Umbrella Academy: a review

I am the first to admit to superhero TV/movie burnout. And yet in a matter of days, my husband and I binged watched Umbrella Academy season 1, a Netflix original production (10, 1 hour episodes). I was curious about it because it stars a few actors, Ellen Page (Juno), Tom Hopper, (Black Sails), and Robert Sheehan (Misfits), whom I simply adore. When I found out that the Rosebud Motel from Schitt’s Creek made an appearance as well, I was sold!

Umbrella Academy is based on a superhero comic book and centres on the Hargreeves family. They are an estranged group of adult adopted siblings with powers who reunite for their father’s funeral and to avert an apocalypse.



Over the course of 10 episodes we jump between the past via flash back (maybe a bit of time-travel too) and the present. We learn the strange circumstances that brought these 7 people together as infants. We discover what drove them apart years later. All this happens while the mysteries surrounding their father’s death and the return of their long lost brother (Number 5) are resolved.

I thought the pacing was leisurely but the stylistic touches to the sound design, the seemingly random insertion of dance numbers, quirky sets and skillful action sequences (of which there are plenty) held my interest.  There is good character development, wry humour, gracefully choreographed fight scenes, a bit of romance and a brilliant soundtrack.

I think the performances are great. I didn’t realize how much I missed Robert Sheehan’s character Nathan from Misfits until I saw echoes in his portrayal of Klaus (Number 4). Special mention goes out to Mary J. Blige and Cameron Britton as an odd-couple team of assassins, delightfully and respectively named Cha-Cha and Hazel, in relentless pursuit of Number 5.

I think super hero fantasy genre is a great way to frame what is essentially the story of a dysfunctional family. It was Tolstoy’s iconic opening of Anna Karenina (All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way) that put a spotlight to our societal fascination with this recurring theme. In Umbrella Academy, you get this and so much more.

This show is not particularly groundbreaking in its themes (X-men anyone?) or plots. Yet it combines so many familiar things into a great package. If you are looking for a show with a fun blend of characterization, stylistic action and plot threads with twists that are pretty easy to follow, then you might want to check this out sometime before Netflix releases season 2.

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