Wednesday, June 22, 2022

REVIEW: 'The Umbrella Academy' - The Umbrella Siblings Come Into Conflict With Reginald's New Children in 'Meet the Family'

Netflix's The Umbrella Academy - Episode 3.01 "Meet the Family"

After averting a doomsday in Dallas, the Umbrella siblings return to a very different Academy - now ruled by the powerful and hostile Sparrows.

"Meet the Family" was written by Steve Blackman & Michelle Lovretta and directed by Jeremy Webb

The Umbrella Academy has nothing to worry about because they won. Of course, it's foolish for anyone to ever believe that. As such, it's silly for Five to even suggest it. That's how he needs to rationalize everything because the immediate threats seem to be gone. The Umbrella Academy has already prevented two apocalypses. They deserve some time to rest and relax. They aren't given that freedom. Instead, they return to a future that doesn't match their own timeline. In this new reality, Reginald adopted new children. He formed the Sparrow Academy. He shaped them to be better than his first experiment. He had the freedom of learning from his mistakes without having to actually make them. He has no personal understanding of what he did to make the Umbrella Academy turn out the way they did. His teachings are still universal in some ways. He still derides his children. He always makes them work for his approval. He has kept the Sparrows in line. They present as a unified team. They each still have their individual personalities. However, they are celebrated in this world as heroes. That was always the grand ambition of bringing them together. Reginald finally has the team he always wanted. And now, he hopes to motivate them by saying he may have misjudged the Umbrella Academy. He doesn't actually mean it. He dismisses them as not being worth his time or effort whatsoever. It's all about control. He was thrown by this latest time travel twist. Nothing can be done to reverse it either. The suitcase is lost in the ensuing fight. No one even recognizes that for the longest time. That's the ticket to possibly resetting things. However, Five seems comfortable just living in this new timeline. It doesn't come with any immediate danger. That's what he wants to believe. It doesn't line up with reality though. Everyone expects the Sparrow Academy to strike again. The Umbrella Academy is wounded while their counterparts are back to work training. They have to be disciplined in that way. They can't allow any threat to defeat them. The Umbrella Academy may be disheveled and unorganized. Their powers represent unique threats. That's especially true with Vanya. It's even more meaningful when she can control what she's capable of. She doesn't want a war. This doesn't have to produce a conflict like that. The show itself wants to play around with those expectations by imagining a dance number amongst the siblings before the actual fight breaks out. That's a ton of fun. It's refreshing and reminds the audience just how bold and colorful this narrative can be. But again, it's always with the hint that something powerful and dangerous lurks in the basement of the academy. That can't be ignored no matter what.

Nothing in this reality is what the Umbrella Academy wants it to be. They are thrilled to see Ben alive again. He sacrificed everything to save them on numerous occasions. They thought they lost this connection for good. This isn't the brother they once knew. Instead, he's a jerk who grew up in the same demeaning and arrogant atmosphere as the rest of this new family. He's the one link between the two groups of siblings. They each came into this world under mysterious circumstances. The premiere showcases that event once more. It offers no more clarity as to why this happened. It simply was an opportunity for Reginald to exploit. He successfully did so. Every character now serves as a vessel for his parenting. Ben has endured that twice. That's a unique perspective. One that allows the audience to compare and context. So much is still the same. And yet, this world can't provide the Umbrella siblings what they were fighting to get back to. Everything is different because of what they did in the 1960s. In that time period, they found new connections. They settled into those lives believing they had to be enough. Vanya and Allison found love. They had to sacrifice that to return to where they belonged in the timeline. However, this new twist suggests that they may never truly fit into the fabric of reality again. They are nothing more than outsiders with no place to belong. That props up Klaus' metaphor for what the Hotel Obsidian can be. And yet, it's still full of people looking at this dysfunctional family. They aren't greeted with cheers and support. Nor can they embrace the love they once had. They only have each other and the messy complications of their past actions. Diego enjoys the thrill of the chase with Lila. She shows up only to hand over the son she's raised for years. That's how confusing time travel can be. It's not something that Diego can quickly grasp. It even takes a moment for Five to understand what's going on. He's aware that there are other versions of themselves who didn't grow up with Reginald as their father. As such, they may each year for the life that could have been. They can't get too close without going crazy. That's the danger Marcus is in when he approaches the new mystery in the basement. That leaves the Sparrows without their Number One. No one even recognizes it beyond Grace. Even then, she can't be trusted as a reliable ally. She sees something no one else does. She worships it as a deity. Meanwhile, Marcus is obliterated. That's powerful. It threatens to unearth the next apocalypse. The Sparrows may handle it differently while the Umbrellas have experience in this regard. That proves how little the world has actually changed. It's always under threat. This family has to come together to stop it even when it comes at the expense of their personal agency and understanding of what they would actually want in their lives.