Hotel Obsidion, Oblivion, The Kugelblitz, Buffalo Suites and Sparrows. The Umbrella Academy Season 3 is as intentionally random as ever.
Written by Tresca Mallon / July 10, 2022
The chaos that is the Hargreeves Family drama continues as the Umbrellas return from the past, after stopping the end of the world (again), to find a group of strangers calling themselves The Sparrows living in their house. One of them has a familiar face. Ben (Justin H. Min) is alive and, to their dismay, a complete asshole. The Sparrows are the Hargreeves siblings in this new timeline, chosen by Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) after the original team visited him, and disappointed him, in 1963. Episode one sets the light-hearted tone of the season with an extravagant and nonsensical Footloose dance battle between the rivals which is nothing short of wild. It is, obviously, a fantasy sequence caused by one of the Sparrow’s magic spit (duh). From this moment we are reminded that the Umbrella Academy is never, thankfully, straightforward. While it seems like the aggressively hostile Sparrows will be the gang’s biggest problem, it soon becomes clear that there’s something much bigger brewing. Shock! Horror! The World is threatening to end again!
This is Elliot Page's first role since his transition and the ease, humour and grace with which Viktor’s transition is handled is a season highlight. The siblings’ wordless acceptance of the transition exemplifies the always present love and understanding that is always underlying the fractious family. Showrunner Steve Blackman involved Page heavily in writing the transition into the script and consulted Trans writers and GLAAD representatives to ensure the show handled the transition properly. This care is palpable and results in one of the best coming out sequences in recent TV memory. However, while this aspect of his storyline is done very well it is not the character’s focus. Viktor is still very much consumed by his overwhelming powers, his burgeoning acceptance within his family and the love that he left behind in 1963. Page’s performance is scene stealing and adds a genuine depth to the season that would otherwise have suffered from a lack of emotional core. He also gets the chance to interact with his siblings in a way that is not filled with merely hostility but an added layer of fun.
Part of the Umbrella academy’s charm is that no matter how imminent the jeopardy, the Hargreeves' will always fit in a few dysfunctional family moments. Five (Aidan Gallagher) is especially always on hand with a scathing and quippy remark, even if moments from being chopped-up by a dark figure with an axe. The young actor is continuously impressive in his embodiment of old crank. From red carpet and junket interviews it seems the teen was born to play an old man trapped in a teen body. His natural, unflappable and earnest seriousness is a casting wonder-stroke for the ages.
Robert Sheehan, who plays Klaus, is a spotlight grabber. He has a natural charisma which demands attention and it’s impossible not to notice his presence on screen. While he continues to be the deeply unserious sibling, his major interactions had previously been confined to ghost Ben and Diego. This season we were given the unlikely duo of Klaus and Five (Aidan Gallagher) which is somehow a pretty perfect pairing. Sheehan’s sexy pixie-like quality clashes lovingly with Gallagher’s intensity and hilarity ensues. Klaus and ghost Ben have been constant sidekicks from season one and the chemistry between the actors is evident. However, this season brings a new dynamic as we finally see Ben as separate from his relationship with Klaus. He is a fully fleshed, independent character in his new iteration as the arrogant (alive) Sparrow Ben. However, there are still some stellar scenes between the two which keep the levity alive as the team spiral into peril.
Emmy Raver-Lampman is a dazzling actor and no one expresses silent peril quite like her. Initially I enjoyed the new angry and unpredictable facet of Alison who had previously been the most composed of the team. However, her storyline runs into farcical territory quite quickly as her rash decisions deviate far too dramatically from her previous personality. It’s unfortunate that despite giving her all to the role, Raver-Lampman’s becomes the least interesting performance due largely to the writing placing her in a constant state of consternation.
Luther (Tom Hooper), who loses a handful of brain cells every season, has found a new love in Sparrow Sloan. Ever a hair’s breadth from incest, Luther seems completely nonplussed that yet again he and his lover call the same man ‘Dad.’ However, admittedly this relationship is much less strange than Luther and Alison as they grew up in different timelines. Tom Hooper is charming as the loveable oaf, however, give or take a few adorable sibling moments - special mention goes to suggesting they plan a coming-out party for Viktor - his arc is largely consumed with his intensely vanilla, rushed relationship with Sloan. Diego (David Castañeda) and Lila (Ritu Arya) on the other hand have a much more interesting relationship. They may be the poster children for unhinged relationships, but you have to admit its sexy as f***! These actors benefit from an entire previous season of building their relationship and chemistry both on and off screen. Their fake child Stan is a hilarious if unnecessary and short-lived addition to their dynamic.
Introducing six completely new characters as nemeses was always going to present issues. The writers were given the near impossible task of creating seven fully developed antagonists while simultaneously nourishing the character arcs of established and beloved characters. Something has to give and, unfortunately, this character overload is detrimental to character development on both sides. Characters, such as Sparrow number One Marcus (Justin Cornwell), were introduced and unceremoniously killed off, relationship developments were rushed so hard to invest in and some character arcs went off the rails altogether. And crucially, in attempting to cram everything possible into ten episodes, the ending is chocked full of loose ends. With uncertainty as to whether Netflix will green light season four, the inconclusively of the final act is somewhat frustrating.
One of the most baffling and disappointing elements of season 3 is the unnecessarily shoddy CGI moments. From the roof top of the academy to Harlan’s melt down, it’s hard not to be taken out the immersive world building and question why the intentional and creative team behind the show made these terrible decisions.
However, as I began The Umbrella Academy Season 3, I immediately had to remind myself that the best way to watch this show is to suspend logic and embrace the mess. With multiple timelines paradoxes and ridiculous world ending phenomenon's nit-picking and plot-hole hunting is almost impossible and honestly there’s no need to spoil the fun! The Umbrella Academy is a fun-filled time-bending extravaganza, bursting a the seams with colour, fabulous costumes and as always a world class soundtrack. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, so surely we shouldn’t either?