic billionaire Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) adopted seven of them, whom he raised (very traumatizingly) to form a teenage crime-fighting team. But after one of them dies young, the ad-hoc family splits up, only to reunite as adults in the wake of his father’s suicide.
After narrowly subverting an apocalypse of their own making in season two, the gang finds themselves displaced in time in 1963 Dallas, where they try to prevent Kennedy’s assassination. In the end of seasonThey travel back in time to a present that is not theirs. Reginald has replaced The Umbrella Academy with The Sparrow Academy, seven (mostly) super-powered new recruits who are a lot more disciplined and a lot nastier than our beloved anti-heroes.
the umbrella academy he hadn’t figured out what kind of show he wanted to be in his First Station; but by the second installment, the series was running flat out. Blackman & Co. beefed up the plot, and the often icy relationships between the brothers (sometimes featuring soap opera-level dialogue) gave way to warm, prickly affection. The show also drew on intense real-world dynamics, particularly when it came to the story of Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), the only black member of The Umbrellas, as she confronted racism in the American South in the decade. 1960 and joined the civil rights movement.
Season 3 continues to honestly deal with everything its seven leads have been through in the past, from Number Five (Aidan Gallagher), a teleporting 58-year-old trapped in the body of a pre-teen, to Diego (David Castañeda), a telekinetic knife. -caster whose on-and-off girlfriend Lila (a wonderfully tart Ritu Arya) follows him into the future with a big surprise in tow. (Klaus, played with chaotic abandon by Robert Sheehan, is still floating high above it all.)
But the Umbrella Academy, vitally, he reserves the greatest care for the story of Vanya, played by Oscar nominee Elliot Page. The writers map the actor’s real-life transition to his character, as the queer awakening he experienced in the 1960s leads Vanya to become Viktor. The show deftly handles the conversations Viktor has with each of his family members about his transition, as well as showing how he comes into his own throughout the season. He becomes a wiser, more wry, and more self-confident person, a far cry from the frustratingly weak and subscribing Vanya we met at the beginning of the series.
Season three starts off strong, with a fun story, compelling mysteries, and a handful of unexpected twists, not to mention three musical montages within the first 15 minutes of episode one. The team also has a fascinatingly strange new headquarters: The Obsidian Hotel, a stylishly anachronistic setting with a production design that sits somewhere between The Overlook and The Grand Budapest. By the way, the umbrella academy tackles issues of parenting, grief, and power with wacky humor and very real pathos. But don’t worry, there’s also a robot that forms a religion around a radiant black hole, a sentient floating cube named Christopher, and a mysterious man who listens to the sounds of bees on a Walkman when he needs to relax.
Unfortunately, the proverbial world’s largest ball of yarn (which, yes, Klaus and Five visit on an impromptu road trip) begins to unravel in the second half of the season. the umbrella academy does a heroic job of balancing his massive outfit, but this time, it’s a bit also great. The members of The Sparrow Academy end up being pretty monotonous, and a great romance is too simple for a series of this pie.
It all culminates in a season finale that’s somehow too slow. Y too fast. The story veers into abstraction just as it should be hitting base, with repetitive emotional beats giving way to a climax where it seems the stakes no longer matter. Despite all that, the umbrella academy it never fails to be a blast: a glittering ball of chaos encased in a Dyson sphere of hard-earned devotion from what Five defines not so much as a family as “an institute for sarcastic criminals.”