Photo: CHRISTOS KALOHORIDIS/NETFLIX
A lot of the fun of an alternate universe story is seeing what might happen to a familiar character if they made a radically different set of choices. By that standard, you have to love something Umbrella Academy has done with alternate pogo. The mild-mannered, easygoing chimpanzee family caretaker – frequently off-screen in this series, for budget reasons I can only surmise – has reappeared in the Sparrow timeline as a grey-haired old biker living in an RV with a side hustle as a not bad tattoo artist.
This Pogo, we learn in the opening flashback, was fired by Reginald Hargreeves after he objected to the Sparrows being called on a suicide mission – what else? — Project Oblivion. Now he’s working around with a woman named Tammy (and providing just enough reconnaissance to keep Five on course to solve this apocalypse problem).
Pogo’s biker makeover is the most literal version of a theme most of these characters face: if you’re not yourself, who else could you be? It’s the question at the heart of a heart-to-heart conversation between Luther and Ben. As Luther describes the selfless, caring, kind Ben he knew in his own timeline, this alternate Ben – selfish, callous, and cruel – sneers back at his face. But you can’t help but wonder if the other Ben is in there somewhere.
And while it’s clearly another of Ben’s manipulations, he also offers Luther an irresistible chance to reinvent himself as Sparrow by stepping into the slot Marcus vacated when he was pulled into Kugelblitz. Now feeling estranged from his entire family — who, to be fair, didn’t even realize when he was kidnapped earlier this season — Luther eventually takes on the Sparrows and decides on a bright future with Sloane over the dysfunctional family who has defined himself all his life.
And what about Diego, who discovers a new side to himself as a father? In a twist that’s only really surprising if you’ve forgotten that Lila is a pathological liar, it turns out that Stan isn’t his kid at all. (Unless Lila lies about lies? Like ball lightning, it’s hard to guess just how deep this could all go.)
Lila confesses the truth when she and Diego venture through the secret door in the White Buffalo Room that leads them to an Obsidian Hotel in an alternate universe called the Hotel Oblivion. Aside from the sushi conveyor belt, it’s eerily empty until Diego rings the front desk bell – at which point he and Lila are attacked by a minotaur-like monster wielding a sickle on a chain that instantly cuts off two of Diego’s fingers. The two make it back to the Obsidian just in time to watch as the Ball Lightning absorbs the real Stan. And while Diego might not technically be his father, it’s a safe bet that he and Lila will do whatever they have to do to save their surrogate son.
Meanwhile, Viktor and Harlan spend a day at an abandoned drive-in theater, where Harlan hopes to shed the superpower (or curse?) Viktor accidentally bestowed on him so many decades ago. The process eventually works, although it’s unclear what impact this will have. We’ve seen what happens when Viktor has uncontrollable powers; Maybe letting him resorb even more wasn’t the best idea?
In theory, Harlan’s arc is one of the most poignant of season three. On a show where so many people are vying for power, Harlan ran away. Now, after a life of isolation, he may be able to enjoy the rest of his life as a normal person – a final gift from Viktor, who honors his love for Sissy by taking care of their son even after all these years.
At least that’s me Wish I might say because there’s another character eagerly and tragically redefining herself: Allison, who continues on the darker path she’s trodden all season, despite a vision from Ray that gave her warm comfort and insight offers advice. When Harlan admits that he was responsible for the deaths of the Umbrella Academy mothers, Allison freaks out. She kills Harlan, dumps him in the trunk of her car, and takes his body straight to Sparrow Academy. I think that’s the danger of trying a different version of yourself: sometimes it will be a worse one.
• Conspiracy theory time: What’s up with that weird little nod between Ben and Reginald when Allison delivers Harlan’s body? If I had to guess, the Reginald of this timeline is just as manipulative as the one we know, but sees strategic value in pretending to be more cuddly to the Umbrellas. (Perhaps to create a schism between them, as Allison will surely do if she murders Harlan?)
• Luther briefly references “The Jennifer Incident” – the mysterious mission occasionally teased in the comics that led to Ben’s death in the original timeline. Here’s what comic book writer Gerard Way had to say about it: “I called it the Jennifer Incident because I have no idea what Jennifer is. I have no idea what it even refers to. I just thought of something that sounded interesting and might be thought provoking. […] The Jennifer incident will appear again. And it will explain a lot. But when exactly I can’t say. I want to say that initially it was never intended to explain. That’s kind of the beauty of it.”
• It’s probably not worth getting bogged down in – especially since season 3 was filmed during the pandemic, which required special production protocols – but given that the premiere was swarmed by a massive crowd of fans around the Sparrow Academy building, it’s a little annoying that no civilians are even to attempt to get these very famous superheroes to help with the energy waves of ball lightning.
• A Closed Loop: The drugs that keep Reginald Hargreeves so smug of this timeline were supplied by Pogo, who saw it as the best way to keep him from sending the Sparrows on a suicide mission.
• Coming full circle: Five gets the same tattoo he saw on his older self to ensure past and future remain consistent.
• Looks like Klaus made Reginald addictive TJ hooker repetitions. He could make it worse.
• Diego, who shares some useful parenting wisdom: “No warm-blooded 12-year-old can resist a mysterious tunnel.”
• “Are you crazy?” “We met in an institution.”
• Music in this episode: “Into My Soul” by Gabin, during the flashback of the 2014 Sparrow training sequence that opens the episode.