Warning: This story contains minor spoilers from Seasons 1 and 2 of “The Umbrella Academy.”
Who needs confident, spandex-clad superheroes? Been there, done that. In “The Umbrella Academy, the Netflix show uses dysfunction and leather to create a fantastical — and cinematic — foray into the genre.
The show, now in its second season, follows the weird, wild adventures of seven adopted children, six of whom have unique powers and were raised to be superheroes by their manipulative father. But his tactics left them emotionally damaged and resentful and, after years of estrangement, the now-adult siblings reunite to prevent an apocalypse on April 1, 2019.
For the uninitiated, the siblings and their superpowers include:
- Klaus (Robert Sheehan), a flighty drug addict turned oddball prophet who can conjure the dead;
- Ben (Justin H. Min), who can summon multidimensional tentacles within him to fight off bad guys. (Hey, we said the show was weird and wild);
- Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman, “Hamilton”), who can get people to do things by saying, “I heard a rumor,” followed by a command such as “that you punched yourself in the head,” as she cheekily says to one of her siblings in Season 2;
- Luther (Tom Hopper, “Game of Thrones”), who has freakish strength and an equally freakish gorilla-like body;
- Diego (David Castañeda), who can hurl knives at foes with mind-blowing precision;
- Vanya (Ellen Page, “Juno”), whose latent superhero abilities — we won’t spoil things for those who haven’t seen Season 1 — don’t manifest until later in life;
- Five (16-year-old Nickelodeon alum Aidan Gallagher), a time- and space-shifting kid who is actually a 58-year-old in a teenager’s body.
Unfortunately, at the very end of Season 1, the group realizes they’d failed on their mission and collectively travel back in time right before an Earth-destroying cataclysm in order to correct their missteps. In Season 2, now available, let’s just say their time-traveling didn’t go as planned: They individually wind up back in various years in the 1960s in a plot driven by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963.
Executive producer Steve Blackman recently talked with The Post about why it’s a good time to binge Season 1 and jump into Season 2.
1. The timing for the apocalyptic show seems about right.
“I think it’s weird, a little bit. It’s amazing — our show feels a little more timely than ever before. We finished [filming Season 2] at Thanksgiving last year, and if you would have asked me if I thought we would be in this worldwide pandemic, this incredible Black Lives Matter movement, I would not have believed it.”
2. The second season kicks off with a 7-minute, action-packed opening sequence that turns plot — and its Season 1 finale setup — on its head.
“It really was a hard sequence to do. Other than the tank, and the people and the little bit of rubble, nothing was actually there. It was very tricky and complicated to shoot. From an emotional point of view, I wanted to show the audience, right from the beginning, what the stakes were for the season. You’re actually seeing the failed ending, the nuke war, the doomsday happening in front of us, to say ‘if they can’t fix the timeline and find out what they did wrong, this is the outcome.’ I thought it was really interesting to start you off with the end of the story and say ‘they’ve got to right this wrong.’ It was just a very dramatic way of doing it. Plus, it makes for a very fun cold open.”
3. The actors were game for CGI.
“They read it in the script and were like, ‘Wait a second — how can we pull this off?’ For that big battle, it was just trying to explain to them, ‘OK, there’s going to be something flying here into this wall.’ A lot of the time they were just looking at places where there was nothing there, just green screen. But we had them on wires, lifting people — like, Ellen Page was lifted in the air. But they were blown away when they saw the final product and said, ‘Oh, wow — this is amazing.’ ”
4. Fans can have fun pondering which character’s superpower they would love to have.
“I would probably take Five’s ability to time travel. A, I’m fascinated by time travel. B, I don’t need to go back into another time period, but I’d love to go back just two minutes and undo something that I said that’s raw, like, ‘It sucked, buddy.’ That’d be a very powerful thing.”
5. Aidan Gallagher, the 16-year-old who plays Five, knocks his role out of the park.
“He’s a phenom. The character Five is very tricky because he’s embodying a 58-year-old man, with all the foibles and the gravitas of that history, and has gone through the apocalypse. Aidan just manages to bring that sort of weight to this character, which is amazing for a kid who started off when he was 13. I went through hundreds of actors ’til I found him. He was a little kid when I first met him. He was little in a big chair where he was sitting. But I knew the moment he sat for the audition, he was the one. I saw it in his eyes — he had a certain way he held himself. Everything he does is thought through. The mannerisms — he’s all about the detail.“
6. The soundtrack is cheeky and awesome, using Maxine Nightingale’s 1976 disco hit “Right Back Where We Started From” for Season 2’s opening time-travel sequence.
“Music is a character of our show — it’s not just used as background music. We really do it differently. A lot of shows add music after the fact; I picked the songs ahead of time. Nightingale’s is a very fun, catchy song, a little bit tongue-in-cheek, and sets the tone for the season. It’s going to be a fun roller coaster ride with emotion, humor and general weirdness. That just brings you right into those feelings.”
7. The opening battle also finds a use for Frank Sinatra’s 1969 classic “My Way.”
“What’s wonderful that we try to do on the show is we love to take music that should not work together, things that should contrast and not mix — and make them work. You literally don’t think ‘My Way’ should be over the end-of-the-world sequence, but for some reason, it does. Frank just has that voice and that confidence. But I just thought it’s a great song that builds a crescendo and, just as the scene is crescendoing, we merge the two worlds as Frank is belting out ‘My Way’ — and then the world ends.”
8. Cameron Britton’s time-traveling character Hazel tells Five, “If you want to live, come with me.” Is it an homage to the line “Come with me if you want to live” from the “Terminator” movies?
“I don’t think that was intentional. [Laughs] It never occurred to me, but now that I think about it, you may be right. I think that was a little bit of improv on the set that day, which Cameron and Aidan had so much fun filming. When we do accidental homages like that, it’s no shame in that. Sometimes you just can’t help yourself.”