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TV Series Review

Parenthood is an imprecise science. None of us gets it exactly right. But most of us, thankfully, come closer than Sir Reginald Hargreeves.

Hargreeves wasn't what you would call particularly loving. Or affectionate. Or tolerant. He didn't seem to like kids much at all, in fact—which makes you wonder why he took the trouble of adopting seven of them.

Oh, they were seven special children, admittedly. The fact that they were born on the same day would be merely unusual. The fact that they were born to women who, that very morning, hadn't even been pregnant made them remarkable.

So Sir Reginald—the world's most eccentric, reclusive billionaire—tracked them down, paid their birth mothers handsomely and took them all home, pushing them into a rigorous training regimen designed to hone their special gifts to a fine edge and to turn them into the greatest collection of (let's just say it) adolescent superheroes this side of the Charles Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters.

He tested them conscientiously, drilled them constantly and thrilled at their achievements. Sure, he never actually gave them names—he simply numbered them, like lab rats—but surely that doesn't disqualify him for getting a "No. 1 Dad" mug, does it? Plus, they all had more important things on their mind than affection and family. Heroes have no time for hearth and home.

Alas, things didn't work out according to Sir Reginald's design. Most of his numbered adoptees rebelled, with one even writing a tell-all biography. All of them walked out of their adopted father's life. Only when Sir Reginald mysteriously died did they return—only to find that they, and the entire world, are facing with a cataclysmic future that, by happenstance, only they can prevent.

If they can stop squabbling long enough, that is.

Famility Wars

A lot of water, and not a little blood, has gone under the bridge since the brothers and sisters wore domino masks and fought crime together. Luther, whom his father called No. 1, took his massive, muscled, mysteriously hairy frame to space. No. 2, Diego, took his knife-flinging skills into the city's dark streets, protecting the innocent and maiming the guilty. No. 3, Allison, took her good looks and style to Hollywood's red carpets—only using her hypnotic skill set when absolutely necessary. And No. 4, Klaus, whose special ability is the knack to speak with the dead, seems determined to join his psychic pals as soon as humanly possible.

No. 5 was a boy when he first left his daddy's mansion—teleporting not just through space (as is his way) but through time, as well. But now he's back, ruminating on the dark things he's seen in the future, and dodging shady assassins along the way. Ben, No. 6, didn't just disappear. He died. Which might be just as well. Something shadowy and sinister and ever-so-lethal lurked inside him, and who knows what would happen if he were still around.

And No. 7 … well, what about Vanya, anyway? Her father told her she was "nothing special," and she was never allowed to join in their sibling superpower games. She's all grown up now and is a fine violinist, but that's about it. Or is it? Time will tell … if they collectively have enough of it, that is.

Unlucky to Open This Umbrella

The Umbrella Academy saw its own birth back in 2007 in the pages of a Dark Horse Comics limited series. And while some details have changed, most of its characters as well as the franchise's darkly comic vibe have now migrated to Netflix, itself home to a staggering collection of motley characters and weird tales.

While this is a show about "superheroes," its protagonists are only sporadically heroic. Sometimes—perhaps often—they're anything but. Diego fights crime, sure, but he does so by shedding a great deal of blood, and he has little remorse over the occasional death. Klaus's own ability to commune with the dead may have twisted his psyche irreparably: He's an addict who rarely strays far from a filled brandy snifter, a lit cigarette or a baggie of drugs. And he's happy to steal stuff from his dead daddy's mansion if he can get away with it. Oh, he's gay, too, with a penchant for occasionally wearing his sister's skirts. No. 5 may look like a 13-year-old boy, but he's really a 58-year-old man—and judging from the mouth on the kid, he spent most of it in the Merchant Marine Corps.

All of them obviously have their own foibles and failings. Most of them have a hard time getting along with their fellow siblings. But when it comes to saving the world, most also seem ready to get on board. If it's not too inconvenient, of course.

But should viewers get on board with the show? The levels of violence we see in The Umbrella Academy seem to strain the boundaries of the TV-14 label Netflix stuck on it. It's bloodier, I'd say, than Netflix's recently departed Daredevil and Luke Cage, both of which carried a TV-MA rating. Why the more kid-friendly rating? I can only guess it's because while Daredevil felt gritty and real, The Umbrella Academy has the ludicrous tang of a fan-fic fever dream. It's a little more outrageous and so … a little less impactful? (And we haven't even gotten to the reported appearance of "God" later on in the show—depicted as a little girl on a bike.)

I don't know. Even if the blood we see is too garish to feel real, that doesn't make it any less grotesque when it spurts and flows freely. And even if the show wants us to laugh at the foul mouth of a 13-year-old boy, it doesn't make the language any less foul.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Feb. 15, 2019: "We See Each Other Only at Weddings and Funerals"

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Ellen Page as Vanya Hargreeves/Number Seven; Tom Hopper as Luther Hargreeves/Number One; David Castañeda as Diego Hargreeves/Number Two; Emmy Raver-Lampman as Allison Hargreeves/Number Three; Robert Sheehan as Klaus Hargreeves/Number Four; Aidan Gallagher as The Boy/Number Five; Mary J. Blige as Cha-Cha; Cameron Britton as Hazel; John Magaro as Leonard Peabody; Adam Godley as Pogo; Colm Feore as Sir Reginald Hargreeves; Sheila McCarthy as Agnes; Justin H. Min as Ben Hargreeves/Number Six

Director

Distributor

Network

Netflix

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Released

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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