A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
It's a nihilistic show, but characters are attempting to save humanity, which is good. Positive messages are more clear in show's second season, which is less about stylish violence, more about how characters' often traumatic experiences have affected them emotionally (even though violence doesn't stop or slow down in second season). Family ties are prominent and crucial, and many characters derive strength from closeness with family members.
Positive Role Models
It's tough to distinguish good characters from bad; both are very violent. So-called superheroes injure, kill other characters (who are clearly villains, or faceless minions) in brutally violent ways, are praised for doing so. Sibling characters can be supportive of each other and loving, though they often fight. Second season partially occurs during 1960s America, and a character of color arrives in time to take part in civil rights movement; racist characters kick her out of a "Whites only" restaurant, call an adult man "boy," but it's clear that they're the bad guys and that characters working to give people of color their rights are on correct side of history. A gay character is a substance abuser and a bit unstable, but he's confident about his sexuality. A young boy who has lived a deceptively long time is called "old timer" and other nicknames that denote his unusual lifespan, is generally treated with respect, deference. Characters grapple with heady notions like obligations conferred by family ties, damage caused by disrespect and unkindness from an authority figure.
Violence & Scariness
Characters are killed in operatic violent sequences: flung out of high windows, bloodily torn apart by a man who morphs into a multi-armed creature, stabbed, shot, eyes torn out. Expect blood and gore and piles of bodies, as well as "action" sequences with impact minimized by happy pop music. Second season takes a more apocalyptic tone, with many scenes depicting violent end of the world (e.g., in which a mushroom cloud sprouts over a city, a wall of flame rushes toward our main characters). Fantasy/sci-fi weaponry and combat (a ghost sprouts attacking tentacles from his belly, and characters can disappear and reappear at will). Merciless crew of bad guys searching for Umbrella Academy member dispatches dozens of people with guns; we see bloody wounds, characters writhing on the ground in pain before dying.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One character is a love interest for another adoptive sibling; expect flirting (same- and opposite-sex), kissing, dating, romantic complications. A gay character sums up the attractiveness (or lack thereof) of other men.
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Language includes "s--t," "a--hole," "bastard," "hell," and insults: "Loser!" "You're crazy!" A gay character is called "pretty boy," and an adult African American man is called "boy," but it's clear that the people leveling these slurs are villains who are in the wrong.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
One character is depicted as a drug addict; we see him scoring drugs in an alley, taking handfuls of pills, drinking tumblers of whisky. Other characters criticize his habits. The toll it's taken on his life is clearly shown. Scenes take place at bars, with characters drinking, sometimes to excess.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Umbrella Academy is a series about a group of adopted siblings with superpowers who team up to try to prevent a fiery future apocalypse. Parents' main concern will likely be the show's violence: It's gory, bloody, and sometimes set to music, so that it reads as more cheerful than it should. Characters, usually depicted as villains, bad guys, or faceless minions, are dispatched bloodily by the so-called heroes. They're shot, stabbed, and torn apart, with spurting blood and gore -- in piles of dead bodies. Sex and romance are downplayed in favor of violence, but one adopted sibling does have romantic feelings for another, and there's a gay character who sometimes makes iffy remarks about the appearance and attractiveness of various men. One character is a drug addict and an alcoholic; viewers see him gulping down unnamed pills, scoring drugs in an alley, drinking enormous drinks (and more) while he acts sloppy and impaired. Language includes "s--t," "a--hole," and "bastard." The show's second season is similar to the first in terms of tone and violence, with an apocalyptic storyline in which characters are attempting to ward off the violent end of the world. We see battlefield scenes, scenes in which an army of bluish ghosts attack people; a mushroom cloud goes up and a wall of fire consumes a group of characters. One main character is dead and a ghost; it's implied he may have died by suicide, and a father figure character has apparently also died by suicide. A trio of expressionless villains mow down dozens of characters with machine guns; we see dead, bloody bodies and people writhing with pain as main characters run to escape the carnage. A character of color exists in a 1960s timeline in which the civil rights movement is prominent; racist characters call a man "boy" and point out that a restaurant is "Whites only." Scenes take place in a burlesque club with female dancers in brief costumes (but no nudity).
Is It Any Good?
Inventive visuals and quirky actors clearly instructed to let their freak flags fly breathe life into the somewhat hackneyed setup of a school for superheroes. Hey, didn't we do that already? X-Men? Sky High? But this show takes it to the limit, and as time goes on, the emotional stakes of the show deepen, which makes the action and villainy more exciting and sets this show apart from similar outings. The show's early hyperkinetic action sequences set to cheerful pop aren't as effective as they could be. They'll remind you of Kick-Ass, for one thing, and they're over the top logically speaking: Does a bank robber really deserve to be flung out of a third-story window to certain death? Um, maybe the super-sibs could just call the police? But other moments are sheer joy, like a scene in which the siblings dance to "I Think We're Alone Now" in separate rooms of the house before the camera pulls back as if they were dancing in a dollhouse, each in his or her own box.
Two of Umbrella Academy's actors are also reliable fun whenever they show up: Robert Sheehan, all elfin-fey jittery energy as the junkie bad sheep of the family, and Aidan Gallagher, tasked with playing a character with the consciousness of a 58-year-old and the body of a 13-year-old. Grousing his way believably and magnetically through scenes in which he can't believe the stupidity of everyone around him, Gallagher is a kick -- and, incidentally, has a really cool superpower. Unfortunately, the sublimely gifted Page mopes around for a while, not given as much to do until her "I'm so ordinary!" storyline shifts. It's always great to see an underdog get hers, but it's frustrating to watch Page's sparkly light dimmed while we wait. Thankfully, the show deepens and gets better as the first season plays out, and the second one is even better, with an apocalyptic storyline that heightens the tension and a lot of time spent investigating the characters' inner lives and frustrations. The violent set pieces and sci-fi weaponry remain, but the show takes time to illuminate the characters caught up in the violence, which imbues the battles with meaning and heart and turns what could be an empty spectacle into something gripping, moving, and, ultimately, entirely thrilling, on many levels.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.