TV

‘The Umbrella Academy’ Season 2 Is Basically The Fun Version Of 2020

Much like this year, everyone has to deal with multiple apocalypses. Except these ones are fun to watch.

The Umbrella Academy season 2

While The Umbrella Academy season 2 is not actually about COVID-19, it’s kinda accidentally about COVID-19.

I mean, it’s very hard to consume culture in the middle of a pandemic without being aware that you’re consuming culture in the middle of a pandemic. It’s a real Catch-22, except without the whimsy and barely any catch. I know it’s gonna be a hokey lens to view pop-culture through soon, but at the moment it’s our only lens, so let’s just deal with it!

There’s no way that the show set out to make a second season that dealt with COVID-19 — it was probably little more than a yucky twinkle in the plague god’s eye when they filmed it. However, it does perfect capture the cursed vibe of 2020, the reality of living through a year best described as a series of escalating apocalypses.

Plus, the show is all about time-travel, so maybe they knew??? Maybe they knew.

*Spoilers for The Umbrella Academy seasons 1 and 2 follow*

A Series Of Escalating Apocalypses

Season 1 of The Umbrella Academy was all about a famously dysfunctional family of broken superheroes trying to come back together to forestall the apocalypse. They did not succeed, and the season concluded with Five desperately throwing the entire family back in time, as the moon came hurtling down towards them. Bad situation!

We open up season 2 with Five realising that he’s been separated from everyone else in the family, and also that he is in Dallas in the sixties — the main premise of the entirety of the show from here on. However, things rapidly escalate, and Five realises that the sudden introduction of his weird siblings into the past has created yet another apocalypse — this time nuclear.

It feels familiar — in Australia in particular, it feels like we jumped from the bushfires straight into the pandemic, trading our smoke filtering masks for sickness prevention ones. We barely finished smoky marches for climate change before we were locked inside our houses.

The whiplash we feel in 2020 is echoed in the show — the swiftness with which we are dropped into a brand spanking new apocalypse, after barely getting our heads around the last one, allowing the audience little-to-no sympathy. That’s life, the show, and 2020 both say. It’s apocalypses all the way down.

Five’s stress and exhaustion is deeply us — the rest of his siblings get a good break between apocalypses, a time to create new lives, be normal. For Five, and for us, there’s been no break, no respite, and the memeification of his rapid breakdown is absolutely our 2020 mood.

That said — the manic succession of doomsdays in The Umbrella Academy, the rogue’s gallery of bombastic villains, the farcical level of screw-ups, the relationships dripping in pathos and melodrama — all achieve a show that contrasts dramatically from our current coronavirus-riddled situation.

Because it’s fun. It’s a really fun show. It’s silly, exciting, action-packed, and often bizarre. A grim juxtaposition to the crawling and often grim realities of a pandemic.

Black Lives Matter — The Prequel

But that’s not the only way The Umbrella Academy season 2 vibes with 2020.

While various apocalypses are going on, Allison has spent her year in 1960s Dallas getting involved in the Black civil rights movement.

Everyone gets a side-quest of sorts in the series, and Allison’s is definitely one of the more meaningful and interesting. There’s something fairly powerful about watching the fight for basic rights in the USA, such as anti-segregation.

It helps place the current struggle, centred on anti-police brutality, in context. The Black Lives Matter protests that have been going on this year are easily seen as a continuation of the same fight that Black people in America have been having since the sixties, and well before.

Allison’s Dallas-specific fight is centred around a diner, in a part of town where Black Americans are denied service. In a bid to create media awareness around the rampant inequality inherent in segregation, they stage a peaceful sit-in, timed for when the President is passing through town. Of course, racism escalates things, and it turns into a violent confrontation, labelled a riot.

I mean — I won’t bang on, there are similarities.

“.. it was before George Floyd, it was before this Black Lives Matter global moment … and movement that we are in,” Emmy Raver-Lampman, the actress who plays Allison told Collider.

“I think that is the biggest takeaway for me and hopefully for so many viewers this season of just, we didn’t have to rewrite a lot of Allison’s storylines to make it current because systemic racism has been present and current in our country and all over this world, but especially in our country, for 400 years. And I think it has taken on different faces, it has taken on different names, the fight against that has different movements and different moments, but it is the same thing that is being fought. It is the same struggle that Black Americans and people of colour and Black people and people of colour all over the world are fighting. And I think it’s just really crazy how even more relevant this season has become.”

Before Allison leaves the 1960s, and her husband, behind, she tells him:

“You have to stay because the fight is not over even in 2019.”

Mood.

Trying Our Best

But the thing that really resonates with me personally, the most, is that for everyone in the Umbrella Academy — excluding Five — living between apocalypses also involves just trying to live your life.

Klaus creates a cult, Luther joins a fight club, Vanya becomes a lesbian — all the siblings creates LIVES in the 1960s, which they are forced to live to various degrees of success and happiness. They fall in love, they become invested in their communities, they throw knives well — they don’t sit around just worrying, dreading the next hammer-fall.

They are all trying to find some normality — and do their best, regardless of the ridiculous circumstances they find themselves in. And that, my friends, is the big mood that both the Umbrella Academy and us poor idiots in 2020 share. We’re all just trying to live our lives, despite the flaming curveballs this year keeps serving us.

And not to leave this on a grim note, but the cliffhanger at the end of season 2 is also pretty real — we don’t know where we’ll end up when the pandemic passes, but we know it’s going to be different, new, and strange. There’s no going back to the reality we remember, not entirely.

The Umbrella Academy seasons 1 and 2 are currently streaming on Netflix.


Patrick Lenton is the Editor of Junkee. He tweets @patricklenton.