With a Family Like This Who Needs Super Villains?

Chuck Sipps, Arts and Life Editor

“On the 12th hour of the first day of October 1989, 43 women around the world gave birth. This was unusual only in the fact that none of these women had been pregnant when the day first began.” With those words, viewers are launched into the mysterious world of “The Umbrella Academy,” where each answer only garners more questions.

Each of these 43 children are born with superpowers and we are left to wonder, what purpose do the 43 serve? We may not learn that answer yet, but we do have a direct answer to Netflix and Marvel ending their superhero partnership. Umbrella Academy stands alone as an intriguing twist on the now well-worn superhero story.

Umbrella Academy is at its best when it focuses on the inherent family drama. For you see, seven of those 43 children born on October 1st, 1989 were adopted; well, actually they were bought by eccentric billionaire Sir Reginald Hargraves (Colm Feore). For what purpose? Well, to save the world, of course. By forming a group of elite superheroes called the Umbrella Academy. When we come to present day, we learn that the Academy has been disbanded for some time. Half the fun of the show is figuring out what caused the rifts, what the relationship dynamics are and just what their “father” meant when he told them that one day, they would save the world.

It is clear from early on, Sir Reginald isn’t particularly interested in his wards’ emotional wellbeing, he simply names them One through Seven. Each of the seven carry their own baggage. Whether it’s the super strong Number One (Tom Hopper) who isn’t strong enough to handle his own self doubt, or Number Seven (Ellen Page) who is born without powers in a family full of supers. Each member of the Academy struggles and grows as the season goes on.

While each of the seven are brilliantly brought to life, Number 5 (Aidan Gallagher) is the standout. Number 5 is a cantankerous time traveler who through some shenanigans, gets stuck in the future, where the apocalypse has destroyed the world. He grows old in the post-apocalyptic world, until he finds a way to return to the past in the hope that he and his family can prevent the coming apocalypse. Unfortunately, due to some miscalculations, he gets trapped in his 15-year-old body, but at least he gets to experience puberty all over again. Yay! Gallagher is so committed to the role that in no time you will buy that this 15-year-old is actually a world-weary man in his 50s.

Like most super hero tales, this upcoming cataclysmic event will end the world as we know it. The struggle to stop it won’t be the reason you will become enthralled by ‘Umbrella Academy’. The constant twists, turns, reveals and family drama will be what keeps you surprised and delighted throughout. This world is full of history and intrigue and it is worth exploring.
The show is also super stylized. There is a kinetic feel to the fights that never overwhelms. A common trope of the genre is having a bunch of CG characters in poor lighting fight it out, as it feels impossible to keep track of the action. That’s not the case with ‘Umbrella Academy’ as each fight feels intimate and is punctuated by a bad ass soundtrack. While some superhero films rely on cool songs that don’t really fit their scene’s tone, I’m looking at you ‘Suicide Squad,’ ‘Umbrella Academy’ handles this flawlessly. The songs perfectly set the tone for the upcoming fight and this is the best use of soundtrack since ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. All this adds up to create fights that are super stylish and bad-ass.
    Speaking of bad-ass, I’d be remiss to not mention Hazel (Cameron Britton) and Cha-Cha (Mary J. Blige), two time traveling assassins employed to hunt down Number 5 and preserve the timeline. While these characters may seem style over substance at first, as the season goes, they rise above their henchmen status into something far more intriguing. Like most of the character arcs on the show, they take a surprising and rewarding journey.
    Without going into spoilers, there are some genuinely gut-wrenching scenes for our characters, as they struggle with relationships, their choices, and their purpose in life. Number 4 (Robert Sheehan) particularly goes through the emotional ringer, and he is as funny as he is tragic. As dysfunctional as they may be, and trust me they are, The Umbrella Academy is a family and that familial bond shines throughout.
    Between its humor, heart, and style ‘The Umbrella Academy’ is a breeze to watch and leaves you chomping at the bit for season 2. The world ending threat may leave something to be desired, but the family drama is more than enough to carry you through. Even if you’re not a fan of super heroes, ‘Umbrella Academy’” might just surprise you.