The Umbrella Academy star Robert Sheehan likens bringing the super-abled children of the titular training ground together to "chasing a bunch of balloons." And that has certainly been proven to be true in the way they all get focused on their own personal issues, even when staring down needing to stop an apocalypse or a kugelblitz, as in the third season of the Netflix drama based on the comic series of the same title. But, as distracted and dysfunctional as they can be, the Umbrellas are a family, and they always come back together in the end. In Season 3, they even got to a "better place of acceptance," creator and showrunner Steve Blackman says.
And this may prove essential for what comes next because Season 3 saw the Umbrellas end in a completely different universe from the one in which they started the season — and this time they were without their powers.
"They started off with a hostile dependency in Season 1, and Season 2, they started to get to know each other, and in Season 3, we're not at perfect acceptance yet, but they had a common foe and I think they're starting to love each other and be able to admit that a little bit more. They're growing up together now and they're starting to think that 'family' isn't a terrible word," Blackman tells Metacritic.
The world at the start of Season 3 was one in which the Umbrellas had never been born and their adoptive father Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) had instead adopted and trained a (mostly) different group of super-abled children all born on the same day. They were the Sparrows (of The Sparrow Academy), and the only commonality they shared was Ben (Justin H. Min), although this Ben was very different from the one that the Umbrellas knew and loved.
"Reginald had an idea of what the Umbrellas would turn out to be, so I think he totally changed his strategy around when it came to the Sparrows. And I think the Sparrows in general are a much more competitive group, so in that environment, Ben, [who] is already very impressionable, molded himself into that dynamic. And so, you can see that he really comes off as theatrical and intense and angry because of all of these things," Min tells Metacritic.
The world at the end of Season 3 was another reset, but this time it was triggered on purpose.
Originally, it was Reginald's plan to try again, and Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) made a deal to help him — although, she didn't know the full details of what his plan would entail when she did. He killed Luther (Tom Hopper) to ensure they would rally, and he tried to leave Klaus (Sheehan) behind. The latter was especially hard for Klaus to take after he spent so much of the season trying to come to a place of acceptance with this version of his father (not to mention all of the bonding they did while he was training to resurrect himself from the dead as fast as possible).
"It's hard to forgive people who do bad things to you, especially when you're defenseless, especially when they're your parent figure and they've done things to you that are awful and neglect. And so, he had a long way to travel to get to a point where he could genuinely — not just in a hollow way — say, 'I forgive you, father. You had your reasons and perhaps you're not the most humane human around, but you're what I have, and you're alive,'" Sheehan says. "I think he tries to arrive to the point of, 'Well, he's the only father I have, so I'm going to either make an issue for myself out of not accepting them or just get on with this and accept him and see how that goes instead. Because the opposition to him as hasn't been getting me anywhere for my entire adult life and it's been causing me to be not very nice to myself.'"
As the kugelblitz disappeared more and more people and items from this world, the remaining Umbrellas and Sparrows banded together to try to stop it. Reginald directed seven of his super-abled children to stand on the seven sigils on the Obsidian hotel floor to unlock something essential. But once they did, the true nature of the Obsidian revealed itself: It was actually a machine in another dimension, and it needed their powers as fuel. As it literally pulled the powers from their bodies Allison proved her true allegiance by smashing into the machine, which Reginald was connected to and therefore, he was gravely harmed in the process. She then made the choice to still go forward with the reset.
"The second Reggie starts sacrificing all of the others and pulling their powers, I think we're in uncharted territory for her. But I think her guiding light is that he did assure her that that she would get Claire back and she could also potentially get Ray back as well. And so, I think she's just holding on to that for dear life and trusting him," Raver-Lampman says. "I think she's also hoping that because she got Reggie out of the way in such a manner, and seemingly everyone around her seems to be OK, that maybe she will reset the timeline and she will get what she wants. That's what's been guiding her this whole season. But also, so will Viktor and so will all the others. That has to be her hope because if not, all might be lost for her if she's operating from this place of, 'Who cares if they die as long as I get my daughter back?' Then we'd really swing into a very different Allison."
Once she did, the Umbrellas were spit out in a new universe — one where they no longer had powers and one where Ben and Lila (Ritu Arya) were with them, Luther was alive again, but Luther's new wife Sloane (Genesis Rodriguez) was nowhere to be found. It was also one where Allison's daughter existed and she was married to her 1960s beau Ray (Yusuf Gatewood).
"The deal she made with the devil, which is Hargreeves, is [that] if she kept her part of the bargain, he was going to do something when he reset the universe, which is give her back her daughter from one timeline and her husband from 1963. Now they are together. It shouldn't be the same timeline together, but he did that. And she's got what she's wanted," Blackman says.
This new universe features a statue dedicated to Reginald, who died on the day the Umbrellas were born, Obsidian Memorial Park, where the hotel used to be. But it is also full of buildings with the Hargreeves name on it, and in one of them, the man himself was standing at a window, overlooking the city alongside Abigail (Liisa Repo-Martell).
They may not be super-abled anymore, but the characters were still true to their historical M.O. of splitting off in different directions when they realized their extent of their new reality. This time, though, the reasoning for why they did that is slightly different than usual.
Luther went looking for Sloane, while Klaus chased after him. Sparrow Ben still had no loyalty to the Umbrellas and left, too, while Diego (David Castañeda) and Lila were ready to just go live their lives, Allison was with her family, and even Five (Aidan Gallagher) left Viktor (Elliot Page) standing alone in the park.
"I think the audience may be split on whether Hargreeves did them a favor or it was a bad thing because the question is, are they better off without the powers? They've been complaining about them every day of their lives to him, and he's saying, 'OK, you're free now — you're free of powers.' But for them it's like losing a limb: Do they feel they can exist in this world?" Blackman says.
"If we're lucky to have a fourth season, of course it's likely that they get their powers back somehow, but I think it really is an interesting thing to ask: 'Once you're super something, can you go back to being just a typical something?' And that's where I wanted to leave them. They leave each other in the very end to just symbolically say they have to find their own path through not being superheroes anymore," he continues.
The very last moments of the Season 3 finale hint at what that path looks like for one character: Ben is seen riding a train alone in Korea. He's reading a book, but he also smiles in a way that suggests he is more content than he has ever been (or at least, more than the audience has ever seen him thus far).
Blackman confirms that the Ben on that train is Sparrow Ben, the same Ben that was standing in the park with the others. Exploring why he travels so far is "someplace we're going to go" in a potential fourth season, he promises.
However, one thing Blackman did not want to say anything about is whether Harlan exists anywhere in this new universe. The young boy Viktor gave powers to in the '60s tracked Viktor down as an adult in Season 3 and revealed his lifelong struggles, including that he was responsible for the deaths of the Umbrellas' mothers in the world they came back to after they left the '60s, which caused the Umbrellas to never be born in that world.
"It was 50 years of pain for him. He didn't want what Viktor gave him. Viktor thought he had taken it away from him in Season 2, and it was a punishing life for him. So, even though he had a bad final moment, I think he was finally at peace in the end," Blackman says.