People are critical of Netflix at times. Although it is the world’s most popular streaming TV network it still has plenty of detractors. It’s rare you find anybody that criticises the format of the app. If anyone has a criticism to aim at the streaming giant it’s the content.
Of course, it does produce a lot of its own content now with varying success. Some of its shows are hits and some are definite misses. One of its recent hits is the oddly titled Umbrella Academy. It has had a lot of media exposure lately, so we decided to see what all the fuss was about. Warning there are mild spoilers.
The show’s tone is quite dark and a little fanciful. I guess you could liken the visual style to a Tim Burton movie, or A Series Of Unfortunate Events. The show does a neat job of introducing us to all the characters and their personalities (or in Luther’s case, lack of!) there’s a bit too much exposition in the first episode but once you get beyond that it’s definitely worth binge watching. It can be a bit sluggish though with lengthy episodes.
The basic plot is there is a group of kids who were all born on the same day. Nothing unusual there apart from the parents had no idea they were pregnant. There were 40-something kids born on this day. A billionaire recluse tried to convince parents to part with these special children and was successful with 7 of them. These seven kids are the shows main characters and form the Umbrella Academy.
Reginald, the children’s adopted father, trains the kids into a young superhero team. As the show progresses it quickly becomes apparent that there is an apocalypse in the future and this is why he has been training them. The show is based on a set of comics written by Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance fame. I have yet to read the comic series but the TV series feels very similar to the show Heroes. That is not a dreadful comparison. The first series of Heroes was a massive critical success and hugely entertaining.
While the Heroes comparison may be a flattering one the show needs to avoid the same pitfalls. Fortunately, Umbrella Academy probably won’t fall foul of a writers strike as Heroes did. Heroes also tried to introduce too many new characters in its second series when people were invested in the previous cast. The show will almost certainly have a second series (I won’t spoil it for you, the series ends satisfactorily but in a way that obviously suggests more to come.)
The characters seem a bit “stock-like” at first but some of them begin to develop and show some emotional depth. Weirdly the most likeable character in the whole show is one of the contract killers, Hazel. His ill-advised relationship should be weird but is actually really cute. Klaus really steals the show with his drug-addled character. He strikes a good balance, with a Jack-Sparrow like performance, interspersed with moments where he manages to convey genuine pain. He often shares the comic lines with “Number 5” who turns in a stellar performance throughout the series., belying the actor’s young age. (He is only 15 but pulls off the role with aplomb.)
So should I watch it?
Simply, yes. Especially if you are a fan of black comedy and superheroes. The Soundtrack is phenomenal, ranging from 90’s banger to contemporary fare and a whole host of stops in between. You will find yourself singing along at times if you are a thirty-something.