Robert Sheehan's character Klaus says something really insightful in Umbrella Academy: "Don't go chasing waterfalls, stick to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to." There couldn't be a better and succinct way to summarise the problem with Netflix's The Umbrella Academy.
The first season of the web-series adaptation of Gerard Way and Gabriel BÃ¡'s successful comic book series (of the same name) released last year and had far too many snags in its storytelling and execution. The second season dropped on the streaming platform on 31 July this year and is a better watch than its predecessor.
The premise of season 2 kicks off exactly where the season 1 ended. The six (or seven?) Hargreeves siblings spend the first season trying to prevent a cataclysmic explosion that wipes off the entire planet. In the last 10-15 minutes of the season 1 finale, we find out it is indeed this superhero septet which causes the apocalypse and by the end of it also manages to survive, while the world collapses into ashes. We see Number 5 (Aidan Gallagher) teleporting out with his siblings. And that's where season 2 begins.
The Hargreeves gang pops out of an alleyway in Dallas in the early 1960s. But they don't appear together at the same time; they are scattered over a period of three years (February 1960 to November 1963). Number 5 appears last only to find out they weren't the only ones who travelled through time. The apocalypse they survived in the original timeline (2019) followed them to the 1960s as well. And so, now they have another event of global catastrophe to tackle, in 10 days. Alternatively, the estranged Hargreeves siblings each deal with their share of personal problems.
The underlying problem with the Umbrella Academy franchise is the reiteration of the same devices, leaving gaping holes unexplored.
This makes the viewing experience too tedious and dumbs down the narrative. The first season started on a promising note but somehow lost its tone somewhere midway. There's so much happening around the "superheroes-must-save-the-world-from-the-doomsday" trope that we never get to know these superheroes properly. They do have their individual stories, but it's all single-tone. One never really sees a character arc of any of the seven Hargreeves. And honestly, what is superhero fiction without some semblance of reality?
Having said this, one can't completely undermine the show's credibility, especially the second season that ends up being a better watch holistically than the first one. The fact that the Hargreeves septet blips into '60s America does make it interesting to watch, however cliched it may be.
Vanya's storyline in this season is far better etched out than the first season, and Page does complete justice to her role with her brilliant performance. Her relationship with her caregiver, Sissy Cooper (Marin Ireland), has been dealt quite thoughtfully. Allison too has a story arc, which involves getting married to Raymond Chestnut (Yusuf Gatewood), a fierce American Civil Rights Movement activist and thus also being a part of the movement. This season also throws some light on the Umbrella Academy's founder and father to the seven superpowered siblings, Sir Reginald Hargreeves. It seems there is more to his enigmatic and ruthless demeanour than we were made aware of in the first season.
Following their love for cliffhangers, the makers of the show have not spared season 2 as well. The story ends with another groupie-blink back to 2019(?) but in a different (or parallel?) timeline. Who knows maybe the clock is ticking on yet another doomsday?
Rating: (out of 5 stars)
The Umbrella Academy 2 is currently streaming on Netflix.