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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Umbrella Academy confronts its daddy issues in the show’s best episode yet

Illustration for article titled emThe Umbrella Academy /emconfronts its daddy issues in the show’s best episode yet
Photo: The Umbrella Academy/Netflix
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Two episodes in a row where The Umbrella Academy’s characters actually sit down and have a full conversation? Be still, my beating heart! After last episode’s family meeting, “A Light Supper” centers on an even stranger family reunion. The Hargreeves siblings accept Sir Reginald’s invitation to dinner and reveal they’re his superpowered adopted children from the future. Best of all, they don’t mince words while doing it. After an ill-fated attempt at using a conch shell and a quick rundown of their powers, “Team Zero” gets to work interrogating their future father about his potential future transgressions.

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Alas, even when faced with a group of literal strangers, Sir Reginald has the uncanny ability to pinpoint each of their weaknesses and throw it in their faces. He accuses Diego of being delusional and insignificant, which triggers Diego’s old stutter. (David Castañeda is really great in this scene.) Sir Reginald then belittles the team for asking for his help at all, leading Ben and Luther to make desperate but ultimately unsuccessful attempts to hold him accountable. As Allison puts it as the siblings sheepishly pile back into the elevator, “Well, that went as well as any Hargreeves family function.”

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“A Light Supper” confirms that the previous episode was a much-needed shift for season. Now that the Hargreeves are reconnected and aware of the impending apocalypse, it’s easier to sit back and enjoy watching how they (mis)handle it. Dramatic irony can be an effective storytelling tool, but The Umbrella Academy is generally far more interesting when its characters are in the know than when they aren’t.

Thanks to the apocalyptic time clock, the Hargreeves’ individual 1960s storylines have new weight to them too. Allison reveals her real history to Ray (who’s mostly hung up on the Obama presidency) and then demonstrates both the upsides and downsides of her powers. Yes, she can use her abilities to end bigoted behavior, but once she’s started wielding that intoxicating influence, it’s hard to know when to stop.

Klaus, meanwhile, is trying to figure out how to be a responsible cult leader now that he knows the end is nigh. To his credit, he’s genuinely attempting to be a better father figure than his dad ever was. But Klaus discovers it’s easier to start a cult than to disband one. In classic sitcom fashion, his attempts to expose himself as a fraud are all taken as examples of his spiritual humbleness. Indeed, “A Light Supper” is filled with the kind of goofy Klaus moments that are destined to become popular Tumblr GIFs—like doing yoga in a loincloth or sauntering to the table with a martini glass in hand.

But Robert Sheehan is also tasked with some heavier stuff in this episode too. Dave shows up at Klaus’ compound to reveal that far from getting him to avoid the war, Klaus’ intervention only caused him to enlist sooner. Sheehan is fantastic at conveying the complex mix of love and paternalism that Klaus feels towards the younger version of his future lover. And while Calem MacDonald was perfectly fine as chipper teen Dave in his first two appearances, he really comes into his own in the scene on Klaus’ manor.

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Illustration for article titled emThe Umbrella Academy /emconfronts its daddy issues in the show’s best episode yet
Screenshot: The Umbrella Academy/Netflix

Dave is clearly both baffled by and enchanted with Klaus, even as he holds his own in his convictions. “It’s an honor to die for my country,” he argues. “That’s what you peaceniks don’t understand.” It’s a good conflict, one that respects the points of view of both characters, and one that allows Sheehan to function outside of his usual comedic box. In fact, it sort of feels like this is the exchange that should’ve led Klaus to relapse, which would’ve given an additional set of stakes to the family dinner.

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Like Klaus, Vanya also gets to step outside her usual box in this episode. She’s one of several characters who’ve gotten a slight personality rewrite this season, although hers comes with an actual explanation. Her amnesia has rid her of the familial angst that defines her siblings and once defined her too. Even as Luther and Diego lay out all the horrible things Sir Reginald did to her, she’s still more excited than anxious to meet him. And without the memory of her tortured relationship to her hidden powers, Vanya’s pretty casual about displaying them at the dinner table. (Ellen Page’s little “oops” after she blows up the fruit platter is perfect.)

Illustration for article titled emThe Umbrella Academy /emconfronts its daddy issues in the show’s best episode yet
Photo: Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix
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That carries over into the confidence Vanya feels with Sissy as well. Where season one Vanya saw herself as a victim and an outcast, season two Vanya has a better appreciation for her own strength. Her powers no longer come from a place of fear, shame, and anger, they come from a place of confidence. She pledges to protect Sissy and Harlan as they run away together, which is another great scene from Page and Marin Ireland. And the ominous shot of Carl spying on them suggests Vanya’s protector skills are going to be put to the test sooner rather than later.

With its lack of action scenes or dance sequences, “A Light Supper” isn’t the showiest episode of The Umbrella Academy. But what’s impressive is the way writer Aeryn Michelle Williams and director Ellen Kuras blend the show’s signature kooky comedic tone with a level of nuanced character development the series sometimes struggles to deliver. Even Five—who’s once again tasked with moving the season’s overarching narrative forward—gets one of his most illuminating character scenes yet. Shouting that Homer quote back in “The Majestic 12” pays off as Sir Reginald invites his youngest-oldest child to stay for a post-dinner drink.

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Aidan Gallagher is so great at playing a 58-year-old man that it’s easy to take his performance for granted. But it’s truly remarkable just how much he manages to feel like an equal to actual 61-year-old Colm Feore, especially as Five wistfully apologizes for his childhood rebellion. Unfortunately, the only advice Sir Reginald can offer his future son is to start small with time travel—think seconds rather than years.

Illustration for article titled emThe Umbrella Academy /emconfronts its daddy issues in the show’s best episode yet
Screenshot: The Umbrella Academy/Netflix
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Given his tight timeframe, however, Five winds up accepting an offer from the Handler instead: If he assassinates the Commission’s Board of Directors and gets her instated as leader, she’ll return him and his family to 2019 and stop both apocalypses in the process. Though she reassures Five that the timeline is like improvisational jazz, she explains to Lila that she’s actually setting him up as a scapegoat. Hopefully Five is smart enough to realize that. But it looks like we’re headed to the site of the Board’s secret fiscal meeting—Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1982—to find out.


Stray observations

  • Poor Elliot is gruesomely murdered by The Swedes, who leave behind the bloody message “Öga För Öga,” which translates to “an eye for an eye.”
  • The opening flashback to Allison’s early days in the 1960s is really well done, especially the scene where she first finds refuge at the Black beauty salon.
  • On the other hand, it’s bizarre that we’ve gotten zero references to Allison’s daughter this season. Did she tell Ray about her?
  • Ben’s crush is named Jill and she gave up her Berkeley scholarship and her relationship with her parents to follow Klaus around the world.
  • Tom Hopper’s American accent is mostly pretty good (he’s actually British), but he’s thwarted by the word “against.”
  • I’m not sure the photo of Sir Reginald standing on an innocuous patch of grass is quite the smoking gun that Diego thinks it is, especially in a pre-JFK assassination world.
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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Caroline Siede is a pop culture critic in Chicago, where the cold never bothers her anyway. Her interests include superhero movies, feminist theory, and Jane Austen novels.

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