A group of dysfunctional siblings with superpowers travels back in time to the 1960s in the hope of warding off the apocalypse in the official trailer for the second season of The Umbrella Academy. The Netflix series is an adaptation of the award-winning Dark Horse Comics series of the same name created by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá.
(Spoilers for S1 below.)
The comics are set in an alternate 1977 (the year Way was born) in which President John F. Kennedy was never assassinated. The Monocle, an alien disguised as billionaire industrialist Sir Reginald Hargreeves, adopts seven surviving children out of 43 mysteriously born to random women who had not been pregnant the day before. The children are raised at Hargreeves’ Umbrella Academy and become a family of superheroes with special powers. But it’s a dysfunctional arrangement, and the family members ultimately disband, only reuniting as adults when Hargreeves dies.
In the Netflix adaptation, the 43 mysterious babies are born on the same day in 1989 instead of 1977, but otherwise the basic premise remains intact. Number One, Luther (Tom Hopper), is Spaceboy, mostly because he wants to be an astronaut; he also is super strong. When he was critically injured on a mission, his father injected him with a lifesaving serum with an unfortunate side effect: it turned his upper body into that of an ape. Number Two, Diego (David Castañeda), aka The Kraken, specializes in knife-throwing and can hold his breath for a really long time.
Number Three, Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), is The Rumor, who can manipulate reality with her lies. Number Four, Klaus (Robert Sheehan), is The Seance, a flamboyantly charming telekinetic who can communicate with the dead—resorting to drugs as an adult to silence those voices. Among the dead: Number Six, Ben (Justin H. Min), aka The Horror, whose power as a child was the ability to summon tentacled Lovecraftian monsters from other dimensions through his body until his untimely demise.
Then there’s Number Seven, Vanya (Ellen Page), who apparently has no superpowers, although we eventually learn she is most powerful of all and can use the energy of sound waves to destructive ends. Sir Reginald had lied to her about her abilities and kept her medicated most of her life because, well, she kept killing the nannies in her toddler fits of rage. Papa Hargreeves eventually created a robot mother, Grace (Jordan Claire Robbins) to look after his charges. Vanya is also a master violinist—hence her nickname, The White Violin.
Finally, there is Number Five (Aidan Gallagher), aka The Boy, who can teleport through time and space. He still has the form of a boy, thanks to getting stuck in the future for many years and then escaping back to the present. He recruits his siblings to help him avert the apocalypse, which will occur in eight days. But he’s also being hunted by a couple of assassins from the future, courtesy of a group called the Commission, who send people back in time to kill historical figures. And the siblings also have the mystery of their father’s death to contend with.
I am obligated to say that Ars’ Sam Machkovech was not a fan of the first season. “Between a total plot rewrite, questionable casting, and abysmal pacing, this series lands pretty low on Netflix’s all-time adaptation list in terms of quality and watchability,” he wrote in his review, concluding, “By trying to break down the original series’ unexplained archetypes, it creates more obnoxiously massive logic jumps and plot holes than the original, tidy comic ever did.”
I disagree with that assessment (tastes are subjective, after all). Sure, the series drags a bit in the earlier episodes, but I appreciated the attempts to flesh out the characters as adults and explore their damaged relationships with each other. And that slow burn pays off handsomely in the last few episodes as the season builds to its explosive climax.
(S1 finale spoilers below the gallery. Stop reading if you have yet to see it.)
S1 ends on a cliffhanger, after Vanya rediscovers her powers and destroys the Moon with the acoustic energy she accumulates playing the violin in a concert at the Icarus Theater. As the Moon’s fragments rain down on Earth, marking the start of the apocalypse, Five offers to bring his siblings back with him in time, so they can once again try to avert the destruction of the world. The finale ends with the group’s time jump.
Apparently, the jump didn’t go smoothly. Per the S2 official synopsis: “Blasted back in time to 1960s Dallas, the scattered siblings build new lives for themselves—until a new doomsday threat pulls them back together.”
A mushroom cloud? Oh, snap
The trailer opens right after the time jump, with Five ending up alone and calling for Luther and Diego. He’s landed in the middle of a war zone, however, with tanks and soldiers. “This can’t be right,” he says. “What the hell did we do now?” Apparently, they do not successfully escape the apocalypse, since the very next shot is all the siblings standing in the street, helplessly watching a nuclear mushroom cloud rise into the sky. It’s the end of the world, November 25, 1963. Five landed in Dallas 10 days earlier. At least that’s what he is told by a knowledgable bearded bystander, and his immediate goal is to find his family.
Klaus has become a cult leader with hordes of followers, while Allison must deal with the realities of segregation and the overt racism characteristic of the era. Luther is the champion of an underground fight club, while Diego seems to be in a psych ward. We catch a glimpse of Vanya driving a car, and Ben is there, too, because (Klaus’ cheeky denial to the contrary) apparently ghosts can time travel. Eventually, the siblings regroup, which is when Five tells them they “brought the end of the world back here with us.” You can’t escape your apocalyptic destiny, it seems. “My cult is going to be so pissed,” Klaus moans. “I told them we had until 2019.”
The end of the world is connected to the plot to assassinate JFK—this is Dallas in November 1963, after all, and in the alternate timeline of the comics, that assassination never happened. Since the Hargreeves siblings aren’t supposed to be there, perhaps their presence has changed the timeline. Or maybe it’s the weird blond trio of assassins sent by the futurist Commission, who will hunt the siblings down “whenever and wherever we go,” according to Five.
It looks like we’ll also be seeing Shubunkin Goldfish of the Temps Aeternalis, an agency that preserves the time continuum. (In the comics, he recruits Five to assassinate Kennedy, but Five refuses.) There’s one final surprise: a younger Reginald Hargreeves, monocle intact, reunited with the superpowered team he tried to build in the future. All in all, the second season looks like it will be entertaining.
The Umbrella Academy S2 drops on Netflix on July 31, 2020.
Listing image by YouTube/Netflix