The Umbrella Academy’s season 3 finale is an exercise in patience, for both its audience and its characters. Over three seasons, the Hargreeves kids have endured multiple eras, multiple apocalypses, and multiple deaths as they unwittingly uncover the mysteries around their father, and those watching at home are likely just as desperate for answers. But for all its high-energy dance sequences and explosive visual effects, The Umbrella Academy’s latest chapter operates more like a slow burn than an expository dump. There are moments throughout the season that drag and meander with seemingly no purpose, held together with clumsy mythology and awkward emotional beats, rescued only by the delightful charisma of its cast. And yet, when we reach the finale—maybe, just maybe, the pieces are starting to slot in place.
Let’s address them chronologically. Episode 10 opens shortly after Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) plunges his tentacle-sword-arm into Luther’s (Tom Hopper) chest, then whips around and abandons Klaus (Robert Sheehan) to the devouring Kügelblitz, a black hole-like entity created by the impossibility of the Umbrella Academy’s existence in a reality where their mothers were killed before they were born. (Stay with me now!)
After finally believing he’d developed a trusting relationship with his abusive father, Klaus is devastated by Reg’s betrayal and impales himself on the horn of a taxidermic white buffalo in the Hotel Obsidian, ostensibly so as to preserve his physical form and return to life, pronto. Unaware of Reg’s murderous antics, the rest of the The Umbrella/Sparrow Academy—including Viktor (Elliot Page), Diego (David Castañeda), Lila (Ritu Arya), Five (Aidan Gallagher), Alison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), Sloane (Genesis Rodriguez), and Ben (Justin H. Min)—waddle through a psychedelic secret passageway into the Upside Down. (Er, sorry, wrong Netflix series.)
There, they discover “the same suite, just ass-backwards,” as Lila aptly puts it, and learn Klaus was apparently vacuumed up by the Kügelblitz. Thankfully, their recently deceased brothers Luther and Klaus are, in fact, enjoying Hawaiian pizza and a documentary within the comfort of The Void, Klaus’s realm of the dead, which seems to mimic varying ideas of heaven. (For instance, one “area” of The Void is a bounce house. Klaus is unimpressed.) Agitated to learn his new bride is still alive and in danger, Luther demands Klaus return them to the land of the living, but Klaus resists. After all, why return to the family that’s repeatedly rebuffed him, or the father who called him “more trouble than you’re worth”? But Luther appeals to Klaus’s intense need for validation—“I believe in you, brother”—and Klaus agrees to try reincarnating them, despite Luther’s motivational skills lacking Braveheart-level finesse.
Back in the inverse Hotel Obsidian—which for some reason features an unstaffed sushi restaurant—Reggie tells his children they have entered “a test and a trap and a means of salvation, all at once.” No one’s quite sure what to do with that information, so the kids all scatter while Reg ambles around the lobby with his journal in hand. Meanwhile, Five’s got his suspicions about Daddy-O, so he tries to convince Viktor that their father killed both Luther and Klaus, and that Allison seems to have been involved. (You’ll recall from the penultimate episode that, before blacking out, a drunken Five witnessed Reg and Allison make some sort of deal.) Viktor’s hesitant to believe Allison is capable of such cruelty—and, as it turns out, he’s right to be skeptical. We soon watch Allison confront Reg about Luther and Klaus’s inexplicable deaths, but Reg denies any wrongdoing. Instead, he calls the remaining family together to hunt for a “sigil,” one that will unlock the mythical “seven bells” that can reset the universe.
Woah there. Seven bells? As Reg explains it in episode 9, “The Norse had seven sleepers. The Blackfoot, seven stars. As a boy, I heard the legend of the seven bells.” If the bells are rung, “all will be restored just as it was.” Basically, “whoever or whatever” made the universe left a safeguard in place—a literal reset button—should the universe become a threat to itself. Reg himself built the Hotel Obsidian around a portal that transports visitors to “the other side,” where it would seem the aforementioned seven bells reside. He’s apparently attempted to reach the bells before, but when he sent in troops to ring them, they returned bleeding and broken. Or they didn’t return at all.
Reg admits he’s not sure what to do once his kiddos actually find the sigil, which really boosts their confidence in his leadership skills. Nevertheless, they agree to split into groups and track down the universe’s Get Out Of Jail Free card, but not before they’re further split up by invisible portals-within-the-portal and confronted by a sword-, axe-, sickle- or ball and chain-wielding guardian. We don’t know much about these guardians except that the “creator of the universe” put them in place to protect the reset button from those with nefarious intentions. I’d imagine that’s a hint of foreshadowing: How can we be sure Reg isn’t the one with nefarious intentions?
Back in the lobby, a newly reincarnated Klaus learns that Reg purposefully divvied up the kids to put them “in position,” but the poor man isn’t alive for long before Reg beats him over the head and rings the front desk bell. While everyone enjoys a good workout courtesy of the guardians, Allison admits to Viktor what her brother already knows: She made a deal with Reg, though the details of the agreement remain unclear. “I need you to believe me, okay?” Allison implores Viktor. “I did this for all of us. Luther and Klaus, too.” Okay, but did what?!
Klaus, bless his heart, reawakens once more to inform his siblings of Reg’s betrayal. Furious, they take turns lambasting their father while the cogs in Five’s little pubescent brain spin, and suddenly it dawns on him: They’re standing on the sigil! It’s conveniently marked by seven stars—stars, not bells!—on the hotel lobby floor. But Five doesn’t have time to alert everyone before the guardian swings in and cuts his arm off, nearly doing the same to Sloane before Luther appears out of nowhere and stays its hand. Sadly, Sloane and her new husband only have a few moments together again before Klaus’s handy reincarnation trick subsides, and Luther fades back into The Void.
As the guardian recovers from Luther’s attack, the others go to stand on each star, and a current of energy (not entirely unlike Viktor’s white-violin power) immediately courses between them. Allison is the only one left sitting on the bench, and she’s forced to watch as this power—whatever it is—seems to eat her siblings alive, sucking up their insides and turning their skin dull and grey. An inexplicable yellow prism forms around them, and though its origins are unclear, we can safely assume it’s of alien origin since Reg knows exactly how to operate its computer-like screen. “The particles inside their bodies are the only things that fuel the machine,” Reg tells Allison by way of explanation, and she watches, horrified, as her family groans in pain. At a loss, she attempts to use her rumor ability to stop him, but her powers of persuasion are ineffectual within Reg’s force field. Finally, she resorts to real violence: She takes the guardian’s sickle and slices her father’s face in half, revealing the alien-like green goop inside.
Their tormenter is dead, but the kids are still in agony, and a Big Red Button has popped up on Reg’s screen. You know what they say about Big Red Buttons! Five begs Allison not to touch it, but she’s too desperate for a universe where her daughter and husband exist. When Viktor attempts to stop her with his own power, Allison asks, “Do you trust me?” And of course he does. Allison will always be Viktor’s weakness.
Allison presses her palm to the button, and the universe powers down like a 1970s-era television set. After a few moments of darkness, the next thing we see is Allison’s taxi cab pulling up to her home in Los Angeles, just like it did earlier this season. But, this time, we can be sure the child waiting for her won’t be a stranger.
Sure enough, it’s Claire asleep in bed, and she’s not alone: Ray, Allison’s husband from season 2, is there as well. Seems Allison got what she thinks she wanted. Inevitably, there will be a cost.
Back on the site of the Hotel Obsidian/Oblivion, the remaining Hargreeves children exit an elevator into a courtyard decorated with a bust of their father. (The plaque beneath it reads: “Obsidian Memorial Park / Graciously donated by Sir Reginald Hargreeves / This first day of October, 1989.” If that date seems familiar, that’s because it’s the kids’s birthday.) But things are about to get weirder: Somehow, Luther is alive again, and he looks like a normal human! No more Mr. Monkey Man! Five also has his arm back, and Diego his fingers. The only apparent problem? Sloane is missing, and so is Allison.
Distraught by Sloane’s absence, Luther attempts to squeeze—literally—answers out of Five, so Five tries to teleport out of his brother’s grasp. But, yikes, not so fast. This universe doesn’t seem so friendly to super-powered youngsters. Five can’t blink, and the others slowly realize they’ve misplaced their powers as well. Some, especially Ben and Klaus, are upset by this development. Others, like parents-to-be Lila and Diego, seem secretly thrilled. As the Hargreeves children seem to do every season, they branch off on their separate ways, but the world they’re about to discover is arguably even stranger and more dangerous than 1960s Dallas or the Hotel Obsidian/Oblivion. As the camera pans up, we get a glimpse of the “reset universe,” one in which the Hargreeves name adorns almost every building, and Reg is alive once more—this time overlooking his kingdom, holding the hand of Abigail, his love and a woman we haven’t seen since season 2.
Feeling lost? Well, that’s sort of the point. The Umbrella Academy loves to conclude its volumes on a confounding cliffhanger, one that sends you back into the archives to hunt for clues. But if you’d rather not spend the next several hours tapping the rewind button, here’s a quick rundown of what seems to have just happened.
We know from previous seasons—and from the fact that Allison just tore his face open—that Sir Reginald Hargreeves is an alien. We also know that, at one point, he had a sick wife named Abigail, whom he couldn’t save from her illness. In the penultimate episode of season 3, Reg has a conversation with Five about his experience with apocalypses, in which he tells his son, “You know, they all run together after a while. But you never forget your first. Your home. Your original sin. You never stop wondering, ‘Did I do enough to save the people I loved?’”
“Did you?” Five asks.
“No,” Reg replies. “But I was hoping you children could help me out with that.”
It would seem Reg’s purpose from the beginning has been to raise up both the Umbrella and Sparrow Academies, unite them under a common banner, and incite them to reset the universe, all with the ultimate goal of saving his wife and, perhaps, reclaiming the world as their kingdom. We get further evidence of this when Luther is briefly reincarnated in the finale and confronts Reg about the years he wasted safeguarding “nothing” on the moon. But Reg objects: “You did have a purpose,” he says. “I left you to guard the most precious thing in the universe.” But Reg never tells him what—or, rather, who—that was.
Still, we have a sneaking suspicion: In a flashback to Luther’s time on the moon, we get a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it glimpse of Abigail Hargreeves up there with him, apparently incubating in some sort of cryo chamber. How or why “resetting the universe” was necessary to save her remains to be explained. We also don’t know if the now-reunited Hargreeves lovers are evil dictators or benevolent rulers. (My vote’s with the former.) What does seem apparent is that Reg has achieved the goal he’s aspired to since the moment he adopted seven super-heroic children. But if we’ve learned anything from our time around the Umbrella Academy, it’s that doomsday’s always around the corner—and Dear Old Dad’s new world order might not be to his children’s liking.
As for that mid-credits scene, well...season 4’s lesser moments might all be worth it if we get our old Ben back.