There’s a strange lack of concern for the end of the world in The Umbrella Academy season one. The seven Hargreeves siblings spend so much time fighting and their inability to recognize each other’s trauma as well as their own directly leads to the end of the world. Season two takes a kinder approach, with better pacing allowing for wonderful moments of reconciliation and triumph, even in the face of yet another apocalypse.
The Hargreeves are scattered in time across a three-year period: Klaus (Robert Sheehan) and Ben (Justin H. Min) arrive first in 1960; Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) in 1961; Luther (Tom Hopper) lands in 1962; and Diego (David Castañeda) and Vayna (Ellen Page) at various points in 1963, with Five (Aiden Gallagher) arriving last, right into the middle of another apocalyptic war that never happened in the original timeline. Thus sets the stage for our new end of the world scenario, as Hazel (Cameron Britton) pulls Five back in time 10 days earlier.
That glimpse into November 25, 1963, three days after President Kennedy is assassinated, is an exhilarating example of the siblings — collectively known as The Umbrella Academy — at its best. Similar to the bank robbing scene in season one, only this time everyone is in sync with their powers and each other. It’s a perfect set up for the rest of the season, giving the siblings 10 days to reach that moment of synchrony.
What this second season of The Umbrella Academy does best though is allow the siblings to forgive each other. We get wonderful moments between characters who barely interacted in season one; the Klaus and Allison reunion is particularly memorable, while Diego and Luther set aside their rivalry to work together and acknowledge their history of contention. Perhaps the biggest improvement is Luther, who got a lot of hate following season one for his bullheaded leadership skills and betrayal of Vayna.
However, he’s actually the voice of reason throughout most of season two. Tom Hopper does a lot of great work in showing the growth that we didn’t get to see for the year he was alone. His reunion with Vanya is the most surprising and moving moment of the second season. All in all, this season really nails it on the interpersonal relationships between the characters, which in turn drives the rest of the season to much better places.
On an individual level, there are slight variations in quality. Allison gets involved in the civil rights movement, during which she meets Raymond Chestnut, played by Yusuf Gatewood, who is just as amazing as he always is. Allison’s struggle with her powers coincides with her work in organizing sit-ins and experiences with police brutality. The 1960s aesthetic is there, but Allison’s viewpoint from 2019 never gets lost, with great emphasis that civil rights movements are still happening today, in dialogue and imagery.
Diego has to come to terms with his obsession with playing the hero, obvious in season one but never explored; in season two, it’s a reckoning helped along by Luther and new character Lila (Ritu Arya). As for Vanya, living on a farm with Sissy (Marin Ireland) and her son Harlan, her story is a prime example of how self-discovery can blossom when allowed to unfold on its own. Without the manipulation from Leonard and the forced repression of powers by Reginald, Vanya gets a much more emotional storyline this season.
Klaus and Ben waste no time getting themselves into trouble when they touch down in 1960, quickly founding a free-loving cult and traveling to different countries, sharing wisdom and song lyrics of the future and passing them off as scripture and fortunes. While they’re doing that, they’ve also worked on growing Klaus’ powers, so that Ben can largely interact with the living world constantly throughout the season. Maybe it’s because he’s spent three years unintentionally leading a cult, but Klaus is a lot more open this season, a lot more mature (in some ways, as he’s very much the same Klaus), and his scenes with Allison and Vanya are some of the best in the season.
However, not enough time is really spent on exploring more of his powers, which leaves Ben in the dust occasionally. Ben certainly gets more screen time than he did in season one, but it’s still not enough. What we do get is a testament to Justin H. Min, who gives Ben a lot more depth beyond Klaus’ ghostly sponsor, making him feel more alive and dynamic this season.
Even with an overarching plot that resembles a lot of season one, this do-over the siblings get is entirely worth it. Five remains largely the same, for the most part. However, the 1960s setting allows for more exploration of Reginald Hargreeves, who’s present just enough to remain mysterious and intriguing, while also not absolving him of the abuse and neglect he inflicted on his kids.
And, this might sound blasphemous to say, but the music choices and needle drops are somehow better this season, but those are better left to discover for yourself. The Umbrella Academy season two begins with an exhilarating opening sequence and never lets up from there, creating a more cohesive and thoughtful experience on family dynamics and superhero antics.