The Umbrella Academy is so big on spectacle — wild superpowers, apocalyptic events, fighting and/or dancing scenes set to catchy pop hits — that it can be easy to forget how compelling it can be when it slams on the brakes and lets its characters talk.
Don’t get me wrong: “Auf Wiedersehen,” a standout episode in this generally solid season, still gives us a few big set pieces. Early on, the Umbrellas and Sparrows team up to take on the kugelblitz, winning what turns out to be a pyrrhic victory. There’s the big bang that ends the episode, as the kugelblitz sends out its most devastating blast yet, killing Fei and Christopher and most of the rest of the world. And in between, there’s Luther’s gloriously cheesy proposal to Sloane — with a moon-rock ring! — which she accepts while literally floating in the air. Those crazy kids.
But for all that explosiveness, the real fireworks in this episode come in the more human-size scenes, as the Umbrellas and Sparrows ping-pong off each other, venting all the feelings that have been building up throughout the season.
The episode begins with a Lila flashback, revealing that when the Commission offered to send her to any time and place, she chose West Berlin in 1989. There, she acquired a time-travel briefcase planted by the Handler. Not long after, she acquired Stan, the neglected son of a punk rocker whose band she briefly joined. But while it’s nice to have Umbrella Academy filling in these gaps in the plot, the scene that will stick with me is silent: a long take of Lila playing the drums, unleashing all her accumulated emotion after the events of season two.
And that’s just her solo scene. By the time the episode ends, we’ve seen Lila come clean about being pregnant, admit she wants to start a real family with Diego, and give Allison some genuinely useful advice about how a time-traveler can stay steady when reality is shifting all around them.
And that’s advice Allison needed because, at this point, she’s the closest thing we have to a main villain in The Umbrella Academy’s third season. If assaulting Luther and murdering Harlan in the previous episodes somehow wasn’t enough proof, there’s her incredibly nasty fight with Viktor, which only ends when Allison uses her powers to shut his mouth for so long that it briefly looks like Viktor might suffocate. Even then, Allison can’t resist a nasty parting shot: “We should have left you in the basement,” she sneers.
This very painful break between Viktor and Allison — probably the Hargreeves siblings with the healthiest relationship, despite everything that has happened — is the kind of thing you can only earn after several seasons of character development, when it’s clear to the audience just how high the stakes are. There’s a similarly poignant release to the tragicomic training sequence between Reginald and Klaus, who has spent the season pining for a warm parental figure and finally has one.
Like Field of Dreams, this healing bond takes the form of a game of catch. Unlike Field of Dreams, this game ends with one of the participants getting hit by a car and dying, over and over. It may not be good parenting in the conventional sense, but Klaus does learn how to come back from the dead faster and faster, and Reginald seems genuinely delighted at his sort-of son’s progress. There are reasons to doubt Reginald’s motives — more on that in the “Raindrops” section below — but for now, this is a nice counterpoint to the schism between Viktor and Allison, serving as a reminder that this family, under the right circumstances, can heal as well as it can break.
Is the third season of Umbrella Academy about the Umbrellas healing or breaking? It’s the episode’s best scene that walks the line between those two points. When Five drops in on Viktor, it’s easy to assume he’s there to lend a supportive shoulder. Wasn’t Allison the one in the wrong for, you know, murdering Viktor’s surrogate son?
Instead, Five offers a warning, as filtered through the jaundiced eye of someone who has saved the world twice at a terrible cost to his own soul. “We will never save enough lives to make up for the ones we take,” he says. “This is the price of being powerful. Sometimes we step on ants.”
Five closes his speech with a reminder that the source of the Umbrella Academy’s greatest strength and weakness is that they’re a family, able to intervene if any of their siblings crosses a line. A superhero acting alone, he warns Viktor, is a supervillain — and by now, we’ve known Viktor long enough to know that supervillainy isn’t just a hypothetical possibility. “Lie to us again … Viktor, I’ll kill you myself,” Five concludes. And it’s obvious he means it.
• More evidence for the “Reginald is the bad guy” conspiracy theory: Right before Fei gets kugelblitzed, Ben tells her he and their dad struck some kind of deal.
• In her religious fervor over the kugelblitz, Grace manically recites Isaiah 63:4: “The day of vengeance was in my heart and my year of redemption hath come.”
• While in Ben’s room, Viktor spots a drawing labeled Jennifer — yet another reference to the mysterious Jennifer Incident that led to Ben’s death in the original timeline. A little later, Klaus makes an offhand reference to the Jennifer incident as well. (If you were taking bets about season four being based on the breadcrumbs season three has been dropping, this would be a good guess for what Umbrella Academy might explore next.)
• A few interesting beats suggest several of the Umbrellas have barely scratched the surface of their true powers. In addition to the massive improvement in the interval between Klaus’s death and resurrection, Allison no longer needs to say “I heard a rumor” to influence people with her voice. And I still suspect we’ll learn that Viktor is more powerful now that he has reabsorbed the energy he passed to Harlan back in 1963.
• We once again see that Reginald’s car has the vanity license plate HERMES — an odd, unexplained detail that fans have varying theories about.
• One of the shots of Klaus getting tossed around by cars is nearly identical to the clip of Brad Pitt getting tossed around by cars in 1998’s Meet Joe Black, which goes viral every few years or so.
• Music in this episode (deep breath): “Little Girl” by Andrea Litkei and Ervin Litkei as Lila plays around with the infinite switchboard; “Bruttosozialprodukt” by Geier Sturzflug at the fall of the Berlin Wall; “Ride Wit Me” by Nelly as Reginald drives around with Klaus in his trunk; a cover of “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Ugly Kid Joe as Klaus and Reginald play catch; “Onward Christian Soldiers,” a traditional hymn sung by Grace as she dies; “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen during the obligatory (and prematurely celebratory) dance scene; and “What Makes a Man” by Ninth Wave during the episode’s climax.
• Lila, writing her Yelp review of the Hotel Oblivion: “It’s just sushi and death.”