Welcome to the Apocalypse ... again ... on The Umbrella Academy.
The Netflix TV series, based on the Dark Horse Comics by writer Gerard Way and illustrator Gabriel Ba, revolves around the Hargreeves, a dysfunctional family of superheroes. Those siblings include Luther/Number One (Tom Hopper), Diego/Number Two (David Castaneda), Allison/Number Three (Emmy Raver-Lampman), Klaus/Number Four/The Séance (Robert Sheehan), Number Five (Aidan Gallagher), Ben/Number Six (Justin H. Min) and, Vanya/Number Seven (Ellen Page).
The show previously borrowed plot points and storylines from the comic books — with some tweaks and changes. For Season 2, which is now streaming on Netflix, showrunner Steve Blackman admitted they will be deviating even further from the source material.
“For me, I’m always inspired by that graphic novel, but I don’t feel that I’m held to it,” Blackman told SYFY WIRE in a phone conversation before the premiere. “There is no strict interpretation that Gerard or Gabriel demands of me. They’ve come to see the graphic novel as one thing and the TV show as another, but they are proud of both things, like I am. It’s a wonderful freedom for me because I can tell some stories that are not in the graphic novels that let these characters grow and do great things. We are also building a whole new audience with this TV show, that didn’t know the graphic novel. That also makes it fun.
“Understanding who the Hargreeves are, and their common history, is really important for them,” he continued. “Season 1 was a lot more about me showing you a little about their history. Season 2 is we understand a little more about why they are the way they are. Now, it’s about them trying to move forward together with all their flaws. And, in their time period, it’s been 10 days between when we start Season 1 and Season 2 is day 11. The conceit of Season 2 is also a 10-day storyline. So, it’s still getting to know each other on a deeper level.”
Season 1 culminated with an unhinged Vanya ushering in a massive wave of destruction that ultimately destroyed the planet. However, time-traveling Five managed to whisk away his brothers and sisters, only seconds before they were all incinerated. They consequently turn up in 1960s Dallas, scattered. Their adventure picks up mere moments where it left off.
“They arrive, but in different time periods within the '60s,” Blackman explained. “They don’t all arrive in 1963. One arrives in ’60, one arrives in ’61, and one arrives in ’62. They land all in the same place, but not together. It allows for a lot of great storytelling because you get to see to them in the intervening years. We tell it from Five’s perspective, when he first lands. He lands in the now, November 25 of 1963, but nobody else landed with him. He thinks everyone is dead. They all think each other is dead because nobody landed in the same time together. They have to find each other first and then we can move on to the family.”
Last October, SYFY WIRE visited the Toronto set of The Umbrella Academy. Inside Cinespace Film Studios, a soundstage had been transformed into Allison’s home base. Another corner served as a Tiki Lounge, where a couple of episodes will unfold. It’s also the spot of the “infamous pineapple scene.” Arguably, the largest set was the Hargreeves’ academy itself, where Klaus’ notorious bathtub stands in one room.
Meanwhile, the crew was blocking a dining room sequence. That area contained a large rectangular table with eight chairs. Nobody is around, though. In the first block of episodes, most of the siblings are consumed with carving out their new lives... except Five.
“The thing about our show, and our family, is that we are strongest when we are together,” Gallagher said. “Story-wise, it makes perfect sense to start us off split up and have us rejoin at the end of the season. We’ve kept in line with that for this season. The reason I think Five stayed away in Season 1 is just because he doesn’t think his family can comprehend, or really help, to stop the Apocalypse because they already tried, and they failed. And, to him, they are practically kids who are constantly fighting with each other, so he’s better off on his own, just to save time and try and stop things.”
Gallagher notes Five will be focused on getting back to the present day. But, as with all the other characters in The Umbrella Academy, he has Daddy issues. Being stuck in the '60s, when his father was alive and kicking, gives Five the chance to heal some of those festering wounds.
“That is one of the aspects in which Five does grow and evolve,” Gallagher confirmed. “You see him come to terms with his father’s point of view. As a child, Five resented his father. He felt like his father always held him and his family back. That part of him caused him a lot of internal trauma when he eventually jumped to the future and found that he was right.
“Going into meeting his father, there’s a moment between Five and Diego,” he added. “Five is a bit hesitant to enter because he’s not sure how it will all play out. He says that he hears him [his Dad] every day in his head saying, ‘I told you so.’ That’s the perfect summary of the relationship between Hargreeves and Five.”
One character who will be stepping into the spotlight more is Ben, whose incorporeal form was previously tethered to Klaus. Ben’s powers helped save his family from Vanya in the Season 1 finale, and in the sophomore season, his road to independence continues. Of course, Klaus hates it.
“It’s a huge point of contention when we see Ben coming into his own this season and making decisions for himself and, again, using whatever sorts of tricks up his sleeves with his powers and their connection to get what he wants when he needs to,” Min explained. “At the end of the day, that dynamic, that yin and yang that Klaus and Ben play off, is one of the joys of that relationship, that we are so different. And, yet, it works sometimes and other times, it’s a complete train wreck.”
At the time of this set visit, the cast and crew were gearing up to film this season’s closing episodes. Last year literally culminated with the mother-of-all explosive endings. So, how did Min react to the script for this season’s finale?
“It’s 100 percent nothing like I ever expected or imagined,” he said. “I say that in the best possible way. I’m really excited. I do think it tops what happened at the end of Season 1 because I don’t think anyone will expect what happens.”