My Thoughts on Umbrella Academy Seasons 1 and 2 (Netflix)

I’d been meaning to write a proper review of this series after having marathoned it at the recommendation of a friend. I mostly liked it and have a few scant criticisms. At the end of Season 1, when the moon is blown-up and chunks of it hit the earth, the entirety of living species should have died right then and there from the earth’s core being hit. Yet, Five has ample time to teleport them to the past. The only other thing that bothers me, which may not be a plot hole as I can’t be entirely sure yet, but why on earth would the Commission be invested in keeping the timeline unchanged with the end of the world as the future? How on earth does that benefit their self-interest? What could they possibly even gain from that? I suppose it could just be generic villainy, but I guess I assumed they had to have some plausible gain from it. Now that parallel worlds have been established in the end of Season 2, perhaps we’ll finally get answers on this question that has bothered me in the upcoming Season 3.

I enjoyed all the cast members, Number Five played by Aiden Gallagher being mine and most people’s favorite, and my only real criticism on the plot is that this show expresses why I feel the “save humanity from the end of the world” cliché gets so old and overdone. As far as the characters, I couldn’t identify with Klaus’s drug habits, but I’ve never been addicted to drugs so  I guess I just can’t identify with it. I had thought the depiction was unrealistic when watching it, but the writer Gerard Way (lead singer of My Chemical Romance) apparently has gone through issues of drug addiction in his life, so I’m clearly out of my depth to judge the writing on that. Apparently, from what I’ve seen of other reviews, it’s a good depiction of how it feels to be an addict. One aspect of this show that really intrigued me and which I can’t help but feel surprised about is that when the family members get sent back to the 1960s, Allison gets chased by three White men on the streets who mean to do her harm. I found that so shocking and refreshing, because frankly even just six years ago in 2015, it would have been three Black men chasing her even in the context of the 1960s fight for Civil Rights in any TV shows or films that tried to depict the struggles of the time. They probably would have been commented on as “bad eggs” who gave their people a bad name. Depicting a more realistic portrayal of three White men chasing down a Black woman honestly astounded me, because they were willing to depict the struggles more realistically without softening it for certain audiences who basically never want to talk about the reality of these issues. I’m reminded of the godawful failure of the cartoon show Teen Titans depicting racism by having Cyborg only comment on being a half-robot and not his struggles as a Black man. I remember reading Youtube comments on the clip of that with commentators saying how it was “good” that Cyborg didn’t bring-up real life racism in a lesson for why racism is wrong and people completely lacking awareness to how self-refuting such a view was. Here, in Umbrella Academy, they’re unafraid to show Allison being chased by three White men during a racist time period where Black people were still segregated and treated horribly in other ways. There was none of the moral cowardice on these issues such as in the Teen Titans cartoon series. The TV scene with Vanya, Allison, and others being depicted in negative terms by the US government of the 1960s seems to reflect a general dislike and utter distrust of the US government in our modern-day. The depiction of the news sketch made me worry if perhaps US society had gone too far in the opposite direction, but with the recent failure in Afghanistan made self-evident, the honest truth of the matter is that the US government did it to themselves.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the majority of the characters except for The Handler who I couldn’t really take seriously as a villain but that was made-up for with the introduction of Lila, most of the story is fine, but I feel like it shows the failures of end-of-the-world plots as much as does a good job of making interesting characters. Sometimes it is hard to take the end-of-the-world seriously since so many of the characters are so selfish while Five does so much to constantly try to save them all because he loves them. The only other real criticism I have is sometimes the flashing lights in certain fight scenes hurt my eyes, but it isn’t unmanageable. I’d say Five and Vanya are my favorite characters overall, but I don’t get how Vanya could fall in love within just a month. Perhaps if she had been stuck at the farmhouse for 6 months, then maybe I’d find it more believable; a month to fall in love and start banging seemed unrealistic to me.

Addendum: So, I rushed that a bit, because I was still tired from playing Tales of Arise, but . . .  I will say I’m very happy with the depiction of the Civil Rights movement for Black people in the 1960s, the depiction of a lesbian romance that actually does feel realistic for the time period (although, again, I feel like Vanya should have been there for longer than 1 month before she shared such a deep emotional connection with someone else, especially because she unconsciously suppressed her memories out of guilt and shame for murdering Pogo and ending the world), and I guess I really just liked all the cast members, even the morons like Diego and Luthor, because they do try to help their families eventually. The fight scenes also help to keep me invested, since when people fight, some do die. Also, the romance between Lila and Diego felt way more realistic than that old police chief person and I just didn’t understand what they were going for with the fight between Diego and Cha-Cha at the end of Season 1 when Cha-Cha ends up dying in the end of the world anyway after Diego gives her mercy. That whole storyline was . . . confusing, even though I was pleasantly surprised that Cha-Cha and Hazel were shown to be dangerous. I feel like that mercy event was easily forgettable and perhaps morally contradictory to Season 2 when Allison, in desperation to keep her husband alive, orders one of the Swedes to choke their own brother to death. I would feel bad for the Swedes, but they had killed an innocent old White lady who lived with her cats by beheading her and burning the body. Much later, they killed Eliot who was also an innocent, so . . . I can’t help but be indifferent to the last Swede losing his two brothers since the three Swedes were shown to murder two innocent people. Finally, I wish they’d do more with Klaus living through 10-months of Vietnam, it feels like that part of his life is conveniently forgotten about when the plot requires it.

Overall, I’d rate it as a solid 7/10 and I’ll definitely check out the new Season when I have time once it is out.

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