How Much Plot is Too Much Plot?: “The Umbrella Academy” Season 3 Opinion


Bee Bishop, Managing Editor

Even after Pride Month ends, it’s important to shed light on important moments and victories in the LGBTQ+ movement. And the fight for proper media representation is one that I want to highlight today.

 Elliot Page is an A-list actor in Hollywood who, a few years ago, came out as transgender. During his transition, he had a position on Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy.” Page plays the youngest sibling–named Vanya Hargreeves– in a superhero family brought up in a toxic environment. The show follows the siblings’ adult lives as they battle through the negative effects of their upbringing while trying to save the world and survive each other. 

When Page first came out, many fans were speculative about what direction the show would take– Page’s character was presented as female during the first two seasons of the show. Originally, the plan was for Page to continue to play his role as is, with the character remaining female. However the production team changed course and wrote Page’s character transitioning with him. Vanya Hargreeves would transition to Viktor Hargreeves.

With the entertainment world sorely lacking in trans representation, I’m ecstatic that show runner Steve Blackman and the writers of the show chose to make the change. It’s one thing to incorporate a trans character into a show and another thing entirely to incorporate a trans character transitioning in a show. I was a huge fan of the first two seasons, and Page’s performance in the show was one of the stronger ones.

Regardless of how pumped I am for Page’s character transition, I must admit I am a bit skeptical.

“The Umbrella Academy” released its third season on June 22, with 10 episodes each about 45 minutes. That is in line with the other two seasons. One of the strong suits of the show– secondary to the chemistry and writing of the characters, the humor and creative action scenes– is the sheer amount of events that occur. The show deals heavily with the idea of time travel, and one of the core thematic ideas is how small actions can lead to large, and often disastrous, in the case of the Umbrella Academy, after effects. So the show will have a multitude of mysteries and conflicts running parallel to each other, often leading to one big final clash of all the conflicts together. 

My issue is this: is “The Umbrella Academy” going to be able to explore the idea of a character’s transition amongst all the other conflicts, or is it going to be thrown on a back burner to roast while the conflicts take precedence? There is a stark difference between including a trans character and having good transgender representation. A writer can say, “oh this character is transgender,” but then write a character who’s one-dimentional and feels like a cop out rather than a fully fleshed out and decidedly placed choice by the writing team.

The entertainment industry doesn’t have the best track record of positive and proper media representation for marginalized groups. And with a topic so personal as a character’s transition, it’s hard to give an exact blueprint on what to do right. Best case scenario would be that the writers allow Page’s character to be open and unapologetically trans while not centering his entire character development around the struggles of being trans in an inherently transphobic world. But the show can’t also just sweep the transphobia under the rug. Even though the show is based on a universe where people can have super powers, that doesn’t mean that bigotry doesn’t magically exist. The issue needs to be addressed, acknowledged but cannot be the sole focus for Page’s character. 

Additionally, there needs to be depth to Page’s character. Viktor Hargreeves before transitioning was a complex and compelling character, riddled with insecurities and flaws especially in the first season. And in the second season, we begin to see him develop but still carrying those complex flaws from the first season. So, even though the character will be the most self assured we’ve ever seen due to his transition, those flaws still need to carry over and Page’s character needs to remain as wonderfully three-dimensional as he was in the first two seasons.  

Despite my skepticism of the entertainment industry, I still have a good amount of hope that the writers will pull through.

The responses to the latest season have been varied to say the least. The season’s critical rating given on Rotten Tomatoes is second highest in the series, coming in at 90%, but the audience rating is the lowest out of the three seasons, coming in at 60%. Some audience reviewers are saying weak points of the season is just too much chaos and a dip in writing, and some are saying that Viktor Hargreeves’ transition is what is pulling the show down.

While I hope for a congruent and entertaining third season, I am also hoping season three can deliver on some well-written and fleshed out transgender representation.

“The Umbrella Academy” is streaming on Netflix and, even if the third turns out to be a let down for me, the first two seasons are creative and a well-put together piece of media that I would highly recommend for others to watch.