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Netflix's Answer to X-Men Is Just as Good as Marvel

Review: The Umbrella Academy is a polished, cinematic superhero show. You now have three seasons to binge on Netflix.

Jennifer Bisset
Jennifer Bisset
Jennifer Bisset Former Senior Editor / Culture
Jennifer Bisset was a senior editor for CNET. She covered film and TV news and reviews. The movie that inspired her to want a career in film is Lost in Translation. She won Best New Journalist in 2019 at the Australian IT Journalism Awards.
Expertise Film and TV Credentials
  • Best New Journalist 2019 Australian IT Journalism Awards
Jennifer Bisset
3 min read
The Hargreeves siblings all standing inside their manor, dressed in black.

The Hargreeves siblings face a shock at the beginning of season 3.


One of Netflix's biggest shows is heading into its third season, and it mostly reaffirms its status as one of the best superhero series out there. Even though The Umbrella Academy, focused on a family of superheroes with unconventional powers, didn't find its stride until season 2, it's now come into its own as a vibrant, self-aware time travel blast.

While season 3 is more of a mixed bag, it still provides the nutty superhero antics that make The Umbrella Academy a joy. It drops in just a dash of gore -- nothing like what you see in The Boys, but these moments are still surprisingly bloody -- as well as entertaining music video-esque needle drops set to Backstreet Boys or covers of Billie Eilish. The sense of fun and the polished visuals help make The Umbrella Academy a more than above-average superhero show.

Ben and two of his Sparrow family members standing in a street, facing us.

Meet (three members of) The Sparrow Academy.


The Hargreeves siblings, aka the superpowered members of The Umbrella Academy, are once again concerned with preventing the apocalypse (this is the third time they've had to save the world). The season begins with the adoptive siblings discovering the timeline has changed since they returned from an unintentional trip to the past and The Umbrella Academy no longer exists. Instead, they've been replaced by the superior Sparrow Academy, a team of snarky, aggressive and functional siblings who don't appreciate having rivals.

The hallucination-inducing spit of one of these superheroes leads to possibly the best musical sequence in the entire series. Other highlights include a touch of character growth for Luther Hargreeves (Tom Hopper), who levels up from being the reliable comic relief to actually influencing the Umbrellas' plans to save the universe -- a mysterious, matter destroying ball of orange energy adds another spanner to the works. Ben (Justin H. Min), no longer a ghost, also has more to work with, reimagined as the most spiteful member of the Sparrows.

Luthor and Viktor standing in a car park at night

Luther (Tom Hopper) and Viktor (Elliot Page).

Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix

Usually, The Umbrella Academy carefully balances the goofier superhero mishaps with a concern for exploring important issues. This season, it takes the time to address Vanya's choice to transition into Viktor (played by Elliot Page), including sensitive conversations between Viktor and his siblings. These are touching, smartly-handled moments that feel beautiful and unique in a superhero show.

But then we zip back to lighter material, from family bickering over breakfast to the immortal Klaus (Robert Sheehan) practicing dying over and over again. The differing tones can be jarring at times.

Much of the action is confined to the Umbrella Academy's manor -- now replaced by the Sparrow Academy -- and the Obsidian Hotel, the new temporary home of the Umbrellas. After the rich, historical issues rooted in season 2's 1960s Dallas setting, the present timeline comes off light on material, the 10 episodes feeling stretched.

The Sparrows make entertaining antagonists, although a clear villain such as season 2's nefarious The Handler (Kate Walsh) seems lacking to provide a narrative focus. A lull sets in around the midpoint, although we do see characters like Viktor and Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) develop into interesting, unexpected places.

The main time travel element is the Grandfather Paradox, which leads to ample spicy complications. It's welcome to see the starkly different siblings interact under the same roof for greater periods, unlike season 2's disparate, albeit meatier, storylines.

Plus, in the end, there's one thing The Umbrella Academy nails every single time: the barnstorming superhero climax. The final episodes strap you back in for the bonkers, end-of-universe showdown. And don't worry, a requisite tantalizing cliffhanger sets up the future.

While it loses its way in the middle, season 3 of The Umbrella Academy still brims with everything that makes its gung-ho superhero madhouse a winner. Among the stacked ranks of superhero show rivals, it still manages to hold its own.

Season 3 of The Umbrella Academy is out on Netflix now.

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