Sunday, August 2, 2020

REVIEW: 'The Umbrella Academy' - Ben Offers a Connection to Vanya About the Resolve Necessary to Be Heroic in '743'

Netflix's The Umbrella Academy - Episode 2.09 "743"

As the Fives plot against each other, one of the siblings makes a big sacrifice to help Vanya, and Lila learns the truth about her parents.

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 next episode of Netflix's The Umbrella Academy.

"743" was written by Bronwyn Garrity & Robert Askins and directed by Amanda Marsalis

This narrative strives to make things more complicated by depicting a group of characters who are constantly trying to outsmart each other. They are always boasting about their brilliance. There is always some twist that throws a wrench into their plans as well. That's how the show demonstrates its ability to shock the audience. That final moment is all about the visual of Reginald pulling off his face and killing the other members of the Majestic 12. Sure, the show still plays into some unfortunate conspiracy theories about secretive groups who actually control the world. It plays into that narrative without warning too much about the dangers of that messaging. That's problematic. However, it does make the argument for preserving the timeline no matter what. This season has dealt with more time travel mechanics than the first did. That comes from the entire Hargreeves family going back to the 1960s. They have interacted with people in history. As such, any interaction could be the thing that dramatically alters the future. Five learned that lesson when he became an analyst for the Commission. He was trusted with seeing the larger picture. He no longer had to be the assassin in the field blindly following orders. Of course, he is still often utilized as a trained killer. He talks about intelligence. And yet, this episode mostly just features him losing his mind as he tries to get his hands on a briefcase. He will do anything to get back to 2019. That may be returning him to a future that is shockingly different because of the time spent in the past. There has been no guarantees that the future is the same. Nor is it true that the apocalypses will be prevented just because the Handler says so. It's up to some of the siblings to stop Vanya from ending the world all over again. Allison was the one to make an emotional connection to Vanya in the first season. That was the closest the family got to saving the world. Here, she is the first person taken out by the blast. Meanwhile, Diego's physical prowess and Klaus' uncertainty about his heroism follow quickly thereafter. Ben is the one given the burden of saving the world. That moment gives him agency in a way the narrative hasn't so far. That is much appreciated. Of course, it's odd how the show suggests he can just possess any body now. It previously seemed as if that was only possible with Klaus because of his abilities in communicating with the dead. Here, he jumps into Vanya's body in order to have a sensible conversation with her. Everyone has yearned to reunite with Ben because he was tragically taken away from them. That was the moment that made the facade of the Umbrella Academy fade away for good. These siblings weren't invincible. They may have been raised to be exceptional. In practice though, they were just as vulnerable as anyone else on the planet. They have died numerous times already. This death may actually stick for Ben. He makes a sacrifice in order to tell Vanya that she isn't a monster. He uplifts her and gives her hope that controlling her powers is something she is more than capable of doing. Others may fear her. She has greater control than that. She has to believe in herself. Of course, that threat ends at the same time that a new one arises. The show has really amped up the apparent connection between Vanya and Harlan. Her powers were transferred to him. That has created a bond. One that ignites him on the same path as her. Whenever he feels extreme emotions, he too runs the risk of ending the world. Until this point, he was simply a kid with a mental disability. Vanya understood that he was worthy of love and could actually thrive in 2019 because of greater access to help and tools to communicate with him. In the 1960s though, this outburst may doom everyone. It's a somewhat forced plot development wrapped up in a character without much purpose beyond it. Vanya and Sissy are charged with keeping him calm. The show mostly uses the idea of mental disability to increase tension and uncertainty. That's unfortunate and problematic as well. These concerns are apparent and should draw criticism because the narrative remains scattered and confusing. These characters each want to do their best and be celebrated as heroes or brilliant. In the end, the narrative always has to one up them at every turn. As such, it's hard to have much faith in any of them rising to the occasion because there will always be something else that is also going on. The audience seeing that illusion makes it clear that the investment is lacking in the overall story. The Handler may be able to fool Lila about what happened to her parents. The audience doesn't know what to believe though. We also don't know if we should care beyond that being yet another complication built on a false premise in order to control the world and how people are allowed to react. These themes are overwhelming and timely. However, their grandiosity prevents the show from having a nuanced discussion about fate, responsibility and personal acceptance. Instead, it's merely an action show set to an awesome soundtrack.