"The Umbrella Academy" is far different from its comic book predecessors. (Illustration via Kell Kitsch, Deakin University)

Why Everyone Should Be Watching Netflix’s ‘The Umbrella Academy’

Its soundtrack and seven protagonists will have you hooked from the get-go.

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Its soundtrack and seven protagonists will have you hooked from the get-go.

Since 2013, Netflix has created original content and continues to dish out more each year. On Feb. 15, the popular streaming service acquired “The Umbrella Academy,” which is based on a comic book series of the same name. It was created by Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance’s lead singer) and Gabriel Bá, an artist. Initially, it was set to be a feature film by Universal Pictures in 2011, but, thanks to Netflix, audiences have a TV series worthy of binge-watching.

Fans of the original source material will be delighted to know that both Way and Bá are acting as executive producers of the show, which means they will stay true to the story.

What Is It About?

“The Umbrella Academy” follows the tale of a dysfunctional and estranged family of superheroes, who must set aside their differences to stop the apocalypse.

The story begins on Oct. 1, 1989, where 43 women, who weren’t pregnant at the start of the day and have absolutely no connection to one another, give birth. Brilliant, scientist-billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) travels the world offering money for each baby born (weird, right?) only to adopt seven.

Hargreeves names each child One through Seven, raising them with the aid of his talking chimpanzee assistant, Pogo (Adam Godley), and Grace, a mother-nanny-bot who gives the children actual names. Apparently, the robot is more human than the billionaire. He turns the children who have special skills and abilities into the superhero team known as “The Umbrella Academy.”

Seventeen years later, circumstances cause the family to part ways, only to be reunited by the sudden death of their father. While they attempt to work together to solve the mystery surrounding their father’s unfortunate passing, they soon learn that the world is set to end in eight days.

Why Everyone Should Be Watching It

The world of comic books is brimming with strange and amazing stories, but even so, “The Umbrella Academy” stands out. In addition to its compelling premise, the show has a stellar cast of characters and super powers. The group consists of seven members, each one ranked in order of their abilities and usefulness.

Number One, Luther (Tom Hopper), is a human/Martian ape hybrid with enhanced physical strength and resilience. When first introduced, he was sent on a mission to the moon and lived there for four years. Alone.

Number Two, Diego (David Castañeda), is a gifted knife-thrower who is the most reckless and rebellious of the adopted children. He also has the ability to hold his breath for long periods of time.

Number Three, Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), is an actress who can manipulate people’s actions by starting the sentence with, “I heard a rumor … ”

Number Four, Klaus (Robert Sheehan), is a drug addict who can communicate with the dead. Klaus, when sober, can also bring spirits into the real world as a physical being. This would, however, require him being sober.

Number Five (Aidan Gallagher) is the only one of the seven whose name hasn’t been revealed and thus, only goes by Number Five. His powers allow him to jump through space and time, even time traveling to the day the world ends. He also carries around a half mannequin named Dolores who he seems to have a “thing” with. Hilarity ensues.

Number Six, Ben (Justin H. Min), is dead during the show, but nobody is sure what exactly happened to him, only that it was an accident. What is known about Ben is his ability to become a monster.

Finally, Number Seven, Vanya (Ellen Page), is a violinist who is frequently told she is ordinary and often left out of just about everything, even the family photo. Poor Vanya.

Although it’s never explained what happened to Ben, his death is what first broke up the superhero team, who have been dealing with their own personal struggles ever since. As the story goes on, their past is revealed, showing audiences how messed up their lives were and how their current situations came to be. They don’t share their lives together, but they do have a tendency to murder and are quite violent, which sets them apart from your average hero.

While most superheroes on the big and small screens today are unwavering, “The Umbrella Academy” brings a quirky spin to the superhero saga. The comic books are bizarre and wacky, while captivating audiences with their dysfunctional family of super-weirdos. It would have made no sense for Netflix to downplay some of the stranger elements of the story.

Netflix’s decision to keep the TV show as weird as the comic book is part of a wider movement by the streaming service to “nurture the weirdo within,” according to Independent.co.uk.

A show wouldn’t be quite complete without music though, and “The Umbrella Academy” has a killer soundtrack, curated by the comic’s creator, Gerard Way.

Given that Way is the frontman for My Chemical Romance, you knew that music was going to be a very important element to the series. Way contributed two cover songs for the show, The Bangles’ “Hazy Shade of Winter” and “Happy Together” by The Turtles.

The show’s soundtrack is an eclectic mix, from classic songs by The Doors and Queen to modern hits like Woodkid’s “Run Boy Run,” with a few obscure numbers thrown in as well. The show plays the perfect songs with each scene, such as the episode where Number Five is fighting in the donut shop with “Istanbul” by They Might Be Giants playing in the background. The best scene is in the first episode with Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now,” when the camera spans out and you can see our dysfunctional heroes dancing their cares away for a brief moment.

Overall, “The Umbrella Academy” is an enticing addition to the superhero genre. It’s a mixture of drama, action, science fiction and of course, superhero, which makes for an interesting show. Despite some confusion, the show is riveting.

There are many surprises revealed in every episode, captivating fans new and old, but there are plenty of unanswered questions, such as what happened to Ben? And Will fans have a chance of knowing? Well, the good news is “The Umbrella Academy” has been renewed for a second season, so, eventually, yes.

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