‘The Umbrella Academy’ Season 3’s Timeline and Grandfather Paradox Explained

Aidan Gallagher as Number Five, Ritu Arya as Lila Pitts in episode 303 of The Umbrella Academy.
Courtesy of Netflix

Warning: the following article contains spoilers for The Umbrella Academy season three.

The Umbrella Academy deals heavily in time travel and things can get confusing very fast.

Season three introduced the grandfather paradox and things get more cumbersome for our oddball heroes. There are new characters introduced, alternate versions of familiar characters, and a Kugelbitz (a black hole) threatening to destroy the world. Thankfully, all your questions about what’s going on in the twisty season three timeline will be explained to fully understand what the hell is going on.

After season two saw the Hargreeves arrive in the 1960s where they were tasked with preventing a nuclear holocaust brought on by a battle between Soviet forces and an invading the United States, The Umbrella Academy manage to defeat The Handler and the Swedes, while Viktor (Elliot Page) decimated the army of Commission agents. The heroes then use a briefcase to bring them back to 2019, but instead arrive in an alternate timeline where a new team of superheroes called the Sparrow Academy were adopted by Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) to become superheroes.

The Sparrow Academy includes all-new heroes and an alternate version of Ben Hargreeves (Justin H. Min), the brother of Klaus (Robert Sheehan) who hasn’t been seen since season one. Ben was killed during a mission when they were young and Klaus has been carrying around that guilt ever since. This is a different Ben, however, who doesn’t know the Umbrella Academy and wants them gone because they put the Sparrow’s operation in danger. At times he shows some restraint in his rivalry against the Umbrella Academy, which shows that he could be won over in the future.

In this timeline, the original Umbrella Academy’s lives aren’t the same since technically they don’t exist. All of their mothers were killed before they gave birth to them, so they don’t have doppelgangers running around. Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) attempts to visit her daughter and is surprised to find her ex-husband with a new wife and a daughter that’s not hers. Klaus goes to an Amish community in Pennsylvania to find his mother Rachel, only for an Amish woman to tell him that his mother died. The Hargreeves later come to the conclusion that the universe knows they’re not supposed to exist.

By traveling to an alternate timeline, they inadvertently create a Kugelblitz, which is German for “ball of lightning”. It’s a black hole that can suck up entire timelines, and they also encounter the grandfather paradox. During a segment in season three, a boy living in the 1950s named Elmer hates his grandpa because of how he’s treating his mother. Elmer travels back in time to 1905 and shoots his grandfather. Unfortunately, he went back too far, which meant that his mother didn’t exist to meet his father in 1925, which meant that Elmer was never born. If Elmer no longer exists, how could he kill his grandfather? This is the grandfather paradox.

Things begin to get weird because of the Umbrella Academy’s presence in the world. Lobsters, cows, and people begin to disappear, and it’s only going to get worse. Five (Aiden Gallagher) powers up with Lila (Ritu Arya) to solve this timeline crisis by creating a feedback loop and jumpstart a briefcase. It works and they arrive at the Commission HQ, a place out of time that’s in disarray because of the grandfather paradox’s far-reaching effects. Five plays a video where panicking members of the Commission have recorded a warning about the rip in the spacetime continuum. The universe is collapsing in on itself.

Lila finds the Commission’s master handbook, where they learn that in the case of the grandfather paradox The Founder and any essential personnel should be immediately remanded to the operations bunker. They search around for the base and find the room, where inside an old man is preserved in a tube. Five recognizes him as his older self. He’s The Founder. Five’s older self reveals that the operations bunker is paradox-proof and was constructed as a panic room in case of a collapse of the time continuum where all permutations of oneself can coexist. He realizes that the younger Five is there because of the Kugeblitz, and when the younger Five asks how to fix it, his older self says not to save the world. All that will be left is oblivion.

It’s not what the younger Five wants to hear, but he still plans on finding a way to set things right. As time goes on and the timeline defects worsen, it doesn’t exactly look like they’re working out in their favor. The grandfather paradox seems nearly impossible to correct, but somehow the Umbrella Academy finds a way to do the unbelievable.