TV REVIEW: The Umbrella Academy 2 (Netflix)

The dysfunctional Hargreeves family returns…

The Umbrella Academy 2 released last week, giving us a long awaited reconcilement with the dysfunctional Hargreeves family. Season one ended with an apocalyptic slap round the face, as a huge chunk of the Moon came hurtling toward Earth. This left a shocking cliff hanger as our questionable heroes failed to save the day. In a last effort, time traveller Five suggested he teleport them back in time to try and stop it once more, this time united.

So, where do we pick up from after season one?

The teleport scatters the siblings across a three year period of time (1960-1963) and throughout Dallas, Texas. During this time we see the characters mature throughout a three year course, until they all finally reunite in 1963. Klaus (Robert Sheehan) has become a cult leader and prophet, a role he maintains due to his knowledge from the year 2019. Luther (Tom Hopper) has become an employee of Jack Ruby. Luther becomes an underground fighter, underselling his strength, only to let it loose when Jack gives him the signal. What about Ben? Well, Ben’s still dead.

Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) has become a pinnacle member in a local Dallas civil rights protest movement, alongside her husband Ray. Both Allison and Ray experience police brutality first hand during the series. A large moment for the both of them is the planned ‘sit in’ at a local diner to coincide with the arrival of President Kennedy.

Emmy Raver-Lampman as Allison Hargreeves (left), Ellen Page as Vanya Hargreeves (right)
Credit: Netflix

Vanya (Ellen Page) is hit by a car upon her arrival to the sixties, causing memory loss. She ends up with Sissy (the woman who hit her) and her son, Harlan. Vanya and Sissy slowly fall in love as the episodes go by. The setting of the sixties however, makes lesbian and gay characters largely hide their sexuality out of fear of the reactions of the people around them. Klaus, Dave, Sissy and Vanya were all major characters in these plotlines. Both of these storylines protested the injustices of supressed sexuality and unfair treatment due to race.

Diego (David Castañeda) has managed to hole himself up in an insane asylum, where he’s treated for his delusions of grandeur and ranting about an apocalyptic future. He soon escapes with aide from new character, Lila. Five (Aidan Gallagher) is the first to witness the second apocalypse that the siblings have caused from their arrival in the sixties. He is given a small piece of advice from Hazel, who is shot shortly after. I was shocked to see the character of Hazel have such a small role, but I was glad to see his inclusion, nevertheless.

What’s new?

We get some new character additions. They came in the form of Lila, the Handler’s adopted daughter. I found Lila to be quite frustrating to begin with, but she became far more likeable as the season ran its course. Her friendship with Diego reminded me greatly of Steve and Robin’s from Stranger Things 3.

The new main commission threat this season came from three Swedish brothers, who were very Terminator-esc in their silent yet destructive roles. Further for the commission, the character of AJ was introduced. He is a fish who seemingly has the conscience of a human. However AJ’s supposedly game changing appearance was undercut when he did very little in ways of disrupting The Handler. He then later has a sorry fate at her hands, as she swallows him, Wolf of Wall Street style.

Furthermore, TV salesman turned conspiracy theorist, Elliot, makes a good addition to the problem solving side of things. He provides the siblings with images and tapes and has a peculiar but welcome presence. As a team it makes for an engaging viewing as they try to solve the problem of who is going to kill Kennedy.

What were the highlights of season two?

Five is still very much the stand out character because of his mystery – something that only Reginald Hargreeves has more of. It’s always concerning when a show features lead characters who are children, as often the acting will (understandably) be quite average. However, Aidan Gallagher is worryingly good at portraying a sixty year old man inside a fifteen year old’s body. His acting was accentuated perfectly in the shows’ penultimate episode where we see the younger Five meet the older Five. Although, the younger Five is actually older than the older Five. It makes sense, I swear. The episodes where the two are together makes for an interesting twist on the typical ‘shoot him not me’ clone scenes, as they don’t look identical despite being the same person.

AJ Carmichael at the Commission.
Credit: Netflix

The soundtrack was amazing, which is nothing new from the first season. We got a spatter of fight scenes backgrounded by upbeat and fast paced music. Additionally, I think what holds the series together so well is the setting and the characters, but I can’t help but feel a little off put on occasion as the plot can be meandering. It feels as if no one knows what’s going on for seven episodes and then suddenly there’s a plan and the plot becomes concise.

I liked Ben’s (second) death scene, where himself and Vanya’s converse about her struggle with overwhelming power. However, I thought it was handled slightly awkwardly. It felt like the perfect moment to reveal how Ben died. Presumably, it was something to do with Ben’s extreme power, where he summons some kind of Lovecraftian entity that plunges out of his chest. It seemed to me that there would be a connection in this way with Vanya’s also overwhelming power. They could’ve connected over this and advice could be shared on handling it (we can assume it killed Ben). Despite this, I did find the scene touching and memorable. I also quite enjoyed the greater inclusion of Reginald Hargreeves and the large family meeting that occurred between the siblings and their adoptive father.

It still feels like something is missing though…

I found myself wanting to scream at the screen at points to just push it all a little further. This is the perfect series to just go all out crazy comic shenanigans and despite there being more of that this season, it still feels like they’re holding back. I loved the aliens, the talking fish and the crazy hallucinatory trips. I understood why they held back for the first season, omitting the wackier and more far-fetched characters like the Orchestra Verdammten, as some things just don’t translate well from page to screen, but now is the time to shine!

‘The Sparrow Academy’ from the final scene of series two.
Credit: Netflix

We also still have loads of unanswered questions, such as, how did Ben die? I was eager for this question to be answered. Due to its omission in the second season, my best guess is that there is something broader going on in regards to Ben’s death. We have plenty of new questions from season two though. What is Hargreeves? Where is he from? Who is this new Sparrow Academy? Is there a multi-verse now? What happened to Grace? Are more of the siblings around? Did Harlan inherit Vanya’s powers? Was the apocalypse actually stopped? It could go on forever, which is a good thing, no doubt.

You can watch The Umbrella Academy 2 on Netflix, HERE.
Also, You can buy The Umbrella Academy comic, HERE.
You can buy The Umbrella Academy 2 comic, HERE.
You can read the last TV REVIEW, HERE.

Adam Zak Hawley

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