The Umbrella Academy’s Sophomore Term Needs Novelty

Now that SDCC 2020 is over, we can turn our gaze towards something originally intended for remote viewing: The Umbrella Academy season two! I did three different text manipulations of the same still. In upholding this blog’s tradition, none of them are funny! Can you stand the SPOILERS under my umbrella, Ella?

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Since watching the first season of The Umbrella Academy, I read the Dark Horse comics. Season one was a combination of the first two mini-series, “Apocalypse Suite” & “Dallas.” Much like Preacher, I prefer the televisual adaptation. The comics are weirder but the emotional connective tissue was scant. Netflix reversed this to a better result. Of course ideally it’d be both like Doom Patrol.

As so much of “Dallas” was already woven into season one, is it really worthwhile to give it its own season? Since Netflix likes cancelling shows prematurely so it doesn’t need to renegotiate contracts with successful creators, I worry they should’ve focused on something else. I would’ve skipped straight to “Hotel Oblivion.” The other miracle babies & the extra-dimensional prison for supervillains to are rife with potential. There are eight planned volumes to get through. If Steve Blackman had continued remixing two per season, they could finish in a reasonable four seasons. Who knows whether Aidan Gallagher will have a growth spurt by the time they can resume filming?

The first season was about the Hargreeves brood reconnecting after years of estrangement to thwart the prophesied apocalypse. Season two is about the Hargreeves brood reconnecting after years of estrangement (dependent upon unique time displacement) to thwart another prophesied apocalypse in the past. Considering the first season finale ended with the family united, splitting them up again to prolong the narrative is frustrating! The image of them regressing to their teen selves before time travel was apparently figurative. I was expecting something more unusual than a standard time travel show. “Right Back Where We Started” is an apt title for he second season premiere. By this point things should be escalating not regressing! Zombie-robot Gusatve Eiffel remains sadly absent. At least it has a cool scene of the family using their powers together.

Replacing #5’s goldfish boss with The Handler was an acceptable budgetary sacrifice, but AJ Carmichael (voiced by an uncredited Robin Atkin Downes) is present here (although not as much as I’d like). The Handler survives being shot in the head thanks to a metal skull plate so Kate Walsh can continue gracing the screen with arch glamor. Much like Missy, apparently The Handler is her name not her job title. Most of the wardrobe budget went to Chris Hargadon decking her out to make Esme Squalor drool. The flat Swedish triplets replacing Hazel & Cha-Cha steal a milk truck, which brings to mind the Milk Wars crossover. After one is gruesomely exploded, we’re treated to a fantastic Swedish Adele cover by My Kullsvik.

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He dodged a bullet being snubbed by the reboot.

Since the meat of “Dallas” had already been grafted to the first season, the gaps have been extensively filled in with new 1960’s stories. Vanya is seduced by Sissy, the closeted housewife trapped in a loveless marriage, that took her in (after driving into her). Because they didn’t keep her white like the comics, Allison becomes a firebrand in the Civil Rights movement. (It’s depressing how little progress the nation made in race relations & police brutality.) Irresponsible cult leader Klaus tries to warn his doomed future boyfriend not to enlist. Depressed Luther gets a job with Jack Ruby’s local mob whilst residing at The Plano Street Boarding House For Solitary Men. Diego’s prescient ravings get him institutionalized in an asylum where all the patients smoke (my favorite 60’s detail). They meet their dismissive dad in his swinging socialite phase.

These subplots are handled well, but they also feel standard for modern retrospectives on the time period. It would be egregious not to address these contemporary social issues, but they also kind of feel obligatory. Even if you don’t watch regular period pieces, there are plenty of time travel stories highlighting this era’s racism, sexism, homophobia, & warmongering. It’s not that like media from that decade didn’t even touch on these subjects either. If you’d somehow managed to avoid exposure to any of them, however, this will seem groundbreaking! The 60’s subplots would all work basically the same without the dash of superpowers, making the Hargreeves superfluous in their own series. Then on the outright scifi subplot, they’re still battling time traveling assassins. Combining that with the JFK assassination from the original story arc makes it more stale after 11.22.63.

This is a great season for character development, especially spectral Ben who got shorted last time. (Klaus, whose retelling of the fable of the frog & the scorpion is best, levitates by having Ben’s ghost hold him up.) The pacing gives everyone enough room to breathe. Elliot the hospitable conspiracy theorist lets them use his nifty television showroom/dentist office/dark room/apartment as their new HQ. They’re trying to be incognito so there’s even fewer “costumes” than last time. I’d just rather see the Hargreeves battling pseudo-Daleks at an amusement park.

Ray Chesnut’s reactions to meeting his wife’s brothers, especially lovelorn Luther, are among the more unique moments. Good Omens’ Yusuf Gatewood does some amazing silent acting in these scenes where there’s wisely no dialogue to hold your hand over his shifting emotional states. The Rumor’s Siouxsie & the Banshees powers tend to function sadistically like when she commands one of the attacking Swedes to kill his brother. I heard a rumor Allison’s hair will finally be purple in season three.

Diego rightly calls his dad a villain, which I’d like the X-Men to realize about Charles Xavier too. He wants to cut off Lee Harvey Oswald’s trigger finger. Zany Lila Pitts (Ritu Arya of Feel Good & Humans) mocking his gruff vigilante routine is fun. I suspected she was a plant before the series revealed she’s The Handler’s adopted daughter, & it’s refreshing the heroes catch on pretty fast.

Vanya spends much of this season with amnesia yet still looks mostly mopey. This echoes her being out of the loop of her true nature in the first season. It’s also kind of a cop-out that she doesn’t directly have to deal with catastrophic actions. Her family doesn’t even have an ethical dilemma about whether she’s better off not remembering. Luther briefly filling her in doesn’t have the same impact. (His apology is a good moment.) Vanya & Allison reconnect in the comics by going through physical therapy in the comics, but here they just shrug off any lingering bad blood because they’ve been distracted by new loves in-between. While it’s impressive her vast powers can utilize any vibration, it’s a pity The White Violin doesn’t pick up her bow again. (Don’t forget to watch Ellen Page’s documentary about environmental racism, There’s Something In The Water!)

Pogo was this universe’s adorable Ham analogue who was burned in a rocket accident. Lodge 49’s Adam Godley briefly reprises his role as his voice. (Has the Mr. Pogo Deluxe Plush come out yet?) Sir Reginald saved his life with a mysterious injection that made him more human similar to the  syringe that healed Luther by turning him more simian. It also glows just like Vanya healing Harlan, Missy’s mute autistic son, without any injection. So I surmise The Monocle healed Luther & Pogo with his own alien powers that are similar to his adopted kids’ & all the immaculately conceived can presumably do likewise.

After ax-murdering The Temps Agency’s Commission’s board of directors, the Handler gives 5 a ninety minute window to return to 2019 with both apocalypses averted. 5 is upset by this short window & delegates contacting the rest of his family. Naturally half of them don’t show due to unforeseen complications. Since 5 teleports, why didn’t he just collect them all himself? If he was too tired to teleport, telephones could’ve cut down the Texas traffic time.

If season one was a riff on Dark Phoenix Saga, season two is more Days of Future Past. The last season already had plenty of DOFP in its DNA. I thought its 2019 was different from our own partly because 5 bailed on his assignment to kill President Kennedy. His family, however, knows about JFK’s assassination? If JFK was successfully killed without temporal intervention, why dispatch 5? The dual 5’s have a fun teleportation duel fueled by paradox psychosis appropriately set to “Dancing With Myself.” The younger 5’s by a fortnight is sent back to 2019 to warn the family about Vanya.

After being arrested for trying to escape with Missy & Harlan, Vanya is forced to confront her repressed memories 4/5 through. The FBI’s LSD & amateur electroshock therapy makes her lose control of her powers again. She would’ve blows up the FBI building, which changes JFK’s motorcade route. The President would’ve blamed the Soviets & ignited nuclear armageddon. Then the ghost of Ben averts this crisis while possessing Vanya in a lovely surreal sequence & sacrifices his presence on this plane. So that’s a relief that they subverted a repeat of the first season finale.

The final episode changes things up a bit. Both The Umbrella Academy & The Commission descend upon Sissy’s farm for the newly superpowered Harlan, who may cause an apocalypse too. Allison dons a cape & opera gloves for the climax! Rather than just using it to aim throwing knives, Diego uses his telekinesis to block a bevy of bullets. Vanya intentionally uses her powers to eradicate the army of assassins. Lila turns out to have the share a birthday with the Hargreeves & the ability to mimic their powers. The Handler guns down the Libras. (I don’t believe any of them are played by a legitimutant Libra.) 5 rewinds time to save them. The Handler is still slain by the last Swede standing, & Lila vanishes. This time The Umbrella Academy saved the day!

When the Hargreeves return to 2019, the lunar meteorite didn’t destroy the world. Sissy, Harlan, & Ray don’t come to the future, so I hope you didn’t get attached. Sir Reginald, Pogo, & Ben are alive now. Instead of The Umbrella Academy, The Monocle forms The Sparrow Academy. (This team was glimpsed in “Hotel Oblivion” under Grace’s leadership. This could be another instance of an adaptation outpacing its source material as Gerard Way & Gabriel Bá haven’t even officially solicited “Sparrow Academy” yet.) Did he specifically not adopt the kids he met for light supper? The super-siblings changed the timeline so much that sending slightly younger 5 to 2019 was pointless. Time travel has unforeseen  paradoxical consequences! Who knew?

The general buzz is that season two is better than the first, yet I just don’t feel it. I praised season one for not aping the Marvel Netflix trappings, but this story feels like a skippable digression more than a necessary chapter in the Hargreeves saga. Thankfully it’s still a solid season even if it’s not superlative. This year is certainly not a sophomore slump because it maintains its quality across all departments, but its spark of intrigue isn’t as bright. I like the characters & cast enough that watching it was never a chore despite the repetitive beats. You know there’s been a glut of good superhero & time travel television when a show’s biggest flaw is not being creative enough. Hopefully Netflix lets it return to pay off the enticing cliffhanger.

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Apparently the narrative around SDCC 2020 is that it underperformed. The analytics for deciding that are sketchy, especially given that the “low view counts” for panels are still double Hall-H’s capacity. I’m really enjoying watching assorted panels at my own pace. (Did you watch the delightful non-SDCC Hannibal reunion yet?) I’ve been able to see much more of them than if I had actually attended in person (if that was an option).  Naturally artist alley & vendor sales were be down without physical interactions to facilitate (on top of disposable income being much tighter this year). Comic book publishers still could’ve done more to reclaim prominence at Comic Con. Kudos to all the SDCC folk who were able to get something out there online with only a few months of prep time!

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As much as we enjoyed Watchmen, we do not legitimize any Emmys that have zero nominations for Lodge 49. Its dormant official Twitter resuming activity to tweet a for your consideration campaign warmed the cockles of my icy cynical heart. I didn’t type “Alethea Jones, future Emmy winner for directing ‘Circles'” for nothing, voters! Not only did they snub all its superlative regulars but titanic guest star Paul Giamatti too? No nom for original music? Now how are we to rub its awards in AMC’s myopic face & get it resurrected? They won’t even release it on LaserDisc yet!

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You only have until August 7 to order your exclusive Tokka & Rahzar set from NECA! Unlike trying to order their other TMNT exclusives (which are mandated by its main licensee, Playmates), this breezy pre-order process is only painful to your wallet. The exorbitant UPS & Fed Ex shipping rates are why we need to support the US Post Office! Will they make animated & video game versions of Tokka & Rahzar too? If they do Groundchuck & Dirtbag, we’ll have all the ersatz Rocksteady & Bebop duos!

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Stargirl’s season summation soon!

5 thoughts on “The Umbrella Academy’s Sophomore Term Needs Novelty

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