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The Umbrella Academy: The Day That Was

'The Day That Was' fiercely reminds me of an anime that's realized it's catching up too close with its source material on print and therefore has to color in the rest of its story with some filler-esque material until the climax can be reached. It's not that 'The Day That Was' is especially lagging filler, but it does pale in comparison with regards to a compelling advancement against the first three-quarters of 'The Day That Wasn't.'

So what's the story? As it turns out, 'Leonard Peabody' is in truth Harold Jenkins. Physically and emotionally abused by his alcoholic father, Harold still believed that because he was born on the same day as the children of The Umbrella Academy, he may be one of the many youths born with mysterious abilities. Harold believes his powers are taking an especially long time to develop but Sir Hargreeves rebuffs Harold's efforts to join the academy, crushing Harold. At his wit's end, Harold puts his foot down at last and murders his father, earning him twelve years in prison. And upon release, who should he first see but Klaus Hargreeves from across the street, ditching his now deceased father's prized journals for drug money, thus creating the catalyst for Harold's revenge.

While it does deliver answers to multiple inquiries held by the audience, Harold's backstory isn't especially that interesting a revelation at the end of it all. What would have been an intriguing direction is the reveal that Harold in fact does possess an ability of his own that could make him a force to be reckoned with against the Hargreeves siblings. Right down to the episode's end though, as he takes a beating in order to protect Vanya, it looks as though this is not the case. My guess is that the intent was to paint Harold more as a 'nobody' who became a very dangerous 'somebody' like Syndrome in The Incredibles or Hal in Megamind, but the difference here is that at least Syndrome and Hal get instances to demonstrate why they are credible threats, in spite of having no or amateurish super-abilities. In The Umbrella Academy's case, I'm afraid that for all of Harold's patience and manipulation, I still don't buy him as someone that intimidating; rather, I'm more concerned with what could happen if he succeeds in getting Vanya to turn on her siblings.

What's worse is that Harold's plot, now that it's all out in the open, doesn't really make sense either. Him being angry at Sir Hargreeves for his cold and ill-mannered dismissal I get, but the kids had nothing to do with it. If anything, they were just as tormented and victimized by Sir Hargreeves as Harold was, so they should be figures Harold should be able to at least sympathize with a bit.

So in the present, Harold takes Vanya into the woods to get her to understand her abilities better and to harp on the tired 'powers-being-linked-to-emotions' trope. Meanwhile, Five returns to the mansion and gives his siblings Harold Jenkins' name, believing if they find and stop Harold, they stop the apocalypse. Can we just take a moment here to speculate why on Earth Five isn't the empirical leader of the academy? While Luther prattles on, struggling to connect every issue to the moon, Five actually succeeds here in inspiring morale and teamwork between Diego and Allison. Even Luther couldn't do that in this exact setting only one episode ago. Five does here what Luther couldn't and even when walking around with a piece of shrapnel still lodged in his torso, he's still intent on doing whatever it takes to ward off the end of the world. It actually makes me a little intrigued as to whether or not the series chooses to go in that direction when the second season comes around. (Yes, at the time of writing this review, The Umbrella Academy has very fortunately been renewed for another season!)

Wishy-washy Luther chooses to stay behind only so he can discover what we already learned last episode, that his endeavors to the moon were for nothing. So naturally... his solution is to get intoxicated, go clubbing, and leave Klaus to nearly die in the middle of a rave. For a brief instant, like I said with 'The Day That Wasn't,' I get why Luther is so beat up in the beginning, but narrative-wise, this isn't the wisest of options to get people engrossed with his character. Mostly everyone else has put aside their selfish desires for the time being, so now that we're within eyesight of the finish line, Luther's own hindrances feel more like an obstacle we're just waiting to get over. Personally, I think this is where we should have started with Luther, way back in the pilot, so we can see him work his way back to resembling something of a sympathetic character.

The highlight though to this subplot means that since Diego is out investigating Harold, Klaus needs someone else to bounce off of, and here, it's Luther. While Luther loses points in the sympathy bracket, Klaus gains many more here, as he's forced to try and do his best to snap Luther out of his brief depressive interludes. I admire Klaus for his efforts, despite the fact that Luther hasn't done jack for Klaus in the past. And here Klaus still stands at his side, willing to let bygones be bygones because he believes Luther still is the academy's best candidate for being team leader. Also, I'm sorry Ben, I adore you and all, but I'm going to have to shoot down your assertion that Luther would do anything to save Klaus in flames, because I haven't seen a shred of evidence in this series displaying that.

Five, Allison and Diego discover Harold torched action figures of them and that he's moody for not being inaugurated into their super-secret-boy-band, while Klaus attempts to drag Luther away from the party scene, resulting in him getting knocked unconscious for a moment. Klaus awakens in what he believes is heaven, and I really dig the notion that God is a little girl in this universe, leading me to endlessly speculate then what this universe's devil looks like. Klaus is met by the spirit of his deceased father who tells Klaus that in truth, he took his own life to inspire the academy to band back together as a team. Sir Hargreeves is also pretty vague on if he knew anything about the imminent apocalypse, neither confirming nor denying knowledge of it to Klaus, so ultimately, this reveal has a bit of a bland taste to me. Did he know the end of the world was approaching, and if so, how? Did this have anything to do with his warning to Luther to not trust anyone? The big surprise that nobody outright killed him doesn't exactly help our heroes in the long haul unless there's been something else divulged to Klaus off screen...

I've noticed that as the series progresses, the characters of Hazel and Cha-Cha continue to wear thin for me, but not because they share Luther's complication where they're not sympathetic anymore; rather, they're just dull. What was at least interesting in the beginning was seeing them work off of the Hargreeves siblings, Klaus in particular, but in this episode, it's just the two of them talking about...retiring? Which is a fine motivating factor but their conversations just don't hold the same merit for me as the dialogue between the siblings do.

At the end of it all, mostly everything we saw develop over in the last episode is done once again here in 'The Day That Was,' just with less pizzazz, for lack of a better term. In fact, Klaus' development and his increasing attempts to sober up nearly end up being the better alternative to 'The Day That Wasn't's plot points; the only downside for me is that his efforts to reunite with the afterlife apparition of Dave are cut short once again. As is the reunion between Diego and Mom, Vanya is still none the wiser with Harold, and by the time the credits roll, the team is still no closer to getting their act together what with Luther being a jerk, Five out of commission and Allison deciding she was right in wanting to see her daughter before the end of it all.

Name That Tune:

The trend of upbeat tunes set to a violent maiming makes a comeback, this time with 'One Is The Loneliest Number' by Three Dog Night set to the gruesome murder of Harold's pops.

Hargreeves Humor:

Diego: "You had me at Gerald Jenkins."
Five: "Harold Jenkins."
Diego: "...Whatever."

Diego: (about Leonard) "He didn't seem dangerous when I first saw him. Looked kinda scrawny."
Allison: "Yeah, well, so are most serial killers and mass murderers. I mean, look at him."
Five: "Thanks."

Allison: "What do they think you did?"
Diego: "Murder."
Allison: "Did you?"
Diego: "No, no, no, of course not, okay? Why would you ask that about me, anyway?"
Allison: "I mean, you do carry knives with you everywhere."

Klaus: "We've been to seven bars, three strip joints, and a laundromat. Luther's not here. Can we go home now?"

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

1 comment:

  1. Good point about everyone spinning their wheels. I think I liked this episode more than you did, though. I'm really feeling for Klaus in particular.


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