‘The Umbrella Academy’ season 3 review: My alternate universe siblings changed the timeline and all I got was this lousy kugelblitz

umbrella academy season 3(1)

Warning: spoilers for season 3 of The Umbrella Academy ahead, so proceed with caution

Season two of The Umbrella Academy, Netflix’s hit series based on Gerard Way’s comic series of the same name, left off on quite the cliffhanger heading into its third season. After preventing an apocalypse once again in 1963 by inadvertently ensuring that the assassination of John F. Kennedy went down without a hitch, the six remaining siblings — Luther (Tom Hopper), Five (Aidan Gallagher), Diego (David Castañeda), Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), Klaus (Robert Sheehan), and Vanya, who comes out as transgender and now goes by Viktor (Elliot Page) — returned to the year 2019 to find that an entirely new group of children had been recruited by Sir Reginald Hargreeves calling themselves The Sparrow Academy. 

But the biggest shocker is that Ben (Justin H. Min), a.k.a. Number Six, is not only alive in this new timeline but is also a bit of a “dickhead,” as his former siblings not inaccurately surmise.

After having met his OG timeline adopted children in the past, Reginald had become determined to pick a better crop this time around. In addition to Ben (now Number Two), who still has his tentacle superpowers, the members of the Sparrow Academy include Marcus / Number One (Justin Cornwell), who, like Luther, has the powers of super-strength; Fei / Number Three (Britne Oldford), a blind superhero who can harness the power of crows to see and fight for her; Alphonso / Number Four (Jake Epstein), who appears to be made out of silly putty and can turn an opponent’s attacks back on themselves; Sloane / Number Five (Genesis Rodriguez), who has the powers to manipulate and harness gravity; Jayme / Number Six (Cazzie David), who spits black goo out of ducts in her mouth, causing her victims to temporarily hallucinate; and a floating cube named Christopher / Number Seven.

And unlike the ragtag misfits of The Umbrella Academy, the Sparrows have been trained and streamlined into an elite team of vigilante brats who both oversee and terrorize the city, looking down watchfully from prominent billboards, akin to Vought International. Unfortunately, this also means that the new kids also have hair-trigger tempers, and as such, a verbal confrontation between the Umbrellas and Sparrows escalates into a physical one right out the gate, as the two respective groups of siblings spend most of the season fighting one another. 

This is frustrating on a number of levels, as it’s clearly evident that the two factions aren’t so different — both raised by a cold and cruel father figure — but mostly because it soon becomes evident that there’s an even bigger looming threat that faces all of them.

When the Umbrellas time jumped, they accidentally brought with them a kugelblitz, a sort of glowing black hole that appears in the basement of the Hargreeves mansion, where it makes Marcus its first victim. With the Sparrows preoccupied with rescuing Marcus, who they incorrectly believe had been captured by the Umbrella Academy, the Umbrellas are focused on getting their time-traveling briefcase back from the Sparrows (which had been rendered useless, regardless), who aren’t even aware of its existence or that the Umbrellas are even looking for it.

It doesn’t take long for this vaudeville comedy routine to become exhausting, especially after the cartoonishly evil Ben and Fei, now promoted to Number One and Number Two, respectively, learn of the kugelblitz and fail to recognize the growing danger it poses to not just themselves, but the entire universe as a whole.

Meanwhile, having only briefly adjusted to their new normal, Five reluctantly agrees to a road trip with Klaus to find his birth mother, only to learn that she, like all of their mothers, died on the day he would have been born.

As it turns out, we learn in a mid-season twist that Harlan, the autistic son of Sissy from season two, retained Viktor’s powers and in his grief following the death of his own mother, unwittingly sent out a charge of power that killed off the mothers of the Umbrella Academy (save for Ben, who was already dead and whose spirit had finally been let rest in season two). Because the Umbrellas are now alive in a world in which they never existed, they created a grandfather paradox, which in turn triggered the kugelblitz. 

Things become further complicated when Harlan makes his grand entrance in the middle of a showdown between the Umbrellas and the Sparrows, where all hell breaks loose, and he takes out a few members of the latter team to protect Viktor.

It’s an interesting premise for an apocalypse, for sure, but ultimately exasperating in most of the characters seem largely nonplussed by the real threat until it’s too late — even as animals and people begin disappearing from the universe right before their eyes. 

Allison, in particular, is too wrapped up in her own grief and bitterness of losing both her daughter Claire in season one and her husband Ray in season two to fully understand the situation they’ve found themselves in. She believes that if only she has the suitcase, she could set things right. But how, exactly? Even if all of the Umbrellas were all on board with that plan, we all know that time travel can be a fickle beast. They would have to, what — go back and prevent their past selves from meeting Reginald in the ‘60s without triggering paradox psychosis while also preventing Viktor from saving Harlan and inadvertently transferring his powers to him in the process? It seems like a dubious solution, at best, and one never addressed by the characters.

And yet, when learning of Harlan’s evident betrayal, Allison has a falling out with Viktor and becomes dead set on revenge — eventually killing Harlan (in an unceremonious, eyebrow-raising offscreen death) supposedly in exchange for the allegiance of the Sparrows, who want an eye for an eye.

Luther, on the other hand, is also uninterested in the impending apocalypse after falling head over heels in love with Sloane (the couple plans to kick off the end of the universe with an unhelpful yet admittingly adorable wedding), while Klaus attempts to bond with his father, after helping him kick the drugs that the Sparrows had him heavily doped up with. And then there’s Diego, who becomes distracted after reuniting with Lila (Ritu Arya) after she introduces him to their son Stan (the scene-stealing Javon Walton, who plays Ashtray in Euphoria).

Although, perhaps the siblings have the correct attitude in being uninterested in saving the world. Eventually, Five and Lila manage to get just enough juice out of a briefcase to visit the Commission, where everyone has already been taken out by the kugelblitz with one notable exception. In a seemingly Dark-inspired plot twist, Five encounters his future self, who — in addition to revealing that he, himself, founded the time jumping organization — tells his younger self in no uncertain last dying breaths not to save the universe. 

But aside from minor plot gripes, the biggest downside to season three is that it just lacks the fun of the first two seasons. Sure, there are a small handful of fun fight scenes and musical numbers — such as when Diego first gets a taste of Jayme’s powers in the first episode (less so when Five, who is played by teenaged Gallagher, fights a fully nude Lila), but falls short of what we’ve come to expect from the stylistic superhero series.

Season three also lacks the varied locations and colorful cast of supporting characters that helped make previous seasons so enjoyable. Most of the action takes place at the mysterious Hotel Obsidian, which had been built by Reginald nearly a century before and contains a portal to the even more mysterious and foreboding Hotel Oblivion. Julian Richings (Supernatural) makes a nice recurring cameo as the ethereal concierge of Hotel Obsidian, but the season just feels lacking and empty without over-the-top Commission members and assassins popping up left and right. And suffice to say, even the members of the Sparrow Academy who do stick around past the first few episodes are not exactly the most compelling characters.

Eventually, and against their better instincts, the remaining Umbrellas and Sparrows are successfully persuaded by Reginald in a last-ditch effort to help save the rapidly disappearing universe. But of course, everything comes with a price, and the final moments of season three leave the Umbrella Academy in a strange new timeline sans powers. Here, their father seems to have Biff Tannen’ed himself into some kind of overlord tycoon — alongside his now very much alive wife Abigail Hargreeves, the cryogenically frozen asset Luther had knowingly been sent to the moon to protect.

At least initially, it seems like maybe Five was onto something? The wheel appears to have been set in motion once again, and surely, it won’t be too long before a new apocalypse is on the horizon. But with the Umbrellas now powerless, who is going to stop it this time?


About the author

Stacey Ritzen

Stacey Ritzen

Stacey Ritzen is a Philadelphia-based reporter with 15 years of experience covering pop culture, entertainment, web culture, and news. She has previously worked for outlets including Uproxx, Pajiba, Daily Dot, and more.