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The Umbrella Academy has long been one of Netflix’s better superhero ventures. With an eclectic group of characters and an interesting premise, this series has managed to constantly reinvent itself across the three seasons. Alas, that reinvention is ultimately what makes season 3 both the best and worst of the show’s run so far.
Picking up right where things left off, The Umbrella Academy wastes absolutely no time getting to the thick of the action. Our siblings find themselves in the heart of Sparrow Academy territory, and a big fight breaks out between the two groups. This showcase of power is one of the better parts of the entire season but ultimately play second fiddle to a larger problem brewing in the basement.
Yes, there’s another universe-ending threat and this time it comes in the form of a swirling ball of energy called the Kugelblitz. Linked to the Grandfather Paradox (don’t worry, this is explained in the show!), the splintered group find themselves forced to work together to stop this world – and the entire universe – from being destroyed completely.
It’s a familiar set-up and while season 2 tackled time travel and season 1 revolved around stopping Vanya, season 3 tries to tackle two concurrent threats, but fails to really juggle both of these threats in a compelling way. The biggest problem here comes from the way the Sparrows are used. I’m being careful not to give any spoilers but around episodes 3 and 4, their threat is diminished a lot thanks to some deus ex machina and more urgency put into the Kugelblitz storyline.
Accompanying this world-ending threat, the series also tackles different character arcs but doesn’t do a whole lot with any of them, despite some promise early on. One of the more obvious changes comes from Vanya (Elliot Page) who undergoes his own transformation into becoming Viktor, the person they always wanted to be. It’s a touching change and one that seems to reinforce confidence… until late on when Viktor plays second-fiddle to Allison.
Speaking of which, Allison’s character arc this year is… odd. The best way to describe her story is that she’s been “Wanda Maximoffed”. For those not familiar with MCU slang, Allison loses those dearest to her and lashes out against everyone that stands in her way. She’s angry, bitter and completely apathetic to the world, enacting some pretty villainous acts including murder and manipulation. Unfortunately, she’s never called out for any of this. In fact, characters actually apologize to her instead!
Now, I don’t want to spoil what actually happens to Allison but by the end, suffice to say there is absolutely no comeuppance for her actions whatsoever, which is becoming an alarming trend in Hollywood with female characters. But that’s a conversation for another day!
Beyond these two players, there’s some decent development for most of the other cast. And that’s just as well because the show goes to some pretty dark places this year. There are some great throwbacks to the past, a deliciously imaginative threat in the Kugelblitz and the same blend of humour, drama and time-bending mania that made the previous seasons so good.
And yet, through all this good work, episodes 8 through to 10 almost feel like a completely different show. It’s such a bizarre tonal contrast, especially as episode 7 ends on an absolutely shocking cliffhanger that’s almost tackled with a faint shrug and a dollop of nonchalance.
In fact, episode 8 is essentially a bottle episode that goes nowhere. And even worse, there’s absolutely no urgency through any of this chapter. Episode 9 (the shortest of the whole show at 38 minutes), then serves as set-up for the finale which does resolve things and gets things back to the same mind-bending goodness as before, which is just as well given episode 8 is by far the weakest of the entire 3 season run.
With the promise of a fourth season on the horizon, season 3 does both some of the best and worst work in the whole show’s run. There are some real stand-out moments here; shocking plot twists blend with great action and an impressive showcase of powers.
Some of the character work is shaky, the Sparrow Academy subplot doesn’t quite work and The Umbrella Academy recycles a lot of the same plot points we’ve seen before. It’s certainly good fun but like dancing to the same song multiple times, you don’t quite hit the same euphoric highs you did the first time you heard it.
The Umbrella Academy Season 3 releases on Netflix worldwide on the 22nd June 2022
Verdict - 7.5/10