For anyone who has been losing sleep over it, let’s get that big cliffhanger out of the way upfront: No, Klaus is not dead. Despite the crossbow bolt that went straight through his chest, the Umbrella Academy’s most rakish alumnus returns from the afterlife very much alive, thank you.
There was obviously no chance that The Umbrella Academy would kill off Klaus so suddenly and unceremoniously; this isn’t even the only time the show has sent him to the afterlife. But this odd little subplot is a useful microcosm for one of my biggest recurring frustrations with this series: Far too often, it feels as though even matters of life and death have no actual stakes.
To be fair, some of this is endemic to a show about time travel, where anything (at least theoretically) can be undone. But too often, it’s just as unclear to me whether the characters’ actions have any greater weight.
Take the episode’s biggest, darkest moment: When Allison — mired in rage, grief, and loneliness — responds to Luther’s rejection by using her powers to order him to want her anyway. This is a genuinely startling violation of consent, and while she ultimately orders him to stop after a lengthy kiss, it’s clear things could have gone much, much further if she had willed it.
This feels as if it should be a turning point for both characters: Luther’s disturbed at being manipulated and abused by his adopted sister, and Allison’s horrified at what her traumas have made her become. There should be real, lasting consequences here, and maybe they’ll show up in the episodes ahead. But in this episode, the immediate impact barely seems to register. Luther, with no apparent trauma, spends his next scene browbeating Viktor. Allison moves on to handling the Harlan situation almost immediately.
And maybe that’s what the problem is — The Umbrella Academy is trying, and sometimes failing, to balance its series-long character arcs with its increasingly knotty plotting.
At this halfway point in season three, the Harlan knot is looking particularly hard to untangle. After a brief fight, Viktor confronts Harlan over the deaths of their mothers — an intriguing paradox in itself — and learns that Harlan killed them accidentally, unleashing the powers he acquired from Viktor in a failed attempt to connect with others like him. After some back-and-forth, Viktor goes from threatening Harlan to understanding him, mixed in with a fair amount of guilt, and decides to renege on his promise to his family and smuggle Harlan away before the Sparrows can get their hands on him. (Of course, he trusts Harlan with Allison, so we’ll see how reliable she turns out to be.)
But as all these interpersonal dramas play out, it’s hard not to revisit a question that the Umbrellas themselves periodically pose: Does any of this really matter in the face of the apocalypse? The answer is theoretically yes — if only for our heroes, who bear the memories and scars of events that most people can’t even comprehend (and in this timeline, some events that didn’t even “happen” at all).
That’s a rich vein for this show to mine if it takes pains to bring those stories to their logical conclusions. But as the inevitability of the kugelblitz threatens to consume both the universe and the remainder of the show’s third season, I hope The Umbrella Academy finds a way to make both its apocalyptic stakes and its human ones feel just as weighty.
• In a welcome teaser that ends the episode, Five wanders through the members-only door at a biker bar and discovers our old chimpanzee friend, Pogo — in this timeline, a grizzled-looking tattooist. I’m sure he’ll have quite a story to tell.
• Five says they have a maximum of five days before the kugelblitz consumes the entire universe. Good thing we have five episodes left.
• Five is typically so unflappable that it’s startling, and humanizing, to see him rattled by witnessing the death of his older self. “I’ve cheated time so much I guess I just figured I’d cheat death,” he reflects between shots of vodka. As always, Aidan Gallagher’s performance is one of this show’s greatest assets.
• On the strength of his performance as a “sexy dad,” Lila and Diego hook up again. This could easily be yet another of Lila’s long cons — but given that Klaus welcomed her as a family member earlier in the episode, maybe she’s actually on the level this time around.
• In case you needed yet another reminder that Reginald Hargreeves was a terrible dad: Even though he knows Klaus will come back to life, it is pretty horrifying to watch him flippantly taking notes as his adolescent son dies in pain.
• Luther suggests that Harlan is just as manipulative to Viktor as season one’s Leonard Peabody — and while that feels like an ungenerous appraisal, it’s striking that “Lester Pocket,” the alias used by Harlan, shares Leonard’s initials.
• Klaus’s oddly specific advice for escaping your own dark future: Move upstate and become an alpaca farmer.
• The Mothers of Agony are right out of the comics, but their name is also a pretty funny riff on the best-known biker drama, Sons of Anarchy.
• Music in this episode: “Crystalised,” by the xx, as Klaus navigates his version of the afterlife; “A Change Is Gonna Come,” by Sam Cooke, as Allison dreams of happier times; and “My Silver Lining,” by First Aid Kit, during the closing montage.