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Superheroes, A Dysfunctional Family & The End Of The World? A Review of “The Umbrella Academy” Season 1

Colm Feore, Ellen Page, Robert Sheehan, Tom Hopper, David Castañeda, Aidan Gallagher, Jordan Claire Robbins, and Emmy Raver-Lampman in The Umbrella Academy (2019) Colm Feore, Ellen Page, Robert Sheehan, Tom Hopper, David Castañeda, Aidan Gallagher, Jordan Claire Robbins, and Emmy Raver-Lampman in The Umbrella Academy (2019)

Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers from Season 1 of “The Umbrella Academy”.

Quirky, weird, yet thoroughly enjoyable.

First off, a little background is needed. This new Netflix series has been based on Gerard Way‘s and Gabriel Bá‘s superhero comic book, The Umbrella Academy. For all of you My Chemical Romance fans (myself included), I am sure you have been aware that this show was in the making for quite some time now. For those of you unaware of who Gerard Way is — he was the lead singer of My Chemical Romance, writer of The Umbrella Academy comics, and now one of the TV producers for this show. Prior to me spending a whole day binge-watching 10 hours worth of The Umbrella Academy, my knowledge about the story-line was limited as I was yet to read the comic book. However, after I finished watching the tenth and final episode, I went straight to reading the comic and both I must say are great!

So what is The Umbrella Academy really about? Well, to put it simply, the story follows a dysfunctional superhero family that are reunited after the death of their adoptive father: Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore). To make things even their adoptive mother, Grace (Jordan Claire Robbins), is a robot, which if I come to think about, reminds me a lot of the Westworld robots.  Similarly, on the lines of unusual, their father’s assistant, Pogo (Adam Godley), is a talking chimp. 

 The show brings out a range of emotions on behalf of the audience: unique character personalities, camera styles and music. I think this use of diversity is what makes it so enjoyable, as it continues to make each and every episode interesting and different. Moreover, the screenplay is not forced, and therefore the storyline and acting avoid any chance of there being cringe-worthy moments. I have to say, I was thoroughly impressed by the show and the use of unanswered questions (making the show so binge-worthy). One area I must critique is that I found some parts somewhat predictable, however, even the predictable areas had room for surprises. Moreover, the show ended in a cliffhanger, meaning that we can all hopefully await a second season. There were, after all, some questions left unanswered. For all you MCR fans — did you spot the Easter eggs? For example, if you looked closely at the back of Vanya’s book, there is a review by Gerard Way. Also, Hazel and Cha-Cha’s masks are similar to the cat mask worn in MCR’s “Na Na Na” music video.

Colm Feore, Dante Albidone, Aidan Gallagher, Cameron Brodeur, Eden Cupid, Ethan Hwang, and Blake Talabis in The Umbrella Academy (2019)

Colm Feore, Dante Albidone, Aidan Gallagher, Cameron Brodeur, Eden Cupid, Ethan Hwang, and Blake Talabis in The Umbrella Academy (2019). Photo by Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix/IMDb.

Another Gerard Way feature includes the fact that he covers Simon and Garfunkel’s “Hazy Shade Of Winter” and The Turtles’ “Happy Together,” which features MCR’s Ray Toro. Moreover, talking about music as a whole, I was thoroughly impressed. I have to say, it is probably one of the best TV show soundtracks I have heard due to its wide variation from the Bay City Rollers, The Doors, Queen, Radiohead, Nina Simone, and They Might Be Giants. Each piece that was played was suited towards each character, event or time period, which added to the overall effectiveness of the show — this we can thank executive producer/showrunner Steve Blackman for, who stated that “Music had to be its own character for the show.” However, one area I would critique regarding music was the use of The Phantom of the Opera in the first episode. I felt that it didn’t really fit and found it a bit cringy. However, the use of the Phantom of the Opera could have been used on purpose. For example, it might have been a way of foreshadowing Vanya’s downfall and displaying her personality (lonely and destructive) due to her being, in some ways, similar to the Phantom in those aspects.

Now for the acting. Honestly, I was expecting the show to have some major cringe-worthy acting and only expected Ellen Page to portray her character successfully. Nonetheless, I was extremely impressed with Aidan Gallagher‘s portrayal of Number 5, and Robert Sheehan‘s portrayal of Klaus. Both were convincing and fun. Klaus, in particular, remind me of Jasper’s personality in the last few seasons of The 100. Though each character was problematic, everyone was lovable in their own ways — in one episode I would find I liked one character best, and the next episode I would change to another character. However, the only character I struggled to like fully was, in fact, Vanya. Ellen Page isn’t the one to blame for this because her acting, as always, displayed an impressive and successful performance. Though I could sympathise with Vanya, I still wasn’t that keen on her. I guess that was done on purpose as after all she is supposed to be a detached and lonely character. In addition, Vanya reminded me a lot of Jean Grey’s character from X Men, in particular, when she becomes out of control in The Last Stand. The only difference between the two would have to be that Vanya was powered by music, whereas Grey is powered by her mind.

The Umbrella Academy cinematography was both creative and varied. For example, one of my favourite shots was (as displayed in the picture above) when the camera went from a medium shot to a long shot, therefore displaying all the characters dancing in each room of the academy. Moreover, there was a creative and playful use of comic-styled edits in particular scenes, alongside animations to explain further stories, thus making the show even more enjoyable to watch. Also, I noticed the colour dynamics were consistent in the show — being mainly of blues, purples and dark colours — which worked effectively with the scenes. In addition, the creative use of colours switched during Klaus’ trip to the afterlife, which shows that like the use of music, the use of colours was also picked out specifically for each scene.

Overall, this show has successfully reached an IMDb rating of 8.5/10. I have to say, I had been very skeptical of this show prior to watching it — it could either go extremely well or extremely bad. Also, the storyline of this show is risky:  a dysfunctional adopted family with superpowers. What could possibly go wrong? Well, quite frankly, a lot. Nonetheless, Jeremy Slater’s season 1 of The Umbrella Academy has thoroughly impressed me in every aspect — from screenplay to acting to storyline to cinematography to music. Trust me when I say it is worth a watch. It is, also, my first superhero TV series I have watched (despite my love for Marvel and DC movies), and I must say it did not disappoint.

The Umbrella Academy (2019)

The Umbrella Academy, Run Boy Run. Photo by Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix/IMDb

Featured Image Via IMDb

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