Superheroes are everywhere these days.
There have been so many TV shows and movies about them that every piece of media that has them now has to incorporate something new to be successful.
Well, Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy does this in spades by being a family drama first and a superhero series second.
Based off the graphic novel series by Gerad Way, and adapted by Steve Blackman, The Umbrella Academy follows a dysfunctional family of superheroes who reunite after the death of their terrible adopted father (Colm Feore).
After the reappearance of their time traveling brother Five (Aidan Gallagher), they learn that the world will end in eight days and set out to stop it.
However, despite the coming apocalypse, the series focuses more on the relationships between its characters and it is all the better for it. The Umbrella Academy is at its best when it pairs different characters together to play off one another.
This is helped by how great these characters are and how good of a job the actors portraying them do.
I cared for every member of the academy, from the sympathetic Vanya (Ellen Page), to the tragic Luther (Tom Hopper), to the regretful Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), to the stubborn Diego (David Castaneda), to the drug addict Klaus (Robert Sheenan).
Even the villains are likeable, with me actually cheering for the time traveling assassin Hazel (Cameron Britton) by the end.
The way the story revolves around these characters is fantastic, especially with the ending to episode eight, “I Heard A Rumor”, which had me screaming in shock at what happened.
The CGI is also amazing, with monkey butler Pogo (Adam Godley) looking like he came directly from the recent Planet of the Apes trilogy.
Then there is the music, which is well chosen, even incorporating some from Gerad Way himself into the mix.
But, while I did love all of this, The Umbrella Academy is not without its faults.
While the setup for the story is very interesting, with 43 women giving birth simultaneously, despite not being pregnant, there are numerous questions surrounding this that are never addressed.
For example, what happened to the other children who were not adopted?
Did they get powers too?
Even though these questions are not essential to the overall story of the season, it felt like some potentially interesting lore was being thrown away by it was not being addressed.
Another problem I have is with the final episode of the season, “The White Violin”, which just feels too short.
There are so many moments in this episode that are supposed to be powerful ones but they happen so quickly that there is no time to take it in.
That said, the ending cliffhanger is great.
In the end though, The Umbrella Academy season one is a great start to this series.
The character drama elements to the show are fantastic and bolstered by strong performances from all of the cast.
I hope it gets a second season because I will certainly be watching.
Based on the book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit, the Netflix show Mindhunter presents a mostly fictionalized version of events in this book.
Created by Joe Penhall, The series follows special agents Holden Ford (Jonathon Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) as they travel the country to interview captured serial killers and figure out what makes them tick.
Along the way, they are joined by psychology professor Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), and the three of them strive to help the FBI adapt to a terrifying kind of killer that has yet to be officially recognized.
Mindhunter is very different from other crime TV series.
Most shows of this genre take an extremely fictionalized angle but not Mindhunter.
Sure, a lot of the characters are not real people, but many of the serial killers interviewed are.
The series also takes a realistic approach to the murders from the sole perspective of law enforcement.
Apart from the opening, we never see anyone die.
All the show gives us is pictures of the aftermath and the killers’ own words on what happened.
You would think this would make it hard to feel scared about some of these murders but this if far from the case.
The photos are often brutal and disturbing, and the way these killers talk about the murders they have committed is the most frightening feature of the show.
One of the main serial killers the shows focuses on is the real life Ed Kemper, the Co-ed Killer, who murdered ten people.
Kemper is portrayed by Cameron Britton, in a terrifyingly brilliant performance.
Watching his lifeless eyes while he talks about murder as if it is the most natural thing in the world always sent chills down my spine.
The other killers are just as creepy and, whenever Ford and Tench take on an active case, the details and progression of the case often lead to more disturbing scenes.
The impact these scenes have on the characters is shown fantastically because we see how it affects both Ford and Tench’s relationships with their loved ones. Mindhunter also tackles the time it is set in, of the 1970s, incredibly well.
Subjects like the mistrust of the government, and the slowly changing tactics used to catch killers by the FBI, are handled realistically, just like everything else.
In fact, if I had to describe Mindhunter in one word that is what it would be: realistic.
There are no death matches between the FBI agent and the serial killer, there are no explosions, and there is no happy resolution. Mindhunter feels like real life in all of its terrifying ways and that is what makes it so great.
I cannot wait to see season two, whenever it comes out.