By Kay Whatley
With the popularity of binge-watching television shows and online streaming series, it seemed time to review from the recliner at home too, not just at the movie theater. Below you’ll find my review of the inaugural season of The Umbrella Academy.
I chose to watch this Netflix Original Series, which was just released February 2019. At first glance it looked like it was geared toward comic fans — The Umbrella Academy started as a comic book series. I enjoyed the Iron Man movies, but don’t follow comics, so I wasn’t sure if this would be for me. Still, Netflix did a good job with the imagery and show description, and my interest was piqued. I decided to watch the first episode.
That was the beginning of my binge. The characters were angst-ridden, likable souls and I wanted to see what was going to happen to them next. I binge-watched all of the episodes.
Now I want to tell you about it, because it is unique, and it isn’t just for comic fans (in my humble opinion). It’s not strictly a superhero movie with action, explosions, and rescues. There’s all that plus drama, family interactions, character angst, and unusual superpowers.
Caution – Spoilers in the Review: I’m going to say things in the review below about episode happenings, character behavior, and more. If you continue reading, and you haven’t watched it yet, it might spoil or lessen the impact of some events.
Of course, everything below is my opinion and you’ll have your own, unique, and different opinion after you watch this (fantastic) series.
Here I go.
This Netflix series kicks off with the gathering of a set of unique, adopted siblings in the mansion-like home where they were raised, The Umbrella Academy., by their wealthy father.
As the characters drew me into their tumultuous personal worlds, the music set the hook. The music used is not your ordinary soundtrack. It’s eclectic as heck, adding emotion or comedy to the scenes. Let me give you an example.
The siblings return home for their father’s funeral. This happens in the beginning of Episode 1 (“We Only See Each Other at Weddings and Funerals”). Soon after they arrive, the tall, hulk-like Luther Hargreeves — also known as Number One — selects and plays a vinyl record. The song he chose is Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now,” the lyrics beginning with, “Children behave,” adding to the already-set tone that these kids had issues with their father. The siblings, scattered throughout the house, begin dancing in their own ways to the song as the refrain seems to poignantly reflect that they are free of their domineering father.
Maybe I read too much into it, but, hey, the music and dancing fit that mind-frame perfectly. I was transfixed.
Some of the songs used in the series are surprising (in a good way). Like I said, it’s eclectic. You’re going to hear “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” and “Goody Two Shoes” and many others, and each will fit the context of the action, even if these songs might not normally be together on a playlist. Further into the season, you’ll hear “Shingaling” while murdering arsonists — who are also high-as-kites time travelers — dance while burning a business to thwart one of the siblings (Number Five) from following a clue that he believes will help them attain their goal.
It’s quite a goal, by the way. This family of super siblings have to deal with their inner turmoil and external rivalries in time to save the world.
The characters — rounded out through flashbacks — I found captivating, from their unique origin through their unorthodox childhoods, troubled adulthoods, and destiny. They race to save the world, while continuing to search the mystery of the Commission, their purpose, their personal issues, and their father’s secrets.
Wild, unpredictable things happen. This series has plenty of action. Mayhem too.
I haven’t even mentioned the robot mother, the father’s simian secret-keeper, the love story, the doughnut lady, the violinist, or the engaging give-and-take between the time traveling assassins. Whew, there’s so much to be seen!
It’s not perfect. (What entertainment is?) While there are side stories that add to the action, there are odd, tangential happenings that were distracting and didn’t seem to add anything to move the story forward. The characters also suffer frequent communication breakdowns that slowed the pace more than I liked.
Still, I suggest watching this series.
Parents, the first time you binge on The Umbrella Academy, you might want to watch it after the kids have gone to bed. I thought it was reasonable in terms of gore (not a lot) or nudity (hardly). There is drug taking, bloody scenes, cursing, and sexual dialogue, so check it out before watching it with young children or teens. There’s violence that, while not excessively gory, in context is disturbing. One of the “good guys” used to be an assassin. There’s also a sibling who is a junkie with a superpower that terrifies him, leading to him taking more drugs. Not your average role model, Number Four, also known as Klaus.
Check it out on Netflix and decide for yourself if you want your teens or younger kids to partake.
And enjoy the crazy ride that is the ten-episode The Umbrella Academy binge.