The Umbrella Academy Season 2 Beats The Sophomore Slump
Season 2 of The Umbrella Academy dropped on Netflix over the weekend. This time the Hargreeeves siblings find themselves scattered throughout 1960’s Dallas. They come together in an attempt to stop the assassination of JFK. However like many time-travel stories, nothing goes according to plan. The second season of the show – based on the comics by Gerard Way – is an excellent offering during this long pandemic summer. A fast-paced story that allows plenty of time for characters to breathe and grow.
Season 2 introduces some new characters who are excellent additions to the cast. It also has some deeply moving things to say about taking control of one’s own power; surviving in a hostile world as someone who is considered the ‘other,’ and the bonds of love and loyalty. Some Netflix shows tend to drag in their sophomore season, after an excellent start. But The Umbrella Academy only gets better in season 2. Let’s take a look at what season 2 of The Umbrella Academy has to offer.
Spoilers for season 2 of The Umbrella Academy below.
A New Time Period for the Hargreeves
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The end of the first season sent the Hargreeves siblings traveling through a wormhole at the end of the world. Vanya (Ellen Page) unleashed the apocalypse, albeit accidentally, with a truly stunning violin performance. They escape the destruction they sought so desperately to avert (and of course ended up causing). The Hargreeves children end up scattered across the timeline in the 1960’s, each of them arriving in a different year. When Five (Aidan Gallagher) finally arrives it is in the midst of yet another apocalyptic event. This time a nuclear strike by the Soviets on Dallas. He then has to track down all of his siblings while also dealing with The Commission, who struggles to control the timeline.
Each member of The Umbrella Academy takes to their new time period in a different way. Luther (Tom Hopper) finds work as a bodyguard and boxer for notorious gangster Jack Ruby. Klaus (Robert Sheehan) gets clean and starts a cult that he quickly becomes bored with. Ben is still hanging around Klaus in ghost form, only now he can sometimes possess Klaus to talk to girls! Diego (David Castañeda) ends up in a mental hospital after trying to kill Lee Harvey Oswald long before he could kill the president. Vanya is living on a farm, working as a nanny to an autistic child. She has no memory of her life, or the apocalypse that she caused. And Alison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) marries a civil rights organizer, becoming a leader in the movement herself.
Season 2 of The Umbrella Academy Is All About Character Growth
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Each of these storylines give the characters a new world to inhabit, and new roles to play. And each one is compelling in its own way, adding layers of nuance to the story. Diego meets a young woman whom he starts to fall for, and this complicated love story vastly improves his character. Klaus is still kind of a mess, but he seems to want to genuinely help people for once instead of focusing entirely on himself. Luther is clearly weary of being ‘number one’ and has been hardened by his time working for a gangster.
Vanya is finally allowed to discover who she is outside of the shadow of her powerful family. And her interactions with the child Harlan – and his mother Sissy – are genuinely sweet. Five is the most unchanged by the events of season 2, but even he finds some growth as he (literally) has to face himself and the pain that his actions have caused. He also slowly learns to control his powers better, and truly takes on the role of leader of the group.
Alison Hargreeves: Civil Rights Leader
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It is Alison who has the most profound character growth in season 2. She still wrestles with guilt over using her powers, but she is trying to change the world in a more subtle way. Incorporating the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s was an excellent move for her story. We see her using her voice in a different way, giving stirring speeches to empower the black community that has taken her in. This is a powerful metaphor given that Alison literally could not speak for the first year she spends in the past, due to the injury Vanya dealt her at the end of the first season.
Despite how dangerous this time period is for her as a young black woman, she is the one who seizes happiness where she can find it and makes a life for herself. She learns how to stand up for herself and those she cares about. She also realizes she doesn’t have to do it all alone, especially because she thinks her siblings are dead. Alison is the one most affected by stumbling into a new timeline. Her first moments in the 60’s find her kicked out of a ‘whites only’ restaurant and chased down by a group of white men who inform her that she doesn’t belong in that part of town. Her relationship with her new husband is also profoundly affecting.
Actor Yusuf Greenwood who plays Alison’s husband Raymond Chestnut is an excellent addition to the cast. He does a lot with a fairly minor role. The ensemble cast of the black community – that surround Alison at the hair salon where she works – are also incredibly strong. Honestly I could have watched an entire season of just Alison working to change the timeline to improve the lives of people of color in America.
New and Returning Characters Refresh the Cast
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The action in season 2 of The Umbrella Academy really kicks off when Five and Luther discover that their father was on the grassy knoll the day of JFK’s assassination. This eventually leads to a pitched battle between Reginald and Diego, followed by an awkward family dinner. Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) definitely gets to have more of a character this season and is an active part of the conflict. There are also some major secrets about his identity revealed in season 2, including one that fans of the graphic novels have been waiting for.
In addition to Reginald, there are other familiar faces who return for the second season. The nefarious Handler of The Commission returns, with murky motivations. After being demoted by the institution she dedicated her life to, she takes matters into her own hands. Actress Kate Walsh is a delight to watch in this role: glamorous and slyly cunning. There are flashes of genuine emotion from her in this season, that gives nuance to her villainous guile.
Actress Marin Ireland also does excellent work in the role of Sissy, the farmwife who takes in Vanya. The two of them also get a slow-building love story. It is bittersweet and compelling, and Ireland deftly shifts between vulnerability and strength in the role. Also it is just plain nice to see Ellen Page finally play an LGBT romance on screen.
Another excellent addition to the cast in season 2 is actress Ritu Arya who plays Lila. Diego’s love interest from the mental institution is not all that she appears to be. Nor is she reduced solely to being a love interest. A complicated young woman with a mysterious past. She is being manipulated by others, but she still retains her own agency. There is a real chemistry to her relationship with Diego, and she is one of the most intriguing new characters whose very existence has ramifications for the Hargreeves that extend far beyond 1960’s Dallas.
Time Travel Never Goes According To Plan
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Time travel is a messy business, one that The Umbrella Academy has previously explored. In the first season Five jumps through time to a post-apocalyptic America. He spends 45 years trying to get back to his own time. Season 1 also sent Klaus back in time to fight in the Vietnam War, where he fell in love with a fellow soldier. That young soldier (Dave) also appears in season 2, as Klaus desperately tries to warn him away from enlisting at all. The first season did not delve into how Klaus’s actions in the past might have affected the timeline. However it is clear that none of the Hargreeves siblings watched much science fiction growing up. They simply do not know the rules of time travel.
Some of them are actively trying to change history. From Alison’s involvement with the Civil Rights movement, to Diego’s attempt to stop JFK’s assassination. None of them ever stop to consider how these changes will affect their own timelines. They even end up telling their father Reginald Hargreeves all about who they are, and what he will do in the future. Of course this means that in the end, Reginald chose to act differently. And this leads to a dramatic cliffhanger at the end of season 2. There will be a whole new group of super powered individuals if the show gets a season 3 that will affect the fate of The Umbrella Academy. (Also, worth noting, Gerard Way’s forthcoming new graphic novel starring the Umbrella Academy shares a name with the new group we meet at the end of the season.)
Season 2 of The Umbrella Academy is streaming now on Netflix. An excellent follow-up to season 1 that allows for character growth while delivering a fun-filled action romp through time. We loved it and cannot wait for the third season, if Netflix picks them up again.
Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.