Umbrella Academy: Why The Show Humanized Hazel and Cha Cha

In Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy, Hazel and Cha Cha are a pair of time-traveling assassins wearing cartoonish masks, but they were even more over-the-top in the source material. Based on the comic book of the same name by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, The Umbrella Academy follows a set of immaculately-conceived, superpowered, deeply dysfunctional foster siblings who were adopted and trained by eccentric scientist Sir Reginald Hargreeves. The story is set in a fantastical sci-fi world which often sees the heroes pitted against apocalyptic forces attempting to either maintain or disrupt the timeline.

Agents of the powerful but inscrutable Commission, Hazel and Cha Cha are among the main antagonists of season 1, relentlessly pursuing Five and kidnapping Klaus in the process, all the while also carrying a subplot concerning their differing opinions on their line of work. Following the cataclysmic events that Vanya brought about in that season’s finale, the two are largely absent for season 2, although Hazel does appear briefly to help Five get his bearings before being killed. The power behind them remains, however, and the significance of the Commission and the Handler, in particular, is redoubled.

Related: Unanswered Question Umbrella Academy Season 3 Must Address

Hazel and Cha Cha are even more brutal and blatantly psychopathic in the Umbrella Academy comics. In the second limited series, Dallas, the first scene in which the two appear finds them mutilating a cook in a diner in order to get a pie recipe from him, and later their kidnapping of Klaus ends with them killing him. In the show, the duo is still intense, but less so, in a way that is cut with more humanity and allows for actual character development, which their comic counterparts weren’t really afforded. This more equitable approach fits with the wider scope of the ensemble show (even though it may also have been influenced by the flashy casting of Mary J. Blige). And lest the unadulterated threat that they once represented be missed, the brutal killer roles are taken up with a vengeance by the Swedes in The Umbrella Academy‘s season 2.

Importantly, the two assassins are not humanized to equal degrees. In the comics, the characters are fairly similar in their roles (apart from Cha Cha being fatally possessed by Klaus). In the show, however, while Cha Cha remains intense and driven, just in a more grounded fashion, Hazel shows a distinct soft side, emphasized most by his impactful romance with Agnes, his sparing of Cha Cha’s life when ordered to kill her, and his willingness to help the Umbrella Academy and Five. This redemption arc enables a pseudo-happy ending for him in both the season 1 finale and the season 2 premiere.

The Umbrella Academy‘s Netflix incarnation hasn’t been shy about taking liberties with its source material, and it has ultimately been well served by this approach, because so many of its iconic moments, be they needle drops or actors’ performances, are specific to its medium. And while a more exaggeratedly devious pair of assassins certainly fit with the comic books’ style, a slightly more nuanced depiction fit the Netflix series just as well, so much so that it may have even gone back and influenced the comics, as a one-shot issue called “Hazel and Cha Cha Save Christmas” was released about half a year after the first season of The Umbrella Academy.

Next: Umbrella Academy: Why Hazel and Cha Cha Don’t Wear Their Original Masks

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