The Umbrella Academy, a new television series by Netflix, is an eccentric story about estranged superpower siblings brought back together by the death of their adoptive father. On top of this all, the siblings are now responsible for saving the earth from an impending apocalypse in a mere eight days. While employing typical tropes of bad versus evil, the show touches deeply on the dysfunctionality and necessity of familial relationships.
The show incorporates many sci-fi elements, ranging from children with unexplainable powers to futuristic agents whose purpose is to fix the show’s interconnecting timelines. None of the children are related, but that doesn’t matter. They were raised together, and their history and shared experiences creates a powerful connection that makes them family. The show also includes a variety of different timelines that give the viewer sporadic glimpses of the past, present, and future. Oftentimes, including multiple timelines is hard to execute, but The Umbrella Academy thrives because of this aspect. Including these timelines allows the show to convey a complex understanding of the infinite amount of outcomes and possibilities available. The show includes two episodes called “The Day That Wasn’t” and “The Day That Was,” where the plot is the same save for a couple of changes. These two episodes talk about the difference one choice can make on a timeline. Playing with the intricacies of time adds to the beauty of The Umbrella Academy.
At its core, The Umbrella Academy’s biggest triumph is the depth of its characters. Successfully moving beyond the stereotypical and tired superhero tropes, each sibling has unique faults and is presented as an idiosyncratic human. Superheroes are often portrayed as examples of perfect human beings, free of realistic strife. When heroes do face emotional obstacles, it can be hard to accept the weight of the problem on account of their powers. The Umbrella Academy ties respectful portrayals of emotional trauma while focusing on the humans behind the mask, ensuring that the powers don’t overshadow the people who wield them.
The Umbrella Academy is a fascinating concept piece, but it would not have come to fruition without the work of Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá. The show is based off the comic book series of the same name written by Way, the former frontman of band My Chemical Romance, and illustrator Bá. The source material is quite different from the show that the viewers see on screen, although with any adaptation, that is inevitable. Any comic book fan that watches the show will see the differences either in the appearance of their beloved characters or in how much of a part they play in the overall season. However, what makes this show work is that the creators were part of the production. Way helped with the series and gave advice to the showrunner and other departments so that no matter what changes were made, the show remained authentic to the books at its core.
The absence of an original creator frequently gets adaptations into trouble. With too many changes, the show can end up alienating the built-in fan base. Despite the many concerns that come with the change from book to movie, when directors get it right, the book fans can see their favorite characters realized on screen, and the show can grab new fans as well. This is exactly what The Umbrella Academy achieved. It keeps all the important parts of the comic books, while also not being afraid to change certain aspects for the better.
The Umbrella Academy takes its viewers through an eight day journey to the end of the world, all the while looking to the future and remembering the past. Though the timeline is long and complicated, it remains connected through the core family dynamic. Even though each character has separate lives and problems, they still care enough for one another to come together despite all the pain they have endured. There is no news of a season two, but with how the season left off and the potential for new storylines, it would be a shame if there wasn’t one.