REVIEW: ‘Umbrella Academy’ stands out amid flood of Netflix content

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(Archive photo by Parker Robb | Collegian Media Group)

To be frank, “The Umbrella Academy” is not a show I ever thought I would have enjoyed based on the trailer.

The 2019 Netflix series, based on the comics written by “My Chemical Romance” singer Gerard Way, was an unexpected hit that has only grown in popularity this past summer with the release of its second season. The show’s release recently achieved the longest No.1 streak for any scripted show on Netflix, among many other milestones, and it’s clear why.

From the very first episode, “The Umbrella Academy” is both diverting and digestible, weaving just enough substance throughout the far-fetched science fiction plot. Premised around a misfit family of mysteriously conceived, supernaturally gifted children, the show starts off resembling some unholy union of “Knives Out” and “X-Men” when the now-adult siblings reunite following the death of their billionaire adoptive father.

The youngest actor of the bunch, Aidan Gallagher, swiftly steals the show as “Number Five,” a time-travel aged man stuck in the body of a teenager, with all the mannerisms of an old film noir. It remains to be seen whether Gallagher’s acting career will achieve the same success beyond the range of this convincing bit, but in the meantime, it is delightfully executed, and a consistent highlight throughout both of the show’s seasons.

In tone, “The Umbrella Academy” borrows from what “Guardians of the Galaxy,” exemplified in the sci-fi, action movie genre. The juxtaposition of lighthearted, nostalgic music with intense fight scenes keeps the show from becoming what would otherwise be dark and, at times, gratuitously grotesque.

Though premised heavily on the existence of superheroes and time travel, “The Umbrella Academy” dances between genres as much as it does between years in history. After a distinctly modern first season, the turn into the second leaves the viewer with whiplash after pivoting to an entirely different time period, complete with civil rights subplots and heavy political tones.

In the second season, the show hits its stride when it starts phasing out frequent flashbacks to the siblings’ upbringing which, although necessary, often explain rather than advance the plot.

The show’s biggest fault is perhaps that it demands just a bit too much suspension of disbelief. The frequent time travel leaves in its wake significant plot holes that require a very forgiving viewer.

Ultimately, the show’s entertainment value redeems “The Umbrella Academy” from the sin of discontinuity, of which other major franchises can hardly be considered innocent.

In the grand scheme of things, “The Umbrella Academy” is just another chapter in Netflix’s rapid domination of the streaming industry, but it is clear — both by viewing and by the numbers — that it stands out amid the deluge of content produced nowadays.

Rebecca Vrbas is the Collegian culture editor and a senior in journalism and mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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My name is Rebecca Vrbas. I’m the culture editor at the Collegian and a junior in journalism and mass communications. My hobbies include obsessing over an ever-expanding pool of musicals and cats (not the musical). I love writing because of the infinite intricacy of language, as well as its power to cultivate a sense of community through sharing experiences.