Friday, July 31, 2020

REVIEW: 'The Umbrella Academy' - Everyone Arrives in a New Time Period to Fight a New Apocalypse in 'Right Back Where We Started'

Netflix's The Umbrella Academy - Episode 2.01 "Right Back Where We Started"

After dropping his siblings into an alley in Dallas - in different years - Five scrambles to track them all down and stop a new doomsday threat.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season premiere of Netflix's The Umbrella Academy.

"Right Back Where We Started" was written by Steve Blackman and directed by Sylvain White

This drama presents its narrative stakes through the most extreme life or death circumstances. The story delves into the constant idea that the apocalypse is nigh. Five and his siblings travelled through time together to survive the apocalypse that was coming at the conclusion of the first season. They failed to prevent it even though that has been Five's core mission for the majority of his life. And now, their arrival in the 1960s brings the apocalypse back with them. When Five lands in 1963 separated from his siblings, he learns from Hazel that he will only have ten days yet again to prevent the disaster. With the first apocalypse, Five knew that it was lethal for his family. He saw their corpses. With the second apocalypse, he actually sees his family fighting as a team. They are a cohesive unit. That would suggest that some of the dysfunction of this family disappears this season. However, the siblings are all living their own individual lives in this new time period. They arrived in different years. Some have spent more time here than others. Some have built lives for themselves as a way to cope and adapt. They were separated because Five didn't know what the consequences would be for such an arduous jump through time with his powers. It's not as simple as it would have been with a briefcase. Five hoped for the best. But the tragic cycle of his life seems to be repeating. He always foretells the coming apocalypse. He almost presents as a broken record. The narrative immediately informs Five and the audience that this should be the driving force for everyone this season. But it's also familiar. It's the same narrative premise that defined the first season. The family believes they have decades of relative peace before having to change the timeline to avert disaster. They actually only have a few days. Five understands that. Luther doesn't want to get caught up in that drama again. His life in the time period isn't exactly flourishing. His strength is being used to win bets in seedy fight clubs. He seems beholden to a mobster. That is the purpose of his life right now. He felt abandoned by his family. His other siblings were as well. Some of them have managed to build better lives for themselves. And yet, a similar tragedy exists amongst all of them. They are accustomed to having to use their special abilities to handle any obstacles that come their way. They don't know how to delve into the nuances of life and the battles they are facing. It's fascinating to see the show explore more racial politics this season. That had to be a necessary component because of the time period and Allison's continued presence in this world. She knows that actual progress is still a long time away. In fact, it hasn't fully been achieved by the time she thinks the world will end. She knows it's even more daunting in the 60s. She may aspire to change it just like Diego hopes to save President Kennedy from being assassinated. But her first response is to beat up anyone giving her or her new friends trouble. Her husband says they have to be honorable as they peacefully protest. They can't give the world any reason to misconstrue their message and use it to further victimize them. Allison is an active part of the conversation. She may be acting too boldly because that's her worldview. It's certainly a victory for her where she doesn't have to face such discrimination. It's a rousing success that she has recovered from her injuries and can still speak. But it's also important to fight for a better world not just one that continues to exist as is. Those are the extreme terms through which Five views everything. He can't allow anyone to mess it up again. He doesn't know how it happens or where his siblings are. He succeeds in finding Diego and Luther in the span of a day. The other siblings haven't been so lucky. Vanya is once again living a life where she has no idea who she actually is. That cements this premiere as following a similar trajectory and exploring familiar ground. The specifics need to be different to ensure this season builds on what was done previously. Consequences are vital to prove just how much the dysfunction still defines this family as they pursue these superhero antics. They continue to ignore what each other says. They believe their own personal agency is more important. They hurt each other. That remains a destructive force that cripples them. They may pull together in the end. That doesn't guarantee success. Nor does it immediately suggest that this family will be able to address their pasts and mature into the capable heroes with a full understanding of the world and why it's worth saving.