WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for The Umbrella Academy Season 1, streaming now on Netflix.
Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy follows the overarching story of the 2007 first volume of Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba's acclaimed comic, centering on the impending apocalypse, while borrowing from its 2008 sequel the antagonists Hazel and Cha-Cha. However, it's neither the end of the world nor time-traveling assassins that poses the biggest threat to the dysfunctional family of superheroes. It's shared childhood traumas, amplified by a return to the home where they occurred.
The adaptation delves deeper into the emotional abuse endured by the seven children adopted by eccentric billionaire/inventor Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) as he trained them to face the dangers to come. Detached and frequently cruel, he didn't even bother to name them; instead they were given numerical designations. That should perhaps come as little surprise considering that, following the 43 remarkable births across the globe to women who previously displayed no sign of pregnancy, Sir Reginald's first instinct was the purchase the infants, and then exploit them for his own purposes. He viewed them as tools, or weapons.
Sir Reginald wasn't so much a father to the children as a combination of scientist, drill instructor and warden. But he had accomplices.
Although Pogo (Adam Godley) and Mom (Jordan Claire Robbins) gave the Hargreeves siblings the attention, and affection, that Sir Reginald couldn't, they also stood by as he forced young Vanya into a soundproof cell to test her limits. Likewise, they permitted the experiment on Luther (Tom Hopper) intended to save his live, but in the process transformed him into a physical brute. Mom's complacency can be attributed to her programming, but Pogo at least recognized that Sir Reginald's treatment of the children was wrong. But he remained silent, and kept Sir Reginald's secrets, even when speaking up could have benefited the Umbrella Academy.
Even after Sir Reginald's death, Pogo could have pulled the plug on his plan to manipulate the children and reunite them for one more mission. But Pogo doesn't attempt a course correction, in the form of an apology or even the truth. The Hargreeves were clearly crying out for a parent figure, and there was an opportunity following Sir Reginald's death to come clean about decades of manipulation and deception, and display genuine love and warmth.
Instead, Pogo allows the vision of a dead man to continue, which leads to his own horrible death at the hands of an enraged Vanya (Ellen Page). While Mom may have had a genuine bond with the children, especially with Diego (David Castañeda), Pogo comes off just as uncaring as Sir Reginald, and together they helped to foster the monster that ate away at the family from the moment of the children's adoption.
Luther realized that, and quickly discerned that Pogo and Mom ultimately couldn't be trusted. And bit by bit, so did everyone else. While the agent of the apocalypse turned out to be Vanya, finally unleashed, she was set on that path decades earlier by Sir Reginald and his accomplices.
Streaming now on Netflix, The Umbrella Academy Season 1 stars Ellen Page, Mary J. Blige, Tom Hopper, Cameron Britton, Robert Sheehan, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Adam Godley, Aidan Gallagher, David Castañeda, John Magaro, Ashley Madekwe and Colm Feore.