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5 Episodes in: Isolation within and outside of ‘The Umbrella Academy’

Isolation is one of those themes that pops up quite a bit in science fiction. From “The Twilight Zone’s” first episode ‘Where Is Everybody’ to Will Smith’s “I Am Legend,” people are fascinated by the effects that being alone for an extended period can have on a person. It’s probably in part due to the dual nature of humanity. We want to be alone, and we need companionship; every person is somewhere on the spectrum between these demands, and it changes depending on the day and inner requirements.

Spoiler Alert.

This theme should have been clearer from the start of “The Umbrella Academy.” There were so many other things to adjust to, however, that it got lost until episode five. Number Five is the most isolated. He spends decades in the future with a manikin, who is as real to him as any person. Luther spends four years on the moon, which for him was enough.

Allison has been psychologically isolated from people for most of her life. She couldn’t discern what was real and what was the result of her power. She is now isolated from her daughter ad is attempting to build a new relationship with Vanya.

Pogo, and this is important, was left alone in the house after all the children moved on with their lives. Diego constantly talks about how mom was treated, but he doesn’t pay any attention to the talking chimpanzee who also had to put up with the abuse (as Diego sees it) that father dished out. Pogo says that he owes everything he is to Mr. Hargreeves, but it’s clear he’s hiding something.

Klaus used drugs to keep the spirits at bay. These are the spirits he should have been connecting with his whole life in a “Ghost Whisperer” sort of way. Unfortunately, his father’s ill-conceived training regime did nothing but frighten a young child into a life of escapism and dulling fear through chemistry. He continues to refuse to embrace who he his and what his power represents, even if there’s nothing scary about his brother Ben, who hangs out with him.

Diego lives in the backroom of a gym and goes out nights to fight crime. He has spent his life pushing people away and doing things his way without compromise. The death of his not-girlfriend sends him further down the road to isolation. He doesn’t recognize that he needs companionship, but his actions suggest otherwise as he takes Klaus with him to stake out the donut shop.

Surprisingly, it’s the relationship between Hazel and Agnes that hammers the theme home. Hazel feels acutely alone, and it’s affecting his work. Perhaps his isolation is worse because he spends all of his time with a partner as they travel 52 weeks a year. When he opens up to Agnes, he reveals that his job is fulfilling anymore.

People need companionship. They need to be part of something bigger than themselves. They need to be loved. Religions, cults and sports teams flourish because they can provide a semblance of these things. Humans define themselves in terms of the other; we don’t know who we are without someone else to base ourselves on. It’s part of our strongest desire – that of establishing and maintaining our identity. Sometimes, that means embracing the love of family, both biological and chosen. Sometimes, it means choosing something more carnal.

When a man finally shows interest in Vanya, she falls for him. She doesn’t care if he’s nefarious. On the outside he presents a nice-guy façade, and he does things to support and help her, including, unbeknownst to her, murder. Vanya won’t take the warnings of Allison because she has been isolated for so long. She hasn’t felt worthy and no one has expressed to her that she is worthy. Her father always told her she was ordinary. Her siblings ignored her to the point that when Allison watches tapes from their childhood, she says she wouldn’t let anyone treat her daughter that way. Vanya wrote a book that further estranged her from the family. She lives alone and pushes people away. So, when she finally decides to open up and take a chance, she falls hook, line and sinker for the manipulations of Leonard.

Vanya gives Leonard her love, literally and her power, figuratively. Leonard, a creep, stalker and killer, dumps her pills and unleashes Vanya’s creative power. Not all creative power is good. Some people use their creativity to destroy. The atomic bomb, hypersonic ICBMs, new forms of torture… the list of terrible creativity is long and horrific. Vanya’s power isn’t just to build but to destroy, and when she finds out about Leonard’s manipulations, it could be apocalyptic. Allison still provides hope that someone can reach her.

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One Episode in: The Umbrella Academy devalues creativity

The only child, Number Seven, or Vanya as she likes to be called, without powers is perhaps slated to be the most powerful of all the superhero children gathered at the Umbrella Academy. In the first episode we’ve already seen Vanya, played by Ellen Page, practicing violin on a stage. She’s written a book, and her dream patterns were beeping off the chart and compared to the relatively normal brain patterns of the other children. She is clearly the most creative of the group, and that’s what makes her dangerous.

Diego and Luther are the tanks. Time and space travel boy is a freak! His fight scene against what appears to be an elite military group was incredible. Suggestive woman is dangerous, but says she has stopped using her power. And Klaus, a drug addict and cliché, speaks with the dead – that’s a different kind of freaky. That leaves Vanya, who is undervalued and underappreciated.

Creativity and the resulting innovations are what set the humans of today, homo sapiens sapiens, apart from other humans and animals. Being able to make something and then turn that to other uses is how people became the dominant species on Earth. People aren’t the fastest or strongest. They aren’t even the smartest necessarily, but people adapt the situation to their needs. Too cold? Build a fireplace and house. To hot create an air conditioner. To wet? Open an umbrella.

Vanya also trained with her father though she may not see it that way. She knows what the people in the group can do and how to use their powers, and as soon as she adapts her thinking to solving the problems at hand, she will be the one to guide the members of the Umbrella Academy to greatness with better chances for success.