A group of dysfunctional siblings: Klaus starts a cult, Allison plans a protest, Diego tries to assassinate the killer of former President John F. Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, Luther works for Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby who eventually ends up killing Oswald, Vanya loses her memories and finds herself in the care of a couple of farm owners and their son and Number Five turns out to be the one who time traveled all of his siblings to the 1960s. He meets them there just in time to prevent the next apocalypse from happening.
It’s a tale as old as time: An apocalypse happens and someone travels back in time thinking they can prevent it all from happening in the first place. Much like season one, Number Five, played by Aidan Gallagher, returns as the man who thinks he can do just that.
Since the release of season two of “The Umbrella Academy” on July 31, the show has not left Netflix’s Top 10 list of most-watched shows in America. Netflix’s Top 10 feature, introduced in February, allowed Forbes to compile a point system indicating the most popular shows on Netflix to date.
Overall, “The Umbrella Academy” climbed its way to rank 7 out of the top 10 shows of 2020 so far. “The Umbrella Academy” has already beaten “13 Reasons Why” (at 14 days) as a scripted show holding the number one position on Netflix’s Top 10 for 15 days in a row.
So why is it doing so well? It’s not as if this superhero concept is new. It isn’t even new to portray superheroes as dysfunctional, complex individuals. Look at “Suicide Squad” or even some of the darker “Batman” series. What is “The Umbrella Academy” doing that makes it so attractive to audiences?
I believe there are three reasons to explain this phenomenon.
First, this is a team of superhero siblings. With "Justice League" or "The Avengers," you see completely separate individuals coming together with a common purpose to defeat a common enemy, but this team was born together. Their father, Sir Reginald Hargreeves, had specifically adopted them from their individual mothers and put them together to train as a team.
Siblings necessarily invite chaos. Instead of feigning respect and attempting to work together as strangers would, the first thing these siblings did when they grew up was to grow apart. Klaus, the one who can see ghosts, became an alcoholic and never looked back. Allison, the one who can rumor others to do things, became famous. Luther, the strong one, was stuck on the moon. Needless to say, they all had their own lives.
It was only realistic that these siblings would separate as they grew older, connected by the thin shared experience of having powers. But, it makes it all the more satisfying when they do end up collaborating, on accident as they do in season one or on purpose as in season two. Anyone with siblings knows that fighting will be a given, but that they still love each other, even if begrudgingly so.
The second defining factor is the versatile, amazing cast. At 16 years old, Gallagher is the youngest actor portraying the oldest member of the sibling group. Because his character, Number Five, traveled back in time, his age is one of a grumpy old man, but his body is that of a young teenager.
Ellen Page, known for her breakout role in “Juno,” is gripping in her portrayal of left-out, lonely Vanya, whose dogged inferiority complex drives much of her emotional complexity. The talented Emmy Raver-Lampman, a member of the cast of “Hamilton,” at times simultaneously acts as the glue that holds the family together and the self-centered, older sister who pulls them apart.
In one of the funniest scenes in the whole series, Diego, played by David Castañeda, and Luther, played by Tom Hopper, threaten an old Swedish lady when they receive a threatening message that they misinterpret. In a Thor-level switch around, these mostly serious, competent young men reveal their true characters in season two as two naive and mostly well-meaning boys.
The cast would not be complete without Robert Sheehan, known for paying Nathan Young in “Misfits.” With his lopsided posture and perpetually drunken state of walking, it's a complete joy to watch as Klaus ruins everything he touches but still miraculously ends up saving the souls of a whole cult and his own siblings.
His chemistry with his dead brother, Ben, played by Justin Min, serves as a true bright spot in all the craziness. Their bickering and internal debates, while invisible to the people around them, were so wonderfully spliced together for the audience’s enjoyment.
The last factor is the mystery. Maybe because it's quarantine time and we all need something to look forward to, or maybe because the writers of “The Umbrella Academy” have truly done an excellent job, but the combination of answers to questions only leading to more questions has been exciting and fun, not boring or a drag. Season two managed to answer almost every question I had about season one, yet still provide a slew of more questions.
Now instead of being in a constant state of confusion, I’m happy to look forward to season three with its own mysteries to solve. With an ending that makes you think the show should be called “The Sparrow Academy” from now on, there is definitely more to be answered in season three.