Netflix’s ‘The Umbrella Academy’ Is A Class Act


Audrey Vieira, Sr. managing editor

Whether you’re a fan of the original comic or a newcomer to the academy, Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy” is a must-watch binge-watch. Although the series arrives as an alarming number of the streaming service’s superhero lineup — Marvel’s “Iron Fist,” “Luke Cage,” “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones,” and “The Punisher” — falls to cancellation, the future seems promising for this eccentric yet addictive adaption of the Eisner-winning comic.

The series opens in October 1989, when reclusive billionaire Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) adopts seven superpowered children in the hopes that they will one day save the world. He numbers them in order of their usefulness to him: Number One, Luther (Tom Hopper), has superhuman strength. Number Two is knife-throwing vigilante Diego (David Castaneda), and Number Three, Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), alters reality by lying. Number Four, medium Klaus (Robert Sheehan), sees ghosts, and unnamed teleporter Number Five (Aidan Gallagher) has been missing for years. Last and least is Number Seven, ordinary violinist Vanya (Ellen Page), whose lack of powers leave her excluded from her family’s superhero activities. Thirty years later, Reginald is dead, and Five has resurfaced with a dire warning for his siblings: the end of the world is in eight days, and only the Umbrella Academy can stop it.

Though the looming threat of the apocalypse may seem grim, “Umbrella Academy” balances these darker tones with many lighthearted moments. A funeral scene transitions into a dance sequence without missing a beat as characters groove to Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now,” and dark humor relieves tension without distracting from the plot. Maintaining stability between these contrasting elements keeps “Umbrella Academy” from losing its footing, instead allowing the series to function as a single ten-hour superhero film.

Equally as addictive as the academy itself is an earworm-heavy soundtrack of pop and alternative music featuring artists such as Queen, Fitz & The Tantrums and They Might Be Giants. There’s even a mini My Chemical Romance reunion. Lead singer Gerard Way, who penned the original “Umbrella Academy” comics while on tour promoting “The Black Parade,” collaborates with lead guitarist Ray Toro on covers of “Hazy Shade of Winter” and “Happy Together.” Mary J. Blige, who plays hitwoman Cha-Cha, also contributes to the tracklist with R&B ballad “Stay With Me” included in a spectacular solo scene. With such impressive talent both in and behind the scenes, the series and its soundtrack pair like a fine wine and cheese.

What doesn’t pair well, however, is incest. While the romance between adoptive siblings Allison and Luther did exist in the comics, there was a layer of discomfort there that the Netflix series fails to acknowledge as toxic for both parties involved. In Netflix’s eyes, Allison and Luther are to “Umbrella Academy” what Betty and Jughead are to “Riverdale” — the central couple or ship that fans are supposed to support even though Allison’s own daughter refers to Luther as her uncle. There are genuinely sweet, healthy romantic subplots that the show could have given more screen time instead of letting the incest ship sail. I can only hope future seasons throw this plotline overboard.

Uncomfortable sibling shipping aside, I genuinely loved “The Umbrella Academy.” The cohesive structure of each installment and the show’s ability to switch from slow-burn superhero drama to synthpop dance and fight sequences make for a delightful binge-watch session. There is nothing more iconic than watching Mary J. Blige play a time-traveling hitwoman while Mary J. Blige music plays in the background, and fires burn in slow motion. There is nothing more heartwarming than seeing the (platonic) bonds between the seven dysfunctional super-siblings as they work to save the world. As a longtime fan of the comics, I had my doubts about how the series would come to life onscreen, but “The Umbrella Academy” exceeds my expectations with flying colors. I give it an A, and I’m hoping that Netflix gives it the green light for a second season.