The Awful Family Keeps Growing
The Umbrella Academy: Season 3
It's been a little while since we last checked in with The Umbrella Academy. The last season aired two years ago, presumably filmed before COVID really set in and delayed so much of the media landscape. But the series is back and, while two years have passed, it doesn't really feel like the show has lost its step at all. It is still a weird, dysfunctional show, but that's part of why it works so very well.
Honestly, when you consider all the superhero shows and movie we have no, an absolute glut that far surpasses just the DC Extended UniverseStarted as DC Comics' answer to the MCU, the early films in the franchise stumbled out of the gates, often mired in grim-dark storytelling and the rushed need to get this franchise started. Eventually, though, the films began to even out, becoming better as they went along. Still, this franchise has a long way to go before it's true completion for Marvel's universe. and the Marvel Cinematic UniverseWhen it first began in 2008 with a little film called Iron Man no one suspected the empire that would follow. Superhero movies in the past, especially those not featuring either Batman or Superman, were usually terrible. And yet, Iron Man would lead to a long series of successful films, launching the most successful cinema brand in history: the Marvel Cinematic Universe., we suffer from an absolute abundance of powered people content. And yet, in and amongst all that, not many of them have the point of view of The Umbrella Academy with its team if weirdo powered people who really suck at being superheros all while also being the only people that can avert the apocalypse.
The conceit that the world was ending has been the plot of the previous two seasons (see also: season one), and while the show could have avoided that trope this time, taking the heroes in a different direction, I actually respect that the production doubles down on it. Each time they show up, in whatever era that show up, the show reboots itself while also giving them yet another apocalypse they have to fight. The characters never get a chance to slow down or stop for any length of time (technically the events of the show have all happened in just the span of just three weeks) because there's always another apocalypse around the corner, and it's great.
This third season sends the heroes of the Umbrella Academy -- Elliot Page as energy-powered Viktor Hargreeves, Tom Hopper as big man Luther Hargreeves, David Castaneda as knife-throwing Diego Hargreeves, Emmy Raver-Lampman as rumor-spreading Allison Hargreeves, Robert Sheehan as clairvoyant fop Klaus Hargreeves, and Aidan Gallagher as time-hopping Number Five -- back to their present... except it isn't their timeline anymore. Going back to their home they're confronted by a different set of super-powered heroes, the Sparrow Academy: Justin H. Min as clientele-summoning Ben Hargreeves, Genesis Rodriguez as gravity controlling Sloane Hargreeves, Britne Oldford as raven-summoning Fei Hargreeves, Cazzie David as venom-spitting Jayme Hargreeves, Jake Epstein as impervious Alphonso Hargreeves, and Justin Cornwell as athletic leader Marcus Hargreeves. Needless to say the two families do not get along together.
After an initial fight, the two families go their separate ways, although the Sparrows have no doubt they'll have to kill the Umbrellas (meanwhile the Umbrella heroes are completely oblivious). Unfortunately, the existence of the Umbrellas causes a massive issue: a time paradox that opens up a devouring black hole that threatens to gobble up everyone and everything in the cosmos. It'll take the combined powers of the two families... they'll just have to learn to stop fighting amongst themselves, and each other, if they're going to defeat yet another apocalypse all over again.
The best hing about The Umbrella Academy is its willingness to throw out everything about the show from one season to the next. Aside from the core cast of characters everything about the show can change from season to season. The characters started in the present for season one, jumped back to the 1960s for season two, and then are back in the present for season three only to discover they never existed and everything they thought they knew is totally different. The show never has to worry about repeating itself or doing the same things again and again because literally each season is forced to be a totally different setting and story.
With all that said, the show can sometimes get bogged down trying to balance everything it has going on. A story like season three has a lot of irons in the fire, not just with the whole original cast returning but also the second extra family of characters, the Sparrows, all of which have to be balanced... or, really, not. To avoid whatever bogginess the show might feel, the producers largely ignore the Sparrows in favor of the Umbrellas. Obviously the Umbrellas are the main cast so they should get some focus, but the show does a bit of a disservice to its new characters (whether it wanted them to be heroes or villains) because they don't get enough development.
This actually lead to the show willingly killing off a bunch of them simply to raise stakes when it should probably have kept them around as foils (or new additions to the cast). Some of the characters, like raven-summoning Fei or the sentient floating cube Christopher, have really cool ideas behind them but the show doesn't give them enough to do to make them stick. Britne Oldford ends up vamping as hard as she can to give her character meaning, but there's just not enough here.
Not to spoil too much, but the season ends with some of our characters ending up depowered completely and it would have been cool to see how some of these Sparrows would have reacted to suddenly losing their powers. Fei uses her birds to see (as she lost her eyes well before this season happened) so how would she react to suddenly being really blind? What about Christopher? Would he even be able to exist without the magic binding him? We don't know, and the show doesn't explore it, but that would have been great character development had the season committed to it.
Meanwhile, as nice as it is to have all our characters around, it doesn't feel like the show really does enough with the character development of the Umbrellas. Allison goes through a lot of internal trauma, losing her child and her husband, but her grief doesn't actually push her forward. If anything she ends up rewarded for being stuck in her own past. Diego and Luther find love but this doesn't really open up any facets of their characters. Klaus actually discovers he can control his dead-based powers (even becoming immortal) but he doesn't really change at all. The only character that really ends up in a different place at the end of the season from the start is Viktor and that's motivated more by Elliot Pages own transition in real life than the character's events; it's good for them but the story effectively could have operated either way it went.
All that being said, the show is a lot of fun this season. With all these lived in characters there's a ton of great moments of them just hanging out, being silly, and being a family. The show is able to mine a lot of solid character interaction and use it as a through way to the plot of the adventure. Watching them faff around, trying (and failing) to defeat the apocalypse is great fun. Oh, and there's an early battle then, at one point, ends in a dance-off set to "Footloose" which is both idiotic and amazing. That's the kind of show Umbrella Academy can be at its best.
Considering streaming service NetflixOriginally started as a disc-by-mail service, Netflix has grown to be one of the largest media companies in the world (and one of the most valued internet companies as well). With a constant slate of new internet streaming-based programming that updates all the time, Netflix has redefined what it means to watch TV and films (as well as how to do it). is in something of a culling mood right now (due to business setbacks) there's no guarantee this show will get a fourth season. It didn't exactly end with a nice little bow (having it's usual cliffhanger to keep fans hooked). If it does end here it at least did so on a bit of a weird and solid note. That said, if it does get yet another season I'm sure it will be just s strange and silly as what's came before, and that's for the best. The superhero genre needs more weird and silly shows like The Umbrella Academy.