Spoilers for Season Two of The Umbrella Academy ahead! Not extreme spoilers, but not exactly mild spoilers. Medium-sized spoilers. You’ve been warned.
If you thought Season One of The Umbrella Academy was… fine, and you’re on the fence about whether you should watch Season Two, I’m here to tell you: I agree, and YES.
I liked Season One of Umbrella Academy well enough. It had unique lore, classic power-reveal scenes, and that band-of-misfits feel I love so much. But I didn’t LOVE the season overall.
I loved Ellen Page’s performance and I loved Emmy Raver-Lampman’s everything, but frankly for the most part their characters weren’t given enough to do and their storylines revolved around the men in their lives.
But it seems the writers agreed with me that the first season didn’t have enough lady gay energy, so in the second season, they bonked Ellen Page over the head and plopped her in the lap of a frustrated but sweet ’60s housewife and let her do her Ellen Page thing. Sara Lance would call it “liberating.”
The premise of Season Two is that all the siblings have been scattered across the ’60s, and they must find each other in time to stop another apocalypse, with forces like The Handler (aka the incomparable Kate Walsh) working against them. The season is just as dark and gritty as the first, but with all the worldbuilding and plot set-up out of the way, we were able to focus more on the characters.
Ellen Page’s character, Vanya, is the only one who ends up back in time with no memory. Aforementioned housewife, Sissy, hits her with her car and ends up taking her in like a wounded bird. Vanya becomes the live-in nanny for Sissy’s son, Harlan. Sissy and Harlan like Vanya very much, in very different ways. Harlan just enjoys spending time with his babysitter. Sissy enjoys giving Vanya sensual palm readings and sneaking smokes in the barn with her when her husband, Carl, isn’t around.
At this point, I had officially decided that if this storyline didn’t involve sweet lady kisses by its end I was going to set myself on fire. Luckily, not too long after this, in an effort to convince her not to leave, Sissy tells Vanya that her life was a box slowly closing in around her until Vanya came and set her free. And yes, they do indeed kiss.
I loved this storyline for many reasons. For one, they didn’t waste any time fussing over Vanya’s sexuality. Nobody did, not Vanya, not her siblings. Maybe it’s because she’s not the only queer one in the lot, maybe because sometimes these conversations happen off-screen because they were uneventful. Maybe Vanya dated girls growing up and we just didn’t know it because there was a lot going on last season what with the impending apocalypse and all. And besides… look at her. Much like no one was surprised when Ellen Page came out, no one was surprised about Vanya either.
Another is that of all the conflict Sissy had about the possibility of leaving her husband for this adorable tiny woman she hit with her car once, her own queerness was never in question either. That part was clear to her. She never doubted her feelings. She wondered if leaving would be dangerous, for her or for her son, she worried about what their life could even look like together in the ’60s in Texas. But her own feelings weren’t the problem.
Last season was largely about Vanya, but it almost seemed like she was the eye of the storm and things were just happening around her. This season, Vanya WAS the storm. And I won’t spoil too much of it, but her storyline with Sissy is one of the linchpins of the entire season.
In fact, Sissy’s problems didn’t even all revolve around her feelings for Vanya, but rather her feelings for/about her nogoodnik husband. Sissy gets her own moment to shine to learn who she is when she stands on her own two feet, and what she’s willing and able to do when it comes to her son.
And while it’s the story I’m highlighting here for obvious reasons (gay, they’re gay reasons), their story wasn’t the only improvement over the first season. For one thing, they seemed to mostly drop the whole borderline incest situation, only touching on it a little and actually kind of giving it a somewhat self-aware gentle ribbing. Instead, they gave Allison a really poignant story about finding her voice, figuratively and literally, when she found herself, a Black woman with injured vocal chords, alone in the 1960s in Texas.
Plus, my sweet boy Ben got a chance to shine in a way he wasn’t really able to in the first season, also learning how to exert control in a situation where he has none.
While I love the siblings together, especially when my three favorite characters have another quintessential Umbrella dance party, splitting them up this season gave them all room to grow and become more interesting on their own, making it even more compelling whenever any combination of them was together. The gender balance is still off, but improved over last season, so if they get a third season, maybe it’s only up from here.
The moral of the story is, check out the second season of Umbrella Academy on Netflix, even if you only liked the first season a medium amount. And if you want your second season to be better than the first, make it gayer.
I don’t know why, but I seemed to fixate on the fact that Sissy appears to be drinking Sherry in that scene.
Yess, glad to see this.
I actually watched the second season of The Umbrella Academy WITHOUT having seen the first season (well, I had watched the diner fight in s01e01 and skimmed the wiki article but that was it).
It was a chaotic experience, but a lot of fun – being just as confused as Vanya for much of the series honestly worked pretty ok. And then I got to enjoy season 1 as a prequel.
My partner and I accidentally watched The Marvelous Mrs. Mazel backwards also and I think it might just be… a better way to watch television? Now I’m inspired to experiment with it more.
I watched Legends of Tomorrow backwards to Season 2 (I had it on good authority that Season one was a hard pass) and I heartily recommend it, it’s such a mind fork to see Amaya/Charlie and Zari/Zari from that perspective
More LGBT propaganda force fed in the second season. Thankfully most don’t care, gay or straight.
This is the first time I’ve watched a piece of gay media without knowing it was gay going in, and let me tell you: it felt like such a beautiful gift. I was already going to watch the second season! I liked the first! AND I get this unsolicited, carefully-wrought, tender and beautiful gay love story?! *chef’s kiss*
I watched the first season last year, and liked the characters but not the plot-lines. Season two, however, has both, and got gayer, which is really what I want from evolving Sci Fi shows! I loved the Vanya/Sissy relationship, and Ritu Arya, who plays Lila, is a delight as well. She was so great in Feel Good, and I’m glad to see her in new things.
I liked Ritu Arya from her guest spot on “Doctor Who”. I was hoping to see her in something else, and here she is.
Oh right, I really need to rewatch that episode!
Yeah I was not impressed with that in season 1 and am not really sold on season two because apparently it just continues.
OK that did not thread correctly. I’m talking about the antisemitism.
In that first scene where Sissy and Vanya locked eyes in front of Sissy’s car, my little queer heart went ‘GAY!’. To have it not only confirmed, but confirmed so lovingly without the usual ‘coming out’ baggage was not just a delight but a relief.
The first season was interesting but a mess, this second season is so much more enjoyable for all the reasons stated in the article above. Within Allison’s new community I love how the women supported and backed her up – even the small wordless exchanges of looks clearly communicating feelings. Also love how open and honest she was with her husband. As I type this I realize the trend I’m enjoying with this season is seeing these traumatized adults develop healthy and loving relationships when all I remember from the first season is how they all seemed so miserable the whole time.
My best friend and I have been Netflix Party’ing the season together, and we’re going to watch the last three episodes over the weekend and I’m super excited :D
Gay, but maybe problematic that it features Yiddish-speaking lizard people who control the world?
I used to think the lizard people thing was hilarious until someone told me it originated as anti-Jewish propaganda used to compare Jews to lizards (I guess cold and not fully human?).
The writer of these episodes, Steve Blackman, is Jewish, and this character speaks Mandarin and Swedish in the show as well; Yiddish is presented as just one of many languages that she knows, not her mother tongue. Maybe he thought it would be cool to include Yiddish among the languages she speaks because he was personally familiar with Yiddish phrases?
Cool cool, only a little antisemitic then, thanks for explaining that away in a very normal way that I’m sure you’d also do to other minority groups
Look, to be a little less snarky, it would be nice if Autostraddle and commenters recognized the antisemitism, called it out, and just let us sit with it instead of getting uncomfortable and trying to explain it away. You can acknowledge it and still like the show.
I know it makes people uncomfortable, and it’s a prejudice that we tend to feel uncomfortable discussing, but it’s quite present and quite deadly and we do have to talk about it.
YIKES! I completely missed this in season one. Thanks for pointing this out.
First, her waster husband calls her ‘Sis’. In my world, that’s incest. Not intentional, but quite funny.
Second, goshdarn but I like that they don’t retrospectively make Gay All Okay, like in some of my other favourite escapist fantasy, ie. Everything Sucks. There’s a banality in the homophobia that made me text my girlfriend and have us thank our stars we can walk in the street holding hands without too much aggro. Not sure the kids today all get it, but I became gay under section 28. Nothing romantic or exciting about that, but a lot of the tales we tell ourselves try and make it so, and it’s nice to have nostalgic US TV admit that, if you weren’t a straight white man, the 60s were basically shit compared to now (IMHO).
Third, Ellen Page is clearly just going to play slight deviations on Ellen Page from now on, and I LOVE that- I can picture her being like ‘I’ve got my own clothes actually, and no, you’re not touching my hair… and, okay, I’ll accept having this guy fake-fondle me because he was in Carol, but no, if there’s a second season I’ll be gay… cool, thanks.’
Finally, and most important. This is a modern day morality tale. My summary *SPOILER ALERT* homophobia causes nuclear war.
I love everything about Vanya and Sissy’s relationship, including how Vanya’s relationship with Sissy’s son is such an important part of it. BUT maybe it’s just COVID-related impatience, but I’m having a hard time sitting through all of the bad decision-making. I haven’t finished binging for that reason.
“Much like no one was surprised when Ellen Page came out, no one was surprised about Vanya either.” There’s a particular *eyebrows raise*, *lips purse*, *nod* movement that happens when a person is absolutely not surprised the person coming out to them is queer and Ellen Page has seen that face a great many times.
I am here because I’m gay and want to tell you that I appreciate this headline.
The relationship between Vanya and Sissy was so good and refreshing! It felt so sweet and natural unlike the one in season one, partly because that one was built on manipulation but also just Page’s gay energy is so powerful. I really commend the writers for realizing it and going with it. I always felt like Vanya was with the serial killer not because of any genuine attraction but mainly because he was the only person who seemingly actually cared about her and devoted some attention towards her. She was so lonely and closed down that any attention was something to grab hold of.
I really enjoyed season 2 so much! Much more than season one. It felt so sunny and warm after how dreary season 1 looked. It was funnier too and it was so nice for the siblings all to have real love and care for each other rather than being purely antagonistic all the time.
They filmed a lot of season 2 a couple of blocks from where I live! I got to see the diner, the hair salon, the alley, all the beautiful cars. One of my coworkers saw Ellen Page at a nearby hamburger joint.
Anyway, loved the show and the sweet and sad gay love story they gave Klaus first season, and I love the fact that the Sissy/Vanya story was centre stage.
I did find it frustrating that Klaus, who was my favourite last season, acted a lot more like an asshole this season, especially to Ben. I found the same trouble with Five—he’s so mean to his siblings that he’s hard to sympathize with at all, yet he’s the driver of so much of the plot. He just got worse this year.
I found the first season to be not gay enough. I mean…only 1/6 of the living children were homosexual…that’s only like 16.66% of the main characters.
So when season 2 came out and they bumped it up to like 33%, I thought “that’s more representative of the general population!”
But season 3 has its work cut out for it; we have the G (or perhaps B) and the L, but so far not one of the 6 kids has really shown a strong T tendency. This is unacceptable. Also, I think it would help if one of the children would turn out to be Native American or Pacific Islander it would do wonders for the aesthetic.
I don’t turn on TV to worry about narrative and storyline; if you want to keep me as an audience member, I require you check off as many boxes as possible, and not with auxiliary characters; I require it to be a title character.
Lucky for us, we don’t care if we keep you as an audience member.
I don’t understand where this hostility is coming from. We should all be celebrating: Ellen Page no longer has to pretend to be someone she is not just because the camera is rolling.
As I tell my hetero friends, if a young Tom Hanks had been forced to adopt another person’s sexuality as the basis for a major role early on in his career, there is no way he would have as many Oscars as he has today. Ellen needs to play people who are more like her.
I remain excited to see how many more of these kids will come out in season 3.
*Staring hopefully at the horizon, a tear running down my cheek*
Thank you, dude. I swear to Drokk, from now on, everytime someone asks me about my favorite superhero, I’ll tell ’em that Mitch Zolander is the one we need right now.
No irony mode off, by the way – I actually meant what I said.
so my 16-year-old daughter really likes the Ambarella Academy and watch the first season so I sat down with her and watch the second season. so as a father I can see the lesbian scene coming but I let it go because it was brief. The next thing I know there are two adult women naked laying in bed together waking up in the morning suggesting that they had hot lesbian sex all night long. it’s unbelievable that Netflix would show this in a story that has no relevancy whatsoever to the plot. What’s up for season 2? gay guys fucking each other in the ass.
so my 16-year-old daughter really likes the Ambarella Academy and watch the first season so I sat down with her and watch the second season. so as a father I can see the lesbian scene coming but I let it go because it was brief. The next thing I know there are two adult women naked laying in bed together waking up in the morning suggesting that they had hot lesbian sex all night long. it’s unbelievable that Netflix would show this in a story that has no relevancy whatsoever to the plot. can anybody tell me why this was put into the show.???