Saturday, March 2, 2019

ALL ABOARD THE HYPE TRAIN For The Umbrella Academy!

John and I just finished watching The Umbrella Academy on Netflix, and I kid you not: the second the screen went blank after the last scene, I did something I've never done before when a show ended: I yelled - yelled! - into the suddenly quiet room, "THAT WAS AWESOME!" 

Which is about how this review is going to go, with a few caveats.

  As always this will be as spoiler-free as possible; I'm just gonna rave about what I think you'll like, what to look out for, and also ponder aloud whether I like Number 4 or Number 5 better. (We'll be taking a vote at the end, feel free to write in your own nominations. ;P )

First things first, the show premise is your typical X-men situation: kids born with powers, raised in a gorgeous mansion academy. After that it takes a sharp left turn, and delivers a fresh mix of dysfunctional sibling drama, intrigue, brutal action, fantastic music worked into major scenes, and - for lack of a better word - pure zaniness. It bounces from hilarious to gut-wrenching and back again, and the suspense never lets up.

The show is based on the comic of the same name, which I'd never heard of before now:


I can't tell you how faithful it is to the source material, but for once I'm glad I didn't read the book first; not knowing what was coming next was a big part of the fun.

The Umbrella Academy hits the ground running, so you'll know by the end of the first episode if you're going to like it. It's consistently paced, and feels more like a 10-part movie than a TV series. As with Stranger Things, you can tell Netflix didn't skimp on the budget, either; there are lavish sets, some truly gorgeous camera work, and a CGI ape butler so convincing, you just accept that he's real and move on.


I was joking with a friend last week that any time an especially good, upbeat song starts playing in Umbrella Academy, it's about to get violent. Think the arrow scene on the ship in Guardians of the Galaxy 2: popcorn action sequences that make you bop along in your seat. And ohhh, the music. Y'all, they play songs by Tiffany and They Might Be Giants (!!). 'NUFF SAID.

While those peppy fight scenes are mostly fun, there are also much, much darker bouts of violence. I mentioned *that* torture scene last week: it's in episode 2, and for me, in my sleep-deprived, extra sensitive state, it was one of the most disturbing things I've ever seen in a show. Bear in mind I avoid gruesome stuff when possible, though, so your results may vary.

I still think that scene was the worst of the season, but there is more: more torture, more gruesome murders, and one or two more lingering disturbing images. (You can tell when most are coming, at least, so be ready with the remote if you don't like gore.) I was surprised by the TV-14 rating, since this seems like a solid R on violence alone, but... {shrug}... again, my base of reference could be off.

There's also rampant drug use, but no sex - just some that's implied.

These two are what brought the word "zany" to mind: they're assassins named Cha-Cha and Hazel, and they wear giant cartoon heads while they're trying to kill people. Y'know. Like ya do.

Nightmare fuel. (These had to be modeled off of Five Nights At Freddy's, right?)

The siblings themselves are a decent mix of powers and personalities, with believable squabbles and just the right combination of exasperation and affection for each other.

These two are my favorites:


Klaus and Number 5 are dear to my heart for so many reasons, but mostly it boils down to their phenomenal actors knocking it out of the park. Don't get me wrong, the whole cast is pitch perfect, but these two crank it up to 11. I'm convinced Robert Sheehan is having the time of his life playing Klaus, and 15-year-old Aidan Gallagher puts most actors twice his age to shame. The scenes with just the two of them positively crackle, love it love it love it.

Oh, and it took me a good 4 days to realize who Klaus sounds like, and I was SO HAPPY when I did that now I have to share: Martin Short. He has that same high-to-low way of speaking, like a vocal roller coaster. I don't know how else to describe it, but seriously; dead ringer for Martin Short.

 Also I could listen to Hazel complaining about their job conditions in that endearing Midwestern accent all day.

Getting back to the overall show, there's a driving mission and mystery that keeps the 10 episodes zipping along, so this show is eminently bingeable.  Obviously I won't tell you what happens, but you'll be happy to know the ending is just the right mix of resolution and dangling plot points. The writers could take this soooo many directions with season 2, and they left enough unanswered questions that I. can't. wait.



So where are my fellow Umbrella heads at? (I don't know if that's actually what we're called, but I'm onboard if it is.) Have you binged? Are you in process? What'd you like, what'd you hate? Who's your favorite, and why? Note there may be spoilers in the comments, so proceed there with caution. (And some spoilers may be from me, because I want to talk about the villain, dangit! Who's with me?)



65 comments:

  1. Yessssssssssssss!! SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO GOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!!!! So. Good. I'd read the comic and was so excited when Netflix announced that they were making the tv show. I binged it in two days...because I got distracted by some M*A*S*H reruns halfway through. Number Four is my favourite. He was so irreverent and his wardrobe was so much fun! And I want to give him a hug. Him and Hazel. I LOVED the music choices and when they were used. And their use of umbrellas for the titles was so delightful!!

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  2. So super good! Hubs and I binged it and finished last week- I cannot wait for next season!

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  3. I am a Potterhead and have a hard time getting into any comic book super hero movies. We binge watched the entire season of the Umbrella Academy in 24 hours. What a wonderful show! I am in love with Klaus and the young man who played 5 deserves an oscar, or award, or big raise. Excellent acting, excellent special effects and the twists and turns were unexpected and creepy and violent and wonderful!

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  4. Yes to everything you said! Number Four was so great, and I loved Number Five's seen-it-all world weary take on everything. The music was so much fun! I wasn't familiar with the story and I loved all the surprises and twists. And who would have thought I'd be rooting for a hitman!

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  5. I loved it. It was a great way to spend a sick day in bed. My husband however, fell asleep during episode 2, twice. He doesn't understand what's going on, or why he should care, and won't watch more, which frustrates me because I need to talk about it!

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    1. I watched it alone because I knew my husband wouldn't like it (the man falls asleep during Marvel movies). And I am absolutely totally in love with it. Like, I already feel the need to re-watch it.

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  6. OMG, the soundtrack was epic... Klaus and Ben, and Five... And just the sibling-ness of it all, I would bet good money there are no only children on that writing team! ;)

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  7. I loved it too. Watched with my mature-for-her-age 13 year old who is now UA obsessed (and she's not usually fussed about TV). I've loved Robert Sheehan since Misfits, so I think seeing him in the trailer is what convinced me to watch. I wasn't disappointed.

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    1. I'm not a huge fan of violence which almost turned me off to it, but when I saw Robert Sheehan was in it, I HAD to watch. As usual, he did NOT disappoint!

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  8. Ooh also, my older son has a really interesting theory about number 5 that blew my mind! I don't know whether to say though in case he's right and it spouls things...

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  9. I loved it! I just finished watching it tonight. The music was fantastic. I had so much sympathy for Klaus, loved him Ben and Five together. I also loved Allison's and Vanya's evolving relationship. I loved the Bay City Rollers when I was a teenager and I am still a huge Heart fan so when they played Barracuda and Saturday Night back to back in the final episode I almost lost it.

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  10. I love this show! Hubs and I watched it over the course of 3 nights. It just hits all the right notes. I never knew those notes even belonged together, but it works somehow! The soundtrack is probably the Wonder Glue in this case.

    SPOILERS (don't read this part if you've not seen the whole series): I've never read the comic but I knew in the first episode that Vanya was going to be the one with the "Ultimate Uber Powers" because of the whole 'oh but they don't have any powers' trope. It's a bit cliche. BUT her turning out to be the cause of the apocalypse was one of those things that makes you open your eyes wider and go "... ohhhh, wait a minute!" once you realize where things are going. The boyfriend was a red herring! Or at least in this timeline...

    But is Vanya actually the villain? I feel like no matter how this timeline plays out, it will be someone (either her boyfriend or a sibling) causing Vanya to destroy the world. Her siblings embraced her and 'saved' her in the end this time, but is that enough to fix her? I'm curious to see where they take this! :D

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    1. HERE THERE BE SPOILERS:

      Ahh, see, you're getting into what I wanna talk about: is Vanya a villain or victim? The show spends a lot of time trying to get us to feel sorry for her, but I posit that at her core she's a true villain. (Mostly because before ANY of her childhood trauma she was using her power to kill multiple nannies over oatmeal.) Then, at the end, she went Dark Side SO fast, and with such relish, that I wonder just how far back the family will have to go to "save" her - or if that's even possible!

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    2. I'm in the victim camp because I think that her powers were no less manageable than the others, but she was ostracized and repeatedly humiliated. She wasn't even TRAINED to do tactical or basic self defense. I'm increasingly shocked that he somehow taught Allison, mind control vain teenager, some form of ethics (that she didn't really believe care about until her daughter was taken away). Ben also probably killed people with the Eldritch Horror living in him, but he wasn't called a monster.

      I'm pretty sure that if the Day that Wasn't happened, it would have been fine. She would have gone to the house, found the two members of "We Hate Reginald Club" and they would have cursed his name and figured it out. I'm also pretty sure that if Luther didn't alpha-male an attack, the concert would have been okay. She would have felt seen and forgiven by Allison and everyone in the audience would have just felt like they were on Molly.

      I'm on team: Vanya literally just needed one person to validate her feelings and anxiety that isn't using her and she would have been fine.

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    3. SPOILERS - I'm with Hannah in the victim camp. She was treated horribly growing up and I think even her killing the nannies could have been prevented with some understanding and training. It was horrible watching them lock her in that room again as an adult. While some were arguing against keeping her in there, Vanya couldn't hear it and only saw them leaving her locked up again. I can't wait to see where they take it for season two!

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    4. Hannah, I totally agree. It seemed in the Day that Wasn't that they were THISCLOSE to preventing disaster, and that days erasure ensured that the apocalypse was going to happen. I posted on FoE that I thought that literally 30 seconds of clear communication could have fixed/prevented. Personally, I feel like obviously she was very powerful from a young age, but her taking the pills that dampened her powers were more like a dam and when that ending happened and the perceived betrayal by her siblings (and the ACTUAL horrible betrayal by Leonard), the dam broke and the power flooded out and there was nowhere for it to go but out into the world/the moon.

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  11. It's so good! I'm waiting very impatiently for my sister to watch, because it's so totally our jam.

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  12. I binge watched it and hope it ends with season 1.
    Not because I hated it, just because the last episode gave the possibility of a complete do-over with happy endings for most.
    The casual violence was very disturbing; I kept asking myself why I was still watching after most of the violent scenes. The quiet child abuse by the guardian drives the character development but is just as disturbing as the outright violence. I believe the guardian is actually responsible for the apocalypse. The butler and Mom were excellent. I don't remember the name of the big guy, but he is an idiot who is not a team player. At least twice in the finale he spoiled a possible happy outcome by ignoring his team/family and doing what he thought best. Also, his "I'm big" suit was very poorly designed. Both of his costumes looked fake.
    I do believe that number 5 gave the best performance, with the right combination of talent of the actor and character development by the writers.
    I can't recommend this, but I will admit as a soap opera/action hero show it works very well.

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  13. Martin Short! THANK YOU. I even looked him up to see if he was in anything else I’d watched because he just kept feeling so familiar. And Hazel sounded like John Goodman to me. Excellent cast! I am a Five fan here. He blew my mind.

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    1. He was excellent in Misfits if you ever watched that series.

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  14. My really only issue with it is the subplot between Victor and Allison.

    Like, it was just....squicky. And NO ONE either character-wise or in production, treated like it was weird! Like, they're adopted siblings guys! At least have SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE make a face! Or don't film it like I'm supposed to find it sweet and precious! It's vaguely disturbing. They treat Klaus' drug issues with levity, but also acknowledge that it's messed up. This....incest-adjacent thing is the same! Film it like that!

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    1. I think its not treated as squicky because of two things: 1-They know and everyone who knows of the Academy knows that none of them are related. 2- They were more like a boarding school than siblings. Yes, Hargreeves called them siblings. And yes they call each other siblings, but the way they were raised, wasn't really the usual sibling development and was more like a team building exercise.
      It is squicky to a certain degree, but I do think in that scenario its logical. They never had the opportunity to find attraction and explore love anywhere else. Its pretty reasonable to think The two who most need validation would turn to each other.

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    2. Well, yeah, I get that they're not ACTUALLY related, but there are....hmnm, mental bonds that are established in early childhood, that are different when kids are raised together...even in a non-typical scenario. (There have been studies done on it, and as soon as I remember the search that led me there I am going to find it again, curse you memory!)

      And, yeah, within the show, it's not exactly like they're a super happy close knit family, and I get why those two in particular may have developed some feelings, but a small nod from somewhere that it's at the very least BIT odd would have been nice, ya know?

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    3. Totally understand your squick. You see stories of siblings and half-siblings raised apart who fall in love and then discover, to their horror, their relationship. In my mind, that's so much more understandable and tragic - they've never known each other as relatives. Alison and Luther were RAISED as siblings - blood or no, that makes it a hundred times more incestuous to my mind!

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  15. Loved it - music, zaniness, the back stories on all the characters..until the end, which I felt was kind of a cop-out.

    SPOILERS - That's always a bit of an issue with time travel stories- but let's just reboot the whole thing and try again? Meh. And why didn't number 5 never mention the moon post-apocalypse? THat would have been good info to have.

    Klaus was my favorite character (followed closely by 5)- when he zaps back on the bus after his "trip", Oof- right in the heart.

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  16. I have not watched this yet, but I have read the first two story arcs of the comics and can confirm that Cha Cha and Hazel's masks predate FNAF. They actually look more Invader Zim-ish in the comics. I'd say feel free to give the comics a read, Dallas is particularly dark in comparison to Apocalypse Suite. The third story arc has started out in comic book format.

    The creator of Umbrella Academy, Gerard Way, also did a short series called Killjoys, which tells the continued story from music videos of the last album his band My Chemical Romance did. I'd say give it a read if you enjoyed Umbrella Academy.

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  17. I can't recall anything that I have seen Mary J. Blige act in before and she knocked it out of the park. I want her in all the things now.

    So many thoughts on this but I don't have the mental wherewithal at the moment to put them into coherent thought. Definitely ready for season 2 though!

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    1. Mary J. Blige is in Rock of Ages, and it's totally 80's awesome. :)

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    2. I loved her attitude completely and when she goes off the rails, it's amazing! But to me a lot of her lines were delivered so choppy that it was distracting to me.

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  18. For anyone who wants to check out the comics they are available on Amazon in Kindle format, and if you have Kindle Unlimited you can read them for free.

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    1. Oh sweet! Now to go find my old Kindle and charge it up...

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  19. I have loved the books FOR YEARS and was super excited to see this was coming to Netflix! Although for some reason, I assumed it was going to be animated. Anyway, perfect casting, especially for Five, although Klaus remains my favorite. I have only gotten two eps in so far (combo of heavy workload and two toddlers), but I'm pleased so far and excited that they laid the groundwork for a second season. 😊

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  20. I binged it all in one go and loved it. Speaking of spoilers:

    ---SPOILERS AND SERIOUS TALK ABOUT SEXISM---

    Something that I talk about with friends is how incredibly angry I am with Reginald's decision to medicate one child over another.
    Ben was JUST as dangerous and probably killed just as many people as our girl, but Vanya's the one that gets medication? Allison is far more dangerous, but because she's compliant, she doesn't get supressed? Also HOW TOXIC is it that he insisted on researching a way to restrict Vanya's powers but thought that Klaus should just DEAL WITH IT. He would rather have a 13 year old (13 is when Klaus started) going down the road to becoming a junkie because he is being consumed by his powers instead of spending 3 weeks or less figuring out a medication for Klaus. So much effort was spent to control Vanya and so little effort was spent to aid Klaus.

    I'm so angry at Pogo. I don't care how much debt you have to someone, if you see a child that emotionally abused and neglected, you step in. I also can't believe he just didn't let it out at the funeral. He could have told EVERYBODY AT ONCE and they could have cursed Dad's name, helped Vanya figure it out, and move on with their lives.

    Also: Can we talk about how literally the only sensible voice in the end was both a woman and silenced?

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  21. I love this violent and dysfunctional show. It's one of my guilty pleasures. I'll probably spend time in purgatory for it. It's like somebody made a show called "A Series of Unfortunate X-Men."

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  22. Sorry if this has already been said, I skipped down to avoid any spoilers: if you like Klaus, you should check out Misfits where he played a similar character. The show has a similar premise but replace billionaire's mansion with run-down community centre and organised super team with random teenagers doing mandatory community service.

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    1. Seconding the recommendation for misfits - Klaus and Nathan could be the same person put into different situations, I find it hilarious!

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    2. Misfits is great! Just be forewarned that there is a TON of sex/violence/bad language in it, so if you're sensitive to any of those things, give it a pass. And although I'm pretty sensitive to all those things, I enjoyed the actors so much, that I watched it 3 times through! Especially Nathan, Simon and Alicia!

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  23. I am SO frustrated right now! I was watching this with my fiance and we watched the penultimate episode but didn't have time for the last one before he had to go away for TWO WEEKS! He's back on Friday but his parents are here for the weekend so it will be Sunday before I get to see the final episode!!! I'm tempted to look up the comics to keep me going...

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  25. I loved the show and have recommended it to family! The zany humor and music were awesome. I think the build up to the end was perfect, answering the big question, but leaving me on edge for season two.

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  26. I loved the 1st episode so much I've now watched it 4 times! Only a few episodes in and can't wait to watch more. It feels like a great cross between x-men and Pushing Daisies. The music is amazing and I also love Klaus' character. Love that you love this too!

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  27. I loved it. We binged at a reasonable pace, probably 2 weeks in 2-3 episode bursts. I thought the music was fantastic and fitted so well (I'm not normally someone who notices the music in TV shows). On a superficial note I want the dress that Allison wears when she dances with Luther. Scroobius Pip had Mary J Blige on his Distraction Pieces podcast a couple of weeks ago talking about Umbrella Academy, if podcasts are your thing.

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  28. Team Klaus for sure, what a beautiful/tormented human. Couldn't stand Victor, but I was thrilled to feel the same way you did about Pogo, so believable. Movie apes usually give me the creeps but he was so refined. Love this show!

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    1. Who is this Victor people keep talking about? Is this regional differences? Cos our ape man is called Luther and these comments are really confusing me!

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  29. Love love LOVE it!! I agree with you, scenes with Klaus and 5 really take on a whole extra energy. I also liked the added dynamic between Allison and Vanya -- very believable for sisters that they'd have an extra level of bonding AND an extra level of friction due to being the only girls. I thought that the mix of powers and the way they were revealed was very interesting, and I can't wait to see what they make of them in the future. Especially the way Klaus was able to channel his powers in a new way in the finale. I want to see more of where that goes.

    As for me, what I shouted as soon as the screen went black was, "YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME! WHERE'S SEASON 2?!?!"

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  30. Just started watching this weekend, but really enjoying it so far! Finished episode 4. I'm finding I can only watch about 2 at a time. The violence is not bothersome to me, but not sure I would want younger teens watching this. Seems more R rated to me, too though I've been reading Stephen King since I was 12 so I guess I shouldn't talk! Trying to avoid spoilers for now but looking forward to the rest of the season.

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  31. Dang! Just submitted a comment and forgot to mention my vote for what to call fans of the Umbrella Academy-what about bumbershoots?? ��

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  32. Okay, I am feeling a little alone in that I watched Umbrella Academy, which should be right up my alley (I am a fantasy/scifi nerd girl who is also a classical musician) but I found it only so-so. I felt that the dialogue was so cliched it was painful, and the episodes draaaaaaaggggged so much at the beginning. I was eventually very wrapped up in what Klaus and Hazel were experiencing, but really, it needed a good edit, maybe two fewer episodes, and someone going through and punching up most of the dialogue. I really feel like I am in the minority, though, so maybe I just wasn't in the right frame of mind when I watched it. And I'm not discounting it, I will definitely watch a 2nd season, but I just wish it were a little better.

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  33. I loved the show! I figured out what would happen at the end fairly early on, but it didn't detract from my enjoyment. Number Four is by far my favorite, but I agree that Number Five was excellent too.

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  34. I disagree about knowing by the end of ep 1 if you're going to like it or not. It felt like a kinda slow/mixed start to me. Took 2 or 3 eps to get to the point of LIKING it outright.

    Klaus was totally my fave!! <3 <3 <3

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  35. I loved it... right up to the point where the disaster in the last episode broke every rule of physics ever. Not the cause of it, I'm fine with the superpowers bit causing a thing to happen. Just the thing that was caused. Once power is applied, reality needs to take over, and it just can't go the way it did in the time it did.

    Anyway, looking forward to another season, since it comes to have never happened, though I'm concerned about the age-related effects of the resolution, and what will happen with the actors as a result.

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  36. So, I had a day off this week, and after reading your post, I decided to give it a shot while taking care of housework. 10 hours later. almost no housework got done, but all of the first season has been watched. This show was goooood. I was hooked after the first 15 minutes. The characters, especially Klaus drug me in, and wouldn't let go. I had watched and loved Misfits, so I already knew Robert Sheehan, but Klaus was just different enough that it didn't just feel like Nathan was back, but now with facial hair. And hoo boy, after that scene on the bus... My heart. My poor heart.

    SPOILERS AHEAD. TRAVELERS BE WARY.


    I find Vanya to be so interesting as a character. The fact that she can't quite be nailed down as victim or villain is fascinating. I think she's both, honestly. Her upbringing made her into a villain. I don't know if there is a true way to save her after everything. She was killing nannies at age four just because she didn't want to eat oatmeal. If, rather than putting her on powers-dampening drugs and using mind control, there had been an honest effort to train and nurture her, maybe things would have been different. At this point, though? I'm doubtful.

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  37. I am definitely looking forward to Season 2, but swung back and forth between "this is great!" and "this is disturbing." The violence was a bit much, but I could fast forward through that, but what bothered me was how casually and actively and unrepentantly abusive their guardian was CONTINUALLY! That was really hard to watch. I also really want to know what happened to the other five babies born in that moment (the pilot episode specified there were 12 and only 7 identified by him - lucky them). But I loved the pacing, and the effects (especially Pogo), and that there was enough light-heartedness in it to keep viewers from sinking under the weight of abuse, torture, and other violence.

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    1. I'm with you on wondering where the other special children are?? I thought the first episode said there were something like 43 babies born that day...so only knowing seven of them leaves lots of room for more! Hopefully in season 2?

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  38. sorry, I know a couple of people have already suggested you watching Misfits if you like this but i wanted to second/third that. it's AWESOME and completely original and MUCH better than umbrella academy (sorry everyone!)

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  39. Thanks to you, I crushed the series out in a few days...thankyouthankyouthankyou. When I saw the photo of Hazel and Cha-Cha, I thought, "OMG, that is SO My Chemical Romance!" Well, no wonder...since the comic was written by their front man. What a fun ride that was. I am definitely rewatching this goodness. And I look forward to checking out Misfits, based on everyone's recommendations.

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  40. I just started watching the show this week and I seriously LOVE it!!! Soooooooooo good!!! The music is fantastic! I only have two episodes left and I can't wait to see how it turns out.

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  41. Loved it, watched it twice, and maybe a 3rd time if they don't continue, and my favs are yours!

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  42. Thanks to this review I gave it a shot and LOVED it!! Thanks!

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