The no.1 position in the Netflix top 10 TV list has been unusually static of late, with Strangers Things season 4 holding steady in the top spot for a month. But that's all changed now — and it's been replaced by another show about a bunch of misfits taking on evil with the help of some superpowers.
We're talking, of course, about Umbrella Academy Season 3, our top pick among new movies and shows to watch this weekend. And if you've not started watching yet then cancel your plans for the next few days, because it's great. It arrived on the streaming service on Wednesday, it's 10 episodes long and it currently has an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In short, there's every chance it will stay at the top of the chart until Stranger Things 4 volume 2 arrives.
What is The Umbrella Academy?
If you don't already know The Umbrella Academy, you've got some catching up to do, because it's probably one of the more complex shows on TV.
It's also one of the best. Based on the comic book series by Gerard Way — yes, the My Chemical Romance frontman — it follows the adventures of the titular Umbrella Academy, a seven-strong 'family' who all have powers of some kind.
They're not actually related, though, because all seven were plucked from their mothers' arms as babies by eccentric billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves, who planned to create his own superhero team for possibly nefarious reasons.
Though they're (generally) a force for good, the Umbrella Academy are more Suicide Squad than Avengers: Klaus / Number 4 (Robert Sheehan) is a drug addict who can summon the dead, Allison / Number 3 (Emmy Raver-Lampman) is a celebrity who controls people by spreading rumors and Luther / Number 1 (Tom Hopper) is a half-ape with a serious anger-management problem.
Meanwhile, Diego / Number 2 (David Castañeda) is a vigilante who's constantly in trouble with the police and has an unhealthy fascination with knives, Viktor / Number 7 (Elliot Page) has ended the world twice and Ben / Number 6 (Justin H. Min) is, well, dead.
At the heart of it all is Number Five, who doesn't have a proper name but who is the real brains of the operation, despite being permanently stuck in the body of a 13 year old.
On the face of it, it does bear some similarities to Stranger Things, in that it's an ensemble series that jumps around in time and in which superpowers are involved. But really, this is a different beast altogether: more grown up, more anarchic, much weirder, far ruder and at times head-spinningly complicated.
The first season jumped around in time a bit and introduced a motley crew of supporting characters including the brilliantly hapless assassins Cha-Cha (Mary J. Blige) and Hazel (Cameron Britton). Season 2 took things to another level, plunging the team into an alternate version of 1963 Dallas and really ramping up the weirdness while also dealing with issues such as the civil rights movement and sexuality.
Season 3 widens the scope further, introducing another alternate timeline and a rival team of superheroes, The Sparrow Academy. And it seems these two families don't want to play nice with each other.
But really, there's no point in us trying to explain everything that's happened up to this point, so if you've not yet watched it then we can only recommend that you start at S1 Ep1; this is not a show you can jump into at season 3.
If you have watched the first two seasons then may we recommend our Umbrella Academy season 3 catch-up guide, plus multiple viewings of the handy Netflix primer below.
What do critics think of Umbrella Academy season 3?
Umbrella Academy has been a critics' favorite from the start. It holds an 85% rating overall on Rotten Tomatoes, with season 1 scoring 76%, S2 getting 95% and S3 currently on 88%.
The general consensus around S3 is that — like Stranger Things S4 — it's done a mostly great job of widening the scope without losing the qualities that initially made it special.
Ed Power on The Telegraph awards it 5/5 and says that for S3 you should "think Wes Anderson meets Curb Your Enthusiasm – with a sprinkling of “biff pow!” comic book excitement stirred through," while Johnny Loftus on Decider describes it as "Gloriously weird, refreshingly progressive… and indifferent to any gripes from those unwilling to climb aboard."
Many are also impressed with how it deftly handles the development of Elliot Page's character Viktor, who comes out as a trans man to his family in S3.
As Emily Garbutt on our sister site Total Film says, "The process feels very organic and isn't overwrought in the script. While this is no doubt the benefit of having a trans actor playing a trans character (Page came out in 2020), it feels like a turning point to see a transgender character in a popular show written in a sensitive way and whose plotline doesn't revolve around transphobia and discrimination."
On Salon, meanwhile, Melanie McFarland praises the way that "showrunner Steve Blackman and his team — including trans writer Thomas Page McBee — weave Viktor's experience into a plotline that's already running at full speed without a hitch."
Not every review is overwhelmingly positive, though. As The AV Club's Jenna Scherer writes, "The Umbrella Academy does a heroic job of balancing its massive ensemble—but this time around, it’s a little too big." It's also worth noting that UA S3's Audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes only stands at 69%, down from the 85% and 88% of the first two seasons.
But on the whole, both critics and viewers agree that it's another hit.
Outlook: Should you watch Umbrella Academy season 3 tonight?
If you're a fan of superhero shows or time-travelling, alternate-universe weirdness then the answer is a resounding yes: you'll enjoy The Umbrella Academy season 3. And if you watched seasons 1 and 2 then you should definitely give S3 a go and catch up on the antics of your favorite dysfunctional superhero siblings.
For anyone else, it's a harder ask. There's no way you can skip straight into S3, so you'd be committing to 36 hours of viewing in order to complete the whole thing. It's also not the kind of show you can zone out of while doing something else — you'd have no chance of following all the plot machinations and keeping on top of who's who.
But that said, The Umbrella Academy S3 has reached the Netflix no.1 spot for a reason — even if it's destined to only hold it for one week until Stranger Things 4 volume 2 arrives next Friday.
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