In some ways, the first season of Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy works like a ten-hour pilot episode. The story doesn’t so much as end with “The White Violin” episode as it truly begins. The premiere episode of season 2 of The Umbrella Academy begins right where we left off in February of 2019. Yet, the story that we’re getting this time around strikes a much different tone than before. Some fans who may have loved the first season could find it difficult to accept what is, essentially, an entire series reset. The characters maintain their emotional growth, but this time are split up for reasons beyond their control. As the trailer revealed, pretty much all of this season takes place in the past, but time-travel was always a key element of this story.
Ostensibly, this series is about a dysfunctional family that works to accept each other for who they are, both for their siblings and themselves. There are some high-concept comic book elements, but this is not your typical superhero fare. Season 1 is a(n intentionally) slow, emotional character drama with huge stakes. Season 2 has the same high stakes, but if the opening sequence is any indication, the show may deliver more traditional superhero team-up fare. (Especially since Colm Feore’s Reginald Hargreaves is in the mix.)
We’re going to spoil the first season below and put some of the marketing reveals for season 2 in a spoiler-y context. At the time of this writing, your humble correspondent only watched the first two episodes (more on that later). So, hopefully we’ve given you enough to go on to decide whether it’s worth your streaming time.
The Umbrella Academy Season 2 Premiere Episodes Start With a Better Premise
Image via Netflix
While I enjoyed the first season of this series, I did find it underwhelming. As mentioned above, this is a story about a found family of superpowered misfits. Yet, unlike say Doom Patrol season 1, we start out missing the most interesting parts of the story. Like the season 2 premiere, the debut of The Umbrella Academy begins with the family split up. Yet, that episode is all about them getting back together. The mystery of how they came together and fell apart and came together again is meant to drive the viewer to the next episode. (Especially with their long-lost brother literally falling out of the sky.)
The season 2 premiere of The Umbrella Academy again splits up the siblings and shows them reunited. However, it’s all in service of a more interesting mystery, specifically how the time-traveling family brings about a nuclear apocalypse after saving President John F. Kennedy. (Also, and no one mentions this, we saw Five presumably kill Kennedy from the grassy knoll in season 1.) The show smartly keeps most of the siblings apart for at least the first two episodes. Delaying the family’s reunification gives the audience time to catch up and want them back together before it happens.
The siblings were all dropped in the same location in Dallas, Texas between 1960 and 1963. Thus, they’ve had to build lives for themselves, waiting for Five to show up. And show up he does, just as the new (old?) apocalypse is going down. We see the siblings fighting together as a group, in a truly badass sequence for fans of the CGI super-powered throwdown. We then say goodbye (for now?) to Cameron Britton’s Hazel, who is killed by a trio of bad guys known as The Swedes.
The Umbrella Academy Is Still a Frustrating Show
Image via Netflix
This series is meant to frustrate its audience, and not even in a “bad” way. The characters make decisions that are dramatically interesting but definitely not the best decisions they could make. For example, stuck in a racist past, Emmy Raver-Lampman still seems unwilling to use her power of telepathic compulsion to do something as simple as keep her husband (yep) from being arrested. On the other hand, Robert Sheehan’s Klaus full embraces his understanding of his powers and becomes the leader of a new age religion/cult. Tom Hopper’s Luther works for Jack Ruby (played by John Kapelos) and no longer seems to care if he lives or dies. Oh, and Ellen Page’s Vanya has amnesia, which honestly, I’m not mad at given her heelturn in season 1.
The trick with frustrating your audience, however, is to make sure that the characters’ bad decisions fit with those characters. Some series (cough, The 100, cough) aren’t able to pull this off. Luckily, being self-destructive is baked into almost all of these characters already. Again, the addition of their father, Sir Reginald Hargreaves (who the series pretty much confirmed is an alien last year) to their group dynamic. We know the kids all meet up with him in the past from the trailer, and the series very cleverly paints him as the real, notorious “umbrella man” from that terrible day in November.
Stories about averting the JFK assassination are usually about one thing. No one really thinks that if JFK lived, the world would have plunged into chaos. Rather, these stories are meant to guide audiences into accepting the bad things that happen to them. In the case of the kids from the Umbrella Academy, that sort of story fits very nicely.
Season 2 of The Umbrella Academy premieres on Netflix today with all episodes available to watch.
What do you think of The Umbrella Academy season 2 premiere? Did you find the show frustrating? In the good way or the bad way? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.
Featured image via Netflix.
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.