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    The Umbrella Academy 2, the review: a season that works for what it wants to be

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    Philippe Gloaguen
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    Strong of a great success last year that has fixed her in the Olympus of the most anticipated series of this television season, in this review of The Umbrella Academy 2 let's try to understand if the return of the Netflix series has managed to keep itself on track, maintaining the same liveliness of the debut.

    The short answer is that yes, the second season of the series led by Steve Blackman (and transposition of the comics of Gerard Way, frontman of My Chemical Romance, and Gabriel Bà) works very well for what it wants to be. It has fast-flowing and visually appealing writing, a few ambitious sequences, a usually spot-on sound accompaniment, a charismatic cast - thanks to related roles - and overall looks like what you'd expect from a light, likable, and cool entertainment product. without particular pretensions.



    However, despite the show points directly towards a decidedly over the top tone, which deliberately aims at the caricature of superpower and therefore (rightly) at situations bordering on logic and suspension of disbelief, it script he stumbles a lot when it comes to time travel and is a bit pedantic and dragged into the most dull / sentimental moments, as well as in the most busy ones with regards to social issues.

    Overall, in any case, I speak of a very solid and fluid season, among other things working in rhythm thanks also to the well-managed presence of a few twists, as necessary for a serial product of this type, obviously predisposed to bingewatching.

    Before continuing with this review of The Umbrella Academy 2, I remind you that you can find the new ten episodes from today on Netflix.

     

     


    Trapped in the past

    The Umbrella Academy 2 opens exactly from the previous season's finale, with the various members of the Umbrella Academy fleeing 2019 to avoid the Apocalypse caused by Vanya's power. But something goes wrong with the journey, and the result is that each member of the group ends up isolated in a different period of the early 60s in Dallas, thus having to invent a life from scratch in a society that certainly does not belong to him.


    Cinque is the last to arrive, and finds himself (needless to say) at the center of another Apocalypse, this time provoked by a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union in full Cold War escalation. Five has time to see his brothers fight in the best action scene of the season (accompanied by the notes of Sinatra's My Way, built as a long take and with respectable VFX), before being rescued by Hazel, that you will remember being the assassin of the Commission (the control body of time) redeemed at the end of the last round of episodes.

    Having restarted time a few days before the nuclear holocaust, Cinque (Aidan Gallagher) is faced with a race against time to reunite the brothers and to understand what the hell is going on, repeating a bit the same subject of the previous season, but adding in this case the element of historical context, which goes well with all the central characters.

    In this second season the variable of the historical context is added

    Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) finds herself naturally at the center of the struggle against racial segregation of those years, and marries one of the movement's fascinating leaders; Klaus (Robert Sheehan) founds a sect by leveraging his ability to communicate with the afterlife (and with the deceased Ben); Luther (Tom Hopper) uses his gorilla fitness to be a wrestler and thus becomes the protege of a local gangster owner of a local nightclub; Vanya (Ellen Page) is run over, loses her memory and ends up living with a very troubled family in the countryside, with no idea who she is or how she got to that point; Diego (David Castañeda) ends up in an asylum because due to his hero complex he can't help but try to kill Harvey Oswald to save Kennedy.



    CHRISTOS KALOHORIDIS / NETFLIX © 2020

    Each character has its own net size, approximately, at least until halfway through the season, after which the team reunites and everyone's background tends to fade by virtue of the final events.

    I would be lying if I said I had completely digested the subplots dedicated to the various members of the Academy

    I would be lying if I said I had completely digested the subplots dedicated to the various members of the Academy, and especially as regards Klaus perhaps it was possible to make the more melodious parentheses less central, which add relatively little to the character as to the interpretation of Robert Sheehan, an interpretation that manages to shine especially when the writing stops taking itself too seriously.

    The same happens with Luther and Vanya, but with the former it is decidedly circumscribed, at times nice and more balanced, thanks to a character thought precisely in the contrast between size and sensitivity, while with the latter those excessive and dragged spaces end up giving us an interesting character, that of Sissy (Marin Ireland). Although it is nothing new or particular, that is the woman who emancipates herself and highlights the mediocrity, the constraints and the failure of a certain American petty-bourgeois class (Revolutionary Road style, so to speak), that of Sissy remains one of the most interesting and current elements of the dramatic writing of the series, in reality (fortunately) very limited.

    Equally current is the attention - more than sensible, given the transposed period and the Texan setting - towards the racial issue, which is intercepted by the character of Allison with an obviously secondary priority in the script and without big air or big solutions, if we exclude the power of the girl to control reality with the voice and the obvious consequences of the ability in tandem with the argument treaty.



    CHRISTOS KALOHORIDIS / NETFLIX © 2020

     

    By preventing the apocalypse, without taking yourself seriously

    Archived the perhaps most cumbersome solutions from a thematic point of view, in this review of The Umbrella Academy 2 it's time to move on to the truth crazy core of the series and above all of his brilliant imagination, which in fact when he chooses to give himself too much tone ends up limping, where instead he shows a great rhythm, well-managed twists and charismatic characters.

    At the center of all this, of which I would say is a bit of a symbol, clearly places Cinque, played by Aidan Gallagher, who in a cast already fully functional is for sure the brightest, funniest and most lively star, along with Sheehan, a certain return and the new addition Ritu Arya, who here plays Lila, a new addition. I can't really say much about Lila without running into spoilers, but I can tell you that the character itself, her relationship with Diego and even her accent are simply irresistible, part of a piece that ends up moving a good part of the story.

    Regarding specifically Five, the same concept behind the character (an old man literally in the body of a kid, in a world high and a caricature of himself) is an idea that worked in the first season as in this second. Showrunner Steve Blackman and his writing team must have figured this out, as they tread their hand on Cinque even to a greater extent than I remember they did in previous episodes; a choice that pays hands down, and this is witnessed by an incredible sequence with gore elements at the beginning of the seventh episode, perhaps even better than the opening one.

    The soundtrack joins the direction and stands as a fundamental pillar of the overall impact

    In the two cases just mentioned, as in general in every memorable moment of the series and of the season, the colonna sonora joins the direction and places itself as a fundamental pillar of the overall impact, borrowing pop songs (or related covers, as you will see) in incredibly suitable contexts. This, too, was an extremely distinguishable signature from the show's debut, and it's really nice to see it revived with this effectiveness, with just a little less insistence and slightly more attention, than I remember from the first season.

    CHRISTOS KALOHORIDIS / NETFLIX © 2020

    Much of the show's success, however, can be traced back to taste for ridicule, which emerges here, as well as from the connecting elements and the mechanisms of the imagination, with the new killers sent by the Commission to prevent the brothers from further messing up time. I'm talking about three super spotted Swedish brothers who throw knives at each other for fun, love cats and shoot on sight, need more?

    The protagonists themselves and the events that involve them are the very reification of the ridiculous; the Umbrella Academy is a dysfunctional and naive group, put together by clumsy relationships starting from a problematic childhood. However, this is precisely part of an equation that is an integral part of the charm of the series and its ability to amuse and entertain, entertainment that in this episode pack is reinforced by a limited playtime (finally from a TV series) and a very clever use of a handful of twists.

    Now, in this review of Umbrella Academy 2 I want to point out that some twists are definitely phone calls for anyone who has seen more than ten films or novels in their life, but some are genuinely spot on, with the notable point in favor of good transparency with the viewer regarding the main twist. You will most likely find yourself smashing at that particular moment (as in some other, but especially at that juncture), yet the show leaves you the opportunity to discover that certain information for yourself in a specific scene, with a little insight. It is a minor gem, which does not change the final outcome in the slightest, but it is always nice to see a screenwriter who plays and challenges correctly with the viewer.

    This ability to handle this limited number of twists it is also accompanied by the rhythm of the series and the lightness of the writing, attributes that obviously tend to the typical binge of the Netflix school.

    COURTESY OF NETFLIX

    Having said that, before I finish this review of The Umbrella Academy 2 I would like to make a couple of notes. The first, which is perhaps the heaviest, relates to the total confusion in managing the time travel. I am fully aware that inserting journeys between epochs translates into a potential headache for the writer, but this is one of the cases in which, as a spectator, it has frankly alienated me the most; the series explicitly contradicts itself about its own dynamics over and over again for very important and macroscopic passages. I'm not talking about oversights, but real blunders, clearly derived from the total laziness (or compliance) of the screenwriters in approaching this element with a minimum of logic.

    The second point is that perhaps the series deserves a little more than budget, even if I understand serial optics, so in fact I don't approach the quality of visual effects and company in the slightest (the slightly stretched production values ​​can be seen quite enough even within the limits of the scenographies, for example). Even therefore with all the differences in the world, I could not digest the choice to ignore the climax of the last episode and to skip a large part of the final clash for the budget (which clearly the story would like to set up in a certain way) with a decisive trick, because it is a punch in the eye for the suspension of the disbelief of the beholder. Netflix, given the material and the success attached, maybe we give two more coins to the production for the third season (although this is already a great job), right?

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