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The Umbrella Academy: Kindest Cut

Diego: Uh... yeah, we're, uh, playing a game.
Chet the hotel manager: What's it called?
Diego: Guy in a Carpet.
Chet: I hope you win.

Klaus’s relationship with death proves to be complicated. Also, should one man die for the many? Or to save everyone? Which cut is the kindest? Also, we meet an old friend.

At the tag end of previous episode, Klaus was pierced by a spear gun, in what certainly appeared to be a lethal wound. And it was! "Kindest Cut" opens with Klaus in the world of the dead, which he has apparently visited before – in fact many times. Klaus’s secret power – secret even to him – has been not just to speak with the dead, but to return from the dead.

The blurb for this episode says we discover that Harlan (now Lester Pocket) killed all the mothers. That’s not quite true; we learned the fact in the last episode. However, in this episode, Harlan fills in the blanks. When his mother died, he reached out but got the terrified mothers. He explains he never wanted to hurt anyone, and Viktor apologizes. He, Viktor, wanted to hurt people and he gave that urge to Harlan.

Five and Lila get back to the Hotel Oblivion and try to call a meeting, in order to tell everyone the world – no, not just the world, but the universe – is ending. I guess The Umbrella Academy decided to up the stakes this time. The funny thing is that Five is dealing with the disconcerting advice from his aged self that perhaps the world (or the universe) should not be saved.

Diego sees Stan collecting stuff – including a big container of acid!?! – and he goes to check on his son. Stan confesses that he accidentally killed Klaus. Diego’s reaction to this is really cool. Diego’s upset, of course, but he also remembers he’s a dad now, and he comforts and takes care of his son. For example, using acid to get rid of a body is not especially reliable. Instead Diego wraps up the corpse of Klaus in a rug to haul it out of the hotel.

I love how The Umbrella Academy hops over rabbit holes. Diego, Stan and the corpse in a carpet encounter Chet the manager, and Chet does give them an inquisitive look. Diego makes the lamest excuse, but Chet replies politely and disinterestedly. Another lovely push against expectations, although I have the sense that Chet has ignored many things during his decades at the Hotel Oblivion. And then, of course, Klaus comes back to life in the elevator.

Luther has an overdue conversation with Allison. He has been in love with her for years, and she’s always found him acceptably attractive, so now, when she is desperate, Allison turns to him for comfort. Luther, however, rejects her. They engage in mutual reproaches. She says he’s rejecting her only because he found someone new. Well, that’s true. And he points out that she is only turning to him because Ray and Claire are not around. Also true. Both are examples of real experiences of people in relationships, when the partners are never ready for each other at the same time. I thought The Umbrella Academy handled it well. I mean, before this episode, Luther and Allison never even kissed, unless you count his mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to save her life when she couldn’t breathe in the finale of season two.

I haven’t said much about the Sparrows. Ben wants Harlan’s dead body before they’ll cooperate with the Umbrellas to deal with the Kugelblitz in the Academy basement. Fei thinks Ben should get his priorities straight. So does Lila, when she's having the mirror conversation with the Umbrellas: one dead body to save billions? What a deal!

Diego and Lila reconnect. Given that the universe appears to be ending, she puts aside her games, and they end up in bed together. Despite Allison’s attempt to rumor Luther, he leaves the Hotel Oblivion, and goes to Sloane.

Five, thanks to information from Klaus, discovers the tattoo he cut from his just-dead self is the Mothers of Agony – and the tattoo artist is Pogo! Again, this completely defies expectations. Pogo’s no longer the elegant, gentle chimp of season one, but a rough biker who smokes cigarettes. That was fun.

Title musings. “Kindest Cut” is the title of the episode, and it’s a play on the phrase "the unkindest cut," which comes from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Mark Antony is ginning up the crowd against Brutus, and calls Brutus’ stabbing of Caesar as the unkindest cut of all, i.e. the most cruel injury possible. Since Brutus was, in many ways, like a son to Caesar (Caesar had been a lover of Brutus’ mother for many years, and did not have a son of his own), the murder was like being stabbed by his own son.

In this episode, Five makes the meaning of the title clear. The world – no, this time, the entire universe – is collapsing, and the point is to stop it with the least amount of pain possible, but a pain-free solution is not possible. There’s also a metaphorical mapping. Caesar is killed by his quasi son, while Viktor considers killing an older version of a child he – when still she – cared for as a nanny. Besides, Harlan seems incredibly unhappy, and he has lived something like seven decades.

Bits and pieces

Although it’s delightfully surprising for Klaus to be able to return from the world of the dead, how is it possible that he didn’t know this – or that Ghost Ben didn’t know this? Is this because Ghost Ben was stuck in the world of the living?

Note that Harlan’s wave killed 27 women, which means he killed more than the mothers of the six Umbrellas whom he met. And in the beginning of the season the intro mentioned only 16. So the math adds up, as in the original timeline, there were 43 women. Sorry, but I can’t help myself. I always check the math.

I guess that Chet the manager from this timeline has never met Klaus before, but the Chet from the other timeline might know about Klaus’s ability to resurrect. Klaus has spent a lot of time in the Hotel Oblivion.

There’s a surprise reappearance of Ray Chestnut in a dream of Allison’s. Does this mean that Ray will be back this season? I don’t see how, as Ray lived almost sixty years ago. But if they want to, the writers will find a way.


Klaus: So these weren't near-death experiences. These were actual-death experiences.

Ben: Bodies? You mean Jayme and Alphonso, our siblings. Or have you already forgotten about them?
Fei: No, you know what I meant.
Ben: We need to punish their killer.
Fei: Revenge can wait.
Ben: Until when?
Fei: Until we deal with that thing in the basement. It’s getting stronger every day.

Diego: Hey. You're happy to see me. What's wrong?
Lila: Turns out there's less time to hold grudges than I had planned.

Klaus: So how can you be my mom if you died before I was born?
Rachel: How have you died 56 times and come back to life?
Klaus: That's a trick question 'cause I didn't know that I was doing that.

Diego: Why didn't you tell anyone?
Klaus: I did. I told you!
Diego: You say stupid shit all the time! …
Klaus: ...important stupid shit.

Lila: Uh, so? We are talking about one person versus saving billions of lives here. I mean, is this really a debate for you people?

Five: Viktor, we're down to ethical triage here, all right? We can't save everyone. The kindest cut wins.

Diego: Stan. Ear medicine, downstairs. Don't forget to take it, okay?
Stan. Okay.
Lila: You know, you're a less terrible father than I thought you'd be.
Diego: Yeah, I think I'm winning him over. I think all you gotta do is show a little bit of— Wait, what was that?
Lila: I dunno. Sexy dad is kind of a turn-on. Plus, it's the end of the world.
Diego: Oh, okay. Well, I thought you already moved on to, like, many, many men.

Allison: You can't be serious. You're blowing me off for some knockoff you've known for five minutes?
Luther: What do you even want from me? No, come on, be honest. If you had Ray and Claire back, would you even be here?
Allison: But they're not back, are they?
Luther: I get that you need a distraction, but you can't use me for that.

Klaus: Just keep your arms and extremities away from sharp objects, and don't join the Mothers of Agony.
Five: What?
Klaus: The tattoo. It's the symbol of the biker gang, the Mothers of Agony.
Five: You know them?
Klaus: Like two timelines ago, they were... How do I put it? My farmacistas.

Viktor: Harlan's death is not gonna stop the Kugelblitz. It's just gonna be another tragedy on a tragedy, and we can find another... I will find another way.
Luther: Well, congratulations, Viktor. You managed to destroy everything. Again.

Overall rating

Entertaining and amusing. Three out of four rolled-up carpets.

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

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