“The Umbrella Academy” is Basically the Best Thing Netflix Has Done Since Existing, Probably. (A Hot Take)

Once upon a time, I was a hugely massive My Chemical Romance fan. I owned all the albums, had a bunch of t-shirts, marched in the MCRmy (made Lieutenant, too!), and annoyed the absolute bejeezus out of my parents by talking constantly about how much I loved and was going to marry Gerard Way.

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Okay, I still want to marry this man.

The girl from My Immortal was basically me, although I couldn’t afford a full Hot Topic wardrobe or weekly Manic Panic dyejobs.

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It’s like staring in a mirror that’s also a time machine. Make it stop.

And for a brief, shining moment, thanks to Mr. Gerard Not-My-Husband Way, I became a comic book nerd. The one and only time I picked up weekly Wednesday releases was when The Umbrella Academy was new on shelves.

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So needless to say I was excited when I heard about the new Netflix show. I may or may not have shirked my every duty to binge-watch all the episodes in one 14-hour extravaganza. (I had to stop for snacks, don’t judge)

Keep in mind that I haven’t actually read the comics in a few years, although I read the Wikipedia and TVTropes pages to brush-up before writing this. So forgive any inaccuracies, I’ll edit if need be – just let me know in the comments!

MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW THE FOLD.

Now We Are the Kids From Yesterday

(Things that Stayed the Same)

The Netflix show made some massive changes, even creating new characters, plots, and ideas wholesale, but some things stuck around:

Spaceboy is Still A Gorilla Man!

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I was super upset upon seeing in the trailer that Luther was no longer a man with a gorilla body below the neck. I told anyone who listened how “ruined” it all was. Oh, if only I were patient. Turns out they were saving it, making it a twist for those who never read the books. Gerard Way loves monkeys, man. I shoulda known!

The Creepy Kinda-Incest Stays

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Remember Cruel Intentions when it was okay for them to be hooking up because they were step-brother and -sister? THAT. I was kind of hoping we would toss this strange, strange plot point by the wayside to be honest, I thought it was awkward as all get out as a teenager, and it still feels cringey to me now. But hey. That dance sequence was pretty rad.

Number Five Is Still Wonderfully Disturbing

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Is there anything more eerie than kids not acting like kids? Well, fifty-plus-years-old-but-in-a-thirteen-year-old’s-body Number Five takes the entire cake and runs with it. They toned down a bit of his psychosis (I seem to recall some weird screaming about being a tiger in the jungle whilst murdering some fools?) but lost none of the charm, wit, and hilarity that comes from this arrangement. Someone get that kid a puppy.

We’ll Carry On

(Things That Changed)

While there were some huge, sweeping differences in the show versus the books, here are some of the biggest ones:

We Have Actual Backstories Now

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The comic books were a little odd in that either it didn’t matter or these people genuinely never did anything with their lives in a decade and a half or so. But finally, we find out exactly what Diego’s vigilantism is like and what it’s cost him (instead of some vague lines alluding to it), Allison has more than just a-kid-and-also-a-divorce (and actually gives a reason for the breakup!), what Luther was doing on the moon, and Vanya’s scathing tell-all book actually has an impact on the family (and it shows the cruel, cruel truth of what being an author actually entails.)

KLAUS

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The hands-down best part of this entire show, the most brilliantly-acted and amazingly-written character is Klaus. But this shouldn’t be surprising, he got some of the best lines in the comics. What did change is that they really showed the problematic life of a junkie, the cycles of sobriety, and – oh – they also made him fabulously gay instead of some deadbeat dad in the 60s. He also doesn’t levitate which is sad, but understandable. I’m just glad he isn’t the same grody, pale noodleman he was in the books. Now we have rainbow leopard print underoonies and I’m here for it.

Mom, Dad, and Pogo

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This was one of the biggest changes, considering Reginald Hargreeves was actually an alien in the comics and no one figured it out and it only mostly made no sense. In the show, they amp the manipulations, the calculations, and the callous disregard for anyone else’s well-being to 11 and 3/4.
Pogo is given a bigger role, making his death even sadder and more poignant, but it also made me hate him so much. Any time there was a big revelation of a Big. Family. Secret! he knew the entire time, was behind it, and was also just so sorry. Can it, monkeybrains.
Robot Mom in the comics only really showed up a few times, as far as I can remember, and didn’t really do a whole lot to do. Here, she has a subplot unto herself, is a major point of conflict, and is probably the best part of the entire show that isn’t Number Four.

Hazel and Cha-Cha

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In the comics, Hazel and Cha-Cha were these big, goofy dudes who never took off their big, goofy masks but were clearly beefy men somewhere underneath. They were the fun kind of psychotic and they were having a good time, like if Quentin Tarantino wrote a movie about Five Nights At Freddy’s.
In this one, they’re more human, more down-to-earth and actually characters with motivations and wants and needs, as opposed to squeaky forces of nature. While I understand the change, and I suppose it would get very annoying after a while, I miss their kooky violence.

Other Notes:

  • It doesn’t really feel like a comic book entity until the very end and then it comics the crap out of the books.
  • The music is really, really random. There’s a fight scene to “Istanbul (Not Constantinople).” YEAH. This isn’t a bad thing, it just is. There is no My Chem music in it, but Gerard and Ray did a song.
  • There are fewer monkeys. In the comics, they were a major part of the world and appeared everywhere from police detectives to hookers. Now it’s just Pogo, but that’s okay.
  • Like most other Netflix makes, much of the cast sounds painfully Canadian Or Somewhere Near It. They’re not sawry.
  • There are lots of references to the comics, from a headline that says “MON DIEU!”, to a mention of Dr. Terminal, to a throwaway line about the Eiffel Tower. No zombie-robot Gustave Eiffel, though, which is a crying shame.

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    Salute your fallen, comrades

  • A lot of plot points from the Dallas series got folded in here, and holy wow am I hoping that means they won’t touch that storyline. It was problematic, to say the least, and I’d love it if this is all we see of that mess.
  • One thing I was hoping for was more Baz Luhrman-eque painting of the medium. Quick-dollies, split-screens, subtitle fun, maybe some paper on the fourth wall. They did it a little and mostly when Hazel and Cha-Cha showed up to make trouble, but doing it a little more would have been fun.

What did you think of The Umbrella Academy on Netflix? Did you like it?
Leave a comment!

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