Several months ago, Umbrella Academy star Elliot Page introduced fans to Viktor Hargreeves via his Twitter account. Page publicly disclosed that he was transgender back in December 2020, but it remained an open question how, or even if, Umbrella Academy would chart a similar arc for his character, known in the first two seasons (and in the season-three premiere) as Vanya.
Now, the show itself has introduced viewers to Viktor, and done so beautifully.
It’s interesting that this wasn’t the show’s original plan for the character — season three’s scripts were already finished when Page released his statement, which necessitated some rewrites — because, in many ways, it feels like Umbrella Academy has always been building up to this. From the very beginning, Page has been playing a character defined by disconnection from the larger world and his place in it, exacerbated by a lifetime of casual cruelty by his father, Reginald Hargreeves.
In the comics, this toxic stew manifests into the breakdown by which Vanya nearly ends the world. But after following that arc for much of the first season, the TV show has gone on to suggest a vastly more hopeful path — one in which Viktor finally gets to define his life on his own terms.
At the beginning of this episode, as Viktor learns of Sissy’s death in 1989, he processes what her own epiphany might mean for him: “You don’t even notice the box you’re in until someone comes along and lets you out.” When Viktor gets a haircut and reveals his true name to his family, his newfound confidence and comfort are so apparent that the show barely even needs to underline it. This is who he was all along.
It makes perfect sense that Viktor would emerge from Dallas with a clearer understanding of who he is. And as the rest of the world finds out who he is, too, it’s nice to see a pop-cultural trans story that is not characterized by prejudice, tragedy, or both. When he comes out, Viktor’s siblings respond with unquestioning acceptance. But their reactions are also wonderfully in character. It’s very Allison to extend so much warmth and love, and it’s very Five to say, “I’m truly happy for you,” and then immediately shrug and get back to the saving-the-world business at hand.
But while Viktor’s story is easily the strongest material in the episode, there are five other siblings for the show to juggle — and like Viktor, albeit a bit less compellingly, each of the Umbrellas is decompressing after Dallas by taking a little time to figure out who they really are.
Let’s start with the biggest bummer. In the world’s most predictable plot twist, Allison’s daughter Claire doesn’t exist in this timeline, which Allison discovers when she breaks into her alternate-universe husband’s house and finds a different girl in the bedroom. (Seriously, Allison, you couldn’t even call first?) But if the particulars of this twist were evident from the beginning, the implications for Allison are more interesting to parse. She left her husband Ray in 1963 to reunite with her daughter in the present. Now she has neither of them. And living across two timelines, one of which doesn’t even exist anymore, seems to be taking a toll. At a diner with Viktor, Allison flashes back to the racist diner owner from 1963. She’s so disoriented and overwhelmed that she leaves — stuck in two pasts she can’t revisit, with no clear idea what other possibilities might exist for her.
Is there a future for the Umbrellas in this specifically Umbrella-less world? However reluctantly, Diego seems to be finding some purpose in being a dad to Stan (whose ability to throw knives so well probably doesn’t hurt). And Luther finds hope in his ongoing bond with Sloane, who — barring the possibility of a long-con honeypot scheme — seems to adore him and his stories about visiting the moon as much as she dislikes being a Sparrow. When they kiss at the end of the episode, it feels like the start of something they both desperately need. (It might also lead to them playing Romeo and Juliet in the Montague/Capulet-style war between the Umbrellas and the Sparrows, but that’s the danger of being star-crossed lovers.)
The Umbrellas’ collective answer to these existential questions might lie even further in the past. Klaus, having uncovered the name of his birth mother, decides to track her down. He pairs up with Five, newly retired and uncharacteristically laid-back, for a road trip that ends at her Amish homestead in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, Klaus learns his mother is dead. Much more strangely, she died before he was even born. In fact, all of their mothers died before the Umbrellas were born.
Which means this time-travel series is about to launch its own version of one of the classic time-travel arcs: the Grandfather Paradox. And if this family seemed a bit dysfunctional before, it should be fascinating how they deal with the fact that their family shouldn’t even exist.
• Meanwhile, the blob in the Sparrow Academy’s basement keeps getting bigger, spitting out energy waves that either teleport or vaporize tanks of lobster or fields of cows. Seems bad!
• Lila borrows Fei’s raven superpower to steal the time-travel briefcase from the Sparrow Academy basement. Seems bad!
• There’s also Lester Pocket, the mysterious older man with the cassette tape collection, who manages to slip away from Allison. He also seems to have superpowers. Seems bad!
• Is it just a coincidence that Sissy died in 1989, the same year when each of the Umbrella Academy’s birth mothers died?
• Elliot Page wrote a lengthy, lovely essay about many things, including his transition, in Esquire. You can read it here.
• The hotel clerk’s dog is (was?) named “Mr. Pennycrumb” — a nod to a similar pup in the comics.
• Deeply curious about what the Sparrow Academy gives to its visitors in those little tote bags.
• I’ve been to the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota. It’s worth the trip!
• Music in this episode: “The Passenger” by Iggy Pop as Luther’s morning run is interrupted by the Sparrows; “The Oogum Boogum Song” by Brenton Wood as Klaus and Five hit the open road; “Quando Quando Quando” by Engelbert Humperdinck as Diego and Alphonso brawl at the pharmacy; and a cover of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love,” performed by his daughter Lilly Winwood, during Luther and Sloane’s love scene.