It’s hard to ascribe a single descriptor to The Umbrella Academy, previous two seasons have been exciting and whimsical forays into the superhero/powered genre while also delivering on heavy topics. Season 3 is no different, but whereas previous seasons focused more on preventing the end of the world, Season 3 seems more ready to embrace the idea. The defining aspect of the season is the strength and emphasis on pairing characters up. We often saw Klaus (Robert Sheehan) paired with Ben (Justin H. Min), while Allison (Emily Raver-Lampman) and Luther (Tom Hopper) were orbiting around one another. But this season sees a mixup, giving us unexpected gold in inventive pairings, and it’s all for the better.
Season 3 picks up not long after the conclusion of Season 2, introducing us to the gang known as The Sparrow Academy. The Umbrella kids get a rude awakening when they wake up in a world where they are no longer the Reginald Hargreeves’ (Colm Feore) kids and their replacements are much stronger than they expect. The main propelling conflict of the season is the creation of a kugelblitz, which is swallowing up the universe, because of the time travel shenanigans from last season. But that is really a vehicle for bringing the family back together and rejiggering dynamics.
Some of the most exciting scenes involve Viktor’s (Elliot Page) bond with Allison, Klaus’ unlikely friendship with Reginald Hargreeves, and Five’s (Aidan Gallagher) team-up with Lila (Ritu Arya). Perhaps because of the pandemic or due to filming restrictions, many of the cast either spend time with one other person or are enclosed in the same space, this creates the unique opportunity to focus more on character development than action. But that isn’t to say there’s no action, indeed the introduction of The Sparrow Academy guarantees that. Ben, in this universe, is alive and well, and we get to see his power in full force – tentacles and all.
From acid spitters to alien cubes, the most memorable ability has to be Fei Hargreeves’ Number 3 (Britne Olford), who is blind but able to produce birds that fly out of her and see for her. In true The Umbrella Academy fashion, some things are simply never explained. The telekinetic cube named Christopher is never really explained. Is he a kid-turned-cube? Was he born the same day like the other kids? Is he this universe’s Luther? What is up with the alien language?
Unanswered questions are commonplace, but they don’t take away from the enjoyment of the series, they actually enhance the playfulness of the series. The questions we do get answered speak either to the plot of the kugelblitz or to our core group of characters. Viktor’s transition from Vanya is a highlight of the earlier half of the season, a smart take on how to handle a character’s transition story that feels authentic. Luther finds new love in the Sparrow Academy’s Sloane (Genesis Rodriguez), offering a bit of lightness to a character who has not had the most enjoyable arc in past episodes. The series doubles down on Diego (David Castañeda) and Lila’s relationship, introducing hurdles for the couple to overcome that move beyond the supernatural. Klaus, as mentioned above, redefines his relationship with his adoptive father and explores the extent of his powers.
Even in a season that feels poised to be my favorite so far has its flaws, though. Allison gets the short end of the stick, being portrayed as the outlier in the family. While the other characters grow outward, forming new bonds and exploring this new universe, Allison’s arc drills deeper into her past. It makes some of the scenes where she is with her siblings to feel like she is the dark cloud hovering in the distance of their happiness. On top of that, she arguably has the most controversial scene with Luther that firmly paints her as a villain in that moment. But, while she makes questionable choices, it’s hard to dislike Allison and Raver-Lampman’s portrayal of the character offers nuance to an otherwise neglected arc.
At the end of the day, Season 3 recognizes that the talent and gold of a show like The Umbrella Academy is its cast of colorful characters. Having developed them over two seasons, it feels right to finally get to spend some time in the slower moments rather than constantly trying to prevent disaster. Scenes where we see the siblings chatting at a dinner table or reminiscing the past are the highlights of the season. After a compelling Season 3, it’s hard to imagine how showrunner Steve Blackman will top this season, but I’m eager to see him try. Without a confirmation for a Season 4 and with shows on the Netflix chopping block, it would be an absolute shame for this to be the last chapter in the Hargreeves’ story.