“The Umbrella Academy”: So Much More Than an Emo Take On X-Men

Ellen Page in "The Umbrella Academy"

Based on the graphic novel by former My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way, one might be forgiven for assuming The Umbrella Academy is just another gimmicky (albeit more emo) take on X-Men. Of course, if you watch the series from start to finish, you will discover that it is so much more.

What elevates the series more than anything are the characters themselves. We come to understand and appreciate the dynamics of a group of disparate and broken individuals that were thrust into a unique family by a twisted and domineering patriarch.

The story begins on a day when children all around the globe are miraculously born simultaneously from previously unpregnant women. Seven of these are adopted by the enigmatic and somewhat twisted Sir Reginald Hargreaves, who takes them into his Umbrella Academy to groom them for high profile superherodom.

Fast forward to the present day, they are grown up, disbanded, disillusioned and have all left the academy only to be reunited there by the death of their father. Most awkward of these is Ellen Page’s Vanya, the outsider sibling with no powers who was always excluded and around whom much of the story centers.

During a less than touching funeral led by ape butler Pogo, time-travelling sibling Number 5 appears through a portal after being missing for 16 years. Unbeknownst to them, he has been stuck in a post-apocalyptic future and returned with the knowledge that the world is due to end in 8 days. Despite being stuck there for decades in his timeline, he returns in his child form. Aiden Gallagher’s portrayal of a 58 year old man stuck in a child’s body is remarkable.

Although much of the apocalypse plot line is slightly formulaic and predictable, this doesn’t matter as it is still engaging and serves as a vehicle for the numerous intriguing sub-plots related to the characters themselves. The character development is superbly portrayed and all this is accompanied by an excellent soundtrack.

Umbrella Academy is exceptionally well cast, including a consistently scene-stealing role from Misfits star Robert Sheehan. Sheehan takes on the role of the tormented and drug-addled ghost-seeing Klaus. We also receive a literally towering performance of self-righteousness by Colossus Tom Hopper as Luther, who could easily use this performance as an audition to be the next Captain America should Chris Evans ever hang up his shield.

Throw in the suited time-travelling assassins Hazel and Cha Cha tasked with ensuring the apocalypse goes ahead as planned and a gripping adventure of twists and turns… well, you have a show that definitely falls under the category of binge-worthy.