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The Umbrella Academy: The Seven Stages

Ray: Calm down? Allison, you killed a vacuum cleaner salesman in our goddamn living room.
Allison: Okay, technically, his brother killed him. And they were not here to sell vacuums.
Ray: There is a giant dead white boy on our couch.
Allison: Yeah, you know, I’ll admit that doesn’t look good.
Klaus: Oh, I see. It’s going to be one of those kind of nights. So, are we burning or burying?

Episode description: "A desperate Five concocts a plan to intercept another version of himself. The FBI tortures Vanya. Diego discovers what causes the apocalypse."

If you lived through the 1960s (as I did) you will recall the terror people had of the Soviet Union. The FBI would certainly have taken the threat offered by Vanya seriously. I don’t think they would have hesitated to use drugs or to engage in torture. Now, I have no idea how they would do it, so I am clueless as to whether or not the interrogation scenes have any realism with respect to techniques. However, the spirit, if not the letter, feels appropriate.

As I have hinted at before, my favorite character this season has been Ray Chestnut. (See, world? People respond to characters standing up for what is right and good.) Anyway, he is freaking out from what happened at the end of the previous episode, when the Swedish assassins arrived. There’s a dead white guy on his couch! However, when Klaus arrives to fetch Allison, we get my favorite line of the episode – in fact, my favorite line of all of Season Two – and he also sees the body. He just rolls up his sleeves, asking if they are burning or burying.

Carl is very much in the I-told-you-so mood when he hears that the FBI believe that Vanya is a KGB agent. His conversation with Sissy is one that both turns my stomach but would have been considered tolerant for the time. He tells his wife she ought to have a talk with Reverend Moore – presumably to talk herself out of her homosexuality – and she should just accept that they were all duped by Vanya. Carl does not behave in an angry or even reproachful manner, and he also suggests they all take a trip together to repair themselves as a family. These steps are not so unreasonable, given the assumption so many made back then, that your orientation was simply a choice.

Lila defends her decision to hire Diego by telling the Handler they need to have their own security force. This argument would be reasonable, except that the shanghaied Diego, no matter how attracted he is to Lila, would never be loyal to the Handler. On the other hand, Diego's wandering around the Commission was so much fun! Lila has a point that the romantic, idealistic Diego could do far more good as a team member of this organization than as a lone wolf. Then there’s the 1960s approach to training, with a projector from that time period and the cartoon briefcase (which makes me think of Sponge Bob, and I may be completely wrong, because I have never actually watched anything with Sponge Bob) introducing all the parts of the Commission. Finally we get Diego’s interaction with Herb in the Infinite Switchboard room; Herb’s awe is adorable. It also moves the plot forward as Diego finally learns the cause of the imminent doomsday.

Five, in this episode, is working with Luther. Pairing Aidan Gallagher with Tom Hopper helps the former look smaller and younger. Anyway, Five is trying to get the briefcase from the version of himself that traveled to 2019 (Mustached Five, who can time travel on his own, won’t need it). Mustached Five and Culottes Five have great exchanges, especially as they are both suffering from paradox psychosis. There are some holes in what Five is planning, but it’s so much fun it’s hard to care.

Vanya’s vision has her adopted father telling her she has been choosing not to remember. In both Season One and Season Two, Vanya has not known all of who she was. In Season One, it was because her father kept the information from her. In Season Two, she has chosen amnesia herself. Both lacks of knowledge work for these stories, but I hope they have something different for Season Three.

Diego, having discovered what causes doomsday, fetches two of his siblings, Klaus and Allison. Ray meets yet another of Allison’s brothers! Herb relieves some of Ray’s stress by offering to take care of the body. Then the three members of the Umbrella – Numbers Two, Three and Four – go off to save the world, as they were trained to do.

Title musings. “The Seven Stages” is the title of the episode. It refers to the seven stages of meeting up with yourself, or rather the seven stages of “paradox psychosis,” which is itself a wonderful phrase. I couldn’t find any other meanings in the title, even though there are seven different siblings. Still, a good enough title.

Bits and pieces

I really like the fact that The Umbrella Academy has so many multilingual characters.

The brains being served at the dinner with Sir Reginald and Vanya sure look like they were made with large pieces of macaroni, molded into shape. Elliott would be proud.

Hmm. If Culottes Five gives Mustached Five the correct calculations, so that he doesn’t lose forty plus years when time traveling, wouldn’t that also tweak Culottes Five out of existence?

They don’t show how Allison, Diego and Klaus got into the FBI building. I guess Allison just rumored the guards or Klaus charmed them or Ben found the secret password or something.


Gibbs: If there is one thing the FBI takes seriously, it is a Communist threat to this country. … You’re not going anywhere until I find out who you really are.

Lila: Mum, this may come as a surprise but not everyone likes you.

Cartoon briefcase: Here at the Commission, you’ll find a wide array of exciting career opportunities just waiting to be discovered. … Whatever your skill, education, or comfort level with moral ambiguity, the Commission has an exciting career path in store for you.

Diego: Vanya is the bomb. She will always be the bomb.

Ben: Hey, so what was it like when I possessed you?
Klaus: It was like sex with one of the lesser Baldwins. I mean, you can feel him clattering around in there, but do you really care? Why? What was it like driving all of this hot business?
Ben: It was like having no skin, but still wanting to touch – everything.

Herb: Or we can have that shampooed. We also provide body removal services.

Allison: I love you, Raymond Chestnut, and I wish I had time for the nervous breakdown you so deserve.

Reginald: Of course you are. You choose to live in a fantasy, in a land of make-believe where you don’t have to face up to who you really are. Rather than face the complexities of your own existence, you choose to hide in someone else’s. A silly life on a silly farm.

Overall Rating

This episode was funny, with few false steps, and Lila’s poorly thought-out behavior in the previous episode was rewarded by Diego’s disappearance from the Commission. Another clue the episode was excellent is how I kept watching instead of stopping the show to work on this review. Four out of four macaroni mold brains.

Victoria Grossack loves math, birds, Greek mythology, Jane Austen and great storytelling in many forms.


  1. Loved this one. The seven stages themselves, listed by Five, were so funny. Younger Five confronting Older Five was a hoot. The switchboard scene was just wonderful. The Commission reminded me a lot of what we just saw in Loki, except Umbrella did it first.

    I keep realizing that I don't like Vanya. This whole thing isn't exactly her fault, and I so felt for her and Sissy, but she keeps freaking destroying the world! And what was going on with Harlan? Is he like Vanya? Was he just channeling her? I'm confused!

  2. Yeah, I don't like Vanya either. That's not the attitude of the show; they have made this actor the star, but I am having the same reaction.


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