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August 21, 2020

Review: Umbrella Academy Season 2

(Header image via Netflix.)

The Umbrella Academy is a TV series based on the comic book series created by Gerard Way. The first season was released on Netflix on February 15, 2019; season 2 was released last month on July 31, 2020. It quickly became a teen fav with fantastical themes, superpowers, plot twists, and action. Ready to learn everything you need to know about The Umbrella Academy season 2? Let’s dig in.

(Spoiler alert! We’re going to uncover major plotlines throughout this post.)

Plot summary

Season 1

On October 1,1989, 43 women around the world gave birth—a seemingly normal occurrence, except none of them had shown any sign of pregnancy until labor began. In comes billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves, notorious for his dislike of children, who quickly adopts 7 of those newborn babies. The children all develop superpowers and become what Hargreeves calls “The Umbrella Academy.”

The kids are each given numbers for names—no one bothers to name them until Hargreeves creates their robot mother, Grace. All begin fighting crime with their honed abilities except for “Number 7,” or Vanya, who was told she had no special abilities. Here’s a quick rundown on each of the 7 siblings:

  • Number 1, Luther: He’s a part-ape man with super strength who lived on the moon for four years.
  • Number 2, Diego: Diego is a master of knives and grows up to become a vigilante hungry for justice.
  • Number 3, Allison: She has the ability to control anyone with the phrase “I heard a rumor.” Any time she completes that sentence, the person under her control will be compelled to do what she says. Allison grows up to become a famous actress and has a daughter named Claire.
  • Number 4, Klaus: He’s able to communicate with the dead, and grows up to become a flamboyant drug addict and alcoholic.
  • Number 5: Number 5 was never given another name. He has the ability to jump through time and space. He disappeared at the age of 13 after a mishap with time travel but returned 15 years later (in the first episode of season 1).
  • Number 6, Ben: Ben’s ability is sprouting massive tentacles, but he dies at the age of 14 while fighting crime with his siblings. He’s Klaus’ sidekick throughout seasons 1 and 2, as Klaus is the only one who can talk to the dead.
  • Number 7, Vanya: Though Vanya was told her whole life that she had no special abilities whatsoever, it’s revealed later in season 1 that she has the most powerful ability of all: she can convert sound into a destructive force, which has the ability to demolish buildings and kill people. She grows up to become a violinist, and it’s through this passion of hers that she first discovers her powers.

In season 1, Number 5 returns from the future to warn his family that the apocalypse is coming in eight days. The siblings battle divisiveness, bitter grudges, and death in an attempt to band together to stop the end of the world. In the end, Vanya is the one who causes the apocalypse, as anger over her years-suppressed powers boils over into a destructive rampage.

Season 2

At the end of season 1, Five used his time travel abilities to pull his family out of the apocalypse. But at the start of season 2, we find that the time jump scattered the siblings across three years in the 1960s (‘60-63) in Dallas, Texas, right in the thick of the Civil Rights movement. Allison, the only living person of color in the family, joins the movement and finds herself fighting for her own rights as she struggles with harsh persecution.

Though the apocalypse of season 1 happened in the year 2019, the siblings are dismayed to learn that they’ve done it again: The apocalypse is coming in a mere matter of days, but this time it’s coming 56 years earlier than they thought it would. So yet again, they must band together to fight the impending doom, but this time with even more complications hindering them. Diego has just escaped from a psych ward, Vanya’s been hit by a car and lost all of her memory, and Klaus found himself a literal cult-following as he accidentally started a new religion, to name a few.

Mature themes

At the heart of it, The Umbrella Academy is a good ole’ action-packed show, perfect for thrill-seekers and super-hero-lovers. But at times, the violence can get pretty graphic. In fact, throughout season 2, we see a wide range of mature themes including everything from sexuality to drug addiction (more on those below). The show uses bad language at times, and discusses death, even suicide. So be sure to discern for your own family whether or not this is a show you’re comfortable with your kid watching.

Racial inequality

As we discussed above, season 2 is set right in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement of the early 1960s. At this time in our country, the Academy’s discussion of racial inequality is more relevant than ever. The show takes us back to a time of segregation, persecution, bigotry, and hatred. Allison, one of the main characters, was thrown out of a restaurant on her first night in Dallas after a worker pointed to a “whites only” sign. She found solace in the company of the men and women at a Black hair salon, where she eventually met and fell in love with her husband, the leader of a civil rights group. Throughout the season, Allison is caught between wanting to fight for the movement and make a difference and trying to save the world from the new apocalypse.

Discussion questions:

Though we’ve come a long way since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, racial tensions are still clearly part of our national discourse. Your teen may have questions as they watch the 1960s Movement unfold. If you’d like, you can use this TV show as an open door for discussion with them about how they’re feeling about the current state of the U.S.

  • How do you feel when you see dramatizations of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement?
  • Do you see any parallels between racial tensions back then and now? What improvements have been made? Do you feel like there’s still more to overcome?

The Umbrella Academy features two main love affairs: Diego and Lila, and Vanya and Sissy. When Diego was locked up in a psych ward, he found friendship with Lila, which eventually turned to romance. After escaping the psych ward he falls in love with her, and they have sex. Later in season 2, Diego discovers that Lila has been lying to him all along: she’s a secret spy for the Commission, an organization in charge of maintaining the world’s proper timeline. The broken trust is harder given the fact that they’ve been sexually intimate. But in the end, they mend those wounds and he renews his love for her once more.

The second love affair is between Vanya and Sissy. Sissy is the woman who ran Vanya over with her car, causing Vanya’s severe memory loss. Given Vanya is in a new time period with nowhere to call home, Sissy takes her in as nanny to her son Harlan, a child with undiagnosed autism. While Vanya is living in Sissy’s home with her husband and son, the two women develop a close relationship. Sissy doesn’t feel seen by her husband, and she’s unable to truly communicate and connect with her son, so Vanya seems like a brilliant ray of hope in Sissy’s lonely, drab world. Their friendship eventually turns to romance, as they have sex and dream about running away together.

The topic of LGBTQ+ love may be a touchy subject for your teen, but it’s an important conversation to have. Whether or not your teen agrees with your views on LGBTQ+, if you and your teen are watching this show you could use Vanya and Sissy’s relationship to enter into this conversation. 

Discussion questions:
  • How does trust affect relationships, both romantic and platonic?
  • What happens when that trust is broken?
  • Why do you think Vanya and Sissy got together?
  • Do you think their relationship is healthy? Why or why not?
  • What does the bible say about same-sex attraction?
  • What are your thoughts on the show’s portrayal of same-sex attraction?
Substance abuse

Klaus, aka Number Four, is a raging alcoholic and drug addict. Throughout the entire series, Klaus is constantly high or in search of something to get him high. The family clearly doesn’t like his addiction, but seem to have sort of given up on him. Klaus is going to do what Klaus does, basically. 

One thing to be aware of is how the show often uses his addiction as comedic relief. In season 1 we saw Klaus and his siblings trying to fight the addiction, but by season 2 it’s almost a lost cause. He’s lost in a sea of substance abuse, with no way to get out. He uses and abuses whatever he can get his hands on as a way to cope with his unusual upbringing, the baggage he carries from a difficult childhood, the death of his father, the never-ending apocalypses, and more. And despite these being very real and difficult feelings Klaus is trying to suppress, his substance abuse is portrayed as humorous, not as something sad and difficult. Breaks in tense, dramatic moments are brought on by a funny remark from an intoxicated Klaus.

Discussion questions:
  • What are your thoughts on how substance use is portrayed in this show?
  • What do you think brought Klaus to his addiction in the first place? What perpetuated it?
  • Do you think there’s room for humor when it comes to addiction?
  • Do you think the show is making light of addiction, or are they attempting to show the ways different people handle it?

Obviously, there are some heavy themes in this show, but those can be great opportunities for meaningful conversation with your teen. If this is a show your teen really connects with, watching and discussing The Umbrella Academy with your kid can be a great way to grow your relationship and show them you’re not afraid to explore difficult topics with them.

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