Peak TV has been good to fans of genre television. Almost suspiciously good. It seems like every other week there’s a new series debuting with fantastical elements. From obvious fare like Doom Patrol and Titans to more subtle entries like Russian Doll and The Passage, science-fiction and fantasy have elbowed out more traditional fare such as medical dramas and police procedurals. But even among such a crowded field, Netflix’s adaptation of The Umbrella Academy stands out for its commitment to Sparkle Motion™.
Based on the six-issue limited series The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba, the series follows a dysfunctional family of adult children as they reconnect in the wake of their father’s death. The catch? The siblings were all adopted at birth by a weird old man who was obsessed with their virginal conception and potential superpowers. As such, they were treated more like soldiers and science experiments than kids, leaving each with deep and varied emotional trauma.
The Umbrella Academy doesn’t hold any hands here. From episode one, the writing assumes the audience is familiar with the tropes of the superhero genre and is smart enough to follow this deconstruction journey. Being boxed into Netflix’s ten episode format has left a lot of original shows feeling unevenly paced but somehow, The Umbrella Academy makes this work to their advantage. There are some truly bonkers questions left unanswered because they aren’t important to the main narrative. The writing is smart enough and the actors talented enough that audiences just go along with it. However, it’s worth popping the hood to take a look at all these potential future story hooks The Umbrella Academy just left lying around.
WARNING: Spoilers for the first season of The Umbrella Academy abound! However, this writer is a “canon virgin,” going solely off the show’s lore, so if any of these questions have been answered in subsequent comics, don’t spoil it for folks in the comments!