The Umbrella Academy, Season 2
Final Score: 4 / 5
I’ve mentioned it a few times over some of our podcast episodes or live shows we’ve done, but I really like The Umbrella Academy comics. They’re published by Dark Horse comics which isn’t something we normally discuss on this site, but with the comics being incredibly popular and the series spawning a Netflix show that just dropped season 2, it seems only right to give it some attention here. Season 1 of the show was amazing and everything I wanted out of an adaptation of the books and I was super excited to sit down and watch season 2. While I feel that season 2 wasn’t as strong as the first season, the show is still as weird and fun as ever.
The season starts right after the end of season one which sees the Hargreeves family being sent back in time thanks to Five right at the moment that Vanya/The White Violin destroys the moon and brings on the apocalypse. The team gets separated and arrives at various times between 1960 and 1963 in Dallas, Texas. After landing in Texas, Five discovers that the apocalypse is happening again, this time in 1963 after the failed assassination of JFK. The season sees the family finding one another and attempting to return to 2019, all the while avoiding trying to start the apocalypse again.
Going into this season I purposefully left myself blind to plot details that had been disclosed prior to the season being released. I was curious to see what they were doing story-wise since season one pretty much covered everything in Apocalypse Suite and Dallas (the first two volumes of the comics). I wondered if they would skip straight to Hotel Oblivion (volume three) or if they would make their own story. Curiously, they stuck with part of the setting from Dallas but then crafted their own story that stayed faithful to the characters.
It’s been a while since I read Dallas but from what I remember it was only Five that traveled back to the JFK assassination so I was interested to see what they would do with the entire family back in the 60s. I was concerned that it might turn into a bit of a mess with a lot of faffing about since they didn’t really have source material to guide the writing in the show but about two episodes in I realized that there was nothing to worry about. I’m sure that Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba consulted heavily in the writing to ensure that it still retained that feeling that comics had and it shows in the natural interactions between the characters and the overall feel.
Luther, who was a bit of an insufferable character at times in season one, was written in a lot more laid back and likable manner in this season. The scenes that he was in, especially those with Five later in the season, were actually fun to watch with plenty of witty comebacks and offhand comments.
And unlike the comics, Vanya is given a lot more character depth and background which I felt was a very solid addition. In the comics after Apocalypse Suite she’s pretty much bedridden and undergoing intense therapies so it was interesting, but ultimately very much appreciated, that they decided to ignore that bit for the show. Ellen Page also continues to just fully embody the character and provide an excellent performance.
By far the character that stole the show for me this season though was Ben, the deceased sixth member of the Hargreeves family. The amount of sass and backhanded comments that he throws at Klaus the entire season was an absolute joy to watch while (spoiler) his final tear-jerking goodbye was an emotionally gut-wrenching scene. The character would not have been half as lovable if not for Justin Min’s performance which I feel might have been the best in the show this season. Ben is also another one of the characters in the comics that barely gets mentioned so the increased focus on the character in the show was unexpected but so very welcome. It makes me want to see more of Ben incorporated into the comics in the future.
Given that this season blazed it’s own path with only brief references to the source material, I feel like the overall plot this season started to get a little convoluted towards the end, but it certainly wasn’t anything too crazy. Spoilers ahead, but the reveal that Lila was another of the super-powered children that were born on October 1, 1989 came out of left-field but does help to set-up for a potential further adaptation of the comics. While Lila herself is not in the comics (from what I recall), the existence of other super-powered peoples, like those seen in the final scene with the reveal of the Sparrow Academy, mirrors how Hotel Oblivion in the comics ended so I’m curious to see where they take things in season three. I’m wondering if Way and Ba gave the writers advance notice of where they were planning to take the comics so they were able to incorporate that more into the show.
Overall this season is still great. The show is still incredibly quirky with an amazing soundtrack. There aren’t many points in this season that I felt a little bored or that things dragged for too long. I’m also curious to see if season three (assuming there will be one) will adapt Hotel Oblivion. While I felt that that was probably the weakest of the books so far, I feel like it would make an incredibly interesting set-piece for the show. If not, after this season I fully trust the writers in this show to create their own stories with these characters and produce something that is still entertaining as all hell to watch.
After re-reading everything I’ve just written I’ve noticed that this review is a little light on details but unfortunately there’s so many twists and turns in this season that there’s not much I can really delve into without spoiling it too much. I highly encourage anyone to watch through this entire show and experience the absurdity for themselves.