Sibling rivalry

July 3, 2022

The Umbrella Academy’s latest season is just as bizarre and unexpected as its predecessors, despite a familiar setting

Sibling rivalry


ince its release in 2019, The Umbrella Academy has been the most watched show on Netflix every season. Season 3 is no different, as it leaves Stranger Things in the dust with over 124 million hours watched in the first five days alone, despite being more niche and less family fun for everyone.

Based on a comic book series by Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance fame, the series is written by Steve Blackman, who has managed to do justice to the source material thus far, while also making the series his own.

It can be hard to fit The Umbrella Academy into a specific genre, but it does have the makings of an action sci-fi series. In the two previous seasons, the crux of the situation was usually a world-ending apocalypse that the rag-tag band of dysfunctional siblings had to escape. In the first, Viktor (played by Elliot Page), ended the world by shattering the moon. In the second one, John F Kennedy survived his assassination in a different timeline, leading to all out nuclear war between the US and the USSR, leading to another world-ending apocalypse. In both cases, the siblings attempted to escape the apocalyptic timeline through time travel, but the world-ending nightmare continued to follow them.

The third episode also has, you guessed it, a world-ending apocalypse. However, this one feels markedly different than the first two times. The siblings are seemingly unaware that they have caused a strange paradox through repeated time travel, and think that the worst is behind them. Collectively referred to as the Umbrella Academy, they are dropped through a portal straight into their old home, which has now been taken over by another group of siblings who call themselves The Sparrow Academy. And yes, both groups of siblings are still related since they all seem to have the same father, Reginald Hargreeves. Sibling rivalry ensues, as both parties are apprehensive and suspicious of one another. The Sparrows feel threatened by the Umbrella’s arrival, since they have built a whole brand around their superhero sibling group. Meanwhile, the Umbrellas are just trying to stay alive following a beating at the hands of their other, evil siblings. They have their own set of insecurities as they feel that the Sparrows are far better trained and experienced.

The Umbrellas decide to seek refuge at Hotel Oblivion (undoubtedly a reference to the eeriness of Hotel California). It is apparent that something is just plain off about the establishment but it is hard to point out. This is where the excellent cinematography, world building and characterisation come in. Hotel Oblivion is obviously suspicious, yet inviting; a place out of time. To turn the infamous Hotel California from the Eagle’s song into an actual, visualised place with a different name but the same spirit was a stroke of genius.

Despite the apocalypse trope being used for a third time, it has been done a lot differently than previous instances. It becomes very obvious towards the end that there will be no more apocalypses for the siblings to run from. 

While the siblings attempt to enjoy their ‘retirement’ at Hotel Oblivion, a mass of black holes is slowly swallowing reality around them as they know it. In characteristic comic book fashion, they fail to see the fractures in reality, and when they do, they’re a mere four days from yet another apocalypse.

This apocalypse is different because none of the siblings have reality warping powers. Therefore, they have no realistic way of stopping it. Number Five (played by Aidan Gallagher) has the ability to time travel, which is how he got siblings out of their previous messes. However, with reality collapsing around him, there is nowhere left to time travel. The despair and finality of this apocalypse is palpable, as Number Five desperately looks for a way to dodge this apocalypse as well, for his own sake as well as his family’s. Gallagher has always been a scene stealer throughout the series. His performance in Season 3 is no exception. He plays the character of a 60 year old man trapped in the body of a young teenager due to time travel issues, and does it convincingly, despite actually being a teenager himself.

As always, their father Reginald Hargreeves has something brewing behind the curtain. Reginald has always been a step ahead of everyone; his children, the CIA and even the apocalypse. However, there is always a sinister element to his plans, and his backup plans, which completely disregard the safety of his children.

Based on reviews by various critics and viewers, the third season of The Umbrella Academy has been polarising. While some have enjoyed the sense of familiarity that carries itself through three seasons of the series, it is obvious that the apocalypse chasing a group of dysfunctional, super-powered siblings trope will be retired for future seasons. Others have taken grave offence to Elliot Page’s character gender transitioning from Vanya to Viktor.

However, despite the mixed reception, it is still one of the most watched series of all time on Netflix. The solid storyline, atmosphere, set design and characterisation remain flawless throughout. Despite the apocalypse trope being used a third time, it has been done a lot differently than previous instances, and it becomes very obvious towards the end that there will be no more apocalypses for the siblings to run from.

The Umbrella Academy does not disappoint its third time round, and is definitely worth a watch. Although the story itself may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the characters, atmosphere and the actors’ prowess has a way of pulling you in, and keeping you there.

The author is a staff     member

Sibling rivalry