Review: The Umbrella Academy

Ellen Page, Robert Sheehan, Tom Hopper, David Castañeda, Aidan Gallagher, and Emmy Raver-Lampman in The Umbrella Academy

Comic book adaptation The Umbrella Academy is about 7 babies, all born on the same day in 1989. They were born to mothers who hadn’t been pregnant the day before. Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) raised them as his children. They became The Umbrella Academy. Hargreeves trained them to use their special abilities to learn how to save the world.

Meet the Siblings

The Hargreeves siblings all come together at the beginning of series 1 because their father dies. They are all grown ups now. Each of them have been living separate lives.

Ellen Page in The Umbrella Academy
Just an ordinary kid who must take two pills a day – but, why?

One of the 7, Vanya/AKA Number Seven (Ellen Page), was told she had no special abilities and raised to be completely ordinary. She was left out of everything her siblings did. You’d be right to be suspicious of the claim that she was ordinary.

I actually decided to watch the series because Ellen Page is in it. I was rewarded with an excellent Vanya. Vanya plays the violin. She teaches violin and plays with the symphony orchestra. She falls in love with a suspicious character named Leonard (John Magaro) who comes to her for violin lessons. It isn’t necessary to be an Ellen Page fan like myself to love her powerful performance in this series.

Another of the 7, Ben (Justin H. Min), died young. His ghost appears regularly to his brother Klaus (Robert Sheehan) but doesn’t interact with other characters until the final episode. Even dead, Ben has some awesome powers of his own.

Robert Sheehan in The Umbrella Academy
Klaus digs in the garbage because he threw away something priceless.

Klaus/AKA Number Four (Robert Sheehan), is one of the 5 Hargreeves who think they can save the world. Klaus communicates with the dead – a terrifying problem he avoids by staying drugged out of his mind. He wore outlandish costumes, often women’s clothing, and fell in love with a soldier named Dave (Cody Ray Thompson) when he accidentally time traveled into the Viet Nam War.

Luther/AKA Number One (Tom Hopper) is super strong. He has the hulk-like body of an ape. Bit hairy, but a lovely face. He spent 4 years on the moon, all alone. He thinks because he’s Number One, he should be the family leader. He’s the one sibling who stayed with his father in their creepy old house for the longest time, until his father sent him to the moon to do research.

Emmy Raver-Lampman, Tom Hopper and David Castañeda in The Umbrella Academy
Allison, Luthor, and Diego in the home where they grew up.

Diego/AKA Number Two (David Castañeda) is talented with a knife. He’s carrying a flame for Detective Patch (Ashley Madekwe), a cop he used to work with before they threw him off the police force. Diego is a vigilante and shows up at crimes scenes. He often challenges Number One’s leadership.

Emmy Raver-Lampman in The Umbrella Academy
I heard a rumor . . .

Allison/AKA Number Three (Emmy Raver-Lampman) is a world famous celebrity. She can manipulate events with lies. She became famous by manipulating her way into acting roles. Now she’s a mom who lost custody of her child because her husband caught her manipulating the little girl out of a tantrum.

Aidan Gallagher in The Umbrella Academy
Number Five saw the end of the world when he jumped through time

Finally, there’s Number Five (Aidan Gallagher). He can travel through space and time. He disappeared years ago, but recently returned as a 13 year old. He’s actually 58 due to his travels through time. That makes him 20+ years older than his siblings born on the same day. Also, he saw the end of the world and came back to change the timeline so the world and all the people in it don’t die.

Number Five is the one who convinces the siblings of The Umbrella Academy that the apocalypse is coming and they have to save the world.

Other Important Characters

Colm Feore and Jordan Claire Robbins in The Umbrella Academy
The family patriarch creates the perfect mom – a compliant 1950s style beauty who smiles constantly. Further proof that the patriarchy should be burned to the ground.

In addition to the tyrannical Reginald Hargreeves as father, the family included Grace (Jordan Claire Robbins) a robotic mother/nanny. Grace gets off to a mechanical start, but she has hidden depths.

A chimp named Pogo (Adam Godley), who wears a suit and dispenses wisdom in a calming voice, also lives in the Hargreeves home. He knows everything.

Cameron Britton and Mary J. Blige in The Umbrella Academy
Cha-Cha and Hazel with the briefcase

Hazel (Cameron Britton) and Cha-Cha (Mary J. Blige) are time traveling killers. Their current mission is to kill Number Five and save the world from the apocalypse. They provide comic relief in the series while being the most violent characters. Their orders whoosh down via pneumatic tube, the end of which appears wherever they happen to be. Nifty.

Hazel lugs around a heavy briefcase. He’s tired of carrying it. He hides it in a vent in their motel. The briefcase holds important equipment for their time travels. The briefcase is the reason Klaus accidentally found himself in the middle of a war dressed only in a bloody towel.

Hazel is done with being a killer. He’d rather spend time with the doughnut maker Agnes (Sheila McCarthy) who runs the doughnut shop where much of the action takes place. Cha-Cha does not approve of his uncharacteristic behavior.

Number Five was lost and alone for 50 years or so after the apocalypse. He finally met another human: The Handler (Kate Walsh). She recruited him to work in the mysterious commission. He became one of the folks shooting down orders via pneumatic tube. That’s where he learned who the one person was who could prevent the end of the world. That’s why he time traveled back to pre-apocalypse days and his siblings.

Number Five thought he knew how to prevent the end of the world. The person who would be responsible for it changed as the episodes rolled by. Finally it became clear to everyone, including the viewers, who the real cause of the destruction of the whole world was.

Overall Thoughts on The Umbrella Academy

John Magaro and Ellen Page in The Umbrella Academy
Falling in love is easy. Finding out the truth is hard.

Season 1 of this series is devoted to introducing the characters and having them deal with the pending end of the world. We get to know the personalities and superpowers of The Umbrella Academy residents. Since the basics of introducing the characters and their world is finished, I assume a second season would be more action oriented. The last few moments of the final episode provided a perfect ending for the season, and the perfect opening for more adventures from The Umbrella Academy. (I don’t know if a season 2 is planned.)

The acting was excellent. Never a false note from anyone. Robert Sheehan as the dissolute, ghost-talking Klaus had a particularly challenging role and killed it no matter what he did.

The other actor I found impressive was Aidan Gallagher. He played a 60 year old man in the body of a 13 year old boy. Every move he made, every line he spoke, felt like that old man talking. Aidan Gallagher did a brilliant job.

Mary J. Blige has proven herself an excellent actor. However, the mention of her name brings me to the music. The pop music chosen in the series is always appropriate, but none of it is from a singer named Mary J. Blige. Terrible oversight. I’m not an expert on classical music, but the violin bits and the orchestral pieces didn’t sound familiar. I assume they were written for the series by music director Jeff Russo.

The series had 10 episodes. They felt looooong at times. There was a lot going on with so many characters to give individual time to. The action slowed at times. Stunning special and visual effects kept the action going whenever possible.

Ellen Kuras directed two of the ten episodes. She is the only woman director in season 1. Jeremy Slater created the series, with Steve Blackman writing.

The entertainment landscape is littered with superhero stories these days. It’s nice to see something a bit different with some new characters that aren’t part of the Marvel or DC universes.

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3 thoughts on “Review: The Umbrella Academy”

  1. The violin and orchestra pieces were literally iconic pieces a lot of the time. They were very good choices, and perfectly executed – worth clarifying because it was the highlight of the show for me.

  2. Pingback: Review: The Umbrella Academy, season 2 - Old Ain't Dead

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