The Umbrella Academy is an American fantasy tv show based on the Dark Horse comic series of the same name created by Gerard Way. The show was created by Steve Blackman and streamed for two ten-episode seasons on Netflix from 2019 to 2020. It has already been renewed for a third season.
The show features Elliot Page as Vanya Hargreeves, Tom Hopper as Luther Hargreeves, David Castañeda as Diego Hargreeves, Emmy Raver-Lampman as Allison Hargreeves, Robert Sheehan as Klaus Hargreeves, Aidan Gallagher as Number Five, Justin H. Min as Ben Hargreeves, and Colm Feore as Reginald Hargreeves.
The show begins with an intriguing fact. In October 1989, 43 children are born into families all around the world on the same day, with the women having no signs of pregnancy before their birth. A wealthy man called Sir Reginald Hargreeves arranges to have seven of those children delivered to him. He adopts them and creates a boarding school for them, called The Umbrella Academy. The children aren’t given names, but numbers, from one to seven seemingly at random, but actually according to their usefulness. Unbeknownst to most of the world, these children have fantastical powers, and Sir Reginald teaches them how to use them over the years.
Not only do they spend most of their time training, but they’re also forced into undertaking dangerous missions by their cold adoptive father, including stopping an armed bank robbery while they’re in their early teens. One of them even dies on a mission gone wrong. The children are therefore stripped of a normal childhood and grow into deeply troubled adults, and most of them eventually leave the Academy. They are all suddenly brought together at the Academy at the start of the show by the news that Reginald was found dead.
Luther was always Reginald’s favorite. His possesses superhuman strength. He was originally named Number One, much to the dismay of the other children who didn’t know for certain what the numbers meant. He was chosen to be the leader of their group of heroes, but this was too much responsibility to put on a child, and his close relationship with their father resulted in his adoptive siblings gradually growing to resent him. When everyone else has left the Academy to find a place of their own in the world, Luther stayed behind with Reginald. While his appearance is that of a giant, he’s still a boy at heart. He is often annoying to the others because he believes in Reginald’s plan, that the children all have a responsibility to stay together and use their incredible powers to help the world. Yet Tom Hopper conveys Luther’s boyish charm brilliantly throughout the show, making him very likeable despite his many flaws.
Diego, or Number Two, can manipulate thrown objects during flight. We mostly see him use this ability with knives. Growing up with this skill wasn’t easy, as his is the only one that cannot be used in any manner except as deadly force, arguably leading to him having to kill more people during his training as a teenager than his brothers and sisters. Even after leaving the Academy, Diego didn’t know how to be anyone but the “tough guy”. He does shady things to survive and avoids the limelight as best he can, but as we learn over the course of the show, he’s just a normal guy with lots of suppressed emotions, who occasionally kills people with knives.
Allison is Number Three. All she needs to do is speak the words out loud, and whatever she said, others will immediately do. The power of getting anything you ever wanted out of anyone you’ve ever met might sound appealing, but it also shapes her ego negatively. Once she is free to move around the world, she uses her power to acquire fame and wealth. Everyone recognizes her and this keeps her contented for some time, but her personal life suffers. She used her power out of convenience and did irreparable damage to the people closest to her, so she is trying to turn a new leaf and abstain from using her powers.
Klaus can communicate with the dead, which obviously left him deeply traumatized. He sees and hears the dead everywhere he goes, and the only way to catch a break is to use heavy drugs. He was always afraid of his powers, so his understanding of them is not as good as Reginald had hoped it would become. While he’s high he cannot use his powers, so he spends most of his screen time being the comedic relief.
Number Five is the only child of seven that has no name other than his number. This is because he left the family when they were all very young. His power is teleportation through time and through space, and Reginald always made him use it in moderation, expressing his belief that Five wasn’t ready to use his powers properly quite clearly. Yet Five was always rebellious, and he felt he had something to prove, so he used his powers to their fullest extent at the time and travelled far into the future. The family hasn’t seen him in many years, and only now that they’re all adults does he return, in the same early teenage body he once left them in. But he’s not that same teenager from years past. He is actually much older than any of them currently are, having lived a long life during his time jumps. Seeing a grumpy old man in the body of a teenager is truly hilarious, especially because of how everyone who isn’t aware of his actual age reacts to his presence.
Ben passed away during one of the children’s dangerous missions, and we learn more about him by the end of the first season. Although he isn’t among the living, he gets screen time because of Klaus and his power to communicate with the dead, and even helps the others on occasion.
Vanya Hargreeves has had it the worst of any of them, barring perhaps Ben. She grew up separated from the other children because she exhibited no special powers. She is deeply troubled as an adult, having never felt anything other than inferiority. All her siblings spent their time training together in their youth, and she was forced to sit beside them and watch them. She didn’t form any real connection with her family and has to visit a therapist to come to terms with who she is, just a regular woman who’s good at playing the violin and not much else. She also writes a book talking about her traumatic childhood, exposing private scenes from the family’s lives, pushing her even farther away from her already-distant siblings.
The show has plenty of flashy action scenes and intriguing plot points to stay interesting, but the reason why it is such a delight to watch are the interactions between the family members. Each character is incredibly unique and interesting all on their own, but coming together, they’re something else entirely. One of my favorite scenes in the whole show is a dance scene. I don’t usually enjoy awkward scenes that slow down the main plot, but the way this one was done made all the difference. In just one dance we get to see each character’s hidden personality, the part of it they hide even from their siblings. Only once they’re all alone do they start to dance to the same song, all in different styles that represent their personalities. Aside from being a sight to behold, it serves the purpose of humanizing the show’s cast of characters, making fantastical characters immediately relatable.
The first season’s ending is absolutely spectacular. Hints for it are laid bare throughout the season, and having these bits and pieces come together is so satisfying. I wholeheartedly recommend The Umbrella Academy, and with two whole seasons now out and a third already on the way, there’s no better time to get in on it than now.
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