'Umbrella Academy' returns better than ever

Scene from 'Umbrella Academy' season two (Photo from Netflix/

“Umbrella Academy” took most people by surprise. The original comic, while loved by those who read it, and its creators Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba, weren’t really household names, even for those in the comics collecting circle. The Hargreeve siblings were unknowns until the Netflix show first streamed last year but now, no more. Indeed, it is one of the more anticipated shows on the streaming giant and the second season delivers in spades.

Season one ended with one of the more frustrating cliffhangers in recent memory, with Vanya having lost control of her powers, shattering the moon, and all but ensuring the end of mankind, if not the rest of life on earth. Out of desperation, Five then time-jumps them out of danger. The season ended, screaming ensued, and threats, pleas and protestations were sent out into the universe by all viewers. Season two could not come soon enough.

Well, it’s here now, and definitely worth the wait. The show has gotten better in every way. Stuck in the 1960’s, Five and the rest have to find a way to get over the bad blood between them and save the world. Surprise, surprise, yes, from another apocalypse.

There is a lot going on in the season. There’s doomsday, which got moved up by about 50 years. There’s the 60’s itself, a simpler time in America, but marked by social upheaval and change. And there’s also everyone’s bad blood with each other that they all brought with them back in time.

Perhaps it’s the juxtaposition of having a modern day dysfunctional family relocated to a slower-paced 1960’s Dallas, Texas, but the show immediately feels like its opened up, like there are more possibilities, and the writers weren’t shy about seeing where these new paths might bring them. The show is still very much off-kilter in a good way, with a heaping dose of over-the-top weird, sleek visuals and just the right amount of gore. There’s a certain casualness to the strange in the show that’s actually one of its more endearing qualities. Imagine a “Back-To-The-Future” series directed by Matthew Vaughn and you get the gist. 

The siblings spend a fair amount of time dealing with their own lives and problems, and those moments are interesting enough. But the show really becomes arresting when they get together and their little quirks play off of each other. Klaus, played by Robert Sheehan, steals the show whenever he’s on-screen, as does Aidan Gallagher’s Five.

There are some new characters, of course, for the most part equally eccentric or interestingly broken in some way. There’s Lila, an escapee from a mental institution (You can see she fits right into the show) And the three Swedish brothers who serve as the bad-guy muscle throughout most of the season. The brothers tend to be a tad dry at the start, but become worth watching as the show progresses, and their own characters evolve.

Possibly not since “Guardians of the Galaxy” has there been a more unexpectedly off-beat soundtrack that was so integral to the feel of a show. You get perhaps two or three action sequences or character moments per episode interlaced with a somewhat ironic or contrasting tune that somehow works. It’s a defining thematic element in the show, and the writers and song-searchers pulled out the stops for this season. 

“Umbrella Academy” season two is an improvement in every way from its already impressive first outing. Thankfully, the writers took pity on us viewers and gave the series an ending that was not as painful as season one’s cliff hanger. It was like having the powder from a finished pack of Cheetos in your fingers for you to lick off, making you want more. But! They did give us a doozy of a peak at the possibilities for the future.