Umbrella Academy – Season 3

Stranger Things, The Boys, and Umbrella Academy… all launched within a couple weeks. They may not have identical markets, but there’s a pile of overlap. Seems a really weird decision… unless this is the point of the year that people unsubscribe? May be too cynical.

Anyhoot, I’ve watched the Umbrella Academy with an odd curiosity. The premise is somewhat simple, what if there was a dysfunctional superhero family? This is different from The Boys, where the supes are simply evil, here they are simply flawed. But flawed in a way that if they overreact, really bad things happen for other people. Maybe the premise is “what if immature kids had super powers”?

Season 1 was about dealing with their horrible father and their destiny of causing the end of the world. Season 2 had them time travel backwards and go through similar steps (though with a significant amount of cultural context). In both, there was a continual antagonist force of The Commission, a group that controlled the timeline.

Season 3 sees them pull a Back to the Future 2, back to the present but with changes. Their actions in the past (with their father) meant he didn’t adopt them, but others instead (Sparrows). And a similar set of actions has created a paradox that threatens to destroy the universe (though in this context, it’s still just Earth). The Commission is gone, and the antagonists are the Sparrows and themselves.

The net result is a significant amount of character bloat and the feeling of “the same” from prior seasons. The scenery is smaller (mostly within a hotel) and the episodes are shorter. It’s a weird mix, honestly, where there’s very little story progress at all, but tons of character development. The end of the season is the “cleanest” of all the endings so far, but still leaves room for more.

Some notes:

  • The Elliot Page transition is handled in character, and handled in a way I’d hope most humans would
  • Luther’s character arc here is a long time coming, and finally acts like the audience surrogate he was supposed to be.
  • Victor’s arc remains extremely painful to go through. It’s finally called out with a statement like “you know what they call a superhero that doesn’t listen to anyone else? A villain”. Where all the siblings are childish (well not Five), Victor’s power levels are such that their outbursts are catastrophic.
  • Diego’s arc is really quite solid. The relationship with Lila (strong chemistry) makes it a fascinating growth.
  • Five is interesting, and still the strongest character in the series. A leader who wants to just enjoy life, but keeps getting pulled back in to clear up the mess. Aidan Gallagher does a fantastic job.
  • Klaus finally comes into his own, which is both cool to see and frustrating that it took this long. While his character himself finally finds himself, his role in the larger context is pure deus ex machina. Still steals every scene he’s in.
  • Allison… I am not a fan of the arc here. I won’t spoil it, but there’s a particular scene with her and Luther that is beyond the pale compared to the other insanity in the series. Allison has always been a selfish character, using her powers for her self-gratification. That continues here, but to another level. Given this purposeful usage of power, I consider her to be the true villain.
  • Reginald Hargreeves has a weird arc here, where the first few episodes have him positioned as bumbling idiot who’s forced to pop pills. When the pills are removed, then he turns back into a puppet master. I dunno, it’s 2 different characters and feels like it comes out of left field.
  • Sparrows – Ben is interesting, in that he’s no longer a selfless character but one continuously looking for external approval. It fits well with the rest of the siblings. The remainder of the Sparrows are window dressing with horrible character traits (what if superheroes have no villains to fight?).
  • The music choices remain a strong highlight, in particular the Footloose battle in episode 1. The quirkiness of the series is the true highlight, and music choice is the best part.

Season 2 remains the standout in the larger context, and Season 3 loses a lot due to the lack of crazy and clear villain. I would be surprised if there was a Season 4 given the challenges present in this season and Netflix’s penchant to cancel as much as possible. It would be unfortunate, as the ideas here are quite solid. We can use more quirky bits, the world is serious enough.

2 thoughts on “Umbrella Academy – Season 3

  1. I still found this season to be very strong but otherwise agree with your notes. The Allison scene you refer to.. Hooboy. I’d love to know the motivation the writers had while putting that scene together.

    Apparently, if a Season 4 does get greenlit, it’s the last the showrunner has planned. Which, for me, means I hope it does get season 4 and then no more. xD I think Supernatural will ever be the cautionary tale I think of when shows continue past the point their runners had planned to end things.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved it. The plot is weaker and there are fewer hilarious set pieces but the much deeper character development easily outweighs any shortcomings. There has to be a fourth season – this is a beginning not an ending. If it doesn’t then at least Lila and Diego should get a spin-off.

    I agree with nearly all your notes, particularly in re Alison’s arc. It’s not only her assault on Luther, it’s the whole thing. Also, Five’s comment on ants was a bit much. I don’t really buy the idea that the show predicates on a dysfunctional superhero family, though. That just seems like the sit in a sitcom – a reason to get the characters together. After all, the first two seasons are pretty much sitcoms.

    Liked by 1 person

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