Review: 'The Umbrella Academy' Brings Twice the Adventure for Season 3

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday June 22, 2022

'The Umbrella Academy - Season 3'
'The Umbrella Academy - Season 3'  (Source:Netflix)

The perpetually bickering, super-powered Hargreeves siblings are back in action with the third season of the Netflix comedy-adventure series "The Umbrella Academy."

At this point — with the Hargreeves having save the world from two apocalypses — could the stakes possibly get higher? The answer is, Of course! Now it's only the entire universe that's about to get wiped out, and all because in their attempts to save the world the super sibs have scrambled the time line, creating a cause-and-effect paradox that changes reality in impossible ways.

For one thing: The Hargreeves are now in a world that never heard of The Umbrella Academy. Instead of adopting them as babies, their father — the eccentric genius Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) — adopted a bunch of other infants and founded The Sparrow Academy, a group of sleek, competent superhumans who make the original lot look like stumbling amateurs. Not only do they have a better name, but the team is more cohesive, better run, and has much better marketing.

They also have Ben (Justin H. Min), the only one from the original batch to be adopted again in this new version the universe. Angry, cynical, and desperate to be counted as his family's Number One, Ben isn't the ally the Umbrellas (as they come to be known) might hope for. Instead, he's an implacable enemy and a ruthless manipulator, hoping to use the Umbrellas in his own schemes to claim the top spot among the Sparrows.

The Umbrellas don't exactly present a unified front against their evil step-siblings. Luther (Tom Hopper) develops divided loyalties with his first glimpse of one of the Sparrows; Diego (David Castañeda) is distracted by the bombshell reappearance of frenemy and rough-edged love interest Lila (Ritu Arya); Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) is ready to kill friend and foe alike to restore the time line and get back to her daughter; and drugged-up, pansexual Klaus (Robert Sheehan), aside from being the family's most chaotically fun member, starts to realize he has powers he never suspected.

Meantime, Vanya... make that Viktor (Elliot Page)... is also reeling from having lost the love of his life — someone, Viktor explains when coming out as trans, who made him realize who he really is. (His siblings are uniformly, and almost casually, accepting, which is a heartwarming thing to see.) Viktor, too, would like to go back and fix things, but first he's going to have to face up to the unintended consequences of his own past actions.

Then there's Five (Aidan Gallagher), who wants nothing more than to accept his new reality as home, settle down, and retire. (After all, while he may look about twelve he's actually a very old man, having lived through his share of previous space-time paradoxes.) But when a "Kugelblitz" — German for "ball lightning," a manifestation of the temporal paradox the Umbrellas have created — shows up and starts zapping things, Five realizes he's going to have to pull on his thinking cap, sharpen his quantum mechanics skills, and dive into the Saving the Universe business, or else his longed-for retirement is liable to be very short indeed.

The ten episodes of the new season have off-the-wall, hilarious surprises that rival anything from the show's first two madcap seasons, and it includes flashbacks that fill in some gaps in the show's larger storylines as well as a fun cameo from an old friend (too bad we didn't see more of him). The clan's robotic mom, Grace (Jordan Claire Robbins), is back, too — she mistakes the Kugelblitz for God and goes full evangelical, in a fun twist — and having Ben among the group alive and well (he was formerly a ghost seen only by Klaus) is a plus. (Having Ben be more or less evil is an even bigger plus.)

Where the new season goes a little off the rails is in the way the siblings get nastier and nastier to each other, especially Allison. (Viktor's perpetual teariness, as he's put into one impossible situation after the next, doesn't help.) If the season has one main identifiable theme, it's how people need to listen to each other in order to build trust and teamwork; even with the universe unraveling around them, the Hargreeves (never great at communicating in the first place) spin out of control, going behind one another's backs at every opportunity. That's a reliable engine for both drama and comedy, but between the double crosses and a slightly saggy back half of the season, you might find yourself, at certain moments, hoping that the Kugelblitz will finally put this bickering crew out of everyone's misery.

But those are fleeing moments, and the season finds its way to a strange stopping place that serves as a truly twisted cliffhanger. Once you reach the end of this new batch of episodes, you'll be impatient to find out what happens next.

As a funhouse reflection of family dynamics (and even as a metaphor for the found family that many in the LGBTQ+ community assemble), "The Umbrella Academy" remains an unpredictable, compelling series that puts the "fun" in "dysfunctional."

"The Umbrella Academy," Season Three, debuts on Netflix on June 22.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.