Better Late Than Never: 10 Random Thoughts On The Umbrella Academy Episode One

Credit: Netflix

The Umbrella Academy premiered February 15, 2019 and received strong reviews and a large audience following. I can’t remember when I finally watched the show and enjoyed the madness, but I remember liking the show and liking what this quirky, off-beat comic adaptation brought to the superhero genre. The Umbrella Academy is not a superhero show, per say. It borrows a bit from the Inhumans and Marvel’s X-Men, but it’s in a class all its own, which is great because after twenty years of Marvel dicking around with the X-Men, it’s nice for a change of pace. 

Season 2 of the show was announced in the summer of last year and we’re finally getting the premiere on Netflix July 31st. To say I’m excited is an understatement. To get everyone primed and ready for the new season, for the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be taking readers on a journey through my thoughts on an episode to episode basis. I’ll list ten things that struck me as interesting in the episode then round out the article with a little review of each episode. It’ll be a nice little refresher before season 2. 

Without further ado, here are my ten random thoughts on the pilot episode of The Umbrella Academy  titled “We Only See Each Other at Weddings and Funerals.”

  1. First thing’s first. This show just throws you into the thick of things and doesn’t explain anything. Just says, “here, 43 babies were born on this day. Reginald Hargreeves got 7 of them. Have one of them, so far unnamed, as she plays The Phantom of the Opera on the violin.” A Phantom of the Opera medley is a great way to start the show, though.
  2. Going back to the first comment, though. It goes from Phantom, to finding out Hargreeves is dead to finding out that two of the kids have died all via paintings. This show tells you nothing and damn, don’t I love shows that just throw you in in medias res with no explanation. More shows should do that rather than spend time explaining everything to you right off the bat. The story structure here is phenomenal. 
  3. I can’t remember, do we ever figure out how Reginald came to have a talking monkey as a butler? I mean, I love Pogo, don’t get me wrong, but it feels weird? Like Pogo is the only thing that really feels out of place and I’m saying that knowing that Luther has an ape chest and a normal head.
  4. The first twenty minutes of the show and the only thing we learn about their powers is that Allison spreads rumors and Diego was good with knives. Oh, and Klaus talks to the dead. Then the bank robber sequence happens and it’s like, okay. Super strength, rumors (aka thought manipulation), knives, teleportation, talking to the dead, and a poor little kid who can turn into the Kraken. This show is really structured so incredibly. I love it so much. 
  5. I also like how timeless this first episode feels. It’s obvious that we are supposed to be in the present time, there are cars and modern luxuries, but the house is so clearly out of time. Mom dresses in clothes from the 50s. There is no technology visible in the home. Luther puts on a record not a radio or boombox and then he plays an 80s song. I don’t know, I just like how this show feels out of time but present. 
  6. Of the many mysteries of this show, I need to know why Number Five doesn’t have an actual name like the rest of them. Has his name been lost to time? Does no one care? Did Mom just not care and not give him a name? I can’t remember but I do want to know why Number Five is Number Five only. With no name. 
  7. I’ve only seen this once before and I remember now why I hated Diego and why I still can’t bother to care about him. Diego and Luther both. Diego is selfish and only cares about himself. Luther is about as dull as a box of rocks. He’s just not interesting.
  8. This show is touted as an ensemble and we do learn a lot about the others and their powers and their struggles, but this is really Vanya’s show. She is the most important person and the writers really know how to balance that in this first episode. We get little glimpses of what’s to come, but we don’t fully know what’s going to happen and that’s the brilliance of this show. The writers keep everything expertly under wraps. 
  9. Also, learning Mom is a robot is the best thing to happen in the first episode. I don’t care what anyone says. Robot mom rights. 
  10. Okay I lied. Mom as a robot is the second best thing of the premiere episode. The first best thing is the ending with Number Five taking out a room full of gun toting men all by himself with his powers while “Istanbul, Not Constantinople” plays in the background. Number Five is a badass. 

The biggest problem I have with “We Only See Each Other At Weddings and Funerals” is that it isn’t all that interesting. Sure, it gives the audience some great sneak peaks at what’s to come and from a writer’s standpoint, the narrative structure is to die for, but there is something lacking with this pilot episode. Looking back at the pilot of Stranger Things, which is also a Netflix original and is also sci-fi in nature, the audience gets a sense of urgency right off the bat. The audience gets the importance of upside down and what’s to come for our heroes. With The Umbrella Academy there is no sense of urgency. The audience learns the world’s going to end in eight days. And… that’s it. I think there could have been more. 

There is something different going for how The Umbrella Academy presents its pilot narrative. First, it’s not Stranger Things. Second, The Umbrella Academy, though it’s an interesting exploration of sci-fi tropes, super powered kids, and an impending apocalypse, at its core, it’s a family drama. It explains the slow build and why the pilot episode isn’t all that compelling or very action packed. The breadcrumbs the audience receives about Vanya, Five being tracked by some shadowy organization, the mystery surrounding Reginald’s death, those are the things that kept me coming back, but I vaguely remember it taking me a long time after the series had been dropped for me to return to it. 

Maybe the premiere episode of season 2 will bring with it a sense of urgency. If not, I’m sure there will be plenty of family drama. There’s no shortage of family drama with the Hargreeves kids, as is obvious in this episode. I don’t remember how it all comes to a fruition so I hope you enjoy the ride I’m about to take. It’s been over a year since I watched it and I’m sure I’ll have many more frustrations and thoughts on pretty much everything. 

So, join me Thursday for my thoughts, questions, and possibly gripes on episode 2 “Run Boy, Run.”

Shelby Arnold
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