No one knew what to expect when The Umbrella Academy debuted on Netflix in February 2019, but what we got was a stylish new superhero series on par with anything out of the Netflix-Marvel alliance. Season 1 also ended on an apocalyptic cliffhanger, so I really didn't know what to expect from Umbrella Academy Season 2.
What we got, it turns out, is basically Season 1 remixed with a few extra flourishes. But for fans of The Umbrella Academy, that may be the best news possible.
The first season of Umbrella Academy ended with the Hargreeves family of adopted superheroes traveling back in time to escape an apocalypse caused by their own sister, Vanya (Ellen Page). But, as things tend to go for this team of misfits, their plan backfired. Season 2 opens by revealing that the members of the Umbrella Academy have been scattered across three years of the early '60s, all dropping into the same alley in Dallas, Texas, before heading off on their own adventures. When Number Five (Aidan Gallagher) finally shows up in 1963 to witness an unexpected apocalypse, he's given a little more than a week to reassemble his siblings and save the world, again.
Again is probably the best word to describe Umbrella Academy Season 2. The team is separated and then reunited, again. Five has to save the world, again. Vanya loses her memory, again.
And that's not a coincidence. Showrunner Steve Blackman tells Inverse he's been planning this since Season 1.
"I already knew where I wanted to go with Season 2," he says. "They brought the apocalypse with them. They ran from it, but they didn’t run far enough because here it is again. I wanted them to bring a type of apocalypse with them that they’re directly responsible for and have to fix."
But don't expect a carbon copy of Season 1. After spending 10 episodes establishing these characters, Blackman uses Season 2 to subvert some while amplifying others. Umbrella Academy Season 2 also expertly uses the backdrop of the civil rights era to tell powerful stories about Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) and Vanya while delivering the stylish action and unforgettable musical moments fans expect.
The Music — Umbrella Academy went viral in its first season for a dance scene set to "I Think We're Alone Now" by Tiffany, but my personal favorite needle-drop moment was the one shared by Allison and Luther (Tom Hopper) to the sound of "Dancing in the Moonlight." Season 2 might not have that one viral moment, but it comes close with a climactic fight scene set to "Everybody" by the Backstreet Boys. (It shouldn't work, but it really does.) An early preview of the apocalypse set to Frank Sinatra's "My Way" is also memorable.
The cast — Any show with an ensemble cast will always struggle to give each actor an equal amount of good material, and Umbrella Academy is no different. Season 2 shines its spotlight on Allison and Vanya in particular as they struggle to be Black and gay (respectively) in 1960s Texas. After a car accident gives Vanya amnesia, she forgets about her powers (again) and winds up playing nanny for an autistic boy while developing a romantic relationship with the child's married mother. Meanwhile, Allison shows up in the '60s with a wounded neck that keeps her from speaking or using her powers. The first door she wanders through is a whites-only diner she's chased out of before stumbling into a group of activists planning a sit-in in that very same diner.
Elsewhere, Klaus (Robert Sheehan) starts a cult, amassing followers by passing off '90s R&B lyrics as his own wisdom. (He blows a few minds with "Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls.") Five is reliably great as the surliest and oldest member of the family stuck in the body of a prepubescent boy while also mining new humor from one of the oldest time travel storytelling tropes. Luther and Diego (David Castañeda) are mostly just there to move the plot along, while the Umbrella Academy's adoptive father Sir Reginald Hargreeves gets a bit more screen time in Season 2 as part of a complex assassination plot that I won't spoil here.
The action — By now, the superpowers are well-established, but Umbrella Academy Season 2 doesn't do much to innovate on them. Luther is strong, Vanya can blow stuff up with soundwaves (or something); Allison can use the word "rumor" to control people's minds and action; Klaus can see the dead (a skill he only uses for personal gain); Diego is like a worse Batman who's really good at throwing knives; and Five can teleport and time travel (poorly).
That's a lot of material to work with, but Umbrella Academy is more interested in the characters than their powers. This isn't the Avengers, where each new battle revels in unexpected ways the heroes can use or combine their superhuman abilities. Instead, this is a show about some very messed up people who wish they didn't have powers but have to use them to save the world, again.
Ultimately, if you liked Umbrella Academy Season 1, you'll probably like Season 2 even more. However, if you were on the fence about Season 1 but didn't love the visual style, snarky humor, or reliance on pop music needle drops, this season won't win you over, either.
And if you somehow missed Umbrella Academy when it premiered but it sounds like your kind of show, please go back and watch the entire thing so you can enjoy that Backstreet Boys fight scene in all its intended glory