THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY (S3), Twice the superhero team, twice the superhero problems
Almost two years after the second season of The Umbrella AcademyNetflix’s multi-season adaptation of Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá’s award-winning comic book series for Dark Horse Comics, the third season is coming to the struggling streaming platform not a moment too soon (or too late).
This is all the more the case, given that the second season, like the first, ended with an extremely tantalizing cliffhanger featuring the main characters, a dysfunctional superhero family adopted by an eccentric billionaire in the questionable program, Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore), against an alternate timeline version of the team filled not with alternate individuals (with one exception), but with an entirely new and different superhero team, the Sparrow Academy , less superficially dysfunctional and far more efficient than their fallen contemporaries.
Given the setup of strangers claiming ownership of their mansion, it’s also quite predictable that the opening scene of the first episode begins with a team of superheroes in a reverse superhero team with our team of a familiarly ill-adjusted superhero who gets his back. It’s hard, if not impossible, to imagine a better start to the third season of The Umbrella Academy.
In a single scene, the third season sets up the premise of displaced and bewildered superheroes, their slightly fascinated replacements, and a season-long conflict between the two teams. Not so fast, of course, because once again, there’s a Big(ger) Bad for the Umbrella Academy and their superhero competition.
And much like seasons one and two, the overarching new problem remains the Umbrella Academy’s repeated failure to come together, to put aside their vast differences and differing worldviews to overcome or overcome the potentially catastrophic latest event. It is no longer the world or a timeline that is at stake, but the entire universe. (Talk about increasing existential threat.)
In a lesson the members of the Umbrella Academy refuse to learn, going back in time to change history can lead to both intended and unintended consequences, the latter often much worse than they (or the audience) could have imagined.
For Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), aka “Rumor”, leaving Dallas in 1963 meant leaving the love of her life. Returning to an alternate present also means that the other love of his life, his daughter, no longer exists.
It’s enough to take Allison from flawed, oh-so-likable superhero status to borderline villain status as she tries to manipulate the people around her, including her immediate family, and events to recover what she desperately lost. It’s both a recipe for personal and collective disaster and for the Umbrella Academy itself, on par with the doomsday course after two back-to-back self-fulfilling one-season prophecies the team tried to prevent after to have caused it itself.
Take a comic book page from Amazon Prime The boys, Sparrow Academy represents the commercial and corporate side of the superhero game. Giant advertising banners proclaim “Crime is the problem and Sparrow Academy is the solution”, suggesting that the best, only response to crime in all its vaguely defined manifestations involves violence or the threat of violence (hello, fascism ).
Unsurprisingly, the early episodes paint the Sparrow Academy in clear opposition to the Umbrella Academy, but as the season arc progresses through another 10 episodes, moments of nuance creep into the central plot and the related and interwoven subplots.
This means, unfortunately, that essentially doubling the central cast necessarily means a reduction in time for regular members of the Umbrella Academy itself. Still, they remain a welcome sight, from Klaus (Robert Sheehan), perpetually tripping over himself, to Luther (Tom Hopper), the muscle goon with a heart, to Diego (David Castañeda), the knife-wielding vigilante filled with of rage. who always chooses violence, to Five (Aidan Gallagher), the nominal time-traveling leader, and through Victor (Elliot Page), the seventh and most powerful member of the Umbrella who nearly caused the end of the world to two occasions.
While the third season has its usual share of story-wise tangents, backtracks, and dead ends, it finds its way back into the final two or three episodes and just as, if not more, mostly , handles Victor’s transition (reflecting Page’s actual transition) as a trans man with admirable delicacy, subtlety, and respect. Victor’s transition is handled in a handful of brief, if not less effective or moving scenes, culminating with the ever-serious and well-meaning Luther suggesting they throw a party for Victor (less because Victor needs it than Luther’s desire to organize one).
As a model for handling a character’s serial transition, The Umbrella Academy succeeds perfectly, integrating Victor’s transition into another well-done and memorable season that feels less like an ending and more like a new beginning.
The third season of The Umbrella Academy begins streaming Wednesday, June 22 on Netflix.
The Umbrella Academy
- Steve Blackman
- Jeremy Slater
- Elliot Page
- Tom Hopper
- David Castaneda