Plot: After putting a stop to 1963’s doomsday, the Umbrella Academy return home to the present, convinced they prevented the initial apocalypse and fixed this godforsaken timeline once and for all. But after a brief moment of celebration, they realize things aren’t exactly (okay, not at all) how they left them. Enter the Sparrow Academy. Smart, stylish, and about as warm as a sea of icebergs, the Sparrows immediately clash with the Umbrellas in a violent face-off that turns out to be the least of everyone’s concerns. Navigating challenges, losses, and surprises of their own – and dealing with an unidentified destructive entity wreaking havoc in the Universe (something they may have caused) — now all they need to do is convince Dad’s new and possibly better family to help them put right what their arrival made wrong. Will they find a way back to their pre-apocalyptic lives? Or is this new world about to reveal more than just a hiccup in the timeline?
Review: The first two seasons of The Umbrella Academy were very unique series tonally and in the superhero/comic book genre. Season one, which hewed closely to the source comic by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba, had a vibe that was a blend of Barry Sonnenfeld and Tim Burton. Quirky, surreal, and very fun, it spawned a bigger second season that deviated a bit further from the source material with a heavier time travel angle. The new season of The Umbrella Academy, which shares plot elements with the third volume of the comic as well as the yet-to-be-released fourth volume, has continued to develop into its own distinct narrative. With the cast of characters doubled with the introduction of The Sparrow Academy, this season of The Umbrella Academy rehashes some familiar plot elements we have seen so far but with a fresh mix of humor and a deeper exploration of the origin of the characters and their powers.
Picking up almost immediately from the second season finale, The Umbrella Academy opens with the showdown between our main characters and their alternate timeline replacements, The Sparrow Academy. Also comprised of seven superpowered children adopted by Reginald Hargreaves (Colm Feore), the Sparrows are Marcus (Justin Cornwell), Fei (Britne Oldford), Alphonso (Jake Epstein), Sloane (Genesis Rodriguez), Jayme (Cazzie David), and Ben (Justin H. Min). A fully aligned squad of heroes, the Sparrows are the ultimate match for the misfit Umbrella siblings who are still struggling in the wake of their 1963 adventure. In this new present, the Umbrellas must contend with how things are different now as well as another apocalyptic threat set to destroy the world. From the beginning, this season feels like a course correction from the two distinctly different seasons that came before it as the superpowers and their impact on the characters are more central than any other plot element.
This season also affords better storylines for the Umbrellas. Luther (Tom Hopper) explores his romantic side, Diego (David Castaneda) focuses on his feelings for Lila (Ritu Arya), Klaus (Robert Sheehan) explores his past and his powers, and Five (Aidan Gallagher) comes to terms with no longer needing to time travel. The biggest plot arcs for the main characters fall to Emmy Raver-Lampman and Elliot Page, both of whom give stellar performances. Raver-Lampman imbues Allison with a dark transformation as she deals with a significant personal loss thanks to her travels through time and borders on becoming an antagonist rather than a hero. Page’s real-world transition becomes a central plot point this season which could have turned this series into something preachy and come across as nothing more than virtue signaling. I am happy to say that Page clearly had input from the writing team on the series and it is a subplot that organically works its way into the season narrative and works very well.
The ten-episode third season of The Umbrella Academy is far larger in scale than the first two seasons. With each episode clocking in at almost a full hour, there is a ton of plot development and none of it feels wasted. By the time I made it to the eighth episode, I felt like I was on a fourth season rather than a third simply due to how much growth and change occurs for all of the characters in a short amount of time. The pacing this season is brisk but never feels rushed and manages to weave subplots and references from as far back as the first episodes of the first season. Even with a cast that is now twice as large as before, The Umbrella Academy gives everyone significant screen time and never wastes a reveal. Each episode is peppered with clues and twists and callbacks that will make those who recently rewatched the first two seasons adept at spotting the connections while still making you want to go back and rewatch the series from the very beginning.
This season sees the return of virtually the same team of writers and directors who constructed the second season, giving this year’s run a consistent feel as the 2020 episodes. Despite the time delay between the two years, the third season flows nicely from what came before it and boasts stronger special effects overall with some weak green screen work in the early chapters. Showrunner Steve Blackman doesn’t deviate from what fans of the series have come to love, especially in regards to Klaus and Five providing some of the best insults and comedic moments, but there is an overall darker feel this season. Still incredibly fun, The Umbrella Academy has some bleak elements this season and almost every single episode ends with a shocking moment that will have you quickly binging the subsequent chapter. If there are any faults with this season, it may be that there is just so much going on that it takes a lot of attention to digest it all and younger viewers may find the increasingly adult subject matter and complex philosophical components of the story a lot to process.
The third season of The Umbrella Academy is by far the most narratively complex and rewarding entry in this series to date and ends in such a way that could lead into a fourth season or satisfyingly end here without leaving too much hanging. The season ends with a less overt cliffhanger than either of the first two seasons but beautifully sets up so many directions the story could go next. Some of you may feel this season is too busy or replicates too much of what made the first two seasons so good. Yes, this season has a musical sequence that will be just as viral as the one from the first season. Yes, this season hinges on another end of days scenario caused by the Umbrellas themselves. The Umbrella Academy has found a formula that works and manages to make it feel new each time, this time with a darker tone while still being hilarious and heartfelt at the same time. I enjoyed this season quite a bit because it offered a return to established characters but manages to make them even more interesting than before.
The Umbrella Academy 3 premieres on June 20th on Netflix.