This month Netflix will release a new series in its fantasy category — The Umbrella Academy. The series is based on a Dark Horse comic of the same name that came out in 2007. The comic was written by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá. I haven’t read the comic, so this review will focus on the Netflix series itself.
I previewed the first five episodes in this Netflix original series, following 6 people born to women who miraculously got pregnant on the same day they delivered the children. There are 43 of these special children. For example, the show opens at an indoor pool in Russia. A clearly-not-pregnant teenage girl and boy are flirting by the pool. The girl kisses his cheek and jumps into the pool. As the girl emerges from the water, it turns bloody and reveals her now swelled stomach. They get her out of the pool and deliver the child.
A billionaire with delusions of grandeur named Sir Reginald Hargreeves literally buys 7 of the babies born on that day. He raises them with the help of a female robot he builds to be their mother and an anatomically correct talking assistant chimpanzee named Pogo.
Each child (seemingly) has a special ability such as super strength, teleportation, the power to cause/make rumors come true, and some type of morphing/transformation ability. It is these kids who become Sir Hargreeves’ superhero team (minus 1) known as The Umbrella Academy.
That’s the set up. About the first 5 episodes…
*Very light spoilers sprinkled on your salad today*
In a cast of about 8 or so main characters, one big problem is that two of those characters are completely unlikable. Those are two of the “brothers:” Diego, a wannabe Nightwing, and Number Five (yes, that is his name), who can teleport and time travel.
Diego is annoying because he is your typical, “I got dad issues, a chip on my shoulder, the need to prove myself, and do it all on my own” type of character. While I understand why he has these feelings, they don’t bring anything to his character besides making him appear angry and standoffish all the time unless he is by himself.
Number Five is unlikable because of his “I am better than you all” attitude. In the trailer, it is revealed that he finds out the world is about to end when he accidentally travels to the future. And like a character with a secret this big, he tries to fix it on his own when he comes back to the present. Even though, clearly, he can’t do it on his own.
Both Diego and Number Five suffer for the “I must suffer alone” trait of characters, and neither wants to try and fix it. Well, Number Five actually does try, but I won’t spoil what happens at the end of episode 5 ;D.
One character that gets more screen time than these two is Luther, the leader. He is the super-strong typical superhero power guy. He is fucking boring, and that’s a problem. Through the first five episodes, he does nothing spectacular. He’s plain, he doesn’t go against the grain. He probably eats unseasoned grits. No butter, salt, sugar, or however you like it (I’m not judging). Nothing! He is white chefs on cooking shows putting salt and pepper on their chicken and calling it seasoned to perfection, but it’s just bland and dry. He is Kool-Aid with 1 cup of sugar that get you cussed out for in a Black home…a waste.
The women of this series seem to be the saving grace. However…
One of the members of The Umbrella Academy is Allison, a beautiful Black woman, who has the ability to say something to a person that (I believe) has to always start with “I heard a rumor that…,” and it will become real. During a bank robbery, she tells one of the robbers, “I heard a rumor that you shot your friend.” He then proceeds to do just that. The problem I have with Allison, or really her ability, is that her “rumor starting” is the reason her life gets fucked up, aka because the Black woman didn’t know how to keep her mouth shut her marriage went to shit, and she lost custody of her daughter.
However, Allison and her sister Vanya, played by Ellen Page (probably the only one many will recognize), are the main ones to watch. They carry a lot of the drama (which, yes, is bad that the women create the drama), but they give this show most of its flavor. Now, there is also the brothers Ben and Klaus who are always together for a very important reason, and I really want to see more of Ben. He has the least amount of screen time, but his quick one-liners and the advice and support he gives Klaus really make him shine for the time he is on screen.
The story is still pretty vague even five episodes in. I mean you get where the season is going, which is to hopefully stop the end of the world from happening (if that’s at all possible), but by episode five you’re still asking yourself how are we getting there, or not getting there.
Their father, Sir Hargreeves, dies, which gets all the kids to return home. During the funeral of sorts, Number Five suddenly returns from the future. However, he is being chased by two henchmen who are trying to kill him. (One is Auntie Mary J. Blige with the “Family Affair” short wig on.) The death of Sir Hargreeves causes major tension among the siblings, and many family secrets are revealed that show why they left the house and basically don’t speak to each other anymore. One thing I am interested in is the suitor who seemingly has eyes for Vanya. He is to be watched closely.
Through the first five episodes, there is a good amount of action and mystery. You get some explosions, good fight scenes, knife throwing, gunplay, etc. On the mystery side, you get a lot of who did what and figuring out who can be trusted. At the end of episode five, I was left with two big questions: What is the outcome of Number Five’s new position, and what is going on with Vanya?
My Overall Opinion
As someone who loves fantasy, I’m always ready to see shows where people have fantastical abilities. So, even though I’m not a fan of the way many of the characters come off, I’m going to keep watching. I want to see what they do with their powers and how they develop and are used over time. I also feel that The Umbrella Academy hits a stride to really move the story forward.
This isn’t a bad show by any means, but I do feel that these first five episodes are a bit of a slog. I just want to see the fantasy and not the drama.
If you like semi-dark fantasy, or just fantasy in general, then I think you should like it. It is a very watchable show.
Check it out for yourself when it hits Netflix February 15.
Curious what else is coming to Netflix in February? We’ve got a list.
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