By David T. Valentin
Through the quick pacing, huge stakes and the Hargreeves induced apocalypse destroying not only planet Earth, but the entire universe and all its many different timelines, The Umbrella Academy gets to the root of what its story is really about: confronting and coming to love your dysfunctional family.
Season three of The Umbrella Academy kicks off right where season two left us—the Hargreeves time traveling back to 2019, what they believe to be their original timeline, only to discover things aren’t what they seem. After the events of 1963 in Dallas and disappointing a younger Reginald Hargreeves, Regi instead adopts seven different children after he was left sourly disappointed in the seven children he adopted for The Umbrella Academy. Instead of the familiar seven children we know and love, the Hargreeves find themselves replaced by The Sparrow Academy with only one sort-of similarity—that Ben Hargreeves was still adopted, but only this time around he’s a major asshole with huge daddy issues. As The Hargreeves come to realize what does and doesn’t exist within this timeline. On top of their own huge individual existential crisis, the Hargreeves family must also deal with a universal-scale apocalypse created by their presence in a timeline in which they quickly realize they shouldn’t exist.
Let’s start off with the most heart-warming of moments and really the star of season three—Viktor Hargreeves, the somewhat newest brother of the Hargreeves family. Because of Elliot Pages’s own transition in the real world, writers of The Umbrella Academy sought to create a true and genuine trans story on screen as Viktor comes to discover himself better than he ever did before. The scenes were heart-warming, genuinely written and moving to the point where I believe Elliot Page’s performance as Viktor Hargreeves will certainly go down as one of the more genuine depictions of the trans experience on the big screen.
After Viktor’s transition, you really feel him opening up, becoming more confident with choosing his own path and actually, on occasion, step up to the plate to try and be what he was always meant to be—one of and if not the most powerful Hargreeves child and a truly natural born leader.
Viktor’s path of self-actualization is not without mistakes, just the same as his siblings have endured as they try to maneuver around a world where they are more than extraordinary. Viktor tries to make it work for everyone—tries to appease everyone. But when he’s forced to lie to his family to keep the secret that Harlon was the one who killed the Hargreeves’ children’s mothers by accident in this timeline, Viktor finally feels the full weight of the tough decisions his siblings must truly make.
I found Viktor’s maneuvering around these life challenges at such a later point in his life similar to the coming out experience, only tied, of course, to the end of the world and superhero powers. As so many Queer people experience a feeling of a loss of a proper and safe childhood, we often find ourselves immature and inexperienced in certain areas. Viktor experiences this as they lose the trust of Allison and even receives a stern talking to from Five about the weight of the decisions they must make both individually and collectively.
And speaking of Allison Hargreeves, her storyline was certainly interesting but most of all controversial. With the power to practically manipulate people against their will and, in a way, bend reality, Allison goes down some very dark paths this season; one’s that aren’t as unpredictable and random as viewers might be led to believe.
Remember back in season one, it is revealed Allison rumored her husband into loving her and even, on occasion, rumored her daughter Claire to behave. It was only until her husband Patrick caught her using her powers on their daughter that she truly realized the harm she could really do to others.
When Allison learns her daughter no longer exists in this timeline she and her siblings traveled to, it leads Allison down a dark, existential spiral where she truly feels as though nothing really matters anymore. With nothing else to lose, Allison is willing to do anything to get her daughter back even if it means abandoning the relationship the siblings created with back in season two.
Allison is pushed so far that she even rumors Luther for a few minutes so she can experience his touch once again. The scene was a shock to most fans of the show, many of which rightfully calling it out as sexual assault, but to fans of The Umbrella Academy comics, the moment was somewhat unsurprising. In the comics, Allison’s story is a bit reversed, developing from a narcissist who would use her powers for anything to eventually realizing the true extent of her powers. Her powerup is also not much of a shock to fans of the comic, as most are familiar with a story plot where one of Allison’s lies creates a doppelgänger of herself, thus practically confirming her ability to warp reality.
In a way, it was disappointing, but not unexpected, to see Allison go from a very controlled, calm woman to a narcissist who comes to abandon her family at almost every turn. Afterall, the poor woman, as a modern-day Black woman, was forced to endure the full brunt of racism in the 1960’s, losing a man she genuinely loved wholeheartedly and then losing her daughter after leaving Ray knowing she could never have a life with him.
I find fans who wish for these moments in a character’s history to be dealt with in a happy and easy manner to be naïve and truly missing the full effects of what trauma can really do to a person. Does it make Allison incredibly unlikeable? Yes. But she still stands as one of my favorite characters with one of the more complicated story arcs.
Through it all, The Umbrella Academy finds itself bizarrely focusing on Luther’s wedding to Sloane, the number five of The Sparrow Academy and a romantic who just wants to experience the world. Sure, fans might find the pacing strange, but at the root of The Umbrella Academy the story isn’t about superheroes. It’s about dysfunctional family and dysfunctional people moving through and dealing with their trauma. While it might seem silly for a wedding to take place at the end of the world, the reality of the children’s eventual death forces them to deal with some hard memories and feelings in their life.
Overall, while season three was a bit messy in terms of writing, I found the wedding scenes to redeem the season. Those small human moments before facing the eventual end of the entire universe reminds viewers that, although things may not matter, it is the bonds and moments we create and put into action that truly matter in our lives and, even more so, matter more if nothing matters.