This article contains minor spoilers for all seasons of “The Umbrella Academy”.
“The Umbrella Academy” has returned for a third season to expand the unique and quirky space the show occupies in television. In addition to cementing its place in the superhero genre, the season pushes an even more ambitious narrative — incorporating higher stakes, an increasingly weird and complex plot, interesting character directions and more of its signature offbeat humor.
Created by Steve Blackman, the show is based on the comic book series of the same name by Gabriel Bá and Gerard Way of the rock band My Chemical Romance. Born mysteriously on the same day and time, the seven members of the Umbrella Academy were adopted by eccentric billionaire Reginald Hargreeves to form a team of heroes — each with distinct superpowers ranging from super strength to teleportation to the ability to commune with the dead.
The show’s plot concerns the siblings reuniting as adults to prevent an impending apocalypse, with the new season picking up immediately from the cliffhanger that was left at the end of season two.
The timeline the Umbrella Academy has returned to does not resemble the one that they were previously in — season two introduced time travel and season three brings them back to a parallel universe in modern day where their actions in the past have dramatically changed their present. In this timeline, they have been replaced by a team of different siblings called the Sparrow Academy.
In addition to being at odds with their new rivals, the members of the Umbrella Academy must come to grips with their own personal challenges as well as face the biggest apocalyptic threat they have ever come across.
The best moments in the previous seasons of “The Umbrella Academy” involve nuanced characterization beyond the superhero masks and this season is no different. The siblings continue to individually face and overcome the trauma of being a member of the Academy and the pressure of having supernatural abilities. The third season also solidifies the family dynamic as a whole. A strong, fervent cast allows wonderful line delivery of the offbeat writing and fast-paced character development.
Namely, Viktor Hargreeves’ — played by Elliot Page — transition and exploration of his transgender identity was handled in a way that felt unforced and natural while still being in line with the character’s arc. Viktor casually coming out to his siblings was one of the most heartwarming moments of the season, imperative not only for Viktor’s character development but also in bringing out the siblings’ love and respect for each other.
The character choice was an incorporation of Page’s own transgender identity which he announced publicly in December of 2020 — this season is one of his first works since. The softness and personal experience Page brings to the role perfectly balances out Viktor’s unpredictable, dangerous and very powerful ability to manipulate sound waves.
Teleporting and time-traveling assassin Five Hargreeves — played by Aidan Gallagher — also continues to prove to be one of the show’s greatest assets. Five arguably has one of the most unique backstories of the show, being an old man stuck in the body of a young teenager — a difficult personality that Gallagher captures remarkably well. Gallagher never falters in his performance as the hard-headed cynic and remains one of the best parts of “The Umbrella Academy.”
Other standouts of the season include Diego and Klaus Hargreeves — played by David Castañeda and Robert Sheehan, respectively — who are both given very mature arcs that mark a significant departure from their characters in previous seasons. Castañeda is able to portray Diego’s newfound and unexpected responsibility of fatherhood with a particular warmth and angst that beautifully contrasts each other, and Sheehan continues to make Klaus one of the most endearing characters with a surprising amount of depth for a role many would relegate to comedic relief.
The only character direction that is hard to get on board with this season is Allison — played by Emmy Raver-Lampman. Allison is stricken by grief and driven to spiral into detrimental habits, and despite Raver-Lampman’s heartbreaking performance, the problem is in the writing of her actions.
With the ability to control others to abide by her will, she uses her gifts to her own benefit with a lack of remorse or consequences for the emotional trauma it induces on her siblings. This season, Allison feels like female rage taken to an unjustifiable and unnecessary extent, beyond the point of redemption with no sign of growth throughout the season.
With so many characters and storylines, “The Umbrella Academy” is a show that has always felt crowded, but this season feels even more so with increasingly thickening plots and backstories in addition to more siblings. The season introduced a new slew of cast members through the much anticipated Sparrow Academy, though many of the Sparrow siblings felt two-dimensional and had very minimal screentime. With the new team being so underdeveloped, it feels like wasted potential since the Sparrow siblings had different powers and team dynamics from the Umbrella Academy.
Despite the flaws in pacing and plot points, the cinematography and framing of scenes emulated that of comic drawings –– taken from the styles of Wes Anderson films –– and were extremely entertaining. The season also provided the show’s trademark dance scenes, which are not only very fun to watch but also often masterfully express characters’ internal dialogue in ways real dialogue could not.
The show’s characteristic penchant for needle drops also carried over into the third season. Renowned songs in pop culture such as “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins make appearances alongside more obscure gems such as “What Makes You A Man” by The Ninth Wave to accompany scenes. Just as in previous seasons, the diverse soundtrack is part of what makes the show stand out apart from other media forms covering the superhero universe. The visual and auditory style of intense scenes adds to its quirky nature and puts “The Umbrella Academy” in the sweet spot between unconventional and very pleasing.
“The Umbrella Academy” may not be for everyone. Viewers must be able to tolerate and even be satisfied with nonlinear and unexplained storylines and unanswered questions, with the occasional glossed-over storyline.
However, those who are willing and able to look past those imperfections are in for an exhilarating story that is well-crafted in terms of writing, soundtrack and cinematography — played out impeccably by a well-rounded cast. The third season proves “The Umbrella Academy” to be a very entertaining show that trusts its audience and continues to break out of cliches common in the modern superhero genre.