Netflix’s hit show The Umbrella Academy returns for its second season and it does not disappoint. The bizarre concept of adults struggling with the trauma of having been made into child superheroes is somehow both endearing and believable. Now, the creators expand upon these ideas, throwing our favourite siblings into 1960s Dallas, Texas.
The show opens with each sibling being spread across various dates in the 1960s, and this separation is both this instalment’s biggest strength and weakness. What I love about the new episodes is the individuality of each sibling and their own storylines. But what made us fall in love with The Umbrella Academy in the first place was the interactions between the family members, and this dynamic is notably missing.
What is extremely satisfying to witness is the emotional growth in an array of characters that we already adore. Luther Hargreeves was notoriously fans’ least favourite character. It appears that the writers recognised they needed to approach him differently, clearly making an effort to show how his separation from his family forced him to realise the error of his ways. This adaptive approach more than pays off.
Meanwhile, Diego’s character arc this season revolved around his hero complex as he became the living embodiment of the question: ‘If you could go back to this period and change something, what would you do?”. Something as ambitious and mind-bending as saving President Kennedy, obviously. David Castaneda’s fantastic performance as this obsessive hero provides us with both comedic and emotional moments.
Emmy Raver-Lampan’s performance as Allison gave us one of the most important and heart wrenching storylines yet. Landing in 1960s Texas, Allison, a woman of colour, is immediately confronted with the segregation and racism of the time. The symbolism invoked in the first scene as Allison gets thrown out of a white-only restaurant whilst being physically (and of course, metaphorically) unable to speak due to her severed vocal cords is a stroke of genius. It forces the audience to confront both the past and today’s political climate, confronting issues as relevant as ever due to the Black Lives Matter movement. For a show about superheroes to deal with complex themes so effectively is highly impressive.
With any sequel the one thing you can hope for, as an adoring fan, is for the work of previous seasons to be elevated – and that is precisely what we get. The pacing of the show was faster, and we are shown the origin stories of various characters and motifs. Generally, we are provided with a satisfying and entertaining set of episodes that stay true to the original concept whilst simultaneously expanding upon them. Unsurprisingly, it is a welcome addition to Netlix’s already impressive catalogue.
However, season two is not without its faults. The creators attempted to introduce a host of new characters such as Lila and Carmichael, but these lack the necessary development to make them as strong as the previous season’s antagonists. Carmichael just isn’t given the screen time, as he is barely present for most of the season and so the audience doesn’t connect with him in the way that they should. Simultaneously, certain twists and revelations at the end of this season felt largely underwhelming due to a lack of narrative clarity.
For the most part, The Umbrella Academy season two is a riot of surreal fun. It is a surprisingly delightful show that has you hooked from the beginning, unashamedly loud and explosive in its characters, production and action. There is clearly a lot of love and hard work put into each episode and it pays off. A third season is certainly on the cards, but hopefully Five will get the rest he so desperately needs because boy, has that man had a rough few weeks.
Illustration: Erin Cole