Netflix’s new stylish superhero series ‘The Umbrella Academy’ is set to be your next binge-worthy watch this weekend.
Based on the Dark Horse Comic series by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, ‘The Umbrella Academy’ follows the lives of gifted people who all happen to be born on the same day under very remarkable circumstances. Upon hearing about these 43 remarkable children being born around the world, billionaire Reginald Hargreeves tries to recruit the superpowered newborns - and he ends up adopting seven young prodigies.
Each of the seven siblings has a special gift, and they take to saving the world under Hargreeves’ extremely harsh guidance. The Netflix series joins the siblings when they’re in their late 20’s, as they return home to reunite for the first time in years, for a family funeral. Their reunion is as awkward as you'd expect it to be; because as you can imagine, these guys have lots of emotional baggage bottled up over the years. We couldn’t help but be reminded of ’The Haunting of Hill House’ at the beginning - it’s a dysfunctional family coming back to a house they used to grow up in for Pete’s sake.
While the first episode lays the groundwork, and feels a bit slow, don’t let that deter you from continuing on; episode two picks up enough pace to keep you hooked right up until the climax in episode 10. Also, don't let the childish nature of 'The Umbrella Academy' fool you - it can sometimes turn into a gorefest.
The storyline is full of twists and turns to keep you guessing, and the characters, for the most part, are very likeable. There are a couple of characters that don't do much for the story (Pogo the monkey for one, is warranted no explanation of who exactly he is/how he came to be/why there's a talking monkey present) and just seem to hang around waiting for the superpower siblings to do something wrong.
Having said that, the cast of ‘The Umbrella Academy’ are undoubtedly a strong bunch. Ranging from our own Robert Sheehan (‘Misfits’), to Kate Walsh (‘Grey’s Anatomy’), to Tom Hopper who you’ll recognise as Dickon Tarley from ‘Game of Thrones’, to break-out star Aidan Gallagher, the talent on the series is remarkable.
Gallagher’s Number 5 is easily one of the highlights of the series - a teen playing a time-travelling senior citizen who’s seen the apocalypse happen is no easy task - but the young actor does it with such a natural comedic style and brazenness that’s it’s welcomingly fresh. In the same way, Sheehan’s Klaus, while being the obvious scapegoat for a light-hearted comment or a back-handed compliment, shows a vulnerable side to him later in the series that proves he’s not just a trademark junkie who only provides wise-cracks.
Ellen Page and Mary J. Blige on the other hand, are a slight bit of a drag. We felt no real connection to either of their respective characters throughout ‘The Umbrella Academy.’ Page, being the social outcast of the family, never believably comes to life - even in the later half of the series when she gets more screen time. Yes, she's been shunted to the sidelines in her family ever since she was small; and yes, her father has a lot of to answer for; but at the same time we just didn't buy her as a character on this occasion.
Blige plays hard-ass Cha-Cha, who is one half of a pair of hitmen hired by a mysterious organisation. She’s completely forgettable, especially when compared to her more approachable colleague Hazel (played by Cameron Britton from Netflix’s excellent ‘Mindhunter’).
Speaking of the hitmen, if you’ve ever seen Amazon’s ’Preacher,’ the pair are a less threatening version of Angels Fiore and DeBlanc - although they try their best. Donning huge masks (that definitely wouldn’t increase your peripheral vision), the pair are on a mission to hunt down the super-powered siblings. Although they might seem like a knock-off version of what ‘Preacher’ perfectly nails, Cha-Cha and Hazel’s endless interruptions from the main storyline will win you over… eventually.
Probably the most important part of the series - the end of the world - seems to get lost along the way at times, only for us to get reminded of it every-so-often. And to be honest, we didn't really mind getting side-tracked. The most important thing to remember when watching 'The Umbrella Academy' is that it's a hell of a lot of fun.
Apart from using elements from past superhero franchises, such as 'X-Men' (with one character in particular displaying rather obvious Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix tendencies), ‘The Umbrella Academy’ is seriously good fun to watch. It's funny, there’s decently choreographed and stylised action sequences, its surprisingly touching in parts, and it's the characters who are the real stars of the show, not their superpowers.
If you're looking for that Marvel-shaped hole that has been missing since Netflix cancelled 'Daredevil' and 'Luke Cage,' then 'The Umbrella Academy' is a very worthy filler.