The following contains spoilers for The Umbrella Academy season 2.
The conclusion to The Umbrella Academy season 2 is all about escalation. How does a second season top a first season that ended with the world destroyed and all its characters flung black through time?
The answer turned out to be quite simple: bring them back to the present, of course! But as the final moment of The Umbrella Academy season 2 reveals, this isn’t the present that the Hargreeves family is familiar with. Both their dad, Reginald, and their brother, Ben, are still alive. Not only that but there’s also no such thing as The Umbrella Academy in this new reality – only the mysterious Sparrow Academy in its place.
Like any good season-ender, the last minutes of “The End of Something” raise more questions than they answer. And the second season of The Umbrella Academy already had plenty of questions floating out there to begin with.
With that in mind, we enlisted the help of Umbrella Academy showrunner Steve Blackman to answer some of those questions. Blackman won’t tell us exactly who The Sparrow Academy is obviously…he’s got a third season to worry about, after all. But he did provide some crucial context to their introduction and answered many of our other lingering Umbrella Academy season 2 questions.
So without further ado…
Is Lila One of the 43?
The premise of The Umbrella Academy is a simple, yet compelling one. On October 1, 1989, 43 women across the world suddenly gave birth despite previously never having shown any signs of pregnancy. Reginald Hargreeves tracked down as many of those kids as he could but only ended up with 7. Such is the case in Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá’s original comic series and such is the case in the show as well. That means that there are 36 other super-powered 30-year-olds out there.
Season 2 now raises the question: is Lila (Ritu Arya) one of them?
“Yes,” Blackman answers definitively.
“Lila’s a great character and I really love the actor, Ritu. She plays her so wonderfully. I came into season two wanting to introduce at least one more (superpowered person). And it was too easy just to meet Lila with no complications.”
Blackman also further clarifies that Lila’s power is indeed mimicry. She is able to use any one of the Umbrella Academy’s abilities, provided that she is in close contact with them at the moment. Klaus got that bit right.
Blackman also confirms that Lila is here to stay should the show get a third season.
“She’s one of the 43 going forward. She’s one of them and they have to get to figure out more about who she is. One of the complications is that she and Diego are in love with each other now, despite who Lila’s mother is.”
That’s right, friends: superpowered quasi-incest is back on the menu!
What Was With Harlan’s Powers?
Speaking of suddenly introduced powers – what was the deal with Harlan’s Vanya-like abilities in season 2? Harlan was presumably born in the late ‘50s – a full thirty years before the superpowered kids were born in 1989.
Harlan also doesn’t display any supernatural features until Vanya gives him CPR after finding him at the bottom of a nearby lake. Did Vanya somehow transfer her powers to Harlan in a sort of reverse Dementor’s Kiss? According to Blackman, that’s exactly what happened.
“It’s supposed to be a little mysterious. But when Harlan has seemingly died, Vanya did something to him in the way she revived him. She’s not realizing at the moment, but she gave a little bit of herself and some power to him. The effect there is that you can see a little bit of this yellow glowy stuff go from her to him.
“Then later in the season, when she realizes that she’s done that and Harlan is sort of out of control with his new ability, she tries desperately to remove it from him. The final part of it is ‘was she successful?’ Because he seems to still have a little bit of an ability when we see him in the last episode.”
Sissy (Marin Ireland) tells Vanya that she and Harlan are California-bound following the events of this season. Who knows what they’ll get up to on the West Coast? Perhaps a slightly super-powered 65-year-old Harlan will play a role in season 3’s alternate reality.
What’s Up With The Swedes and A.J. Carmichael?
One of the biggest changes that The Umbrella Academy season 2 makes from the comic book volume on which it’s based is in its villains. Hazel and Cha-Cha make their premiere in The Umbrella Academy volume 2 “Dallas.” The show, however, already enjoyed the use of the cartoon-masked assassins in season 1.
So into their place in season 2 step The Swedes. They are mostly-silent Commission assassins, and yes: brothers, according to Blackman.
“It’s not by coincidence that we have three brothers, the Swedes, for our bad guys (in season 2). Then we have The Handler and Lila too. They’re all different families, they all have different dynamics. I wanted to see if we can have all of those (family dynamics) play out.”
Interestingly, another one of the comic’s big baddies makes an appearance in the form of the Commission’s goldfish/boss A.J. Carmichael.
“Some of the things in the graphic novel that I love, I just simply can’t do because I need a Marvel feature length type budget to do them. But it was really important to bring Carmichael in,” Blackman says.
“I just have to say the level of research (VFX studio Weta) did was remarkable. Not only did they get real fish to look at, but they went down to the details of the scales and tried to get some more water in (Carmichael’s tank) so you get the water sloshing around right.”
Of course, the real villain of The Umbrella Academy season 2 was a familiar face. Which begs the question…
Is The Handler Really Dead This Time?
“I say this with certainty that The Handler did die this year. She is dead and gone.”
Oh. Well ok then. Blackman offers up this elegy for Kate Walsh’s stylish villain:
“We just loved The Handler so much and the fans really responded to her. I’ve worked with Kate Walsh in two or three shows now – I always love working with her. The Handler was such an interesting character. I wanted to tell a story of what happens if you devote your whole life to a company and then you feel screwed over like she does and go rogue. The Handler going rogue allows us to have a lot of complications. She can really screw with a lot of things. That’s why The Handler was important.”
Is Baby Pogo the Next Baby Yoda?
“Of course, I would love that. You know, we love baby Yoda. But we might love baby Pogo a little bit more. He’s quite cute in his pajamas and his spacesuit, I think.”
What is The Sparrow Academy?
And now we’ve arrived at the biggest lingering question from The Umbrella Academy season 2. What…or who is The Sparrow Academy? Before Steve Blackman offers up his perspective, it’s worth taking a look at the origins of The Sparrow Academy from the comics.
Though season 2 closely corresponds with volume 2 of the comics, The Sparrow Academy doesn’t turn up until the third volume “Hotel Oblivion.” Even then, the new team doesn’t arrive until the very end of the seventh and final issue and is never actually named. It is reasonable to assume that they would be called “The Sparrow Academy” though given that their costumes are full of sparrow iconography. Blackman confirms that they are indeed the same Sparrow team from the comics.
“Yeah. They were introduced in volume three. I have a wonderful collaboration with Gerard and we talk a lot about where he wants to go with the different volumes of the comics. I had an idea for the end of this season, a little similar to what the Sparrows were. When I heard he was doing the Sparrows, I got super excited.”
Here is what the team looks like in “Hotel Oblivion” as they unexpectedly arrive to help The Umbrella Academy round up dozens of escaped villains.
Though we only get to see their silhouette on the show, it’s quite clear that this is the same team, based on the floating cube behind one of the characters. It’s unknown what this floating cube does as it’s unknown what any of The Sparrow Academy’s powers are (though some seem to involve strength, turning into ravens, and the ability to channel pain). Blackman himself says he’s not sure whether he’ll use the powers Way and Bá create for the team or just develop his own for them.
“I think it will be open for me to decide. Gerard has such wonderful ideas and if they work for our storytelling, we’ll use it. If not, I’ll come up with my own version of it. My goal is to keep as much as I can for the graphic novel fans for as long as it works within the setting of a 10-episode show.”
Even with the comic material and Blackman’s generous participation in this exercise, there is still so much we don’t know about The Sparrow Academy. In the comics, Vanya’s “Mother” (analogous to Grace in the show) takes her to meet them as they’re her “real” family. The team has a Hargreeves-like foppish dandy of a leader known as “Deever.” They also employ explicitly Christian crosses at their headquarters. Why? That’s all anyone’s guess.
In the reality of the show, it’s worth asking whether The Sparrow Academy even existed prior to The Umbrella Academy fudging the timeline in Dallas. While the ending of season 2 makes clear that the Hargreeves are in an alternate or new timeline due to Reginald and Ben’s involvement, would The Sparrow Academy have existed in their original timeline, albeit somewhere else in the world? After all, as the reveal of Lila as a superpowered individual reminds us in season 2 – there are 36 more of these people out there. That also remains to be seen. What we do know is that they’re here now and set to play a big role in season 3.
Is Ben Number One?
The existence of Ben Hargreeves as part of The Sparrow Academy raises another fun question. Is Ben “Number One” for this new team, echoing the final page of “Hotel Oblivion”?
“No comment, no comment. Spoiler, no comment,” Blackman says.
Whether Ben is Number One, Number Six, or gets a new designation altogether from Reginald, the good news is that actor Justin H. Min gets to stay on the show. And that’s good news that Blackman got to deliver right after delivering the episode nine script. Now he gets to deliver the good news of Ben’s continued involvement in the series to everyone else.
“We do get to meet a new Ben who’s flesh and blood,” Blackman says. “Who he is, what his personality type is, I will not tell you – that will be something of a spoiler. But he gets to now interact with all the other characters, which is going to be a delight.”
What’s Next for Season 3?
The good news is that Blackman says that season 3 is in the “planning stages” currently, suggesting at least a little confidence that the show will get a third season.
While the first two seasons have roughly corresponded to their respective Umbrella Academy comic book volumes, there’s a real chance that season 3 could deviate from the third volume, “Hotel Oblivion” entirely. That arc deals with an Arkham Asylum-like “hotel” in another dimension where Reginald Hargreeves keeps all of The Umbrella Academy’s defeated enemies. The show has opted not to include some of the show’s more colorful side villains, instead focusing more on the goings-on at The Commission. With The Commission out of the way and the gang in a sort of alternate dimension of their own, there are many directions the third season can take. Still, Blackman says he’s happy to use the original text as a jumping off point.
“Whatever I can use as a springboard or whatever inspirations I can take from it, I will try to do, so long as it’s in the constraints of what we do as a television show. I’ll take that as a challenge for season three.”
Season 3 will indeed be a challenge, with the introduction of an entirely new superhero team and the presence of Reginald Hargreeves to deal with once again. But now that the show has finally averted the apocalypse, maybe it can delve into the titular team’s daddy issues.