As someone who has loved THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY for nearly a decade, I feel compelled to share my thoughts and feelings about the Netflix series that launched over the weekend. For those who don’t know, the series is based on a comic by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá which was published by Dark Horse Comics from 2007 to 2013. The team picked the series back up for its current run in October 2018.

And let me tell you I could not have been more thrilled that my favorite not-so-super hero team was back. That is until I saw this show this past Friday. THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY on Netflix absolutely floored me. I meant to watch all of it over the weekend, but once I hit episode two, I could not stop. I finished it just before midnight. It’s really good, folks. I would love to tell you why it’s so damn good. (No spoilers, I promise.)

Number One: The Roots of THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY

To build a good house, you need a solid foundation. And THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY has just that. The comic by Way and Bá tells an interesting, surprising story with complex characters. In other words, they had damn good material to work with. And the show honors that. They change a few things, yes. But those changes work for the show.

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY
THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY. Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

As I said to a friend over the weekend, the comic stuff works in the comics and the show stuff works for the show. The team on the Netflix show didn’t change things just to change them. They made alterations that actually made the show better. And even as a purist and loyalist to Way and Bá, I can accept and embrace those changes.

Way and Bá also said during their New York Comic Con panel that they really liked what the show was doing. Bá was asked to help with some costume design for the series, which was an awesome way to involve him and his unique style. The two were on set more than once, so their fingerprints are all over THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY.

Number Two: Complex Relationships

The characters are not what you expect. In episode one, you may think you have them figured out. Klaus (aka Number 4) is eccentric. Allison (Number 3) is a famous, glamorous star whose life has spun out of control. Diego (Number 2) is bitter as hell and Luther (Number 1) is a born leader. Booooooooooring.

But no, these characters show you how nuanced they are as the episodes unravel. And because each of them is flawed and traumatized in their own way, they have very complicated relationships. Vanya and Allison, for example, have love and compassion for each other. That is, most of the time. They hurt each other perhaps more than any other two people in THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY. It’s not because they’re vindictive or have ill will. They just clash as people, even though they both lived through the abuses of their father.

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY
THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY. Courtesy of Netflix.

Because of these relationships, the show has a strong emotional core. It will tug on your heart in ways you don’t expect a superhero show to do.

Number Three: The Music

Have you ever seen a fight scene set to “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” by They Might Be Giants? I have, friends, and it works. So. Well. THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY has some of the best music I’ve ever seen in a show combined with some expert editing. Sometimes the songs are used to give you a look into the characters’ psyche, and sometimes they’re used for dissonance. But either way, you get exactly what they’re trying to do with the song choices, and it’s pretty rad.

Perhaps my favorite moment in the show is in the first episode, when the family is back in the mansion for the first time in years. They have a contentious reunion and attempt to deal with their dad’s death. Then Luther puts on “I Think We’re Alone Now” by Tiffany. The upbeat song seems inappropriate considering their dead father, but wait. It’s perfect.

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY
THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY. Courtesy of Netflix.

As the family danced alone in their respective parts of their house, I got it. It works on a couple levels, but basically, this family is celebrating the fact that their abuser is gone. They’re, in a way, “alone now.” There’s no one watching their every move anymore. They’re free. And also, they’ve come together once again as a family. So they’re no longer alone.

See? It’s both dissonance and a look into their minds. Brilliant stuff.

Number Four: Klaus and Trauma

I would like to wrap Kalus up in a blanket and shelter him from the world. He’d probably prefer some drugs, but I don’t care. Klaus is one of the more outlandish characters in THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY, and that’s saying a lot. But he’s more than just an oddball drug addict who likes to defy gender norms with his wardrobe. He’s been through a lot. Not to give his arc away, but trauma plays a major part in Klaus’s story.

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY
THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY. Courtesy of Netflix.

It’s handled very well, and really adds a lot to a character that could easily be one-dimensional.

Number Five: Performances

Everyone is acting their asses off in THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY. Ellen Page’s Vanya is layered and tragic and relatable in ways I can’t even comprehend. She reaches a level of emotion in episode nine that is award-worthy. It may be some of her best work. I really want to give kudos to Aidan Gallagher for his performance as Number Five. I mean, dude. How the hell is he fifteen years old? He plays someone nearly four times his age with such confidence and expertise and it’s maddening. Gallagher is so good in this role I could scream. And when he plays the thirteen year old version of this character, it’s just as believable. You can see the difference in age, even if he looks the same. Now that’s good acting.

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY
THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY. Courtesy of Netflix.

Honorable mentions to Emmy Raver-Lampman (Allison), Cameron Britton (Hazel), David Castañeda (Diego), and Robert Sheehan (Klaus). While every single person in this show killed it, these people absolutely shine.

Number Six: Representation

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY does a great job with representation. Characters who were not necessarily people of color in the comics were cast as PoCs in the show. And I adore that. They also handle gender identity and sexual preference really well. When one character casually mentions that he dated another dude, no one blinks. Which is how it should be. It’s not a plot point, it’s just part of the person’s overall character. And that was awesome to see in a show that is getting a lot of attention.

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY
THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY. Courtesy of Netflix.

Also, the women in this show are flawed, complicated women who don’t always make the best choices. They’re real, they handle their shit, and I love them.

Number Seven: THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY is So Damn Weird

Yes, there’s a talking monkey named Pogo. And yes, their mother is a robot. Affirmative on the time-traveling assassins in freaky-looking masks. The source material is written by Gerard Way, so weird is to be expected. But that makes THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY different from everything else out there right now. I mean that in the best way possible.

One Comment

  1. Dimitris Panos

    Dimitris Panos

    February 20, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    Spot on!

    Reply

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