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The Umbrella Academy Recap: There and Back Again

The Umbrella Academy

The Day That Wasn’t
Season 1 Episode 6
Editor’s Rating *****

The Umbrella Academy

The Day That Wasn’t
Season 1 Episode 6
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix

So for all the agents he’s killed along the way — and for all his efforts to thwart the apocalypse — this is what Five gets: a promotion. Following his detente with the Handler, the pint-sized assassin is given a desk job at the Commission, and tasked with making sure the Hindenburg goes down.

Five’s first day on the job is a treasure trove of darkly comic moments, as he settles into an office full of pencil-pushers who make sure a series of historical tragedies and assassinations go off without a hitch. He’s using the opportunity to gather intel on the apocalypse, but he can’t get away from the Handler, who is so enamored of her new hire that she won’t give him a moment’s peace — even when he sneaks off to the bathroom with a classified file. Still, Five is capable and ruthless enough to sow a little chaos by sending Hazel and Cha-Cha secret notes, ostensibly from the Commission, ordering them to kill each other.

Hazel and Cha-Cha have never been my favorite Umbrella Academy characters, but it’s fun to watch this little game of spy versus spy. Cha-Cha takes Hazel out into the woods to kill him Miller’s Crossing–style, but can’t bring herself to do it. Hazel pretends he’s going to pick up Chinese, but sneaks away to flirt with Agnes at the doughnut shop. Cha-Cha finally shoots through the shower curtain at the motel while the shower is running, believing Hazel is behind it. She discovers too late that it’s a trap set by Hazel, who knocks her out.

Antics! But in the midst of all the chaos, Klaus’s story line is a bit more poignant. With the end of the world three days away — and everyone in the Umbrella Academy agreeing, following a family meeting, that they can’t actually stop it — Klaus decides to sober up long enough that his superpowers come back, so he can see his dead lover Dave one last time. (This requires the help of Diego, whom ties Klaus to a chair to keep him honest.)

And love must be in the air, because with the doomsday clock ticking, Luther and Allison finally drop the pretense and do the Seeking a Friend for the End of the World thing, kissing for what’s apparently the first time. I still think this is weird — adopted siblings are still siblings! — but Umbrella Academy is determined to move forward with this romance, so here we are.

This leads to a long-delayed, GIF-friendly dance sequence, which morphs into a full-on idealized fantasy sequence about the normal life Luther and Allison could have led together: Luther in a human body, and Allison more carefree than we’ve ever seen her. But the fantasy dance still has some echoes in the modern world. Even if they’ll never live that dream version of the lives they could have had, Luther and Allison are willing to take what they can get, walking off hand-in-hand to enjoy their last few days before the apocalypse.

Meanwhile, another pair of new lovers are about to swing the other way. In a convenient bit of carelessness from Leonard — frankly, a little too convenient — Vanya discovers the lost Hargreeves diary Leonard stashed away under a couch. Hargreeves’s notes describe Vanya’s superpowers as “unlimited, uncontrollable, and dangerous,” and after weighing the options, he finally settles on “mood-altering medication to keep her sedated.”

And, hey, maybe that big discovery about herself would be enough to head off the apocalypse. Or maybe it would make Vanya so angry that it would speed the whole thing up. We’ll never know, because in the same moment, Five launches into his real plot. He flees the Commission after discovering the name Harold Jenkins, whom he thinks might be the key to stopping the apocalypse. He also sabotages the Commission’s time-travel briefcases, then flees back to the past … and into the family meeting at the start of the episode.

In doing this, Five resets the timeline to the beginning of the episode. In other words: None of the aforementioned stuff actually happened. (Well, I guess it technically happened — but since nobody knows about it, and all the consequences have been undone, it’s basically the same as none of it ever happening.) Luther and Allison’s love is still unconsummated; Hazel and Cha-Cha are still on the same side; Vanya has no idea that Leonard is a sketchy creep.

You could probably argue that this whole episode was kind of pointless — a little padding for a ten-episode order that might, like most Netflix shows, have been a few episodes too many. By the time the credits roll, does any of this actually matter?

For what it’s worth, there will be some actual fallout from the events in this episode. The experience certainly mattered for Five, who gained a key piece of information and sabotaged the Commission from coming after him again so easily.

But I’d also argue that it mattered for us, the audience. It’s a little like glimpsing a parallel universe, showing us both the open roads and the dead ends that these characters might face if things go a certain way. It’s a universe in which Luther and Allison were finally happy, and where Klaus got clean enough to see his lover again. It’s also a universe in which Hazel and Cha-Cha were manipulated into betraying each other, and where Vanya discovered the painful truth about herself, and about why Leonard is so interested in her.

And to revisit that last point: Let’s talk about Vanya’s (almost certainly world-shattering) superpowers. I don’t want to give Hargreeves too much credit for, you know, not murdering his daughter. We certainly have more than enough evidence that he was a cold and abusive father to all of his children. But if he really wanted to make sure Vanya’s powers never got out of control, he could have killed her. Six episodes in, Hargreeves remains the big, inscrutable, unknowable black hole at the center of this narrative. By the end of the season, will we understand him any better?

Raindrops

• Okay, let’s talk theories: What’s the secret that Pogo and Grace are keeping from the kids? It’s probably something about the night Hargreeves died, because that’s the only thing we know Pogo and Grace witnessed, but the kids didn’t. I’m going to guess that Hargreeves is still alive, pulling strings from behind the scenes in an effort to reunite the Umbrella Academy.

• I could be reaching here, but it looked like Hargreeves’s notes on Vanya included the number 00.03 — which could be a reference to Allison, whose code name is Number Three. Is it possible Hargreeves enlisted Allison’s help in suppressing Vanya’s powers?

• Luther discovers that the four years of reports from the moon went unread by Hargreeves — just a pointless mission designed to make him feel important following his serum-induced transformation. It’s a perfect blend of caring and cruelty, which seems to have been Hargreeves’s parenting philosophy.

• Klaus mentions meeting Dave at the “Mountain of the Crouching Beast.” That’s one name for Dong Ap Bia, a mountain that became infamous as the site of the Battle of Hamburger Hill — a brutal battle that’s remembered today as one of the key moments in Americans turning against the war.

• The Handler shows off a Willy Wonka–esque invention from the Commission’s metaphysics department: a piece of candy that tastes like the 1950s.

• The Handler mentions that blowing up the Hindenburg would have been easier if Joseph Spah had sabotaged the fuel tank. That’s a reference to a real-life (and almost certainly inaccurate) conspiracy theory of the era, which posited that passenger and disaster survivor Joseph Spah — a vaudevillian acrobat who performed under the stage name Ben Dova — had sabotaged the Hindenburg.

• Five’s colleague Herb is in charge of ensuring the destruction of the Lusitania, an ocean liner that was destroyed by a German U-boat in 1915.

• Songs in episode six include “Soul Kitchen,” by the Doors; “Kill of the Night,” by Gin Wigmore; and a cover of King Harvest’s “Dancing in the Moonlight.”

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The Umbrella Academy Recap: There and Back Again