Monday, June 27, 2022

REVIEW: 'The Umbrella Academy' - The Family Is Forced Into Action to Achieve the Result Reginald Always Wanted in 'Oblivion'

Netflix's The Umbrella Academy - Episode 3.10 "Oblivion"

Shaken, the family confronts the deadly mysteries of the Hotel Oblivion - and the growing suspicion that their mission is not what it seems.

"Oblivion" was written by Steve Blackman & Robert Askins and directed by Jeff F. King

Elliot Page's real-life transition was one of the major developments this season had to address. So many options were available for this science fiction show always pushing the boundaries. And yet, the simple yet loving execution of Viktor's introduction was perfect. Sure, it was awkward in the premiere when his former identity was still prominent. However, the second episode quickly set the template for Viktor. He felt the freedom to be his true self after his time with Sissy in 1963. He came out to his family and no one had a problem with it. The show then moved on with the craziness it had in store for the season. It was so effortless. It was constantly framed around Viktor making this realization about himself. Afterwards, he gained more confidence with his powers. Moreover, this transition didn't suddenly prevent him from having a dynamic story arc alongside the rest of his siblings. In fact, this season was focused on the members of the Umbrella Academy realizing they have only scratched the surface of their powers. Viktor has always been erratic with his abilities. Harlan passed along clarity so that he could be in control. Elsewhere, Reginald helped Klaus master his ability to come back from the dead. Klaus hadn't even realized he had died multiple times over his life. Meanwhile, Allison's growing strength meant she no longer had to use the clunky "I heard a rumor" phrase in order to influence others. All of this makes it incredibly ironic and devastating when the season concludes with the siblings losing their powers. They had finally gained some mastery over them. And then, it's revealed just how little control they have always had. That has always been the case. Reginald adopted seven children even though he had no interest in being a father. He simply saw it as necessary in order to defeat the guardians that protect the Oblivion realm. Then, he could rewrite the world in his image. That has long been his ultimate goal. He has manipulated people for years to achieve that. He experimented on people who projected inherent goodness onto him as a father. The siblings want to believe this new timeline has produced a father who is different than the man who raised them. He's still precisely the same. That's the point. He has been working towards this end goal for a century. His interactions with the Umbrella Academy in 1963 only led to him looking for a different team to achieve this result. Of course, Ben and Sloane are the only two who make it to this final showdown. Part of the season was devoted to the war between the two sets of siblings. It was simply evident far too early that the narrative was comfortable killing off the Sparrows while the Umbrellas were always protected. Sparrow deaths were used to conclude episodes while the same fate for the Umbrellas was simply a plot point floating around with all the others. This is a chaotic show after all where so much is happening at once.

Pacing has always been this show's biggest weakest. That's still true. It's simply to be expected at this point. It meant some episodes meandered as the two families fought over the time travel suitcase because they were oblivious to Five already having it. He already moved on to the next problem to worry about. Meanwhile, the rest of the narrative was consumed in a pursuit with no meaning. Yes, the narrative was full of existential dread as the Umbrella siblings grew cynical about always having to save the world. They never get to enjoy a normal existence. It's foolish to think Lila will even finish her pregnancy at the rate the world keeps on ending. The apocalypse has always brought this family together. The fate of the world has to be at such extreme stakes in order for this bond to be nourished. This season dealt with the losses they've endured. That was most pivotal with Allison's overall arc. Losing Ray and Claire had to ground every reaction she had. That grew one-note over time. As such, it was irritating when Five and Viktor couldn't fathom why Allison would make a deal with Reginald. She lost the most. And so, she had the most to gain when he promised to save the world. He does treat her with care during the climatic moments. She has to decide how far she's willing to go. She's still fighting to return to some sense of normalcy she once had. That's the conclusion she accepted. Others were completely willing to embrace the end. Five was told not to stop the apocalypse. It's better to accept it. He was robbed of that choice. Luther and Sloane's relationship had to develop quickly. They couldn't waste any time together. Happiness could still be found at the end of the world. That's what the family strived for. Instead, they were constantly manipulated by their father. The siblings all know he is never telling them the whole truth. They still can't walk away. They can't say no to him. He will always find a way to get what he wants. This is what he has wanted to achieve. He may even take away the powers of those who can threaten him in the new reality. That doesn't quite explain why Sloane is suddenly gone. Luther is also resurrected without relying on Klaus' skills to make the dead corporeal. That may showcase some underlying love. Reginald saw how meaningful it was for Sloane and Luther to reunite just for a second. That propelled everyone to victory. People thought Reginald was proving himself to be a better, more loving man. He gave a toast at the wedding that was oddly sweet. The show still prioritized shocking developments in the end that feel rather rushed. Yes, it's exhilarating. A lot of time was still spent on Diego thinking Stan was his son and Ben complaining about no one respecting his leadership. A lot happens and not everything can work. The overall ideas are solid. The show is still completely watchable. This season also has the added benefit of offering visibility to the trans community at a time when they really need it. That's beneficial in ways that are much more profound than can be known at this point. And so, this is still a winning formula for Netflix.