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Having not read the source comic, I don't know if Umbrella Academy is a good adaptation. What I do know is that — despite having pacing problems similar to that of other Netflix shows — it's exceedingly bingeable. Although each episode is an hour long and could probably stand to be 10-15 minutes shorter, they're always set up in a way that leaves you wanting more. The Hargreeves family's poor communication skills and general dysfunction accounts for much of the padding. However, that's the series' whole hook — if they actually liked, trusted, and worked well with each other, they could probably stop the apocalypse in two episodes, so if you can handle an Idiot Ball or four, it shouldn't be too bad. That said, the worldbuilding is rather interesting, and the season ends in a way that makes me curious for what may come next.
The series' strongest points are its characters and visual style. Despite all their flaws (and there are many), there's something to like about all the Hargreeves siblings, and their actors portray them very charmingly. They all get focus and character arcs, although admittedly some are handled better than others. For me, the standouts are Five (who nails the balance between "My family sucks" and "I'm glad to be back with them" extremely well), Klaus (Robert Sheehan at his campiest), and Vanya (whom you can't help but feel sorry for even as her circumstances worsen).
On the latter, the series visually strikes a good middle ground between the softness of Wes Anderson and the dark whimsy of Tim Burton. The set design incorporates anachronistic technology and costuming very well, and the soundtrack is a lot of fun.
All in all, I enjoyed this show despite all its flaws and pitfalls.
An eccentric millionaire adopts and trains up a team of superpowered children, with the help of his chimpanzee butler and 50s themed robot housewife. Unfortunately his tutelage has left them utterly unprepared to behave as ordinary, functioning human beings, and by the time The Umbrella Academy starts, our child superheroes have grown into a disparate group of maladjusted loonie adults who hate each other. Interested? Well sadly, Academy is a show crammed with interesting ideas, but all of these are squandered in an overly ponderous, overly melodramatic, and generally over-made story.
So if you've been around TV Tropes long enough you will have read about the Idiot Plot. Academy depends on seven idiot heroes, two idiot villains, and a whole bunch of other idiots, all to drive the story. Specifically, the main arc follows number 5, the most interesting of the super powered children (he's a time and space jumping 58-year-old trapped in a boy's body), who is on a quest to stop the apocalypse happening in a week's time. Unfortunately he's really bad at communicating this. And unfortunately everyone else is too stupid to really pay proper attention anyway.
The rest of the team consist of a woman who can command anyone to do anything (but barely uses this power), a man with the upper torso of a gorilla (who looks utterly ridiculous), a druggie who can speak with the dead (who is by far the most obnoxious), a squid boy (who is a ghost), and a guy who throws knives really well (who never listens to anyone), and Ellen Paige (who mopes about a lot). The show managed to make me hate all these characters, and at no point did I ever relate to them or sympathise with their circumstances. Which is a problem when asked to sit through 10 hours of television.
Without going too much into spoilers, the result of all these idiots intercommunicating with one another is that they end up trapped in what is basically a retread of the plot from The X-men III, or maybe that one episode of Darkplace where Liz goes berserk and starts throwing screwdrivers at people. At least in Darkplace they joke about the implicit sexism of these sorts of stories, whereas Academy plays it straight that really powerful women are just going to get over-emotional and blow up the world.
Before playing the tenth and final episode, I really hesitated about whether I wanted to finish the series, and tip another 47 minutes of my time down the drain. Well, I sat through it so hopefully you won't have to. Skip this!
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