The Hargreeves family just can’t seem to catch a break. This season saw them thrown from one apocalyptic event right into another–this time back in the 1960s. If you’re wondering exactly how they got there, you may want to check out our Season 1 refresher (don’t worry, we only covered the absolute need-to-know points, like the time travel). Hopefully if you’re here, however, you’re already up to speed on the first season and, ideally, finished with Season 2, but left wondering what any of this means.
We’re going to try and make sense of that ending cliffhanger–but first, this ought to go without saying, but there are massive spoilers from all of Umbrella Academy from here on out. Proceed with caution, because unlike Five you won’t have the ability to blink back in time to a point where you haven’t spoiled the show for yourself.
For ease and convenience we’ll break it down in pieces, since the overlapping plots can get a little difficult to keep track of all at once. Here we go.
The Kennedy Assassination
For the early part of the season, handling the Kennedy Assassination is priority number one for most of the Hargreeves family. For Diego, that meant a relentless (and delusional) effort to try and save his life, while for Five, it meant trying to stop Diego from screwing up the timeline by saving his life. For everyone else, it meant something somewhere in between those two extremes.
Eventually, Five and Diego’s combined efforts revealed that their adoptive father, Reginald, and a clandestine secret society actually had put the assassination plans into motion–but that was the least of their problems. It turned out that stopping Kennedy’s assassination was actually what triggered the new apocalyptic future Five had been made privy to–though it wasn’t Diego’s interference that did it. The Cold War meltdown was caused by Vanya, who lost control of her powers and caused an explosion while the president’s motorcade traveled by. Kennedy survived, but the explosion was seen as an act of war by Russian forces.
To prevent that from happening, the siblings had to make sure that Vanya couldn’t blow up the building. This was made trickier by the fact that Vanya had unwittingly found herself in FBI custody as a suspected Russian spy. Her powers began melting down as she was tortured for information, but the catastrophe was circumvented thanks to Ben, who was able to possess her body and reign her abilities in. The process, unfortunately, used up the last bits of Ben’s ghostly energy and finally allowed him to pass on.
Though they may have prevented the explosion from triggering all out nuclear war, the whole debacle put every member of the Hargreeves family very much in the spotlight, and they were promptly proclaimed enemies of the state and put on most-wanted lists. Not exactly an ideal solution, though one that was certainly preferable to the literal apocalypse.
But, before they could deal with their Most Wanted status, Vanya had another issue to deal with.
Vanya and Harlan
While the other Hargreeves kids dealt with their new lives in the 60s with varying degrees of success, Vanya settled down as an amnesiac live-in nanny to a family with an autistic son named Harlan. Harlan’s mother, Sissy, and Vanya began a secret love affair, prompting the fury of Harlan’s deadbeat dad. The stress and upheaval, along with Vanya’s slowly recovering memories, caused Harlan to panic and attempt to run away. He nearly drowned in a retention pond, but was saved by Vanya, who used her powers to revive him.
The process inadvertently transferred some of Vanya’s powers into Harlan, who could not control them. In dealing with the aftermath of the Kennedy debacle, Vanya began to experience flashes of Harlan losing control and knew she had to help. Her siblings didn’t immediately jump to her aid, first opting to stay focused on the task at hand in mitigating the Kennedy fallout, but they eventually came to Vanya’s aid. The entire Hargreeves crew traveled to Sissy’s farm where Harlan’s abilities were manifesting at an alarming rate.
That’s when things started to get really, really messy because…
Five, The Handler, And The Commission
Throughout the season, Five worked tirelessly trying to not only figure out a way to solve this new apocalypse but get his family back home to 2019–but this, unfortunately, forced him back into a partnership with some familiar villainous faces from Season 1.
The Handler, who had survived her gunshot wound to the head but had been ousted from her position of power in the Commission during her recovery, offered Five a deal. If he could infiltrate and kill the Commission’s board of directors, clearing a path for the Handler to regain control, she could provide him with a time-traveling briefcase which would allow the Hargreeves siblings to get home. Meanwhile, the acting board has sent a trio of Sweedish assassin brothers (known only as the Swedes) to try and eliminate the Hargreeves siblings entirely, so they keep cropping up to make trouble while Five works out his plan.
With no other real options on the table, Five accepted, murdered the board, and plunged the Commission into chaos. But, unsurprisingly, the Handler then allowed the other shoe to drop–she had set Five up for failure, giving him an impossible deadline to use the briefcase to get home, and then declared he and his siblings enemies of the Commission who needed to be eliminated.
This all culminated into a final showdown at Sissy’s farm, interrupting Vanya’s attempt to talk Harlan’s new powers down. Thankfully, the combined efforts of all the Hargreeves siblings were able to stop the Commission assassins set to kill them–but the Handler had one final ace up her sleeve. Lila, her own adoptive daughter who had spent the season undercover as Diego’s new friend (or girlfriend, in her own words), turned out not only to be a highly trained fighter but have superpowers of her own. It was revealed that Lila was actually one of the other children who were mysteriously born on October 1, 1989, but she’d been scooped up secretly by the Handler rather than bought by Reginald as a baby.
As you can probably imagine, this revelation prompted its fair share of drama but ultimately Lila was swayed to join forces with the Hargreeves family and help take out her maniacal mother. Hopefully for good this time.
With the Handler gone, the remainder of the Commission in complete disarray, and the Kennedy assassination debacle dealt with, the Hargreeves kids (plus Lila) were finally able to return home to 2019 using the Commission’s now abandoned time-travel technology.
It was all well and good, until…
The new 2019
It turned out that the future the Hargreeves siblings returned to was not the 2019 they remembered, despite their initial impressions. They arrived back at the Umbrella Academy mansion to find it rebranded, by a very much alive Reginald Hargreeves, as the Sparrow Academy. And that’s not all–it turns out that in this reality, Ben never died. Now, alive, and an adult, Ben doesn’t recognize his siblings at all, and apparently leads the Sparrow Academy team.
Unfortunately, that’s about as much as we get before the season ends. The good news is that both apocalyptic events have, apparently, been successfully avoided and Ben isn’t dead anymore–the bad news is that there’s absolutely no way to tell what went wrong in the timeline to have caused this change, or how it’s going to affect everyone.
We also get a glimpse back into the 1960s where we see that Harlan’s powers are very much still a thing–there’s even the implication that Harlan may have something to do with an alien or UFO incident in Roswell, New Mexico. The last surviving Swede joins the remainder of Klaus’s free-love cult, Destiny’s Children, who continue to exist despite Klaus vanishing from their lives. Oh, and Reginald briefly revealed himself to be an alien–though none of the Hargreeves kids were ever made privy to that information. We suspect that, now in this new timeline with Reginald still alive, that might come up.
All told, Umbrella Academy Season 2 poses more questions than it answers–which is pretty much par for the course for the show as a whole at this point. These sort of things happen when you send a bunch of severely underqualified, traumatized superpowered siblings through time without any real rules or supervision, we guess. It’s safe to say there is plenty to dig into should the show return for a Season 3.