Review: ‘Umbrella Academy’ suffers with similar episodes

Grant Vogel, Staff Writer

Netflix’s brand new superhero show contains unconventional characters, but familiar concepts. “The Umbrella Academy” (based on the Dark Horse Comics of the same name) essentially features the fast-paced, in-your-face action from “Kingsman,” as well as eccentric, superpowered characters reminiscent of the “X-Men,” but still manages to still feel refreshing. At least for the most part.

The series revolves around six (formally seven) millennials who were all born on the same day in 1989 by mysterious circumstances. After getting adopted by the deranged billionaire, Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore), they all begin to manifest idiosyncratic superpowers one wouldn’t see usually from a Marvel or DC franchise. Each child is given a number instead of a name, and are put on a teenage superhero team named after the institution they live in. But after the death of their adoptive father 20 years later, the estranged siblings then gather for the funeral back in the mansion they grew up in.

Courtesy of Netflix
“The Umbrella Academy” is the latest in superhero offerings from Netflix.

All of the characters, with the exception of Vanya / ”Number Seven” (Ellen Page) in the first five episodes, are very engaging and even comedic in some parts. Vanya is the seventh child of the Umbrella Academy who early on, is revealed to have no powers whatsoever. For the majority of the series she spends her time playing the violin in a gloomy apartment, feeling bad for herself. Her scenes are definitely the least interesting out of the team, and seem to drag on way too long.

In addition to some of the more mundane situations in the series, Page’s acting is kind of flat. She doesn’t seem to display any emotions besides resentment and depression which makes her character feel a bit one-note as a result. Vanya doesn’t really to go through much of a story arc as much as just a sudden change in character by the end of the series which really feels abrupt and out of the blue. This change in character doesn’t feel earned, but more like a plot device for the overall story.

Other characters like: Klaus / ”Number Four” (Robert Sheenan), “Number Five” (Aiden Gallagher), and Pogo the chimpanzee butler (Adam Godley), are very entertaining to watch and actually have arcs by the end of the 10th episode. Klaus specifically has the power to speak to the dead, and in the beginning of the show he abuses mind altering narcotics to numb his senses, and block out all of the voices he keeps hearing from the departed. But as the series progresses, he learns to embrace his power to help his family, and that there is more to life than just partying and going to clubs with other junkies.

Possibly the biggest problem with the show is the pacing. Similar to some Marvel Netflix shows like “Luke Cage” and “Jessica Jones,” instead of functioning as a normal TV show with a beginning, middle and end, “Umbrella Academy” is more like a 10-hour movie. Most of the episodes feel interchangeable compared to shows like “Breaking Bad” where individual episodes feel more distinct. In “Breaking Bad,” episodes are very unique with one centering around Walter White having to deal a drug lord in his basement, and the next episode featuring him and Jesse Pinkman melting a body in a bathtub.

The plots in “Breaking Bad” differ from episode to episode and although they ultimately have a throughline narrative throughout each season, the episodes are more memorable. Not only are the chapters different from each other, but they also feature a full story as opposed to being just one part of a bigger narrative. The episodes in “Umbrella Academy” all feel like the same chapter in a movie, and the show suffers because of it.

Episodes in “Umbrella Academy” end with plot twists or cliff hangers instead of conclusions to the overall stories. Not only do episodes feel a bit too similar, but the sets are constrained to the same three locations throughout the series. At one point a character goes to a donut shop and a very creative action scene ensues. But then by episode 10, the audience has visited that donut shop about eight different times, and the reasons some characters go there aren’t even fully explained.

Besides featuring a unique plot and very entertaining characters, the extremely slow pacing, lack of character development, and lack of diverse locations greatly diminish the quality of the show.


Rating: B-