The Umbrella Academy: The Day That Wasn't

The Handler: "You're a great disappointment to me."

To put it bluntly, that quote more or less encapsulates the feelings I'm left with after 'The Day That Wasn't.' To get across fully the gravity of my abrupt reaction to this episode, obvious context is needed first, and not just in the manner you'd think.

It's a bit quaint to watch this feature a second time around and have my initial perceptions of certain characters drastically change for the better or for the worse; Luther's becoming tiresome as he fails to live up to his status as 'team leader' by repeatedly discussing why stopping the end of the world is priority numero uno, yet fails to offer up any pragmatic solutions himself, instead choosing to shoot down other workable and hands-on solutions offered up by the other siblings. On the other hand, we have Diego who's redeeming himself for me each passing episode with his wholesome qualities. Setting aside his penchant for reckless murder for the moment, his interactions and bonding with Klaus - in this episode's case, helping him reach sobriety - are among some of my favorite across the entire season. It's not exactly clear why Diego has such a soft spot for Klaus, and it's up in the air if that's a development the series will take the time to explore.

No, instead, this episode takes a big chunk of time to further progress the romantic tension between Luther and Allison. For the record, I will say that this development doesn't quite bother me as much as it does others in the audience, I'm more skimming the edges of the 'indifferent' camp. What is a little tedious for me is that The Umbrella Academy is choosing to wait until the ending of its sixth episode to finally lay the cards on the table about Luther and Allison, something the audience and the other Hargreeves siblings already knew was present. Nonetheless, it is each of their arcs making a sort of progress, and so with their feelings for each other out in the open, this possibly allows them the opportunity to grasp a new perspective on fending off the end of the world.

More truths are bought to light with Luther himself when it's shown to him by Pogo that Sir Hargreeves never took Luther's research on the moon seriously because he had only sent Luther there after his near-death experience due to seeing Luther as useless. Appropriately, this doesn't go over well with Luther and his reaction, performance-wise, is executed well, partly reminiscent of Loki learning his true heritage in Thor. The weight of this revelation too is why it's so conflicting for me to critique Luther sometimes, seeing that his trauma sustained from his father is just as valid as each of his siblings.

Meanwhile, Klaus has found newfound motivation for ditching his stashes of narcotics in the form of Dave, a comrade from Klaus' platoon that appears to have also been involved romantically with Klaus before his untimely death, a monumental factor in Klaus' uneasy state ever since he got back. From my understanding, Robert Sheehan had a bit of a hand in the androgynous wardrobe of Klaus, and I wonder for a moment if he also steered the direction of Klaus' relationship with Dave, and just how much was to be revealed to the audience about the two of them. What's relieving to see in Klaus' development here is that the importance Dave had to Klaus is showcased in the formidable manner of Klaus making great efforts to sober up and opening up to Diego about Dave more or less being the catalyst for that. Some series choose to beat the audience over the head repeatedly with the unquestionable assertion that they feature an LGBT+ character, but in doing so, they sap the remaining characterization out until their sexual orientation is the only thing left to define them by. In Klaus' instance, The Umbrella Academy smartly takes the route of 'show, don't tell'.

More fuel is thrown on the pyre regarding Vanya's increasing animosity towards her siblings. Understandably, she's pissed she wasn't reached out to by the others for her consult on how to stop the end of the world, but after she storms off, Allison's the only one to express guilt over this. It's disappointing that we haven't been allowed much of interactions between Vanya and her brothers because they all seem, to a practically comedic degree, very indifferent to her presence whenever she's in-and-out of the mansion. This potentially could feel very wonky in the future if things come to a head and the academy becomes compelled to defend Vanya from the threat Leonard may present, because their sense of protection over Vanya may feel out of nowhere.

Finally we come to Mr. Five's subplot. Five is taken by The Handler to The Commission's main headquarters and as soon as she begins laying out the inner workings of the institution in specific detail, it was very apparent that Five's end goal all along was to exploit The Commission's technology to his advantage. By the time of the climax, Five does just that, and manages to turn Hazel and Cha-Cha against each other by sending each a message instructing them to kill the other. He also neatly acquires the name of the supposed mastermind behind the imminent apocalypse: Harold Jenkins. Once Five has what he needs in tow, he returns to the prime-line to warn his siblings - one day earlier. The setting where this episode started up, with Luther, Allison, Diego and Klaus discussing how to ward off the apocalypse, is returned to, only with Five in attendance this time. Which means everything we witnessed, everything that was developed for these characters over the last forty-five minutes amounts to nothing. Zip. Nada. All so the series can end this chapter on a quirky little cliffhanger that could have played out just as easily if Five returned one day later.

I've seen this episode twice now and maybe I'm just missing the point this ending is trying to make but this is really an ineffective way to advance a narrative. If anything, had Five returned a day later and dropped the bombshell about Harold Jenkins, I sense that the siblings would have been even more prone to cooperate, now that they have an altered perspective on things to come: Vanya would have discovered Leonard possessing Sir Hargreeves' journal, Luther and Allison have new incentives to continue living, Klaus reunites with Dave in the afterlife (possibly making it past his withdrawal as well), and Diego learns Mom is alive again, courtesy of Pogo. And now all of that is undone and we are frustratingly left back at square one, so now who knows how long it'll be before these guys get their act together?

I'll humor my lingering optimism and say that this ending may be able to be forgiven come next episode if a new turn of events pushes these characters back into the acceptances we saw this episode. So better luck next time, academy.

Name That Tune:

Of course we wouldn't be fully convinced that Klaus spent a year in the late 1960's if his presence in Vietnam wasn't played to the backdrop of The Doors, more specifically 'Soul Kitchen'.

Hargreeves Humor:

Allison: "But can we trust him? I don't know if you've noticed, but Five's a little..."
Klaus: "Our little psycho."

Klaus: "We all died fighting this thing the first time around. Remember?"
Diego: "Klaus, shockingly, has a point."

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

No comments: