Television

Binge-Watched: A Review of Umbrella Academy

A remote control pointing to a blurry television.

A remote control pointing to a blurry television.

Umbrella Academy is a new series on Netflix. I’d say it’s urban fantasy, my favorite genre to read and watch.

Despite some irritations, I loved this show.  I had no knowledge of the comic so had no expectations, which may have allowed me to enjoy the show instead of looking for where it diverged.

The premise seems to be this: On October 1, 1989, 43 women who had not been pregnant that morning gave birth. A rich entrepreneur adopts 7 of them.  He trains them as superheroes to combat crime. Each child has a unique superpower. For some reason, unexplained but perhaps hinted at, the children go their separate ways. This story takes place when they reunite at their father’s death.

Many of the characters are a bit stereotypical. But can we expect more from comic book villains and heroes?  We saw their flaws and strengths in concrete terms. However, I found most of them to be sympathetic. I tend to be attracted to stories of broken heroes and this one gives me three--Luther, Diego, and Klaus.  

There were a few others worth mentioning. I adored Hazel and the donut lady. I liked Bobo and felt so much emotion from “mom” even though she was supposed to be an automaton. I cared and worried about these people. On the other hand, one major irritant was the show’s inconsistencies. Luther’s size was all over the board.  And the speed of the relationship between Leonard and Vanya was hard to believe. Speaking of Vanya, I also couldn’t believe her total personality metamorphosis took only 3 or 4 days. As this was a major part of the season’s arc, I had some difficulty staying connected to the storyline.

 Even with the irritants, what the series does well had me hooked--Giving viewers a reason to care about the characters.  I watched the entire season in two days. And I’m sure I’ll watch it again.

Along for the Ride

**Minor Spoilers**My friend calls me a serial obsessionist. That isn’t completely true. I really have several obsessions at any given time.

At the moment, I’m hooked on Sons of Anarchy. I’ve seen ads for the show for years and said to myself, “I’m going to watch it as soon as I have time to catch up on the older seasons.” But the time never came—until I signed up for Netflix. Suddenly SoA and tons of other shows that looked tempting became available.

- MARCH 16: Motorcycle Season opening parade with thousands of participants. April 24, 2010, Riga, Latvia.

The plan was to watch the pilot episodes of a number of shows: Community, The Blacklist, or Red Road (Jason Momoa…mmmm) for example. But I started with Sons of Anarchy. Once I saw the first episode, I never looked back. I eat, sleep and breathe SoA. This week I’ve finished Seasons 1 & 2, and started Season 3. I’ve lost sleep, I’ve laughed, I’ve cried—how could they kill off Half Sac? I’ve become obsessed.

As a writer, I can’t keep from analyzing it. First, how did the writer turn a motorcycle gang of gun runners and killers into the good guys? What the hell did he do to make the upstanding, kind and honorable police officer the bad guy? Talk about lessons in character development.

It’s also fascinating to watch beloved characters make bad decisions. When the decision is in line with the character’s personality, life or circumstance—like when Jaxx (Charlie Hunnam) fights despite a desire to leave that life, or when his doctor girlfriend slugs the hospital administrator—you get it. You even support the bad decision. But when the decision makes no sense in light of the character as they’ve been written so far, or is irrational considering the current circumstance—Whoa. It’s hard to watch.

For instance, when the Sons have Zobelle (Adam Arkin) cornered in the convenience store with plans to kill him (Yay!), but leave because Jaxx wants to chase a different bad guy. It wouldn’t have taken that long to shank the guy, right? If they’d only taken a hot second they could have “finished it”, as Clay, leader of the SoA would say. Sure, keeping Zobelle alive leaves the door open for future conflict but it was a stupid, illogical decision.

Fortunately, the men of Sons of Anarchy are largely consistent and make decisions that are “true to form”, which is one of the reasons we can’t seem to get enough of them. Action packed episodes, and gut-wrenching emotion are additional critical reasons.

Incredibly hot, powerful men don’t hurt either.  Heading back to my binge watching. Saddle up and ride, boys.