The Umbrella Academy: Number Five

At the halfway mark of Season 1, we finally are obtaining a sense that these siblings are slowly coming together in order to work as a cohesive team, as they each grow more and more acquainted to working with one another. Baby steps though, I feel that by the end of 'Number Five', there is still one major factor that's keeping most of the Hargreeves back and that is their respective pasts, whether it's the last decade or the last twenty-four hours.

When Five got stuck in the future for what looks like over five decades, he is eventually reached out to by his first human contact in years - a mysterious woman known only as 'The Handler'. Despite only having five minutes of screentime in total during this episode, she's easily the most captivating character that has the possibility of being a threat to our heroes (something The Umbrella Academy was lacking up until this point), though this may also just be the intrigue of not knowing anything about her, other than that she represents an organization called 'The Commission' that works to keep people from disrupting the timeline, and that she is Hazel's and Cha-Cha's superior. The Handler also reveals to Five that the imminent apocalypse cannot be stopped because it is what is meant to be. This is the emergence of a theme too that will run throughout the remainder of Season 1, the thought by some that time is merely a fixed constant and cannot be quite so easily as altered as our heroes may think at first. Five is offered a chance to work for The Commission as a hitman for five years, and then he can return to a year of his choosing.


Five accepts, but during a flashback that involves the obligatory trope of overlapping timeline interference with the assassination of President Kennedy, Five chooses to make his escape and travels forward in time to where we first met up with him back in the pilot, albeit in the body of his younger self. I'm beginning to wonder though if we're just not meant to make sense of the exact mechanics of time travel in this series, because I'm still at a loss as to what 'calculations' Five was referring to when he explains how he reverted back into his younger body. In any case, present Five clues Luther in on his plan next to stop the apocalypse, but as many have jokingly pointed out, Luther seems to have quite the 'priorities-problem' in this series; only now is he choosing to listen to Five about what he's been doing since he got back, and suddenly takes issue with the fact that Five had to kill people left and right during his time as a hitman. Perhaps the series is trying to differentiate the way Luther and Five look at humanity - Luther seems to see it more as black-and-white - but Luther was also prepared to turn Mom off only two episodes ago purely because she was acting a little stranger than usual, so what gives?

Klaus meanwhile returns to his brief departure through time with Hazel and Cha-Cha's briefcase, and much the worse for wear. It seems Klaus accidentally took a detour through the Vietnam War, and now is wrought with anguish, grief, anxiety, and insomnia. These details are left for the audience to deduce steadily until Klaus straight-up enters a veteran bar and laments over a photo taken of his platoon. There's no dialogue either during Klaus' return to the present, and the sequence actually benefits incredibly from this; Klaus' muffled agony and his relentless thrashing of the briefcase speak volumes. His subsequent interaction with Five featuring attempts to maintain his original happy-go-lucky demeanor only to break down the more Five interrogates him is gut-wrenching to see.

Because of Klaus thieving the briefcase, it isn't long before The Commission learn about his deviation into Vietnam, and come down on Hazel and Cha-Cha for it. Fractures can be seen beginning to form in their partnership, which begs the question as to who it's going to be out of the pair to turn on the other by the end of all this. While Cha-Cha is purely all business when it comes to their work, Hazel at least has someone who's grounding him more and more to this timeline - Agnes, the waitress at the donut shop The Commission first fought Five at - so the money's on him.

The whole Vanya-Allison conflict over Leonard feels like re-treading at its worst, and their interactions mainly feel like filler in this episode because their scenes only reiterate what we know from before: Allison doesn't trust Leonard because of her own prior experiences with men, and Vanya doesn't care because she likes having someone in her life actually believing in her. And as I've mentioned, these are fine characterizations and motivations in and of themselves, but the heavy emphasis being placed over and over on them would lead one to suspect there then must be more going on beneath the surface that's going to rear its head soon; Leonard's inquiry into Vanya spending "quality time" with Allison lately further supports the theory that Allison could be his actual target. Why this would necessitate him getting rid of Vanya's medication remains to be seen, but we now know that those pills may in fact suppress a dormant ability of Vanya's, one that can manipulate vibrations as seen when she auditions for the first chair in her orchestra.

By the end of the run, Five has accepted another offer from The Handler to work in bookkeeping at The Commission's headquarters, so it's anyone's guess now what he's up to. Leonard is also revealed to have murdered the girl Vanya was competing with for the first chair, and also has Sir Hargreeves' book that Klaus pawned off in the pilot for drug money.

So to return to my point at the beginning, the divides between the Hargreeves that keep them from operating as a fully-functional team which can possibly ward off the apocalypse won't diminish unless they keep their respective pasts from clouding their judgments; Diego wants Hazel's and Cha-Cha's heads after he finds Patch's body and has enlisted Klaus to help him get revenge, Klaus himself looks like he won't be recovering from his trauma in Vietnam overnight, Allison still has gripes about Leonard, and Vanya is still chasing that high of finally standing out. Even Five, whose ultimate goal is to stop the end of the world from happening, now has to worry about making a deal with Hazel and Cha-Cha and keeping them off his brothers' backs when he learns Klaus has their briefcase. It isn't that each of these siblings is wrong to eschew the bigger picture, but in not doing so, their motivations being driven by alternate details is going to keep them from the status of a 'team' until whatever lecture or sitdown that will rally them all together finally occurs.

Name That Tune:

A rendition of 'Happy Together' by the original writer of the comics himself Gerard Way is the tune that closes out this chapter, a rendition that I'm unable to hear anymore without also associating it with the image of Klaus flipping the bird through a car's back window.

Hargreeves Humor:

• I understand that by dissecting the scene, I'm robbing it of some of its magic, but the rapid-fire transition from Klaus and Diego driving an ice cream truck, to that truck's blaring of 'Ride of the Valkyries', to Klaus joyously waving to Luther and Luther awkwardly waving back, and finally to Ben straddling the truck's hood with one hand and holding a Popsicle in the other, comedy which builds upon the preceding gag, could make the entire sequence a worthy addition to the golden years of The Simpsons.

Diego: "Nope! Get your ape hands off of me!"

The Handler: "Sometimes, people make choices that alter time. Free will, don't get me started."

Allison: "But I've been around long enough to know that when something seems too perfect, it's usually anything but."
Vanya: "Like a woman who's based her whole life on rumors."

Diego: "I told you to wait in the car."
Klaus: "Yeah, but you also told me that licking a nine-volt battery would give me pubes."

Aaron Studer loves spending his time reading, writing and defending the existence of cryptids because they can’t do it themselves.

2 comments:

Tim said...


Really enjoying your reviews, Aaron.

Aaron Studer said...

Thanks, appreciate the feedback.