‘The Umbrella Academy’ has got you covered



The cast of The Umbrella Academy on Netflix. Season 1 is streaming now.

The opening to the first episode of The Umbrella Academy paints the picture of a normal day in Russia. On October 1, 1989, a young woman spontaneously gives birth, despite not being pregnant when the day began. The birth catches everyone by surprise, creating confusion and panic. As it turns out, this isn’t an isolated incident. There were 42 other women who had also spontaneously birthed children at some point during that October day.

Reginald Hargreeves, a mysterious billionaire, travels the globe to collect as many of these children as he possibly can. He founds the Umbrella Academy, a school for these special children, most of whom exhibit extraordinary abilities. The children of The Umbrella Academy will train to become an elite band of superpowered children who will save the world from the apocalypse.

And that’s just the first twenty minutes of the first episode.

In late February, the Umbrella Academy was one of Netflix’s new releases, among others like Russian Doll and Nightflyers. This series is an adaptation of the critically-acclaimed Dark Horse comic of the same name, created by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba.

Over the span of ten episodes, the series covers several intertwining plot lines, borrowing elements from the comic series’ two finished volumes, Apocalypse Suite and Dallas.

The main plot is introduced when, 17 years after the mysterious disappearance of Number Five (Aidan Gallagher), a cocky time-travelling member of the Academy, he returns to the present day to warn his siblings about the apocalypse. While Five tries to stop the world from ending, he’s being pursued by Hazel and Cha-Cha (Cameron Britton and Mary J. Blige), who work for Five’s former employers. Oh yeah, and Five may or may not be a 58 year old assassin trapped in the body of his 13 year old self.

Meanwhile, each of the remaining siblings are still dealing with their father’s bittersweet death. Each of the former members of the Academy are ruined by their past. The series takes time to explain and reveal the specific trauma each character endured as a result of their unconventional upbringing. For instance, Vanya (Ellen Page) is the only member of the Academy who didn’t have any powers growing up, and was consistently berated and put down by her father.

The Umbrella Academy has a very involved plot, and relies on a series of callbacks, flashbacks, and shifts in point of view in order to forward its intricate storytelling. The focus often shifts back and forth between the present day, and moments from the past, showing each of the siblings as children. The constant movement back and forth between the characters can make things busy and hard to follow at times, especially if you’ve never read the comics before, and are going into this show blind. However, the intricate story and carefully crafted plot is worth mentally wrangling dozens of loose ends for ten episodes.

Another memorable aspect of the series is the soundtrack, which is chock full of bops, jams, and slaps. There are hits like “Don’t Stop Me Now”, “Istanbul,” and “I Think We’re Alone Now,” which help to punctuate certain moments like fight scenes or beautiful full-cast dance scenes. One of the co-creators of the series, Gerard Way, also makes an appearance on the soundtrack, singing lead vocals for two covers, “Hazy Shade of Winter” and “Happy Together.”

For some die-hard Umbrella Academy fans, the show just isn’t cutting it, no matter how many bops and jams fill the soundtrack. Comic purists dislike the series for being way too quick with plot elements, and the use of flashbacks as lazy. One particular grievance that comic fans have with the series is the extended Hazel and Cha-Cha storyline. While The Umbrella Academy shares the same name, characters, and plotline of the comics, the Netflix series definitely takes artistic liberties in its adaptation of the beloved comic book series.

Despite all this, I still love The Umbrella Academy. As someone who devoured the entire series in less than two days while on February break, I still can’t wait for the next season. It’s been about two weeks since I finished the series, and I already want more. In the end, I don’t think panel-for-panel adaptation is necessary. Instead, the series captures the energy and magic of the comic books, translating it onto the screen and making it just as enjoyable for people that don’t normally read comic books.

As Netflix scouts locations for the upcoming season, I’ll be waiting for the return of the seven super-powered siblings to save the day, and satisfy my need for more Umbrella Academy content.