The Umbrella Academy Season 2 Review: Dysfunctional Love, Y’all
Everyone’s favorite dysfunctional family of not-quite-superheroes is back in The Umbrella Academy Season 2, where it’s the same sh*t, different year. Though Season 2, like Season 1, revolves largely around the Hargreeves siblings uniting to stop the apocalypse, a more diverse cast of fleshed-out side characters went a long way toward making this outing an even more enjoyable romp than the last.
Spoiler Warning: This article contains spoilers for all 10 episodes of The Umbrella Academy Season 2.
The Umbrella Academy Season 2 picks up where the first one left off, but while the siblings made the time jump together, something goes wrong and they wind up separated. Luckily, they all end up in the same alley in Dallas, Texas, just spaced a few years apart in the early 1960s. When Five (Aidan Gallagher) – the last to arrive – finally lands, he shows up smack dab in the midst of a second apocalypse and witnesses his siblings incinerated in a nuclear holocaust. (Side note: Gallagher cannot properly pronounce “nuclear” and it annoyed me every single time. There is only one “u”, Aidan!)
Fortunately, Five is saved at the last second by Hazel, who brings him back ten days before the apocalypse and gives him a clue to stopping it. Hazel is killed when the two are attacked by a trio of white-haired assassins referred to only as “The Swedes”, but Five is able to escape and sets out to find his siblings.
As they were all deposited at different times, each Hargreeve sibling has led a vastly different life since arriving: Luther (Tom Hopper) works for gangster Jack Ruby (the man who shot Lee Harvey Oswald), Diego (David Castañeda) has been institutionalized, a married Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) is a civil rights activist, Klaus (Robert Sheehan) accidentally started a cult, and an amnesiac Vanya (Ellen Page) has been living with the family who accidentally hit her with their car.
Based on the graphic novels created and written by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá, The Umbrella Academy Season 2 contains elements of the comics while following the canon established in Season 1. So some of the things are still the same, but a lot of the aspects of the comic book haven’t been adapted into the television series. As someone who hasn’t read the comics, I can’t really compare the two. But as someone who loved Season 1, I can tell you that Season 2 is just as good if not better.
One of my big issues with Season 1 is fixed in The Umbrella Academy Season 2, and that is Vanya. In the first season, I felt that she didn’t so much make choices as be steered in specific directions by the men in her life. In the second season, however, she is very much in control of her own destiny, even though she doesn’t remember anything before being hit by the car. She is much more decisive and aware of herself in Season 2, and though she is essentially manipulated into losing control again (and almost causing Apocalypse #2), she demonstrates a mastery over her powers that she’s never been able to showcase before.
Not to mention, Vanya gets a love interest in this season as well – the woman who hit her with her car, Sissy (Marin Ireland). Their relationship develops slowly and naturally over the course of the season, with the two of them deciding to take Sissy’s son Harlan and leave her husband, Carl. Nothing goes to plan, and there is a lot of period typical homophobia to deal with. Vanya and Sissy ultimately do not get a happy ending, but at least this time around, no one dies.
Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for Klaus’s doomed lover, Dave, the soldier he met in Vietnam when he accidentally jumped back in time in Season 1. Klaus’s main motivation in coming back to Dallas after traveling the world as a “guru” was to stop Dave from enlisting. His attempts to prevent Dave’s untimely death are unsuccessful, but I think it spurs a lot of his growth during the rest of the season, as he’s able to finally put Dave’s death in the past and move on. In talking to Dave, he realizes that even “knowing” he will be killed in battle, it doesn’t change Dave’s mind; he considers it an honor to die for his country. There is a moment in “The End of Something” where Dave pauses before getting on the bus to boot camp, implying he may not be entirely set on enlisting, but in the end, he gets on the bus and presumably suffers the same fate.
Honestly, I was very impressed with everyone’s character development. I thought the siblings had a pretty good dynamic in Season 1, but it was so much better in Season 2 as they clearly learned from their mistakes and worked on improving their relationship. I found basically each character to be much more enjoyable this time around, particularly Luther.
I know many people were annoyed by Luther in Season 1 – and I don’t necessarily blame them – but I think being thrown out of his element and having to face the consequences of his failures went a long way in redeeming his behavior from the previous season. I was about to get very mad at him when he went to the farm with the intent to kill Vanya in “The Frankel Footage”, but when he realized she didn’t remember him, he ended up apologizing. Truly, everyone seemed to realize that their ill-treatment of Vanya was what ultimately led to the first apocalypse, and in Season 2 she was a more appreciated and accepted member of the family.
Ben also got more to do in The Umbrella Academy Season 2. Still stuck following Klaus around, Ben ends up falling in love with one of the members of Klaus’s cult (a cult that Klaus built with Ben’s help) and thanks to his newfound ability to possess people, he is able to talk to not only her, but also Diego. He is also able to have a heart-to-heart with Klaus, where he admits that he feels powerless watching Klaus make the same mistakes over and over. He also selflessly sacrifices himself to save Vanya when Diego, Allison, and Klaus are knocked unconscious by her soundwaves. I knew what was coming when he started walking down that hallway, and the scene where he goes into Vanya’s mind to pull her out of her spiral had me in tears.
The women are treated much better in this season. I’ve already talked about Vanya. I loved Allison’s turn as a civil rights activist, in a plotline that features a peaceful protest turned into a riot by racist police that is sadly way too timely. I’m also happy that she was able to find love in Raymond (Yusuf Gatewood), who stays with her even after seeing what she can do. I wished that we had gotten to see more of the two of them, because I thought they were great together.
As for the side characters, Lila (Ritu Arya) gets an amazing arc as a secret double agent – and unlike Diego’s love interest from last season, she actually survives. I suspect that she’ll be important in future seasons, since she escapes with a briefcase at the end and we don’t know what happens to her. Even Sissy gets a pretty nice arc as a woman stuck in an unhappy marriage for the sake of her autistic (?) son. Agnes sadly is killed off-screen, as Hazel reveals in “Right Back Where We Started” that they had 20 years together before she died of cancer.
Some of the tropes are still there. No one in the Commission can hit the broad side of a barn, for example. (Well, that’s not true. They shoot the hell out of the barn. They just don’t happen to shoot any of the people that they’re aiming for.) Causing the very event you’re attempting to prevent surely must be a trope, I just can’t think of any examples right now. The Handler (Kate Walsh) has managed to survive Hazel’s headshot thanks to a metal plate in her head and ends up orchestrating things behind the scenes to take over the Commission, a la literally any villain who stages a coup. Diego uses the Power of Love to stop Lila from killing Five. And Five remembers sage wisdom from Hargreeves to save the day at the end.
As in Season 1, The Umbrella Academy Season 2 uses music in an inspired manner. This season’s soundtrack may be as epic as last season’s. I thought nothing would top fight scenes set to “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows” and “Don’t Stop Me Now”, and then there was “Öga for Öga” and Allison and Ray fighting off the Swedes to the tune of “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”. I also loved the scene where Allison, Vanya, and Klaus dance to “Twistin’ the Night Away” (which has been stuck in my head ever since).
There are still some unanswered questions after The Umbrella Academy Season 2, such as 1) why exactly 43 random women suddenly gave birth on October 1, 1989, and 2) what happened to the rest of the children? We sort of get to see a bit of the second one, as it turns out that Lila is like the siblings (she has the ability to mirror others’ powers), and when the siblings return to 2019 they have landed in an alternate future where Ben and Hargreeves are alive and Hargreeves adopted different children who are known as the Sparrow Academy (the title of volume 4 of the comics).
We also don’t know how Ben died, which is something I hope we find out in Season 3, which has not yet been unconfirmed. I would imagine, with Ben now being alive again, that his death in the previous timeline will have to be explained at some point.
Plus, while it’s revealed in “743” that Hargreeves is indeed an alien, we still know very little about him, where he’s from, what he’s doing on Earth, or how much he knows about what will happen. After presumably fleeing his home planet (which we saw snatches of in Season 1), he came to Earth and provided a shadow organization called the Magnificent 12 with technological blueprints to build rockets so that America can beat Russia to the moon. While most of the siblings believe him to be responsible for the Kennedy assassination, it turns out that Hargreeves did not want JFK to die, which makes me wonder if there was any particular reason why.
The biggest mystery, though, will be what else has changed in the timeline. Of course, we have the formation of the Sparrow Academy. I can only imagine that, after meeting and being disappointed with his adult children in 1963, Hargreeves purposely adopted different kids. Harlan, who was accidentally imbued with Vanya’s powers when she saved his life, still has some aspect of them, even though Vanya thinks she removed them. And I find it hard to believe that Klaus can start a cult and that won’t affect the future at all.
With the same rocking soundtrack and an increasingly diverse cast of characters, The Umbrella Academy Season 2 builds on what the first season was able to accomplish and enhances it. While the plot wasn’t really anything new (aside from the whole JFK assassination thread, it’s essentially Season 1 all over again), it’s just as character-driven as it was, but the interactions are tinged with affection in a way they weren’t in Season 1. They’re much more of a family in this season than they were last season; they clearly learned from their mistakes and have grown from them. The emotional beats, like Klaus trying to save Dave or Allison and Vanya having to leave their loved ones behind, went a long way towards making this season worth watching.
The Umbrella Academy Season 2 is currently streaming on Netflix.
Don’t forget to check out Farid’s reaction video for “The End of Something”!
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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