Umbrella Academy has accomplished something special.
For many shows, the dreaded sophomore slump sends the series veering off course.
But Umbrella Academy Season 2 is, I dare say, better than Umbrella Academy Season 1.
Beginning just minutes after the first season finale, the warning Five shared with his family becomes a reality.
Using his powers to escape from Vanya's 2019 apocalypse was very risky, and they get scattered across the timeline from 1960 to 1963.
Separated, they each begin very different lives as they struggle to survive and make connections in an entirely new environment.
It's a terrific storytelling device that allows each member of the family to utilize their strengths without the others weighing on them to do the right thing. The pressure is off, and how their unique gifts play into their new lives is a lot of fun.
Klaus uses his time to start a cult. The easy-breezy brother takes as naturally to the attention lavished upon him as a cult leader as well he does the feminine drape of his new wardrobe.
Of course, Ben traveled with him, and it's with Ben's powers that Klaus can pull off the impossible, making his quite lauded amongst his people.
Luther leans into his gargantuan size when he establishes himself as a strong man to beat in a relatively sleazy nightclub. It's an easy gig that gives him an outlet for his incredible guilt over everything that happened during Season 1.
Diego becomes enmeshed in plans to save John F. Kennedy from assassination, and those plans label him a bit of a nut. Spending time in an insane asylum in the '60s isn't recommended, but Diego does meet a kindred spirit named Lila with whom he forms a strong connection.
Allison discovers another thing you don't want to be in the 1960's south is a person of color. She uses her keen understanding of the human condition to join forces with others in the Black community as they work toward ending the racial injustices of the era.
Vanya lands in the middle of the street, getting knocked out of her own memories. Living with the family of the woman who hit her, she recalls nothing of her past, and she struggles to find a sense of self that eludes her.
And finally, Number Five drops into Dallas, Texas, in the midst of what appears to be a World War. He has only minutes until a nuclear bomb explodes within view, wiping her and his entire family off the map -- again.
It's there that the point of Season 2 comes into play. Just esacaping the apocalypse didn't save them at all. Instead, it opened a new can of worms. An aged Hazel finds Five and gives him his mission -- find his siblings and find a way to prevent another apocalypse. This one is nine days away.
While the mission allows for very little time to mess around, the varying times in history that each member of the Umbrella Academy began in the '60s offers full arcs for each of them.
While Season 1 worked to establish the world in which they lived as well as their relationships to each other within their unique family structure, Season 2 allows each character to grow into themselves fully.
Their lives are explored in detail throughout the season, and how they come back together to battel the latest ultimate evil is organic and flows beautifully within the narrative.
And if you worried that without The Handler and Hazel and Cha-Cha on their trail that they'd run out of good antagonists, a trio of ruthless Swedish assassins enters the picture with genre favorite Kris Holden-Reid in command.
While their goal feels quite similar to the world Hazel and Cha-Cha did during the first season, they don't share the light and fluffy demeanor those two could slip into relatively easily.
But as they work to hunt the Hargreeves family, they unwittingly lead them to one another, thereby aiding in the family reuniting to squash the apocalypii that lay in their wake (and before them).
The stories are very strong. Vanya's amnesia gives the audience a way to reconnect with her, recalling that she suffered quite a bit in the care of Sir Reginald Hargreeves. While her actions led to pretty unfortunate circumstances, she's got a good heart that's worth saving.
Allison's story, in particular, is prescient for 2020. It's hard to accept the behavior that Blacks faced such a short time ago, but it's very satisfying that there is such a good representative standing with others against such treatment.
Recalling those days stings, but retelling the story through Allison's 21st-century lens is an excellent reminder for those who still find it difficult to believe that things were so different in our recent past.
Diego's arc, too, is particularly strong. We often imagine what we'd do if we had the ability to act upon the more seminal tragedies in our history, so it's not difficult to imagine how driven Diego is to ensure Kennedy's safety.
He firmly believes that everything rotten that occurred in the wake of Kennedy's death could be averted if only he could stop his assassination.
Of course, we know that averting one tragedy has an intended ripple effect, and that's something that Diego will have to learn one way or another.
With The Umbrella Academy, anything can happen, and it often does. So who can blame Diego for wanting to change the course of history?
As each story unfolds, Five gets closer to rounding up the other Hargreeves so they can stop the nuclear apocalypse and get back home to circumvent the one they left behind.
And if all of this sounds like it might not be too fun, dealing with urgent social issues and another armageddon, let me squash that thought like a bug.
Once again, The Umbrella Academy uses fun to its advantage.
The music remains top-notch, and there is a lot that I cannot talk about because of embargoes that would go a long way toward alleviating any fears the show is too heavy.
At TV Fanatic, we're 2 and 0 for those who think this season is the bee's knees, and we think you'll feel the same.
There are so many layers of storytelling on The Umbrella Academy Season 2 that you'll need a flowchart to keep up. It's an intensely satisfying return. The only downside is that it's over too soon and who knows how long we'll need to wait for another fix.
We'll also have episodic reviews for the full season, so don't stray too far from TV Fanatic for your coverage of The Umbrella Academy.
The Umbrella Academy drops on Netflix on Friday, July 31.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.