The Hargreeves siblings are now scattered throughout the early ’60s in Dallas. But with the timeline-protecting Commission still on their super-heels, The Umbrella Academy must somehow stop Armageddon again.
How many times can you end the world in one TV show? According to The Umbrella Academy, the answer is never enough. Having dropped a chunk of the moon on us during Season 1’s climax, the second season serves up its planet-trashing encore before the first episode’s title even appears.
After a thrilling opening montage separates the superpowered Hargreeves siblings and dumps them across the first few years of the ’60s in Dallas, Texas, we witness them all promptly obliterated by a Soviet-fired nuclear missile. As in the first season, it is up to the time-hopping 58-year-old-in-a-teen’s-body Five (the superb Aidan Gallagher) to dip back into the recent past, try to unite his family and stop everything going mushroom-cloud-shaped.
Which may all sound very ‘been there, watched that’. But, given Season 1 served up such surprising, surreal treats as a talking chimp, fluffy-toy-headed assassins, a robot mommy and a romance with a department-store dummy, you can be reassured that this next ten-part instalment feels no less weirdly fresh.
Not an episode passes without a great gag, impressive visual beat or fantastic music-driven sequence.
Each of the no-weak-link ensemble is given their own, ’60s-flavoured storyline as they have to integrate themselves into the era in their own, special way. The ghost-manipulating Klaus (Robert Sheehan), still trailed by his dead brother Ben (Justin H. Min, who gets much more to do this time), sets himself up as a mystical cult leader by quoting modern-day pop lyrics at his eager followers. The mind-controlling Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) falls in love with a civil-rights activist. Burly ape-man Luther (Tom Hopper) gains employment as a bodyguard for Mobster Jack Ruby, while Diego (David Castañeda) is locked up in an asylum thanks to his obsession with preventing the Kennedy assassination. And the explosive Vanya (Ellen Page) winds up as a nanny on a farm while suffering from amnesia — a hoary device which we can thankfully write off as another way the show mischievously toys with genre clichés.
As each discovers new things about themselves and the group gradually start to cohere as a (still bickering) family unit, we also gain further insights into many of Season 1’s mysteries. Such as the inner workings of the Commission (the timeline-preserving bureaucracy which, it turns out, is run by a talking goldfish, of course) and the background of the Hargreeves’ seemingly sociopathic adoptive father, Reginald (Colm Feore).
Maintaining the show’s distinctive, offbeat style — think the Coens doing superheroes — and sharp-edged sense of humour, not an episode passes without a great gag, impressive visual beat or fantastic music-driven sequence. And there’s a very welcome new cast addition in Brit actor Ritu Arya, whose sardonic and unhinged asylum-escapee Lila proves to be far more than a spiky romantic interest for Diego.
What it all adds up to, we’re still not sure. But we don’t really care, either. If the end of the world is always this fun, we hope it just keeps on ending.
The ’60s proves a suitable new setting for a superhero show which has always had the mindbendy tang of lysergic acid about it. But don’t worry, it’s a great trip.