‘The Umbrella Academy’ Embraces Time Travel and Cold War Paranoia in its 1960s Based Second Season

Robert Sheehan (centre of the frame and dressed in black)seemingly floating in the air for a group of impressed people clapping.
Netflix

The first season of Netflix’s superhero drama, The Umbrella Academy, ended with a literal bang. In the show’s final moments, Number Five (Aidan Gallagher) used his powers to teleport himself and his super-siblings out of the apocalypse. For fans of the Gerard Way penned comics from which the show is adapted, the ending to season one was a big deviation from the source material.

Number Five’s unrefined powers mean the Hargreeves siblings ended up scattered across 1960s Dallas, all arriving in different years. Five arrives last and finds that the apocalypse has followed the family and he has ten days to stop it. Five soon starts his quest to find out where his siblings have landed in the recent past and to get them back to their time. The significance of the time and location of their journey is no coincidence, with the apocalypse falling on 22 November 1963, the day of the assassination of American president John F Kennedy.

Diego (David Castañeda) has been sectioned, Luther (Tom Hopper) is earning his keep as a driver for the owner of a burlesque bar, Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) has married Raymond (Yusuf Gatewood) and is using her time in the past fighting for civil rights, and Klaus (Robert Sheehan) has started his own cult with his dead brother Ben’s (Justin H Min) ghost tagging along.

Unlike the others, who arrive in this new time knowing their history, Vanya is hit by a car and suffers from amnesia. She becomes a nanny for a Texas family with a mysteriously mute child, unaware of her family and her powers. Because of the amnesia, Vanya has the least character development and is the character that’s the least fun to spend time with. It feels glaringly obvious that the writer (Steve Blackman) can’t quite work out what to do with super strong Luther, other than have him pine for adoptive sister Allison and seek a father figure in his new boss. Allison finally gets to show a new side of her character, avoiding using her mental manipulation powers, living in the segregated South.

(L to R) Marin Ireland and Ellen Page in a cosy, exposed brick home. Ireland and Page appear to be hold hands as the gaze into each others eyes, as Ireland speaks.
Netflix

Unlike Vanya, Klaus is ever the joy to watch. Robert Sheehan is clearly having the most fun playing this sexually and politically free man-child. He ends up starting his own cult, where his mantras include lyrics from Gloria Gaynor and Backstreet Boys songs. He also gets to meet Dave, the man he fell in love with whilst in the Vietnam war together, before he has signed up to the military. Despite the nihilistic outer shell, Klaus is the most complex and tragic character on the show. Tagging along is the ghost of his deceased brother Ben, who stands beside him judging his choices and scolding him. Ben is given a bigger role this season, exploring their relationship and his powers further.

With Mary J Blige’s Cha Cha and her sidekick Hazel out of the picture for season two, the Hardgreeves are now being chased by a menacing trio of white-blonde assassins named Axel (Kris Holden-Ried), Otto (Jason Bryden) and Oscar (Tom Sinclair). Unlike Cha Cha and Hazel, these three never quite make an impact on the show. Instead of peppered through the show, they save the action scenes for a big finale. Compared to the first season, the action scenes feel a little lacking .

A new setting brings in a new group of eccentric supporting characters. Diego teams up in hospital with Lila (Ruty Arya) who is either brilliant or insane, her twisted sense of humour is a fantastic addition to the show. Another excellent addition to the show is Yusuf Gatewood, as the confident and smart civil rights leader his presence allows for a smooth transition for the show to delve into race relations, considering the when and where of the show.

Back in season one, Five was involved briefly in the JFK’s assassination, and this hasn’t been forgotten by the writers. All paths lead back to that fateful November day that changed American history, and the family soon learn their mysterious father Reginald (Colm Feore) was somehow involved. The season explores a little more of the Hargreeves backstory, including how Pogo the talking chimp was created and his relationship with Grace (their adoptive robot mother).

Netflix

Anyone who wants their lingering questions from the first season answered still won’t find many. Those who spent the time between season theorizing about characters and the whereabouts of the other super-powered kids who weren’t adopted by Hargreeves may have to wait even longer to see if their theories are true. However, we do learn more about The Commission–with Kate Walsh returning as the mysterious yet impeccably dressed The Handler–and their role in maintaining the correct timeline. In fact, by the end of this sophomore season you’ll have even more questions about the Hargreeves family.

Time travel is never used as a throwaway plot narrative, the show is fully aware of the consequences of time travelling. The episode dedicated to time travel paradox will please any viewer who has yelled at science fiction using timey-wimey spacey-wacey excuses to explain the inconsistencies. Also, this particular plot point, which includes Five meeting with his own past, really showcases 16-year-olds Gallagher’s range.

(L to R) Rita Arya and David Castañeda seated on a brown leather couch with a yellow, gree, brown plaid blanket draped on the back of the couch. Arya leans forward towards Castañeda, who sits on the couch shirtless with a medium sized bandage on his stomach.
Netflix

The soundtrack is excellent, using an eclectic and often inappropriate collection of songs from over the years with more focus on the era-appropriate 1960s hits. Additionally, Klaus’ use of pop song lyrics in his sermons and preaching never stops being funny.

Season two interweaves a number of things into this tale of superheroes and time travel such as; race relations between Black communities and police officers, homophobia, domestic abuse, and cold war paranoia. Klaus, Five and The Handler are clear standouts in the show, played by their actors with a flamboyant joy, they are never boring to watch. Those disappointed or intrigued by the ending of season one will find themselves satisfied with the follow-up, maybe slightly confused, but satisfied nonetheless.

The Umbrella Academy Season 2 will be available to stream on Netflix from July 31st

by Amelia Harvey

Amelia is a freelance writer, frustrated novelist and occasional wrangling of international students. She is especially interested in LBGTQ culture and 1960s and 70s music. She also writes for Frame Rated, The People’s Movies and Unkempt Magazine, amongst others. Her favourite films include Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Moulin Rouge and Closer. You can find her on Twitter @MissAmeliaNancy and letterboxd @amelianancy

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