A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What 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).
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What's the story?
Decades before THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY opens, 43 infants were inexplicably born to women all over the world who weren't pregnant the day before. Eccentric billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Meany) figures these children must have some kind of special powers. And so he sets out to adopt as many of them as he can. His final tally: seven, including Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), who can make things come true merely by saying things out loud; Klaus (Robert Sheehan), who can speak to the dead; Number Five (Aidan Gallagher), who can jump through time; and Vanya (Elliot Page), who is, as Hargreeves says, "nothing special." Years after they were a hot crime-fighting family, the super-siblings are now estranged. But when Hargreeves dies mysteriously -- and when a character missing for over a decade reappears, warning that eight days from now, a fiery apocalypse destroys all of humanity -- the gang teams up again for a major mission.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the level of violence in The Umbrella Academy. Is it more or less violent than you expected? More or less violent than other shows or movies about superheroes? How can you tell the difference between a superhero and a supervillain? Is the violence in this show enjoyable? What impact does media violence have on kids?
How well do you think comic books translate to feature films or TV shows? Which comics-based productions have made the best adaptations? Is it important to your enjoyment of the show to have read the comic before watching?
What makes stories about humans with extraordinary powers especially appealing? Why would people want to have superpowers, particularly at this moment in time? If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love superheroes
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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