The Umbrella Academy season 2 review: Time-bending superhero tale is equal parts heart and high-octane action

As wild and wacky as the first, the second season continues to challenge superhero tropes and offer a narrative that feels fresh

Sabrina Barr
Friday 24 July 2020 17:18 BST
The Umbrella Academy season two trailer

A dash of dysfunctional family dynamics, a touch of time travel, an impending doomsday – that’s both seasons of Netflix’s superhero series The Umbrella Academy in a nutshell. This formula may sound hackneyed, drawing parallels with blockbusters such as X-Men: Days of Future Past and last year’s trailblazing Avengers: Endgame. But The Umbrella Academy manages to subvert superhero tropes and offer a narrative that feels fresh – a feat it successfully replicates in its second season.

The first season of the show was released last year, adapted from Gerard Way (of My Chemical Romance) and Gabriel Ba’s comic book series of the same name. In 1989, 43 babies were born at the exact same time, all to women who were not pregnant when the day began. Seven of the infants were adopted by eccentric billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore), who has trained them to become a crime-fighting squad.

All of the children have superhero abilities, with the exception of the withdrawn Vanya/Number Seven (Ellen Page), who seemingly has none. Years after The Umbrella Academy has disbanded, the siblings reconvene at their family home following the death of their father, uniting in an effort to prevent an apocalypse from demolishing the world.

But – they don’t. The first season ends with a meteor shower raining down upon the Earth, caused when Vanya – who, it turns out, is the most powerful of them all – unintentionally destroys the moon. The supercilious Number Five (Aidan Gallagher), a 58-year-old man trapped in a 13-year-old’s body who is able to travel through space and time, transports his family to safety in the past. But he splits them all up in the process, with the siblings being sent to Dallas, Texas in the early 1960s at different points in time.

Five is the last to arrive, landing slap-bang in the middle of a nuclear war in 1963. Travelling back in time a further 10 days, the former hitman sets out to bring his family together so they can, once again, do everything in their power to stop a cataclysmic event from taking place.

The explosive first five minutes of the opening episode – which reveal some characters’ heretofore unlocked potential – are a sign of what’s to come; this is a relentlessly high-octane season, with interweaving storylines that just steer clear of being convoluted.

Setting the season in the early 1960s, against the backdrop of the civil rights movement and John F Kennedy’s presidency, lends the show a heightened sense of gravitas, while also asking a profound question: if you have the chance, do you have a moral imperative to change history?

Employing dry Wes Anderson-style humour and end-of-the-world exploits worthy of Heroes, the second season of The Umbrella Academy is just as – if not more – wacky than the first. There are time-travelling triplet assassins disguised as milkmen; baby Pogo, a chimpanzee who, in the first season, was the anthropomorphic master of the Hargreeves household; and a man with a fish tank for a head. Amid the gun-toting, knife-throwing, soundwave-blasting action, at its heart lies the central message – a timely reminder – that no matter how maddening your loved ones may be, you may find you are at your best when you are at each other’s sides.

The Umbrella Academy season two arrives on Netflix on 31 July

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