Monday, August 10, 2020

Umbrella Academy is Bonkers and Nonsensical and Emotional ... and Totally Fun!

Spoilers for Season Two below. Read at your own risk!

When you sit down to watch The Umbrella Academy, you don't watch it for internal consistency or a sci-fi accurate portrayal of superpowered heroes. You're not looking for a deep cinematic essay getting to the heart of what it means to be special and set apart from the world, or the existential crisis faced by those called to be heroes. Nah. When you watch The Umbrella Academy, you set aside some of the basic rules of superhero entertainment, and you just enjoy the ride. When people who haven't seen The Umbrella Academy ask me what it's like, I tell them, "Think Marvel, but totally bonkers." It has a similar set of compelling characters, spellbinding storytelling, presentation of powers, and amazing action ... but it's weird. SO WEIRD!

Okay, so minor spoilers from here on out, okay? Okay. We're talking about an organization run by a body with a fishbowl head. A main character who is revealed to be an alien wearing a skin suit. All those agents wearing silly giant animal masks. And Luther still has the body of an ape -- is nobody recognizing this fact? I'm still trying to figure out what that white stuff was that the Swedes were drinking. Bonkers, I tell you. BONKERS!

Okay, bigger spoilers ahead. Listen, The Umbrella Academy doesn't always make much sense. Why did Five only have 90 minutes to gather his family? And if he can time travel, why did it matter how much time he had? And why did Lila only use her powers in the very end of the season -- it's a great reveal, but it doesn't make much internal sense. And why keep the fishboss alive? But all that and 43 other nonsensical questions aside, you don't watch The Umbrella Academy for the logic. Most people watch it because it's fun, it's strange, and it's a well-produced story with an engrossing story (emphasis on the "gross" sometimes). And of course you can watch it for the eclectic music. ("Dancing With Myself" and the Swedish version of "Hello" were my favorites.) But I have to say I watch The Umbrella Academy for the heart. Here goes.

Klaus is hands down the best character in the series, if not one of the best written characters on television ever. His love story with Dave is compelling and moving, and his relationship with his siblings is complex and always relatable. Plus the dude is just funny. Number Five is a pretty kickbutt little dude (okay, yeah, he's the oldest of the group, I know), and Aidan Gallagher does an amazingly nuanced job with the role. I'm not always a fan of Ellen Page, but Vanya really shone this season -- especially her heartbreakingly earnest story with Sissy. Allison is always powerful and moving, and her civil rights story with its BLM undertones was somehow more topical than a story set in 2020 could have been. And Ben! We really get to see Ben shine this season. And his final monologue really spoke to me on a deep level. "Maybe you have a right to be pissed off and sad and messed up, but it's a [terrible] world full of [terrible] people sometimes. You aren't a monster. You aren't alone at the table anymore."

More than anything, the sibling dynamic was the star of Season Two. If the first season was about how siblings can still accomplish big things even if they don't get along, then the second season was about how people who don't get along can learn to heal their wounds over time, and can learn to get along despite their differences. More than get along, they can learn to truly love each other. And that's a message that I think we can use, whether it's 1963 and you're trying to stop the apocalypse, or it's present day and you just want to find some common ground with the guy across the street who is planning to vote differently than you. So when you watch The Umbrella Academy, enjoy the bizarre trip you're on, and take in each moment as it comes to you. But don't look too hard for logical consistencies, because they will only last about as long as a fart in the wind.

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