Twelve years ago the 2000s heartthrob singer from My Chemical Romance, Gerard Way, published the first copy of his original comic, 'The Umbrella Academy'. It follows the story of a dysfunctional family of superheroes who have spent decades apart and then, after the death of their adoptive father, are forced to reunite and reform their team once again. After many years of waiting and developing, Way's project has finally been brought to the screen by Netflix in a new ten-episode series.
The series has generally been well received by the fans of the comic and by the general public, but there has been a mixed reaction in response to the ending, which is very different to that of the comic. In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter Gerard Way and Steve Blackman (the showrunner) addressed these changes made, and the shocking cliffhanger in the season finale.
The final episode left the audience in shock when, realising that there is no way to prevent the end of the world, Number 5 (Aidan Gallagher) decides to transport himself and all of his siblings in back time in attempt to prevent the apocalypse and save humanity: the seven siblings fade into nothingness as the world around them burns. Where do they end up? Do they successfully reverse the end of the world?This ending is one of the key changes from the original story as in the comics the siblings are successful in their mission to prevent the end of the world. Blackman explained this alteration, saying, "I wanted this to really be the best of cliffhangers, in that you're like 'Wait, what? What happened?' It gives us a lot of openness and legroom to tell the best story we can next year".
Undoubtedly one of the most shocking moments in the story is when Ellen Page's character reveals that she is responsible for the apocalypse. While this is true to the comics, Vanya's journey to reach this point is fairly different in the Netflix show: in the series the character's trauma plays a pivotal role and is eventually the reason for which she unleashes apocalypse. Way approved of this alteration, saying that "in the book, [her transformation is] a machine and it's done very quickly. That doesn't give an actor a lot of room to move in that, or develop". Blackman added that a lot of the character's storyline was thanks to Page herself, who "had an idea early on of how this character would slowly change over time [...] it had to be sort of a metamorphosis of sorts, and she does a masterful job of going from this wallflower to this woman who's completely checked into who she really is".
The Comics Vs. The Series
As well as these changes from comic to Netflix show, there are also various other aspects of the story which are addressed differently on the show. Luther (Tom Hopper), for example, leaves behind the spacesuit which is such an iconic part of the character in the comics in order to make the character be taken more seriously. Additionally, Cha-Cha (Mary J. Blige) was originally written as a man; however, Way himself considered the gender swap a positive change, adding to the onscreen diversity. Another significant difference is the love story between Klaus (Robert Sheehan) and Dave, which was added in order to explore the character's hidden layer of passion and creativity.
Another aspect of the show which Blackman highlighted was the importance of music. He explained, "I love music [...] I wanted the songs to live and exist [in the show]. I wanted to find great songs to punctuate moments and then play them through." Jeff Russo, who won an Emmy for 'Fargo', formed part of the production team, helping to bring Blackman's vision to the screen with sequences such as the 'Dancing in the Moonlight' scene between Luther and Alison (Emmy Raver-Lampman).
Both creators have plenty of ideas about the direction in which the series could continue and intend to make no less than eight seasons, mirroring the comics. However, as of yet Netflix have not even renewed them for a second season so for now we will have to wait in hope that the fate of heroes of Umbrella Academy will one day be revealed.