Right, let’s just get this out of the way and drop a cut: if you haven’t seen season 1 of The Umbrella Academy, don’t read this review unless you’re fine with spoilers. If you hate spoilers, at least go watch the first season and know all the joy it entails to watch a thing spoiler-free. As for the second, I’ll try to be as vague as possible, but there will still be mild spoilers. Right, with the warnings out of the way, cue the cut now…
After completely botching their efforts to stop the apocalypse by replacing it with a planet AND moon killing event, the members of the eponymous Umbrella Academy use Five’s time traveling powers to jump back to a point in time before the world was doomed and their sister Vanya was a budding supervillain with godlike powers. But, since Five barely has a handle on jumping himself through time, it will come as no surprise that he botches the jump and sends each of his siblings into the same Dallas alleyway at different times within the early 1960s.
Five himself lands smack dab in the middle of another apocalypse, with the Russians invading and then nuking the city into a molten pit. But just before everything goes tits up, former Commission assassin Hazel shows up to pull Five ten days before the end of the world for yet another attempt at preventing the apocalypse. To do so, Five must reunite his family and once again find out why the nuclear war was triggered.
For the first episode, all the Hargreeves siblings are separate. Former team leader Luther has become a pit fighter working for Jack Ruby. Allison, AKA: The Rumor, has recovered from her injury and has gotten married to a local civil rights activist. Diego, realizing he’s arrived in time to save Kennedy from assassination, gets himself locked up in an asylum for stalking and harassing Lee Harvey Oswald. Klaus manages to literally stumble over a sugar mama, who helps him build a religious cult inspired by Klaus’ knowledge of Destiny’s Child lyrics. (No, seriously, the cult is called Destiny’s Children.) And finally, Vanya staggers out of the alley only to be struck by a car, giving her amnesia as well as a new home on a farm outside the city.
In short order, the siblings begin connecting with each other, while Five finds a new headquarters and ally. He also finds a lead left by Hazel about what might have started the war. But in typical Five fashion, he initially misinterprets what’s actually happening. And hilarity ensues…and chaos.
As all of this is happening, The Commission is still sending out assassins to try and eliminate the Hargreeves, thus ensuring an apocalypse will happen. This time around The Commission sends three brothers collectively known as The Swedes, and I have to say it’s both their presence and The Commission’s very vague sense of how exactly they are protecting time that rubbed me the wrong way.
Think of this way: In season 1, The Commission wanted to keep Five from stopping the apocalypse because that’s how the flow of time was supposed to proceed. Fair enough, but when the family ends up in 1963 and this DEFINITELY isn’t the way history is supposed to flow, why are they so hell-bent on trying to ensure the world goes boom roughly fifty years too early? On the same line of thought, there are often statements made that no life is unimportant for the security of the timeline, but The Commission’s assassins don’t seem to mind killing indiscriminately, as if no life matters in the grand scheme of things. It’s annoying.
There are two possible reasons this might be the case, though. One is that the upper brass of The Commission are more focused on the bureaucracy of keeping their establishment in power rather than protecting the timeline. The other possibility is that they believe eliminating the Hargreeves from the 1960s might somehow restore order to history. The problem is, they end up being the stereotypical villains trying to stop a prophecy who end up almost fulfilling said prophecy with their own reckless actions.
But this leads me to one other nagging question, and it has to do with Reginald Hargreeves. The Commission has to know he’s a time traveler actively meddling in the timeline, but they never seem to acknowledge him, even though they know all about his kids. Again, I think there are two explanations here. One is that at some point in the past they tried to eliminate him and realized he was too dangerous. The other is that being from the distant future, perhaps he has some kind of technology that cloaks his presence, preventing The Commission from becoming aware of his tampering.
Staying with the commission for just a moment longer, in the last season Hazel resigned by shooting The Handler in the head. Well, turns out she has a metal plate in her skull. But due to her failures, the leadership role is turned over to A.J. Carmichael, a goldfish who pilots a humanoid robot body with a fishbowl for a head. Oh, and the fish smokes cigarettes. Anywho, The Handler is parked at the same desk jockey position she tried to push Five into, so obviously it isn’t long before she’s plotting a coup.
With all the players working to serve their own agendas, I expected the second season to play out much like another sophomore superhero outing. I thought the Hargreeves would all remained divided by conflicting agendas until the very end, much like what happened in Titans season 2. Instead, the family gathers together several time for routine arguments before forming smaller clusters. For example, Allison and Klaus take off with Vanya for a side mission, or Diego and Five infiltrate a consulate party with Lila, a new…friend of Diego’s. Or in another example, Luther teams up with Five and…Five? Yeah, it gets a bit weird in places, but some of the best humor comes in these moments of micro teams coming together. (Mild spoiler for a line that made me laugh hard: *O-okay, that was just lunch…shut up!”)
In the end, the Hargreeves family manages to sort out what causes the war and return back to their own timeline…except it isn’t right. Sure there’s no dead world, but their antics in the past have created huge shockwaves to the timeline, and the present is…well, it’s kinda fucked. This sets up some interesting questions for the third season, none of which can be asked without spoiling the events of the second season. I’d really much rather direct you to go watch it and find out what those question are on your own.
I’ll give the second season of The Umbrella Academy a solid 5 stars. It’s funny, touching, terrifying, sad, and exciting in just the right quantities to make an almost perfectly balanced show. There’s even more character development for the whole dysfunction family. (Though patriarch Reginald is still a major douche who can never admit he’s just as awful at saving the world as his adopted kids are.) If you like superhero shows and films, you really need to be watching this, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.