On 1 October 1989 41 women around the world suddenly gave birth without showing any former evidence being pregnant. Sir Reginald Hargreaves (Colm Feore) adopts seven of these children, discovering that they all have special abilities… except for one.
With a help of a robot nanny (Jordan Claire Robbins) and chimpanzee butler (voiced by Adam Godley), Hargreaves raised the children into a superhero team called The Umbrella Academy. Hargreaves’ methods are somewhat unusual and by the time the children have reached adulthood, all but Luther (Tom Hopper) have left home and are distanced from each other.
On the night that Hargreaves dies, they come together and the usual bickering ensues until their long lost time travelling brother, Five (Aidan Gallagher) reappears trapped in his childhood body to tell them the apocalypse is night. Now they will need to get past their differences to try and stop it… but only if they can avoid the besuited, animal mask wearing assassins on Five’s tail.
I was intrigued by The Umbrella Academy because the comic books it was based on were co-created by My Chemical Romance band member, Gerard Way. I was a big My Chemical Romance fan and saw them live many times. The band always had a very cool aesthetic and I wanted to see if this would carry through to the show.
On the plus side, despite being a superhero story, the actual story line manages to be unique and fresh. Five’s run ins with his former employers, a weirdly bureaucratic organisation of temporal assassins run by the ruthless, Handler (Kate Walsh) is both dark and hilarious. The members of The Umbrella Academy have really interesting abilities and the impact of their weird upbringing on its mental health provides depth to what could be a superficial adventure.
On the downside it takes a lot of getting into. I think this is because the characters are quite hard to warm to. Their humanity and vulnerability does not shine through until far into the series and even then it is only certain characters that really inspire affection. I loved drug-addled, medium, Klaus (Robert Sheehan), but only once he had accidentally gone back in time and had a transformative experience. I also warmed to assassin, Hazel (Cameron Britton) through his sweet romance with doughnut shop owner, Grace (Jordan Clare Roberts). Ellen Page does the best she can with powerless Vanya but her story of exclusion and rejection should be more engaging than it is. Gallagher’s portrayal of an old man in a pre-teen body is very impressive but Five is quite hard to like.
I wanted to know more about Hargreaves’ past, which was very vaguely hinted at and I wondered what happened to the other 34 children that were not adopted and why they were born in the first place. I guess we might find that out in the second season as the first ended with a cliffhanger.
I think it is a bit of a case of style over substance and the whole adding u to less than the sum of its parts. It’s not bad but it could have been so much better. I am hoping for a second season.