After any good night of drinking comes the hangover — and after the low-key fun of “Wedding at the End of the World,” this episode is a particularly nasty comedown. Clocking in at a slender 39 minutes — not just the shortest episode of the season, but the shortest episode of the series — “Seven Bells” is a freight train hurtling toward season three’s endgame: corralling every surviving Umbrella and Sparrow into the Hotel Oblivion.
And sadly, the list of surviving Umbrellas is a bit shorter by the episode’s end.
“Seven Bells” takes the form of a whodunnit, although it’s pretty half-hearted about it because the mystery hinges entirely on Five collecting his thoughts enough to remember something he already saw. Five knows someone cut a sketchy deal with Reginald Hargreeves after the wedding. Unfortunately, Five was also too drunk to remember who he saw.
As Five racks his brain, we get a little tour of the post-wedding party, as everyone wakes up from their hangovers and stumbles around the Hotel Obsidian, trying to figure out what to do with their very limited time before the apocalypse kicks in. At last, it’s Reginald who assembles everyone and makes one last-ditch pitch to save the world: Head through the special to the Hotel Oblivion, ring seven bells, and trigger a vaguely defined fail-safe that will put the whole universe back in order. The catch? They’ll need at least seven crew members to pull it off.
We’ve seen the Umbrellas do it before. Twice! But we’ve also seen Older Five warn his younger self to let the apocalypse happen, and we’ve seen other members of this family reach some measure of peace about the end of everything.
Now it’s time to decide, once and for all: To save the universe or not to save the universe? It goes to a vote. Allison, Lila, Klaus, and Ben are in; Diego, Viktor, Luther, Sloane, and Five are out. By majority vote, the surviving children of Reginald Hargreeves (from two different timelines) have chosen the oblivion of an apocalyptic death over the mystery of Hotel Oblivion. “Centuries wasted, all because a different me was unkind to his children,” mourns Reginald.
But the occasional hints about Reginald’s greater scheme that have popped up all season — and the occasional hints to Reginald’s extraterrestrial origins — were already plenty of proof that he wouldn’t give up so easily.
Everything we know about Reginald’s ruthlessness pays off in a devastating fashion when he goes to confront Luther. The episode opens with a flashback montage set during the years Luther spent exiled on the moon at his father’s behest. Alone and receiving nothing but silence in reply, he did what Reginald wanted for years. He finally returned home when Reginald died, only to discover his father never even read the reports he’d been sending.
This may not literally be the same Reginald who raised him, but even in this alternate form, Luther doesn’t need his father anymore; he has Sloane, who gives him the unconditional love he should have had all along. But old traumas died hard, which is why Luther breaks when this Reginald does something truly out of character: He compliments Luther and begs for forgiveness. It’s a heartwarming moment — until Reginald breaks their conciliatory hug by turning his hand into a spiked tentacle and killing Luther on the spot.
By the time the family assembles over Luther’s corpse, his death has been pinned on the Guardian, the strange blade-wielding creature that chased Diego and Lila through the Hotel Oblivion. It’s not a particularly convincing cover story, but it’s enough to get everyone to sprint through the door to the Oblivion toward the thing that purportedly killed Luther.
Except for Klaus, who Reginald concludes has outlived his usefulness. Instead, Reginald shoves Klaus back into the White Buffalo Suite, where he gets impaled on one of the stuffed head’s horns and dies. (This “death” might have more impact if we hadn’t already seen Klaus die and come back like a dozen times a couple of episodes ago, but still: Pretty cold, Reginald.)
Will this bad dad really get away with it, or will he be stopped by his meddling kids? At this very convenient moment, Five suddenly remembers that the person he saw striking a deal with Reginald was Allison (though we still don’t know what the terms were). It shouldn’t be a surprise that season three’s most villainous Umbrella did something very bad, but it’s yet another reminder that Allison is now so far off the deep end that she might be completely irredeemable.
For now, at least, Reginald wins. Whatever he wants from the Hotel Oblivion, he can start putting his plan into motion. But now that Five knows he’s not getting the whole story — and now that Viktor suspects Allison isn’t on the level — what are the odds the Hargreeves family will actually hold together for one more episode?
• So let’s speculate: Who’s actually dead? We’ve spent way too much time on Klaus’s resurrections in season three for him to be gone, but it wouldn’t completely shock me if Luther is actually out of the show for good — especially if the rumblings that Tom Hopper is a top contender for the next James Bond turn out to be accurate.
• I have to say, it strikes me as a particularly convenient and lazy piece of writing that Reginald — typically so calculating and careful! — would risk his whole plan by leaving his door ajar as he cut a deal with Allison, risking discovery from anyone who just stumbled by.
• We get a brief shot of Abigail Hargreeves in a cryogenic chamber on the moon — this season’s obligatory reference to the long, strange history of Reginald Hargreeves that The Umbrella Academy has occasionally nodded at since season one.
• “The best way to get a family together is at a wedding or a funeral,” says Reginald — a nice callback to his own funeral, which reunited the Umbrella Academy and kicked off the series.
• The “Burrell Crater” referenced during Luther’s long stint on the moon is probably a reference to Everett Burrell, Umbrella Academy’s VFX supervisor.
• It’s particularly heartbreaking to watch Luther sign his moon package to Reginald “love, Luther” then self-consciously cross it out again.
• Even Chet got absorbed by the kugelblitz. Maybe he’s with Mr. Pennycrumb now.
• Here’s a useful breakdown of the “Seven Sleepers” story referenced by Reginald in his failed attempt to sway the Umbrellas.
• Music in this episode: “Friday I’m in Love” by the Cure during the Luther moon montage and “Bitter Taste” by Billy Idol during the pre-vote montage.