The Umbrella Academy: The White Violin

When it's all said and done, The Umbrella Academy's season finale does what finales typically aim to achieve. That is, for the most part it credibly brings an end to the arcs of Season 1 while setting up and leaving room for intrigue over the murky elements of the upcoming Season 2.

Smack-dab in the center of the finale's conflict is Vanya, who has decided in a matter of seconds that the only road left for her to take is to destroy literally anything and anyone in her way from here on out. Which is...hasty. Evidently, Luther being the only sibling to all but turn on Vanya in the last episode has led Vanya to concur that everyone is now her enemy, which only feels like one of the laziest narrative routes this series has taken yet. For one thing, it's fairly clear that Vanya could see through the isolation chamber that Allison, Klaus and Diego were very much against Luther's decision to lock her up, so right now, Luther should be the only one on the receiving end of her anger. Perhaps it could be argued that Vanya harbors resentment for her other siblings for their neglect of her when they were kids, but because the child actress for Vanya in these kinds of flashback sequences doesn't do much expression-wise besides maintaining deadpan at its finest, it's difficult for a viewer then to get inside this character's head and obtain a read on how they're feeling.

If I may indulge in 'spit-balling' for a moment, a far more interesting climax this finale could have taken is to show Vanya purely going after Luther, bent on rightful retribution. Therefore, the remaining siblings are left to consider whether to let Vanya exact her anger, or insert themselves into the conflict to save Luther and risk being at the mercy of Vanya too. In this scenario, the apocalypse is averted, but the Hargreeves' cohesive image of their family is now what's being put at risk.

Once Vanya kills Pogo and Mom, and destroys the academy, the siblings regroup and plan their next course of action. It's a little odd that this series never condemns Luther for his decision last episode to send Vanya directly to jail without passing Go, as the others seem oddly content now with letting Luther's impulsive ways slide, and instead willing to go along with the groupthink notion. For a while here, much of the episode then begins to feel like the manual arrangement of chess board pieces, in order to push everyone into where they're supposed to be for the final battle; Luther, Diego, Klaus, and Allison escape Commission agents, Vanya prepares for her concert where she intends to amplify her expelled tremors through her violin and wreak havoc, and The Handler gets Hazel and Cha-Cha back on the same page so they can keep eyes on Vanya to ensure the apocalypse plays out as it's supposed to.


My favorite development of the finale is found in the conclusion to Diego's quest for vengeance. While battling Cha-Cha, and knowing that she was the one that pulled the trigger on Patch, Diego decides that taking another life out of retribution wouldn't have been the right way to honor Patch, someone that abided strictly by law and order, and lets Cha-Cha go. Thus, it sets in motion now a refined way for Diego to get past his obstacles come Season 2; without relying so heavily on a solution that involves fatally stabbing the obstacle before you, I'm left intrigued as to what kind of individual Diego will grow into in the future.

In a turn of events that would probably leave even Neil deGrasse Tyson at a loss for words, Allison is able to end it all by sedating Vanya with a gunshot right beside her ear. But the combination of the bullet and Vanya's tremors results in a sonicboom of some sorts that destroys the moon, and causes it to rain down on Earth. So in the end, the apocalypse still occurs, full-circle. I actually see this as a quite ominous visualization of the notion that time is a fixed constant, and that the most drastic of events are destined to play out no matter how much you muck around in the space-time continuum. Earth is supposedly doomed, but Five believes so long as they are alive and given time to think, the siblings can still avert the disaster, and projects himself, Luther, Diego, Allison, Klaus and Vanya back in time to an unknown date. Additionally, Hazel shoots The Handler and also uses a briefcase to transport him and Agnes away to an unknown date, so it looks like, for now anyway, Hazel's gotten the escape from his dreadful line of work that he's wanted.

Season 1 has certainly left us with a few things to mull over until Season 2 hits Netflix. For one thing, Sir Reginald in fact is extraterrestrial in origin, as the episode's prelude would have us believe. Ben has made some progress transcending the barriers between the worlds of the living and the deceased, so I have personal hopes to see additional interactions between Ben and the other siblings. There's been a hefty amount too of conjecture over just how much we will see of the de-aged siblings in Season 2, seeing that somehow, Five transporting everybody into the past has also begun to affect their physical appearances. I suspect though that we won't have to worry about never seeing the older actors again on the show, as I seriously can't imagine the showrunners would be silly enough to forsake seven performers with amazing rapport next season just to keep the ball rolling with a fifteen-second cliffhanger. Fingers crossed though that Five isn't slowly devolved into just a plot device that can get the team out of any pinch.

I stand by what I said back in my review of the pilot, that The Umbrella Academy Season 1 is primarily a character-driven series, and even if its narrative and plot points can strike me as out-of-touch and peculiar, it absolutely is worth it to keep coming back episode after episode to watch these misfits interact with each other, and I will be doing so once again with Season 2. By this point, I'm more up-to-date with the happenings of the comics but seeing how much elbow room Season 1 had without strictly sticking to the source material, I'd say it's more anyone's guess as to what's in store in Season 2.

Name That Tune:

Another of my absolute favorites from this series' playlist - Hazy Shade of Winter, sung by none other than Gerard Way again - plays through the Season 1 credits. It's also worth it to check out the original sung by Simon and Garfunkel, but Way's cover has this almost-explosive aura to it that is just fine if fast-paced rock is more your thing.

Hargreeves Humor:

Mother: " Excuse me, it's my son Kenny's birthday today, and, uh, wouldn't your son be happier playing with kids his own age? Assuming it's okay with your two dads."
Five: "I would rather chew off my own foot."

(Later, after Commission agents appear.)

Luther: "Who the hell are these guys?"
Klaus: "Maybe they're here for Kenny's birthday!"

Luther: "Is there any way to silence that voice in your head that screams out to be the center of attention?"
Klaus: "You know, I liked you a lot better before you got laid."

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

2 comments:

Tim said...

I haven't read the source material but I really enjoyed this show.

I agree that the character interaction is the main attraction. I especially liked the developing relationship between Hazel & Agnes.

Looking forward to season 2

Thanks for your reviews.

Tim

Katerina said...

I just finished watching this final episode and enjoyed the season overall. There were little things that bugged me here and there, but my two main complaints are related to character developments.

First, you can easily argue that Luther's actions towards Vanya, locking her up against his siblings' wishes instead of showing the least amount of compassion and understanding, is what actually causes the apocalypse. He makes the same mistake when he decides everyone should rush the stage. In each of those situations, it appeared that Allison could have possibly saved the situation. Maybe that's not out of the ordinary for his character, though. I do wish the others would have argued more against his actions and decisions.

I also agree that Vanya's turn to mass destruction and killing happened way too quickly. After seeing her as a child killing nannies left and right when she already should have known the difference between good and very bad behavior, I don't have a problem believing she would have gotten there again eventually once she learned the truth, but you can't just dismiss those intervening years and the person she was during that time. While her siblings try to "fix" her in whatever time they went to, they would do well to do some heavy introspection, too.

Having said that, I did love the character interactions the most and am looking forward to the next season. I'll have to rewatch the last episode. I thought maybe their father came from some future, but wasn't sure. I was confused. I also missed that Hazel and his girl escaped the apocalypse. I must not have been watching closely.

Thanks for the reviews!