“The Umbrella Academy” Season 2 – A Story That Feels Whole With Great Potential Stories to Tell

The Umbrella Academy' Season 2 Arrives As A Low-Key Monster Hit ...

   Season 2 of “The Umbrella Academy” solves a lot of issues I had with Season 1. For one this story feels complete and isn’t a cliffhanger ending. There are still more stories that they can tell and should tell but this ending feels complete as far as the arcs are characters the characters have gone through. This season also explores the deeper themes of trauma through the lens of the 1960s and through it our characters grow and change. This is a fantastic season that captures the spirit of the comic while clearly exploring how it has given it’s own interpretation to the characters and world. Suffice to say, before I get into spoilers…I highly recommend this season. This season is easily better than Season 1.

“The Umbrella Academy Show” was created by Steve Blackman, developed by Jeremy Slater and based off the comics of the same name by Gabriel Bá and Gerard Way.

The story picks up with members of the Umbrella Academy being deposited in different times in the 1960s. When Five arrives in 1963 to find his siblings fighting Soviet Soldiers as Nuclear War occurs. He is rescued by Hazel who tells him he has to go back and time and stop his siblings from causing “Doomsday” again.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The World – I love the world of the comics and the show. You have time travel, politics, super heroes and character drama. There is everything that is needed for a great story.

The Soundtrack – Jeff Russo and Perrine Vergile have once again crafted a beautiful and amazing score. I’ve gone back and listened to this soundtrack multiple times since finishing the season. It is on par with Season 1 easily.

Character Relationships – The characters and their relationship are what work best about this show and that continues on in Season 2. I’ll be covering my favorite or the best relationships this season here. Luther didn’t make it though he was still a compelling character and Lila and her “adopted” mother didn’t make it either even though they were compelling just not on the same level of the relationships listed below.

Lila and Diego – Lila and Diego have one of the most interesting relationships this season. They are trapped in the asylum together and come to care for each other even as Diego wants to be alone and be a hero and Lila is an agent of the commission and daughter of the Handler. They both have trust issues but by the end they realize they were born at the same time when her powers are revealed (she can replicate other’s powers back at them). I’m curious to see where her future leads as she escapes the Umbrella Academy at the end.

The Politics of the Commission – One of the arcs of this season is that of the politics within the Commission. AJ Carmichael (a goldfish with a human body) demotes the Handler leading her to manipulate the Swedes to manipulate Five to take out the Board of Directors and AJ Carmichael. She succeeds in taking over but it doesn’t last as the Umbrella Academy defeats her and the final Swede who had originally been sent by the commission to kill the Umbrella Academy kills her. After Herb is leader of the Commission and the Umbrella Academy finally has a good relationship with the Commission from what we see.

Vanya’s Self-Discovery – Vanya’s arc this season is her discovering herself and sexuality when she is taken in after being hit by a car and losing her memory. From here she falls in love with the mom who she is nannying for and her standing for them leads to Sissy (the mom) standing up to her abusive husband. The FBI captures Vanya at one point which triggers the “Doomsday” even when Vanya explodes but the event is stopped by Diego, Allison, Klaus and Ben when Ben helps her accept her abilities and that she does deserve to live. She takes what she learns and saved Sissy’s kid Harlan from his power that she had that transferred to him. In the end she leaves them to return to the present and her own time but is more whole in the love she shared with them both and the final acceptance of her powers.

Ben and Klaus – Ben and Klaus are wonderful in this. Ben is the one helping Klaus be responsible and to grow while Ben just wants to experience life again and not pass on. By the end Klaus has come into his own and taken responsibility for the lie and the cult he created and Ben after experiencing life when he possess Klaus is finally able to find the peace and acceptance he needs to move on. It is a beautiful story and Justin H. Min and Robert Sheehan are fantastic.

Allison and Raymond and the Civil Rights Movement – Allison has my favorite arc this season besides Ben’s and Five’s arc. In her arc she opens up about her powers and is active in her agency and changing the world as she and her husband Raymond fight for equality and equity in Dallas, Texas. We see her go from fear to hope and find confidence in the powers she had given up on as she uses them for good. It is extremely well done and Emmy Raver-Lampman and Yusuf Gatewood are fantastic.

Five and Reginald Hargreeves – Five is the leader of the group this time around and the one trying to stop the apocalypse and get them back to their present. His arc is facing his mistakes and from his conversation with his Father Reginald he realizes that he keeps thinking so big and ends up thinking in small time travel jumps which ends up saving the day. It is in the tiny jump that The Handler and the Commission are stopped and the final of the Swedes is made peace with.

The Death and After Life of Ben Hargreeves – This season gives Ben the exploration he deserved in Season 1. We see him stand up to Klaus and eventually possess Klaus with Klaus’s consent and experience what it is like to live again. His final act is to save Vanya from going nuclear with her powers again and admitting that the only reason he stuck around for so long is because he was afraid to die. It is a powerful arc and Justin H. Min does an amazing job.

The Realities of Oppression and Abuse – Like Season 1 this series does not shy away from the realities of trauma and abuse. This season takes it to the societal level as we see the reality of the abuse African-Americans faced at sit-ins the 60s and still face from Police and the United States now. We see this through Raymond, Allison and the members of the barbershop and the people of Dallas’s eyes. These stories are as powerful now as they were then and just as relevant.

The Cons:

Doomsday with Vanya Again? – After the pilot I despised that we were once again returning to “Doomsday.” I get it was a way to up the stakes and give a ticking clock (like last season) but the Umbrella Academy being at risk was true even true even without that ticking clock. I honestly don’t think it was needed this season. The drama we got outside of this clock was enough and the same character beats probably would and could have happened.

This was a great season that built on everything that worked about last season and not repeating the problem of last season with character arcs still up in the air with a cliffhanger ending. Here there are new stories to tell and exploring the consequences of this season but so far I’m seeing nothing that will give us a repeat of “Doomsday.” I can’t wait to see the Sparrows and Umbrellas face-off and see how Ben is both now dead and alive? I’m really curious to see how next season is handled. This season was great and there are so many more stories to tell. If you enjoyed last season, chances are you will love this one too.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10 Near perfect. My biggest issue is really the repeating of “Doomsday” with it being tied to Vanya as a driving factor in the story. Thankfully it gets away from this by the last episodes.

“The Umbrella Academy” Season 1 – Great Character Arcs With More to Tell

Image result for Umbrella Academy Poster

    “The Umbrella Academy” is easily one of my favorite shows. I read the original volume it is based on years ago and the show captures the zany characters and character relationships that made the book so memorable. Gabriel Bá and Gerard Way truly created a beautiful world and Netflix did an amazing job bringing it to the screen. The cast is fantastic and I can’t wait for season 2 to come out, given how season 1 ends.

The series was created by Jeremy Slater and Steve Blackman and as said above based on the comic series of the same name by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá published by Dark Horse Comics.

The story follows the members of the Umbrella Academy who were all born on the same day when 43 women around the world gave birth without any sign of being pregnant. The seven adopted by the billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves would become the Umbrella Academy. After years away his death brings them all back home and the apocalyptic plot unfolds from here.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Cinematography – The cinematography feels like a comic book. Color is made to stand out and some scenes slow way down, such as when Cha-Cha and Hazel are high on Klaus’s drugs and destroying a lab. The film is beautiful all the way through and focuses on characters the way a panel would. Craig Wrobleski and Neville Kidd clearly have an eye for their craft.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack like the cinematography keeps that comic book feel while capturing so beautifully how all the characters are isolated and outsiders. Gerard Way’s “Hazy Shade of Winter” and Morcheeba’s “Blood Like Lemonade.” This is a soundtrack that goes between so many styles of music while keeping an undercurrent of rock to it. All our characters are healing and going through trauma and the soundtrack expresses it.

The World – The world of “The Umbrella Academy” is amazing. You have the Commission in the future making sure bad events go according to plan and who want to end the world. There are the members of the Umbrella Academy itself and also the ones hunting them being the duo Hazel and Cha-Cha who are enforces for the Commission the way Five once was. The characters are what make this world and I’m curious to see what the show does with them moving forward.

Hazel and Cha-Cha – These two are one of the best parts of the show. Hazel is played by Cameron Britton and is fed up with the work of being a killer. Cha-Cha is his closest friend and fully devoted to the Commission. Mary J. Blige is amazing as her. Over the course of the series we see that even when they are set against one another by Five or the Commission we see there is always more going on. Whether it is regret from Cha-Cha for attempting to kill Hazel and vise versa or her rage at Hazel for moving on with another person. I hope that there story isn’t done as I really like these two.

The Umbrella Academy – The Umbrella Academy is the super hero organization created by Sir Reginald Hargreeves from the 7 adopted children who were born during the event. Each of them has powers and are used by Reginald to take down villains. I’m going to give special time to Five and Klaus as they were the most interesting and fleshed out of the characters, but it is important to mention the other members of the family. I’ll also be including the guardians that Reginald created for them.

Grace, the robot created by Reginald is the mother of Academy while Pogo is the Reginald’s butler and together they hold the secrets of what was done to all of the members of the Academy and how Sir Reginald died. Over the course of the series they go from being the most trusted by the surviving members of the Academy to in the case of Pogo killed for hiding Vanya’s power from her. They are fascinating characters and I wanted to know so much more about them.

Of the Academy members who I won’t be giving a special paragraph to. First there is Ben, the one member who is dead and can summon a tentacle monster from his body. He is still around though as his spirit talks to Klaus. There is Diego (whose power is the ability to hit anything with his daggers) who is a wonderful Punisheresque vigilante who deals with his trauma through rage but comes around the caring for the team and seeing them as a family again. There are Luther (the leader of the team whose power is physical strength) and Allison (the only character with a family outside of the team and one who controls people through suggestion) that love each other romantically and come to terms with that and how they’ve changed as people. Allison is also Vanya’s biggest ally and the one who was used by their father to hurt her the most and repress Vanya’s powers. Vanya is the one who believes she doesn’t have powers through most of the series. It is only through a creepy stalker who is manipulating her that she discovers how great her power is and kills him. Her power is energy both psychic and otherwise that she can channel through music. After the Academy turns on her and traps her she goes full bad and we soon learn is the one who causes the apocalypse leading the Academy to make a choice and time jump with her away from the end of the world that she caused.

Five – Five is the member of the Academy who can jump through space and time. Because of this he ends up going missing when he jumps and ends up in the future. Here he lives a full life working for the Commission before returning back to the present time and in turn appearing as the young kid he was once before. He is great as he is an old man in a teenage body so he doesn’t want to be with people. His arc is his coming around to his family and his work against the Commission comes to a head as at one point he works for them again as he secretly tries to stop the apocalypse and in the end he is the one who saves them all after Vanya causes the end of the world as they jump to a time and place we haven’t seen yet. His arc is also dealing with the fact that he’s seen how it all ends so wonders if it is set in stone and can’t be prevented. He’s dealing with the possible inevitability of the end and it changes his outlook as he fights against it.

Klaus – Klaus is the best character on the show and Robert Sheehan does such a fantastic job as him. Klaus’s power is that he can speak to ghosts and the dead and because of this Ben is with him counseling him. Klaus before the events of the show has been through so much abuse from Sir Reginald that his only escape has been through drugs and alcohol (he would be locked in a room with the dead as a child and was never let out). Because of this he is detached from everyone and his arc is his sobering up to the point that he can speak to their father and learn about why they were brought together. At one point he serves in the Vietnam War and loves a fellow soldier after he uses Cha-Cha’s and Hazel’s briefcase to travel back in time. He resists torture from the two of them and even manages to turn Hazel more to the good when he calls upon all those Hazel and Cha-Cha have killed. His greatest moment of awesome is making Ben corporeal which saves the Academy from an attack by Cha-Cha and the commission as Vanya is bringing about the end.

Family and Sibling Relationships – People aren’t perfect. People are dysfunctional and all of us are going through different trials from past hurt. “The Umbrella Academy” explores these relationships through the characters. We see Diego and his rivalry with Luther. Allison and her reaching out to and protecting of Vanya. Five being cared for all by all the others and the reestablishment of relationship after how long he’s been gone. We also have Vanya, who dealt with being the one without powers by doing a tell all book and how they all have to confront the hurt they’ve caused to each other that their father had brought down upon all of them. The family dynamics are fascinating and I can’t wait to see how they are developed further.

The Cost of Trauma and Abuse – All of our characters are survivors of Sir Reginald’s abuse and we see what it has done to them. They are cut off from another, escaping into drugs and alcohol (Five and Klaus) and in turn they abuse one another. The cost of trauma is constant and ongoing and we see hints of healing near the end but only after the characters have had those moments of honesty with one another on all that they’ve been through. I’m curious to see how the show explores this further as I feel like our characters are really only starting to face it and the consequences it has had upon their lives.

The Cons:

The Cliffhanger – In the end Vanya’s power wrecks the moon causing the apocalypse. Five realizes the only way out is to time travel with Vanya to prevent the end from occurring. As the city was destroyed they manage to make the time jump. This is a great cliffhanger but it is a cliffhanger, if the show had gotten canceled this ending would have sucked.

I highly recommend both the comic and the show. “The Umbrella Academy” explores trauma, abuse and sibling relationships in such a compelling way that even though I hate cliffhangers I was grateful that the show would probably get renewed. I want to spend more time with these characters and this world and I can’t wait to see where the story ends up. Definitely worth checking out for any fans of the super hero genre.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10 A great start to the show, even with the cliffhanger.

Super (2010): A Critique of Vigilantism

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James Gunn is great. After watching “Guardians of the Galaxy” and the celebration of super heroes and vigilantes it is great to see such an excellent critique of vigilantes…not quite “Watchmen” level critique, but still a pretty amazing deconstruction.

“Super” is directed by James Gunn as well as written by James Gunn. The film was produced by Ted Hope and Miranda Bailey.

The story is about Frank (Rainn Wilson) who is a character with mental issues who becomes a vigilante calling himself the Crimson Bolt after his wife gets involved with a drug dealer Jacques (Kevin Bacon) he becomes a vigilante after a vision of the Finger of God touching him and the Holy Avenger (Nathan Fillion) telling him he is chosen to be the hero, along the way he picks up Libby (Ellen Page) who works at the comic book store and becomes his sidekick Boltie. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The cinematography – James Gunn knows how to capture a scene. There are beautiful visuals in this. From the comic sans words of POW during certain violent fight scenes, to the picturesque image at the end…the film is beautiful to look at.

Music – Much like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Super” has an amazing soundtrack. The songs and music are catchy and bring a raw energy to the film. Tyler Bates did an amazing job with it.

Abe – Michael Rooker is one of the guys that Gunn uses in a lot of his films. He was Star-Lord’s adopted mercenary Father in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and here he is Abe, Jacques head bodyguard. He’s always eating sweets and even though he’s a thug he has some tender moments, you wonder why he’s doing the job in the end as he appears conflicted in quite a few scenes.

Sarah – Liv Tyler plays the wife of Frank and she is the one who the movie is really about. She is the “Chosen One” that Frank believes God called as she starts a family and moves on after all the events of being pimped out by Jacques, she moves on fully…both from her relationship with Frank and how tied down she was by the past. Her story is beautiful. Her family gives Frank meaning beyond the vigilantism that he grows past.

Jacques – Kevin Bacon makes a great bad guy. I’d like to see him play more villains after this. He’s a drug dealer and pimp who emotionally manipulates Sarah and tries out new drugs on her. He is also presented as smooth, suave and comes off as one of the normal characters. He is the one who calls out Frank on his Crimson Bolt persona and how he’s crazy…which he’s right. Frank took the black and white world to the extreme, which I’ll go into later.

Libby / Boltie – Ellen Page is nuts. When she is killing or beating up people she laughs maniacally. She is also the one who critiques Frank as she beats up someone who may have keyed someone’s car. Her death by Jacques’s thugs shows Frank the cost of what he is doing and how there could have been another way, as Libby would still be alive. She also has one of the darker scenes in this as as rapes Frank as the Crimson Bolt…

Frank / The Crimson Bolt – The protagonist isn’t all there. He watches tentacle porn and that is how God touches his brain making him believe he was the Chosen One to enforce the rules when The Holy Avenger speaks to him. He sees people as literal demons and acts on it. This leads to him taking out some bad people, but also a lot of innocents as people who but in line are also targets to be abused. He does eventually grow past his identity, largely because Libby shows him how he’s taken it too far. The Super Hero persona consumes her identity to the point where she thinks Frank will consent to sex if she makes him the Crimson Bolt, much like he thinks what he does is right if it is in the form of the Crimson Bolt. In the end he find his reasons to live and you get that he may have fully registered the amount of damage that was done to psyche when he went on the rampage to save Sarah, as well as the actions he’d done prior as the Crimson Bolt. For him it was worth it because Sarah was able to move on finally though, that was what helped him grow beyond his own reasons for taking the identity in the first place.

Deconstruction of Super Heroes – This movie does a great job deconstructing vigilantes and the super hero genre. Frank is really violent, even though he doesn’t kill, and he never seeks outside help which leads to his kid sidekick Libby getting killed. It can do good, which is recognized but to do it in the first place you have to have some mental issues for the world to be in such clear good and evil terms. Frank does…from his visions of the Holy Avenger and people as demons, to his targeting all people who are jerks or disobey the rules. For him everything is so stark and it has taken a tole on his psyche.

The Ending – Sarah’s kids send him pictures and he buys the bunny he’d been thinking about at the beginning of the film. What we see at the end is a man trying to move on who is grateful that he was able to help another move on and may be able to finally let himself move on too in the process. One of the best visuals in the film.

Cons: The Rape of Frank – This didn’t need to happen for Frank to wake up. It isn’t shown as positive thankfully, but there could have been another way for Frank to realize what he’d become. That his violence on others was similar to what had been done to him and how his identity allowed him to mask himself from responsibility.

Libby’s motivation – I wish we’d gotten more of Libby’s backstory. The reasons why she is the way she is and super violent are never explored…which I wish we could have got. She’s a fascinating character and Ellen Page does a great job in this role.

Would I recommend this movie? For sure, it is a great deconstruction and all the actors do an amazing job. James Gunn also shows why he was chosen to direct “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Can’t wait to see more of his work that he does later and has made it big…I also can’t wait to look back at more of his work.

Final Score is 9 / 10. Another favorite.