By Kateryna Didukh
While it’s easy to be skeptical about another Netflix Original superhero show, The Umbrella Academy is a stand-alone experience that’s binge-worthy – especially if you’re otherwise sick of superheroes.
When it comes to your traditional superheroes, Marvel Studios certainly takes the cake. Unless you’ve been living under a rock in the past year, you probably came across more theories on how the Avengers will defeat Thanos in End Game than you can count.
While Marvel may be dominating the superhero world right now, if you’re bored of clean-cut and righteous superheroes, and endless fight scenes where the hero almost always wins, predictably so, but are still looking for a show in the realm of the same genre, The Umbrella Academy may be just the right show for you.
Because it’s not tied to any prequels, The Umbrella Academy is perfect for viewers who don’t have time to delve into the depths of a cinematic universe to get the timeline straight. The best part is that the show does it for you.
Based on the comic book series created by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba in 2007, The Umbrella Academy was adapted by Jeremy Slater and is set mainly in the late 1980s.
It’s a story about seven gifted siblings, born on the same day, all around the world, from women who became mysteriously pregnant shortly before giving birth. Adopted by a cold and authoritative man, Reginald Hargreeves (played by Canadian actor Colm Feore), they grow up at the Umbrella Academy, where six of them train to use their superpowers for special missions.
Years later, as estranged adults, they are brought together by their father’s sudden death, and reunited in their old home, a mansion that looks like a grim boarding school. At first glance, The Umbrella Academy looks like yet another show about gifted individuals who don’t want to be heroes – and struggle with the consequences of their pasts and their powers.
And if it feels as if you’ve seen this before, it’s for a good reason – their backstory bears an undeniable resemblance to the fate of many young mutants in X-Men. From the powers they’re born with, to the academy where they train, and to executing missions, it’s hard not to draw parallels between Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters and The Umbrella Academy.
But unlike the mutants, these seven appear to be the only ones gifted in their world. And their father is no Professor X. He is as far from a kindly mentor as the Umbrella Academy is from a place of healing. So if you’re expecting another show where the heroes use their superpowers to fight the bad guys in every episode, you might be disappointed. Possibly the most superpower-fuelled, coordinated fight scene here takes place in the form of a flashback. But if you’re looking for a decent backstory and a curious dynamic between characters, you may be in the right place.
The show will drag you into the tightly intertwined lives of seven deeply flawed heroes, who are so different from each another that it will make you wonder how they ever got along well enough to be a team. Because beneath their superpowers and mystical origin, they’re siblings first who constantly bicker, struggle for dominance, and mock each other. And they’re not above using their powers for personal gain. But if there’s anything that sarcastic, flawed antiheroes like Jessica Jones and Deadpool have shown us, it’s that unconventional superheroes can be so much more interesting than your righteous, clean-cut superheroes like Captain America or Superman.
And among the seven of them, there’s every type of antihero you could ask for: From Diego (David Castañeda), the impulsive hothead with a deadly power, to Klaus (Robert Sheehan), a drug addict who can talk to the dead, to Alison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), a famous actress whose perfect life was ruined by her mind-control powers, and Luther (Tom Hopper), the golden boy with super-strength who righteously follows orders even if it kills him. The show isn’t without its token underdog either – a character that appears helpless and easy to underestimate in the beginning but will inadvertently turn out to be more powerful than anyone else. Vania, who is supposedly the only one who’s not gifted among the seven siblings, is masterfully portrayed by Ellen Page, which just adds to the already existing X-Men vibe, as the Canadian actress previously played Kitty Pride in the X-Men films.
The siblings’ dynamic certainly adds colour to what could have been an otherwise stereotypical plot, but it doesn’t cleanse the show of superhero clichés. Though at this point, it’s hardly a reasonable complaint. After all, don’t we expect fictional superheroes to try to save the world?
But in the case of The Umbrella Academy, it just might be more interesting to watch who they become in the process, rather than simply hoping they’ll save the day.
Featured image © Netflix