[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Umbrella Academy Season 3, Episodes 1-3, “Meet the Family,” “World’s Biggest Ball of Twine,” and “Pocket Full of Lightning.”]
Five minutes. That’s how far we get into Season 3 before The Umbrella Academy does something absolutely bonkers — in this case, a Sparrows vs. Umbrellas dance-off that winds up not being real. Surprise!
To be fair, this is a show known for going a little (or a lot) crazy—we’ve already had talking monkey butlers, a robot mom, a mannequin girlfriend, and a main character becoming a cult leader. So, if anything, the almost-immediate descent into chaos proves the show is as devoted to the strange, supernatural, and utterly weird in its third set of episodes as it’s always been. Let’s get into it.
The Sparrows and the Umbrellas come to blows in Episode 1, and the Umbrellas get, as Luther (Tom Hopper) later puts it, their “a**es handed to them.” The only one to hold their own is Vanya (Elliot Page), who transitions to Viktor in a heartwarming sequence in Episode 2. With the Umbrellas needing a place to lick their wounds, Klaus (Robert Sheehan) offers up the Hotel Obsidian—a wacky establishment of kooky characters where no one will look twice at them. They’re all set with a new base of operations, and everything’s fine enough on the surface that Five (Aidan Gallagher) is considering retiring.
He won’t get the chance, because it’s not fine. The UA doesn’t have the briefcase, so jumping to any other timelines that might better suit other siblings is impossible. Most of the Sparrow Academy wants them dead. Their mothers, they find out, were all murdered under mysterious circumstances. (At least Five and Klaus got to go on a fun road trip in Episode 2 to try and find Klaus’ Amish mom, though!) And even though Viktor manages to make a deal with their Number One, Marcus (Justin Cornwell), to retrieve the briefcase, he’s never able to hand it over…because Marcus is sucked into a mysterious glowing orb that’s materialized in the Sparrow Academy’s basement. In Episode 3 they discover this is a “Kugelblitz,” a series of interconnected collapsing dark holes that materialized as a result of them being in a timeline where they were never meant to exist. Yes, it’s another world-ending event, yes, it’s erasing people at random and yes, they only have a few days to stop it. Business as usual.
Of course, pandemonium is also unfolding in these characters’ personal lives. (When is it not?) Diego (David Castenada) gets an unexpected visit from Lila (Ritu Arya). She drops off a kid named Stan who she claims is their son, then vanishes. Throughout the initial episodes, Diego goes through the motions of not wanting to be a dad and not believing her to actually caring about Stan and accepting that he’s theirs. It’s an abrupt storyline shift for him, but it brings out a softer side to him, and that works. Lila continues to factor into things, too, getting stuck in their timeline when her briefcase stops working.
Two storylines don’t work quite so well. Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) has now suffered a major loss with every timeline jump—her daughter in the first, and her husband in the second. That has a huge negative impact on her, and grief eventually makes her violent, confrontational and moody. While that’ll likely get resolved by the finale—and it’s not Raver-Lampman’s fault—the character starts to become increasingly one-note, composed of eye-rolls, snark, and threats. She’s picking random fights with her siblings, making hurtful comments, drinking heavily, and acting out. Note that Allison isn’t the only Umbrella member to have lost someone they loved: Klaus lost Dave. Vanya lost Cissy and Harlan. With that in mind, while her trauma from her experiences in the ‘60s is more than justified, her actions can come off as self-absorbed, short-sighted, and reckless.
The second storyline that doesn’t click is Luther’s. He falls instantly in love with a member of the Sparrow Academy, Sloane (Genesis Rodriguez). And wouldn’t you know—she loves him on first sight, too. A relationship develops during a side plot where the Sparrow Academy kidnaps him for info about Marcus and then releases him. The two are utterly besotted after knowing each other…a day, at most. For a teen drama, that’s fine. But Luther and Sloane are meant to be in their thirties, and it seems a strange storytelling choice to have them fall so deeply after such a short period of time. The season leans heavily on it, and maybe it makes sense when you consider how traumatized these characters are. But in this recapper’s opinion, the pseudo-Romeo-and-Juliet story wasn’t given enough development to really root for.
Anyway, it all culminates in the Sparrows showing up at Hotel Obsidian, ready to attack the Umbrella members for, they think, kidnapping Marcus. (They don’t know about the Kugelblitz.) All of a sudden, a mysterious man who’s been shown at random intervals throughout the episodes defends them, burning a few Sparrows to a crisp. Sloane, of course, is saved by Luther, and new-Ben (Justin H. Min) gets away with two other Sparrows. Most of the team has no clue who this guy is, but Viktor does. “Harlan?” he says.
The Umbrella Academy Season 3, all episodes now streaming, Netflix