You Should Enroll In The Umbrella Academy

If you’re looking for a new show to binge, I highly recommend Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy.  I just finished it last night and it’s one of the only series that I’ve ever watched that made me think to myself, “I can’t wait to watch this whole thing again.”

There’s something absolutely delightful about this show that makes it a blast to experience.  I’ll share with you just a few of the things that I appreciated most.

If you’re unfamiliar with The Umbrella Academy, I describe it as The X-Men meets Stranger Things.  An aristocratic stick-in-the-mud named Sir Reginald Hargreeves takes it upon himself to collect seven babies born under mysterious circumstances throughout the world.  He trains them from birth to fight evil and deter an impending apocalypse.  He counts on his android nanny and sentient, well-dressed primate to assist him.  His Umbrella Academy is cold, rigid, and unforgiving.

The show begins with the adult members of the Umbrella Academy returning home due to Hargreeves’ death.  It’s the first time they’ve been together in years.  It becomes very apparent, very quickly, that all of these former child super heroes are damaged goods.

However, this isn’t the melodrama of The X-Men.  This show is actually fun.  In fact, while it’s never laugh-out-loud hilarious, it is consistently amusing to the point you are on the verge of laughing.  The light touch even among serious happenings is why I compare it to Stranger Things.

Consequently, and perhaps surprisingly, The Umbrella Academy is just as much about its characters as it is about the unavoidable apocalypse.  Every single member of the Academy is given a backstory and a concrete personality that is easy to love.  The show randomly slips in and out of characters’ pasts, which makes it unpredictable and captivating.  Furthermore, every aside, every detour, contributes to the overall story line.  This is a tight plot with well-developed characters.

I adore the fact that they took the execution of this show so seriously because they easily could have shortchanged the plot and allowed the visuals to take center stage.  Because, wow, this show looks amazing.  The production quality is out of this world.  I felt like I’d actually entered another world.  For example, Pogo, the gentleman primate, seems to be just as solid as the actual human beings in the scenes with him.  Astounding.  The special effects are Netflix-money good.

Speaking of production quality, some Netflix shows have had a bit of trouble with pacing.  I’m specifically talking about the Marvel programs and even the recent seasons of Orange Is the New Black.  Granted, we’re only in The Umbrella Academy’s first season, but the pace never let up.  This show knows it’s competing with your cell phone, and it dares you to look away.

Even amidst the crazy action, the huge explosions, the wonky time travel, and the intense fight scenes, I liked this show best because I loved the characters.  In their own unique way, each and every one of them is charming with a great deal of charisma.  I challenge you to pick one overall favorite.  For me, it changed from episode to episode.

So what are you waiting for?  Get enrolled in The Umbrella Academy tonight!

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s Dr. Nekros e-book series HERE)

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A Few Thoughts Concerning Outlander: Season 4

I’ve had an interesting ride with Outlander on Starz.  When it debuted in 2014, my wife and I thought it would be a good show to watch together.  Neither of us knew exactly what it entailed, just that it was a popular book series and that a lot of people were looking forward to it.

Though it ended up being more intense than either of us expected, we loved the story, the acting, the costumes, the settings, and the charisma between Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser, the two main characters played by Caitriona Balfe and Same Heughan.  Again, the violence surprised us, as did the very graphic adult content, but overall we were won over.

The second season did not impress us as much as the first.  Claire’s penchant for being in the wrong place at the wrong time began to wear thin with me, as did Jamie’s constant frowning.  However, the time travel element got more and more complex, as did the historical aspect of the show in regards to Scotland and it’s struggles with England.

That being said, I can’t lie–I quit the third season after a few episodes.  The coincidences became too outlandish, the situations too forced, and the dynamic between Claire and Jamie a little too stale.  It seemed like the same things kept happening over and over, just in different settings.

However, the premise of the fourth season fascinated me, so I came back.  Claire and Jamie are now living in the New World.  Jamie has built a cabin in the wilds of North Carolina and has been given a vast amount of land.  He and Claire, along with his nephew Ian, must learn to coexist with the Cherokee as they also navigate the growing political unrest within the colonies.

A much-needed complication arises with Brianna, their adult-daughter, and Roger, Brianna’s on-again-off-again love interest.  We last saw them quite a bit in the second season.  At the risk of spoiling the latter half of this latest season, Brianna and Roger make their way from the 1960s to the late 18th century.  Why do they visit Colonial America?  I won’t give that away, but Sophie Skelton and Richard Rankin bring a refreshing energy to the show.  Though we’ve seen them before, we’ve never encountered them facing real danger.  Brianna and Roger are both thrown right into the frying pan after traveling to Claire and Jamie’s era.  Though Brianna and Roger’s relationship can be infuriating, seeing them interact with Claire and Jamie brings a new vitality to the show.  It’s also captivating to see Jamie playing a father to the daughter he never thought he would meet.

This fourth season isn’t perfect.  For example, Claire’s habit of finding skulls is … weird.  Jamie still seems to only have three or four facial expressions.  Roger is flat-out unlikable through much of the season.  Brianna takes unnecessary risk after unnecessary risk, effectively replacing Claire in that regard.  And there are once again some far-fetched coincidences, inexplicable actions taken by characters, and bizarre plot points.

But, overall, I really enjoyed the season.  Jamie and Claire’s characters are growing, the change in scenery is fun, Brianna and Roger are interesting, and the stories involving both the colonial politicians as well as the Native Americans are gripping.  The sets, though subtle, are stunning, and the costumes are–as always–fantastic.

Be warned, though.  This season can get very explicit in regards to adult content.  There isn’t anywhere near as much nudity as the first season, but there are several disturbing moments of sexual violence.  It’s very upsetting–as it should be.

I’m glad I came back to the show.  If you moved away from it like me, I recommend giving the fourth season a try.  I think Outlander will recapture your attention.

Outlander Season 4 2018

 (Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

This Season Of The Handmaid’s Tale Will Be My Last

We’re not Hulu subscribers, so when everyone heaped praise upon The Handmaid’s Tale, we had to wait until it came out on disc to experience it for ourselves.

We were able to finally watch it a few months ago, and we can attest that it deserved all of the acclimation it received.  Sure, it was intense, disturbing, and fraught with modern day political implications, but the sheer skill in terms of writing, acting, and production could not be denied.

In fact, the series impressed me so much that I immediately found the book and read it as well.  To my surprise, the first season of the show followed the book very closely.  The only aspect of the book the series did not cover pertained to the final ten or fifteen pages.

I presumed the second season would tackle those last pages of the novel.

I could not have been more wrong … so far.

The second season of The Handmaid’s Tale blazes its own trail by adding original material to the classic Margaret Atwood novel.  It’s serving as something of a sequel to the book as it continues Offred’s plight, the Waterford’s tyranny, and the general awfulness of a place like Gilead.

However, they’ve managed to up the stakes this season.  It’s become even more tense, more unsettling, and more … well, horrific.

Honestly, my wife and I watched episode eleven (of thirteen) last night, and we both decided that this season will be our last.  Yes, we’ll finish it out, but we agreed that neither of us wants to infiltrate Gilead’s boundaries anymore.

Minor spoilers here–with Offred’s complicated pregnancy and a heart-wrenching story line revolving around her first daughter, as well as an extremely frightening scene depicting rape … it’s too much.  This dystopian society of Gilead has become too real.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had to retreat from a show.  Back in 2014, The Walking Dead began killing children every week and threatening to kill an infant, so I had to quit it, too.  Our real world is scary enough.  We see enough tragedy on a daily basis in our reality.  I can’t deal with this level of calamity on a show, too.

In the end, when I watch a show, see a movie, or read a book, I’m engaging in a certain amount of escapism.  I cannot, for a sustained amount of time, feel extremely depressed after watching a show.  Every once in a while is manageable, but every episode of an entire season?  Maybe it’s not as potent if watching it on a weekly basis, but we’re watching an episode a night, and it’s absolutely altering my overall mood.

The Handmaid’s Tale crossed a line in my mind.  I understand children are the driving force of the entire premise, but by bringing them front and center, and by teasing their exploitation and abuse on a regular basis, in addition to the constant barrage of violence against powerless women … Again, it’s too much.

This second season is too blunt, too graphic, and too ruthless.  I found the first season, though very troubling, a little more nuanced, poignant, and purposeful.

I think the show and the book both serve as a significant warning against people manipulating religious and political beliefs for their own personal glorification, and I believe The Handmaid’s Tale inspires us to hold firm onto our own morals even in the face of rampant corruption, but I simply can’t partake in such abasement as a means of escapism any longer.

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    (Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)