The Umbrella Academy: Superheroes Meet Family Drama

Does Netflix's new superhero comedy drama hold up to other shows?


In the realms of both film and television, one can easily see that superheroes are dominating the current market. This is evident by the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the DC Extended Universe, and various superhero shows on cable television and streaming networks. Such movies and shows share common aspects such as action pack scenes and compelling stories to draw the viewer into the world they create. However, an oddball has made its way into the realm of super hero shows: The Umbrella Academy.

Standing all together, the siblings of the Umbrella Academy serve as the center of marketing for the show.

The Umbrella Academy was released onto Netflix on February 15th, 2019 with 10 episodes (about an hour each) for viewers to see. The show follows a very odd narrative that goes as follows: On October 10th, 1988, 43 women gave birth at the same time, although they were not pregnant when the day began. It turns out, all these women gave birth to super-powered children with unknown abilities. Shortly after, a billionaire named Sir Reginald Hargreeves went around the world to adopt as many of these children as he could get- he only got 7. The first episode picks up in the modern day with the adopted children all grown up, with the exception of deceased number 6. As the episodes progress, the plot follow the siblings’ adventures in dealing with family conflict, internal struggles, and stopping the apocalypse.

Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba, the writer and artist respectively of the original Umbrella Academy comics discuss the making of the TV show adaptation.

With the plot out of the way, let’s look at how the Umbrella Academy is different from other superhero television shows. To start, this show is quite bipolar when it comes to its tone. Depending on what is going on, the tone can shift from sad, to happy, to funny, to serious, and finally to thrilling- all within a matter of 10 minutes. While this may sound like a flaw, this part of the show actually plays in its favor. Due to the fluctuating tone of the Umbrella Academy, it causes the viewer to experience a wide variety of emotions during their viewing, which leads to extremely memorable moments.

Aidan Gallagher plays a 58 year old man in a 13 year old’s body, and manages to break the stigma surrounding child actors.

While The Umbrella Academy is labeled as a super hero show out front, it’s much more than just that. The show focuses on dialogue and interpersonal conflict to drive the plot for the most part. Such an aspect allows the viewer to become connected with the siblings that the show centers around; making people care what happens to these characters. While the show focuses on the drama aspect for a large portion of it, that doesn’t mean that there’s no action; as quite the opposite is true. In each episode, there is at least 1 action sequence that will make viewers want to watch the scenes over and over again. These scenes are extremely well done with quality special effects, excellent choreographed fight scenes, and an absolutely amazing soundtrack selection.

One of the biggest highlights of the Umbrella Academy is its soundtrack. While most shows use music to create an ambient feeling in their scenes, this one makes its music front and center. Whether in action scenes, dance sequences, or sad moments, the music for the show adds another layer of immersion with the music selection for each scene. For instance, in one of the action sequences, the song Istanbul, by They Might be Giants, was used to go along with the fight sequence. Most people would think that such a song could never be used with any form of action or excitement, but by some miracle, the creators of the show make the action scene 100 times better with the song. The music on each episode invokes strong emotion within the viewer, which makes them want to come back for more.

Robert Sheehan, the actor who plays Klaus Hargreeves, does a stellar job in his portrayal of the character.

Along with the music and cinematography, the actors and actresses on The Umbrella Academy do a phenomenal job at portraying the personality of their characters. While everyone does a great job, the stand out performances come from Robert Sheehan and Aidan Gallagher. In the show, Sheehan plays Klaus, one of the children who can see dead people but is also a drug addict. He plays this role incredibly well by being extremely flamboyant in both his actions and dialogue, which sells the character very well. Along with that, Gallagher plays another one of the children who can teleport and time travel. Even though he is only 15, he stands well above all other child actors, as he essentially plays an old man in a child’s body.

Ultimately, the Umbrella Academy is an extremely enjoyable and heartfelt show that is worth anyone’s time. While the pacing may be off at times, it makes up for it with amazing verbal exchanges and well done action sequences. For me, the Umbrella Academy earns a 9.2/10.