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The Umbrella Academy: Right Back Where We Started

Elliott: See, Eleanor thought my head wasn’t screwed on tight, but it’s all true, yeah? UFOs, crop circles...
Five: Well, the truth is out there.

After jumping through time to avoid being killed when the moon explodes, Five and his siblings reappear in the early sixties in Dallas, Texas.

The Umbrella Academy lands in a back alley in Dallas, so the same place but not at quite the same time. After all, Five is better at managing space than he is at managing time. And so we have an introductory episode that is not quite an introductory episode. We know all the characters, but how will they do, dropped off in the past, mostly without each other and sometimes without their abilities? As Aaron Studer, the reviewer before me noted, although there’s a plot (and lots of urgency to push the plot forward) this series focuses on the characters.

The one who lands first is Klaus, in 1960, and he’s not quite alone because ghost sibling Ben is with him. This is convenient, because this allows for some conversation between two characters and helps establish what is going on – and the date. Klaus, when we see him next, is on his way back to Dallas – much to Ben’s annoyance, as the ghost wanted to stay in San Francisco – and in the past few years, Klaus has become much more outré in his appearance. His car breaks down; he steals a truck, and he gets picked up and put into prison.


The next person to arrive is Allison, in 1961. Her vocal cords were cut at the end of season one, and so at the beginning of the episode she is unable to talk. She enters a restaurant and the people in charge point to a Whites Only sign, something that made my stomach sink. As bad as race relations sometimes are now, sixty years ago they were far worse. We discover she is married, to a gorgeous man called Ray (and has recovered her ability to speak). This is not surprising. Allison is so beautiful that many men would want her, and she’s also, for the most part, an extremely caring human. Her 2019 persona breaks out now and then, and she punches a white guy.

Luther arrives in 1962, and he calls out to his siblings – joined by a homeless man who yells along with him. I loved that bit of staging. Luther ends up as a sort of bouncer and cage-fighter working for Jack Ruby (yes, that Jack Ruby). Number One, in my opinion, is one of those people who needs to be told what to do, which is why he is a good second in command but a lousy leader. Before he looked up to his father; now Jack Ruby fills that position.

Diego arrives in September of 1963, the only one to display any agility when he lands. He’s still got a hero complex and he immediately rescues a woman from a mugger. However, his desire to save JFK from assassination helps him into a lunatic asylum. Later he escapes from the place – I never had such a good look at a padded cell before! – with the assistance of a crazy lady, Lila, who turns out to be a suspiciously good fighter and also knows the way out of the lunatic asylum. More suspicious knowledge.

Vanya, who was unconscious before they left 2019, staggers out of the alley in her white outfit and gets hit by a car in October of 1963. She does not remember who she is, but she gets taken in by the people who accidentally hit her. This is not so surprising. They are caring people, and as Vanya is female (for now at least; I have no idea what the writers will do in season 3) and really small, she does not seem especially threatening. Vanya remembers nothing besides her own name. Through her and the woman on the farm (Sissy), we remember that although life was often wretched for blacks, women often had a hard time too. As did gays and lesbians, as we will also see.

Five arrives in late November, only to discover another doomsday scenario in progress, a nuclear war, with Russians marching down the road. First, let me say that Aidan Gallagher is my favorite actor in the show, and although the trope of an older person in a young body has been done before, this young man does it really, really well. I adore how cranky he is. Anyway, with the help of Hazel, Five goes back in time a few days, with the intention of getting everyone together and doing what they can to stop doomsday. This time, when he reaches the alley, he realizes someone has been watching and we meet the conspiracy-obsessed Elliott, who provides the members of the Umbrella Academy with a pied-à-terre in Dallas.

I really enjoy Dallas native Elliott, who has been noticing odd goings-on in his back alley for a while. The actor freaks out beautifully to Five’s jumping around in space – but relaxes as Five seems mostly interested in coffee and information.

Instead of Hazel and Cha-Cha (although Hazel makes an appearance) our gun-toting villains are now three very pale, mostly wordless Swedes. When attempting to kill Five, they actually kill Hazel (who had 20 good years with Agnes, but who also killed a lot of people before this, so we can’t be too sad). They also chase after Diego in the lunatic asylum, who is initially hampered in his escape by drugs and a dislocated shoulder (Five was a jerk to leave him there). I supposed, as his incarceration was in the paper, he was the easiest of the Umbrella Academy members to locate.

Title musings. “Right Back Where We Started” may seem strange in that, with the exception of Five, we do not know that any of the characters have been in Dallas before. However, if you are looking at the story, it is a complete reset back to the beginning of Season One. The characters are scattered, certainly not working together, and there is another doomsday to prevent. This episode sets the stage for the rest of the season.

Bits and pieces

Ellen Page is transitioning or has transitioned to Elliot Page, and they prefer “they” as their pronoun. I will do my best when referring to the actor, which won’t always be easy, because it’s hard to rewire an old brain. However, when referring to the character, I will use the gender of whatever character is being portrayed.

In one of the comments to one of the reviews to Season One, someone pointed out that Vanya is actually a boy’s name.

I have not read the comics/source material, and I currently have no plans to, so you will be getting my reactions to the show as a standalone.

Pogo, who narrates the beginning, informs us that the apocalypse of season one took place on April 1, 2019. Must have been having fun with April Fool’s Day (a reminder that no one should take this too seriously).

The directors poured on the irony when Luther arrived, in the pouring rain, because the words of the song were “that sunny day” at the time.

There will be an awful lot of Jell-O in Season Two. Well, Jell-O was big in the 1960s. So were milk trucks.

Lila appears to really “like” Diego. When he gets up, she moves over to where he had been sitting, presumably so that her bottom will experience the warmth of his bottom (maintaining the crazy as she puts unlit cigarettes up her nostrils). And then she snatches a little bracelet of beads he made.

Ray Chestnut gives Allison Jules Verne’s From Earth to the Moon as an early anniversary gift, because he keeps seeing his wife gaze up at it. Of course, the moon was destroyed at the end of Season One. It’s also where Luther spent four years.

Quotes

Diego: I’m a grown-ass man, Dr. Moncton –
Dr. Moncton: Who still defines himself in opposition to his father. His dead father. That isn’t really defining yourself, is it, Diego?
Diego: Yeah, why don’t you tell that to Luke Skywalker? I know you don’t get it, but that is an excellent reference.

Diego: Dallas Law Enforcement has not been supportive of my attempt to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Raymond: Look, there is no room for error here. There is no room for images on the TV of violence, aggression, or even disrespect. No matter what they do to us, we have one rule: honor and dignity at all times.

Ben: Think I’m just gonna to keep following you for another three years?
Klaus: Yeah, you are my ghost bitch.

Klaus: If you keep undressing me with your eyes, I’m going to catch cold.

Vanya (after discovering Sissy smoking): Never would have guessed you have such a rebellious side.
Sissy: Men have sides. Women have secrets.

Five: We have to find the others because the world ends again in ten days. I have no idea how to stop it.
Luther (who misses Allison): I don’t give a shit.

Overall Rating

An enjoyable start to the second season, where they are, as they say in the title, right back where we started, but this show is for character and absurdity, not plot depth. Three and a half out of four umbrellas.

Victoria Grossack loves math, birds, Greek mythology, Jane Austen and great storytelling in many forms.

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