The good news is, if you liked the first season of Netflix’s superhero family drama, The Umbrella Academy, then there’s no reason you won’t like the second season. Catchy and eclectic needledrops, thrilling action, loose logic and lots of sibling squabbles — everything that worked in season one is back, whether it makes a lick of sense or not. Turns out that’s also sort of the bad news as well, since season two is basically a carbon copy of season one — right down to the same apocalypse! — until a one-two punch of a twist in the season’s final moments proves the show has some fresh ground to tread after all. Or it will, when Netflix inevitably renews it!
Season two picks up where the first season left off, as Number Five (Aidan Gallagher) whisks his family away from danger as the moon explodes and rains destruction down across the Earth in the year 2019. Just one problem: He’s still not very good at traveling through time, so when he attempts to save them by jumping to Dallas, TX in the past, he winds up scattering the Hargreeves siblings across the 1960s. Vanya (Ellen Page), who has lost her memory of her family, her powers, and that time she blew up the moon, is taken in by a family on a farm. Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) recovers from her throat injury and marries a Civil Rights organizer. Luther (Tom Hopper) becomes Jack Ruby’s right-hand bruiser, while Diego (David Castañeda) lands himself in a mental hospital after stalking Lee Harvey Oswald. And Klaus (Robert Sheehan) becomes a wealthy, bare-chested cult guru — much to his spectral brother Ben’s (Justin H. Min) chagrin. As for Number Five, he finally lands in Dallas just days after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 — only to witness his siblings battling against an army while Russian nukes fall. Once again, Five has to rewind the clock and stop another Doomsday, and to do so he has to locate his siblings and bring them together while pinpointing where, exactly, the timeline went all wonky.
And once again, Vanya is the problem. Sort of.
The season frustratingly spends a lot of time drawing the siblings back together, when that was sort of what last season was supposed to have accomplished already. There’s no real reason why the siblings couldn’t have looked each other up during the years they spent in Dallas, except that they simply didn’t. They were distracted, and to the show’s credit some of those distractions are pleasantly diverting for audiences as well. I didn’t like that Vanya reverted back to being a ticking time bomb, but I did appreciate that this time around her love story is a healthy one… with a married woman named Sissy (Marin Ireland). Their romance is contextualized as risqué for the time period (and particularly by her lover’s husband), but never treated by the show or the other siblings as anything surprising or noteworthy. Vanya is in love. That’s all there is to it. Similarly, Allison’s marriage to activist Raymond Chestnut (Yusuf Gatewood) is romantic as hell and very stable, but requires the show to dive into a two-dimensional desegregation plot line that the show can’t hope to pay off — not with an apocalypse on the horizon (again). Diego, meanwhile, falls in love a fascinating woman who does actually contribute to the main action in some very important ways. Lila (Ritu Arya) escapes the mental institution with Diego, only she’s just a little too talented and dangerous to be a civilian — and sure enough, she’s secretly an operative for the timeline-managing Commission, just as Five was. In fact, her boss is his old handler — uh, THE Handler (Kate Walsh) — who we find out wasn’t actually killed at the end of last season, thanks to a metal plate in her head, but who is actually killed at the end of this season (unless she’s secretly got metal plates all over her body too). The Handler has raised Lila as her own child, for a very good reason: Lila has powers, too. She was born the same time as the Hargreeves, and she can mirror any superpower she comes in contact with, like a less-maudlin Rogue. It’s a smart move in a season that seemed determined to repeat itself, because it finally throws open the world of the show in a new and meaningful way. We knew there were other special children out there, so where are the rest of them?
Well, by the end of the season, we just may get a hint. The Doomsday, which was supposed to start when Vanya accidentally causes an explosion that actually prevents JFK’s assassination, is averted when Ben jumps into her body to wake her up and stop her mayhem. Ben’s spirit is dissolved in the process and he moves on to the afterlife. JFK dies, and after a massive showdown with all of the Commission’s forces, Five acquires the time-jumping suitcase he needs to jump his family back to 2019, where… that apocalypse has also been averted! I don’t know how, or why, but it’s not the only thing that’s changed. When the Hargreeves enter their home, they find their father Reginald (Colm Feore) alive and well — and teaching a wholly different group of students, the Sparrow Academy, led by a very not-dead Ben!
The Sparrow Academy was introduced in “Hotel Oblivion”, the third arc of Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá’s “The Umbrella Academy” comics, though instead of being the result of an altered timeline, it appears the Sparrows are simply an alternate, concurrent team of special children. Not much is known about them, as their reveal is the cliffhanger of the comics and will be explored further in the just-announced fourth arc of the series titled… “Sparrow Academy”. As for what this means for the show, the most important takeaway is that the wonderful Justin H. Min isn’t gone. He did outstanding work this season as Ben, particularly as a foil for Klaus and in his reunion with Vanya, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens when he moves from the periphery of the group and into a living, breathing space where they can all interact with him — and he doesn’t know them. As for the rest of the Sparrow Academy, we only see them in silhouette but it’s pretty clear we’re looking at a new line-up of special children rather than alternate versions of the siblings we know. Mostly though, this development offers the potential for the Hargreeves to face a threat that isn’t just another Vanya-splosion, and to fix a timeline that is just fine as it is… except for the fact that it isn’t right.
In some ways, you could skip right over season two and pick this show up in the inevitable season three without missing much you didn’t already know — but that would be a shame, because all the things that make this show so much fun are still a blast. The trick to The Umbrella Academy is that while it may appear to be an X-Men ripoff, it’s actually a hysterically deranged family drama that comes to life as more siblings appear on screen together. I love the free-wheeling batsh*ttery of the show’s manipulations in time, in no small part because so much of it hinges on Gallagher’s Number Five — a dangerous old man trapped in a smartass kid’s body, a gag I will literally never get sick of. I also can’t argue with any plot nonsense that justified keeping Kate Walsh and her array of outfits around for another go, and the insight into the life of the younger Reginald was a welcome addition to the family dynamics.
By the way, Reginald is… an alien?!
Header Image Source: Netflix