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With its first season, Netflix's The Umbrella Academy delivered a surprisingly subdued and mood-filled take on the manic comic book series from Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá. Audiences adored it and showed that support by making it one of the most-watched original streaming series of 2019. That adoration wasn't wholly shared by critics, however, with many calling out Umbrella Academy's mystery-driven pacing and overly gloomy atmosphere as faults that weighed down the source material's wackiness.
The Umbrella Academy will make everyone's lives explosive against when Season 2 debuts on Netflix on July 31, and it might be a surprise for fans to learn that early reviews for the second season are far more positive and celebratory than they were for Season 1. Part of that is the shift to a slightly more streamlined narrative. Following last year's would-be catastrophic finale, the six living (and one deceased) members of the Hargreeves family are all transported to Dallas by Number 5. Only, it's the early 1960s, and everyone arrives separately, causing them to each carve new lives out for themselves in the past, for better (new loves and friendships) or for worse (racism, assassinations).
In general, Umbrella Academy Season 2 again earned high marks across the board for the ensemble cast. And for Digital Spy, whose review made the strangely unavoidable comparison to that other dysfunctional team-up drama Doom Patrol, the new season gives that cast much more emotional material to play with, and all while bucking traditional superhero stereotypes.
Aside from Doom Patrol, no other show is pushing the superhero genre out of its comfort zone like this, and the reason why it works so well is that each bizarre character is grounded in something very real. If you thought the first season of Umbrella Academy was emotional, then grab a brolly and prepare yourself for a downpour because things get even more intense this time round, especially towards the end.
The AV Club dropped some mighty kind words on The Umbrella Academy Season 2 (via Season 1 shade) by saying showrunner Steve Blackman & Co. managed to correct the many issues that reviewer had with the initial outing. Their review also pointed a spotlight on two of the new cast members: Yusuf Gatewood, who plays a movement-leading activist, and Ritu Arya, who becomes a close confidante to Diego.
But what better way to subvert expectations than by coming back for a second season that is actually, thankfully, and somewhat miraculously better in almost every single way? Season 2 of The Umbrella Academy manages to pull that off, and it has become a significantly better version of itself in the process. The performances are still very good (especially from newcomers Yusuf Gatewood and Ritu Arya, who slot into unexpectedly prominent roles very comfortably), and they’re no longer forced to carry the weight of a storyline that unravels its mysteries at a crawl.
Season 2 explodes the best parts of the show's wacky time travel and family dysfunction onto a lighter, richer '60s setting. While its take on historical events and social issues doesn't reach the levels of boldness hit by HBO's Watchmen, it's still affecting, thanks to strong new characters who draw even more out of the radiant regular cast. . . . Flamboyant, entertaining and enriched by a remarkable cast, Season 2 of The Umbrella Academy tweaks everything it needed to to belt a tune that resonates with its light and dark elements.
Just to note, The Umbrella Academy's cast includes Ellen Page, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Tom Hopper, Robert Sheehan, Aidan Gallagher, David Castañeda, Colm Feore and Justin H. Min. While another new addition to the cast is Sneaky Pete's Marin Ireland.
Over at io9, the consensus seemed to be that Season 2 is a marked improvement over the first, and is solid in its own right. However, the review posits that The Umbrella Academy still hasn't quite figured out how to fully flourish within the world it has created, at least without fully embracing the up-and-down chaos of Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá's comic series.
While Season 2 is certainly more aesthetically fanciful and opens with a surprising action sequence that actually feels as if it were plucked out of one of Way and Bá’s comics, it becomes something of a quiet show in many moments. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does often seem as if The Umbrella Academy’s second season is holding itself back from going full-on weirdo the way these characters are perfectly suited for. . . . There are a handful of moments scattered throughout the season that might throw you for the slightest bit of a loop, but in the end, The Umbrella Academy’s second chapter ends up being perfectly good and just shy of great, which is saying something, because the show overall does feel like it has a stronger sense of what it’s trying to be. It’s just that right now, the tone the series is striking just isn’t out there enough to really stand out.
To that end, several reviewers shared the mindset that Umbrella Academy isn't quite as faithful to the book's tone and energy as it could be, especially since Season 2 adapts what amounts to a small chunk of the second comic book arc. Still, the show is definitely having a good time as it goes through this new journey.
Someone who wasn't having a good time at all, however, was apparently the person who wrote GQ's review of Season 2. Currently, the critique in question is the only Rotten score keeping Umbrella Academy from hitting a perfect 100. And those complaints look a little something like this:
it’s not until deep into the season that they’re all reunited and even deeper before something like a plot with any kind of momentum arrives. It’s baffling: the first series was special because of the deft way it put a high-concept twist on the most relatable of sibling drama. To entirely remove that feels like self-sabotage, like a series of The Sopranos where we watch them all get bored in separate witness protection schemes. Worse, though, when something approaching a story does get going, it never gets going very far. The show is constantly setting up ideas that it never bothers to follow through on, constantly throwing up endless 'Wouldn’t it be cool?' moments that the show seemingly forgets about mere minutes later.
Having completed its production during quarantine, The Umbrella Academy Season 2 debuts on Netflix on Friday, January 31, at 3:01 a.m. Be sure to tune in and stay up to date with CinemaBlend's coverage and exclusive interviews. In the meantime, head to our 2020 Fall TV schedule to see what premieres are on the way soon.