2020 has been a total trash fire of a year and we could all use a hero at this point, so get ready to be inspired and have a good time, when THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY season two premieres on Netflix on July 31st. THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY is based on the Dark Horse Comic THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY, created by Gerard Way and artist Gabriel Bá. While I would love for this to be an essay on all the correlations between My Chemical Romance and THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY, we’re here to talk about season two of the show, so Killjoys make some noise. The Hargreeves are here to save the world. Maybe.
Season one of THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY left us on the edge of our seats when the other Hargreeves siblings locked Vanya (Ellen Page) in a deprivation chamber to stop her from becoming a supervillain and causing the apocalypse. To recap, in 1989, 43 babies were unexpectedly born to random women who were not previously pregnant. Seven of the infants were adopted by Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore), who creates THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY and teaches his children how to save the world, using the unique superpowers each one of them possesses. When Hargreeves dies in 2019, the six remaining Hargreeves children reunite to solve the mysteries of his life and death and to stop the impending apocalypse, which will be caused by one of their own, Vanya. Vanya did not realize she had any powers at all, and when she realizes her world-shattering strength, it’s too late. She’s already gone to the dark side. She uses her powers to blow up the moon, causing a chunk to come crashing down to earth and cause the end of the world.
As we saw in the first season of THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY, the second season boasts magnificent costumes and set design, with show creator Steve Blackman perfectly capturing the essence of the 1960s, where the story focuses most of its time. After Vanya causes the apocalypse in 2019, the Hargreeves are all hurtled back to the early 1960s. Number Five (Aidan Gallagher) witnesses an apocalypse that occurs in November 1963 after the assassination of John F. Kennedy and travels back in time to earlier in the year so he can find the other Hargreeves to help him stop the end of the world. This isn’t easy since each of the Hargreeves has made a life for themselves in 1963; Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) is married; Luther (Tom Hopper) is hired muscle for a club owner; Klaus (Robert Sheehan) is the leader of a cult; Diego (David Castañeda) is in a psychiatric hospital, and Vanya has amnesia and is living with a family. Things are further complicated by the arrival of three hitmen called The Swedes.
The second season of THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY is intense and action-packed and features steady doses of dark humor, as well as thought-provoking themes, including not one, but two Queer love stories and the Civil Rights Movement. Number Five attempts to round-up his siblings so they can stop the apocalypse that is coming. Meanwhile, Diego has escaped from the psychiatric hospital with a fellow patient, Lila (Ritu Arya), who may not be who he thinks she is. Throughout all of this, the Hargreeves are forced to try and avoid being killed by The Swedes. Three storylines stand out for me this season – Vanya’s relationship with Sissy, the wife and mother she is staying with; Allison’s participation in a lunch counter sit-in; and Klaus’ antics as a cult leader, because who doesn’t love Klaus?
When Vanya arrives in the early 1960s, she has amnesia and ends up as a live-in nanny for a family in Dallas, TX, Sissy (Marin Ireland), her husband Carl (Stephen Bogaert), and their autistic son Harlan (Justin Paul Kelly). Eventually, Vanya and Sissy realize they are falling in love, but when Carl finds out, he threatens to use Harlan, who has a mysterious connection with Vanya, against them. Vanya and Sissy’s budding relationship is portrayed in a beautiful, loving way, but their love is put to the test when Number Five arrives, and time travel becomes involved.
Klaus is accompanied on his journey through the early 1960s by the ghost of Ben (Justin H. Min), who discovers that he can possess Klaus’ body, leading to a hilarious sequence. Along the way, Klaus has a few tender, heart-wrenching encounters with an old love, which addresses homophobia and heartbreak. Yes, THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY made me cry. Everyone knows Klaus is the most fabulous Hargreeves, and season two of THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY allows Klaus to be even more flamboyant than ever when he acquires a cult following. His followers all dress the same and write Hello and Goodbye on their palms, while he teaches them things like the lyrics to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” as scripture. The interactions between Klaus and his cult members are hysterically funny and lighten the mood of the second season. I have to mention how awesome the soundtrack is this season, and there is even a wildly amusing fight sequence backed by a Backstreet Boys song that is extremely satisfying.
The story of Allison’s new life in the 1960s is both timely and bittersweet. She has been living happily with her husband Raymond (Yusuf Gatewood), who knows nothing about her past or her abilities. Allison and Raymond are involved in the Civil Rights Movement and are part of a secret group planning a sit-in at a local diner that only serves white people. It’s impossible not to be moved by the scenes of Allison and her Black friends staging a sit-in, and the horrible police brutality that follows, including the beating of her husband Raymond, is amplified by the current Black Lives Matter Movement. In order to save Raymond from being beaten by police, Allison uses her ability to manipulate reality by saying, “I heard a rumor” for the first time since she has been in the 1960s, and Raymond witnesses her immense power. After a visit from Number Five, Luther shows up at Allison’s house, setting into motion a string of startling events.
While trying to prevent the apocalypse and get back to 2019, the Hargreeves children must deal with a dizzying array of things like hitmen, old enemies, their father Sir Reginald Hargreeves’ involvement in a mystery, and the discovery of someone very much like them. There seem to be endless obstacles to stopping the end of the world, but the fact that even in the face of things like evil, discrimination, and hatred, the Hargreeves siblings never stop trying, is inspiring. With an extraordinary cast and intimate subplots, that include Queer representation and empowered Black characters, season two of THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY is just what 2020 needs. It’s both exhilarating and heartbreaking, and ultimately it brought me joy. In a year when it feels like the world is ending in real-time, THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY gives me hope.