The Umbrella Academy: Man on the Moon

See what I mean about being a character-driven series? Four episodes in, and it still feels as though we haven't exited the first act yet of Season 1, and yet 'Man on the Moon', despite its title being a clear reference to Luther, takes the time to unpack even further the traits and personalities of many of its characters, specifically Diego and Ben.

The episode opens up immediately showcasing Luther's backstory, and the chain of events that led to him becoming a misshapen, hairy brute beneath all his layers of clothing. Turns out, Sir Hargreeves sent him on a mission which left Luther mortally wounded, and in a desperate attempt, Sir Hargreeves reached for the something-something-super-serum that can cheat death which saved Luther, but left him deformed. Still, this is an easier turn of events to swallow than what happens to him in the comics. (Which I have begun scrutinizing through. I won't spoil it, but Luther's transformation in the comics is even more ludicrous, in every sense of the word.)

There's a bit of conflict within me regarding Luther's character in this episode; it would seem that Sir Hargreeves saving Luther's life is the reason Luther remains so devoted to him, even after he has passed. And yet at the same time, Luther comes off as very ashamed of what he has become, now that the other siblings have caught a glimpse of what he actually looks like underneath that trench coat. Diego asserted back in the pilot that Luther should in fact be loathing Sir Hargreeves for what he did to him, and while earlier in the series I may have suspected that perhaps deep down, Luther did resent their father and merely kept a facade up to inspire morality still as No. 1, now I don't think that's the case. His loyalty is unquestioned, but now we've reached the crossroads for a potentially interesting development in Luther's arc: as Diego puts it in this episode, Luther likely stayed at the academy for so long because he was so accustomed to the status quo and longed for everything in his life, despite the fact that his siblings were clearly growing up and moving on with other priorities in their lives, to stay the same. But now that both of his foster parents are dead, where does that leave Luther?

Meanwhile, Leonard's wound up on Allison's radar, and has raised red flags for her in the process. While supposedly on his way to work, Leonard crosses paths with Allison at Vanya's apartment, with a pretty reliable alibi that he had only come to drop off her keys. Still, Allison isn't convinced fully that Leonard has Vanya's best interests at heart, even when Vanya does. Allison's motives here are subject to study, because while some viewers may have difficulty believing that Allison sincerely is just looking out for her only sister's safety, in the series' defense, Allison never explicitly says that the well-being of Vanya is the only reason she is cautious of Leonard. In fact, she boldly admits rather that her paranoia is more an after-effect of her own issues with men in the past. And because we already have a sense of why Vanya is so keen on letting Leonard into her life, this seems to inevitably be setting up some form of conflict between Vanya and Allison further down the line...

Leonard himself is a bit of a mystery though. By the end of 'Man on the Moon', we're shown that in fact, Allison was right to suspect Leonard had an ulterior motive, because while he was in Vanya's apartment, he swiped her pills, which Vanya claims are used to treat her nerves, and afterwards, dumped them down a drain. There's multiple explanations and interpretations of this reveal that don't all have to spell out that Leonard is in fact this series' end-all hidden villain; there's also the possibility he's merely attempting to protect Vanya from something, perhaps he knows something about her no one else does yet. Or there's the possibility he's out to protect Vanya from the rest of her abusive family because he has a hidden grudge with one of them.

And finally, we're left to catch up with Hazel and Cha-Cha, and what their intentions are with Klaus. In comedic fashion, Klaus knows the ins and outs of mainstream torture methods, and is resilient to the assassins' efforts to learn where Five is. Even more captivating though, is the back-and-forth between Klaus and Ben here. Away from his drugs, Klaus begins going through withdrawal and can only barely endure the torment thanks to Ben working him through it. But as it turns out, poor Ben doesn't exactly enjoy being Klaus' moral support in this department. Ben in fact is so increasingly vexed that he always has to watch Klaus take for granted in life everything Ben lost when he died. These aren't the outbursts of someone completely envious of Klaus, but more the urging, from one brother to another, to live smartly and proudly for the both of them.

The full extent of Klaus' powers are shown too: the reason Klaus is so horrified of having to see dead people when he sobers up is because, as a child, his father would isolate him in a locked chamber for hours at end, forcing him to encounter dozens of menacing spirits around him. The ability isn't based on concentration or capable of only interacting with a select number of spirits at a time - no, Klaus can conjure up and communicate with over two dozen spirits at once, and does so in an effort to learn more about who Hazel and Cha-Cha are by speaking to previous victims of theirs that have been killed all across various periods of time.

What's saddening to me with this subplot though is that while Klaus' assertion that Hazel and Cha-Cha are wasting their time with torture because no one, not even Five, will come looking for Klaus initially comes off as just him being a smart-aleck, there's grim truth in that too. In fact, everyone else is out and about searching for Five and/or Hazel and Cha-Cha themselves. No one seems to notice or care that Klaus has gone missing. Patch only finds Klaus at the end because she misconstrues both Diego's words that his brother (Five) is gone and a warning left on Five's van. Patch is able to save Klaus (who makes off with one of his abductor's briefcases that mysteriously teleports him away from the city), but at the cost of her own life after she is gunned down by Cha-Cha. The assassins flee and Diego is left to discover Patch's lifeless body, which means the conflict just became personal for Diego. Luther and Allison feel as though this fight is personal for them because they still think Hazel and Cha-Cha are the ones that killed Mom, but Diego's out for blood now, and me thinks it's finally time he sits down and starts listening to what Five has to say, because I foresee them working a lot more closely together from here on out.

So far, a fairly substantial critique I have of Season 1 is its lack of a credible villain. Clearly, the antagonist, or opposing force of nature felt throughout this show is the ambiguous and imminent apocalypse, but the actual villains going head-to-head with the Hargreeves siblings feel weak not just in capabilities, but in depth. By now, Hazel and Cha-Cha's inability to obtain any valuable information from Klaus aside from now knowing which building Five has been staking out at screams 'ineffective', and Leonard only feels like he could be a villain because of the way the episode is constructed around him and frames him; he himself doesn't look or sound intimidating in the slightest.

Name That Tune:

Despite being played as a melancholy background tune behind a montage of a younger Luther waking up alone in the academy, 'Blood Like Lemonade' by Morcheeba actually tells the story of a vampire priest who embarks on a bloodlust rampage of vengeance after his wife is killed.

Hargreeves Humor:

Cha-Cha: "Is your brother here now?"
Klaus: (Looking at a winking Ben) "You're gonna have to be a little more specific on that."

Patch: "You went after the guys in the masks, didn't you?"
Diego: "I didn't go after them. And one's a woman by the way, so stop being so sexist."

Allison: "Do you have sweatpants? We are going to need sweatpants."

Aaron Studer loves spending his time reading, writing and defending the existence of cryptids because they can’t do it themselves.

1 comment:

NomadUK said...

So, to be pedantic, it's 'Sir Reginald', not 'Sir Hargreeves'. Knights use their first names. If he were a Lord (marquess, earl, viscount, or baron), it would be Lord Hargreeves (or, if his title pertained to a territory, Lord [the place]). To be completely formal about it, it would be 'The Lord Hargreeves'.

Anyway, back to it.