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The Umbrella Academy: Pocket Full of Lightning

Commission narrator: “Elmer killed his grandfather, so his mother was never born. But if his mother was never born, Elmer no longer exists. But if Elmer no longer exists, how could he possibly kill his grandfather? And around and around we go. Elmer has created a paradox, the grandfather paradox. The most pernicious problem in The Commission Handbook of Paradox Protocols. This story is not true. But if it were, Elmer would have placed time, space, and every living thing in grave peril. We’ve been lucky so far. With your constant vigilance, and a little strategic violence, the Commission will make sure nothing like this ever happens.”

But it has happened.

The episode starts with a fifties-style Commission production explaining the grandfather paradox, which is when someone goes back in time and kills their own grandfather, meaning they are never born, which means the grandfather doesn’t die, so they are born. It’s like a Möbius strip, but The Umbrella Academy never uses this term, even though it would be apt. A missed opportunity. Sigh.

Happy Luther, after a night with Sloane, is dancing his way across the city. Again, we see how light Tom Hopper is on his feet. He decides to buy some condoms (he does sex now!) but a wave from the ball of lightning in the Academy basement comes and disappears half the people, including the guy at the kiosk. So Luther just takes the condoms.

We get two major fight scenes in this episode. The first is between Five and a naked Lila, which is kind of fun. Given how much we see of her, Ritu Arya could not have been wearing much during this scene, but I guess Aidan Gallagher was old enough during the filming to be allowed to do such scenes (and although there was a prohibition for a kid to be in a gun scene, I don’t know if there was a prohibition regarding nudity). I admit it was, at least, different. Kudos to The Umbrella Academy for finding a new way to defy expectations.

Five wants to talk to Lila – the other person with a lot of Commission experience – about the grandfather paradox and the briefcases. Lila happens to have both briefcases (and Five really should have informed his siblings, but he doesn’t) but neither briefcase is working properly. Five and Lila work together (!) to restore them, or at least one.

Ben wants to be Number One of the Sparrow Academy. Interesting that grabbing a raven makes things difficult for Fei; too bad the Umbrellas don't know this little trick. Grace the robot tells Ben and Fei what happened to Marcus (and that God is in the basement!) but they still ignore her. They continue to think the Umbrellas took Marcus.

Allison and Viktor meet with Ben and Fei to negotiate. Viktor wants to tell the complete truth, but yields to Allison (I expect Allison’s time as a black woman in 1960s Dallas has hardened her, and of course she misses her husband and child). They reach a deal – the briefcase the Umbrellas left in the Academy for the Sparrows’ Number One.

The problem is that neither set has what the other set wants. The Umbrellas know they don’t have Marcus. Fei hesitates about the briefcase (she doesn’t know where it is) but Ben agrees at once. After all, a briefcase for a brother seems pretty trivial. But Marcus doesn’t know where it is either.

Klaus, who wants to know if Reggie murdered his mother, makes his way to Reggie by swimming through the sewers. We discover how poorly the Sparrows are treating the father who adopted them -- although Reggie really deserves it – by forcing him to take pills and sign papers against his will. Either because of the pills or because Reggie’s at a low, Reggie and Klaus get along better than they did in 1963. Reggie denies having killed the moms, and although I think he would be capable of doing it, I also have to think he would be aware of the grandfather paradox. Klaus wanders away from Reggie’s confinement – we get the sense that Klaus spent a lot of his life sneaking around the Academy, and although the timeline is different, the building is the same – only to discover that large ball of lightning.

Luther, still high from his night of love, is making a mixtape for Sloane, which is very sweet. Diego gives him grief but is supportive in his way, asking about gravity girl and sex on the ceiling. Luther learns that Vanya is now Viktor, and, in his fundamental sweetness, asks if they should do something to welcome Viktor to their merry band of brothers.

Lila and Five, after joking about accidentally going to the Stone Age end up in a blizzard after a time jump, which makes them both nervous. But the Commission is close by, and they head in that direction.

The Sparrows show up at the appointed time, but they don’t have the briefcase. All the Sparrows, except the missing Marcus are there, while the Umbrellas are missing Five and Klaus (and Ben). The Umbrellas are losing the battle, as they’re being tasered into futility by cube Christopher. Then, an older guy zaps the Sparrows: Jayme and Alphonso are dead (Luther throws himself over Sloane to protect her). The older guy turns out to be Harlan, who was, let’s say nine, back in 1963. That makes him 65 in 2019. Viktor recognizes him.

Title musings. “Pocket Full of Lightning” is the title of the episode. There are three sources of lightning – the ball of lightning in the basement of the Academy, cube Christopher, and the fully grown Harlan, who is now called Lester Pocket. I don’t think we have heard his name, but we have seen it several times. The title of the episode makes me think that Harlan was given the alias Lester Pocket just for the sake of this title. I hoped that Lester might mean lightning, but it doesn’t; it usually refers to someone from the city known as Leicester. Anyway, are these balls of lightning related? We will have to wait for future episodes to find out!

Bits and pieces

I like how all the Umbrellas – even Klaus, with a little pushing – accept the likelihood that their father murdered their mothers.

Something that most guys surely know, but I did not, was that haircuts for guys do come with numbers. The things we learn!

I love how Reggie likes T.J. Hooker, which, as it’s supposedly 2019, must be in re-runs. I never watched that show, so I don't know why he would like it so much. If anyone has an idea, please post in the comments.

Monday Mah-Jong in the hotel. Sweet!

It appears that, in that fight at the end of the episode, two Sparrows die: Alphonso and Jayme. Again, The Umbrella Academy is defying expectations by actually taking out major characters.


Luther: Condoms. For sex. Which is a thing I do now.

Five: But I have a feeling this is just the beginning.
Allison: A feeling? Aren't you retired?
Five: I want nothing more.
Allison: You know, you can't drag us through hell because you have an itch only an apocalypse can scratch and then expect us to deal with the fallout. You're not the boss.
Five: Fine, I'm the messenger, and I'm telling you something terrible is coming.

Diego: Little late for a meeting, pal.
Luther: I was being held captive. By the Sparrows. What? Wait. Did none of you notice?

Lila: Look, for you, it's been a couple days. For me, it has been over a decade. I've moved on. I've slept with many, many people. Many. The only relationship we have left is the one with our child. So you better not screw that up.

Viktor: Okay, what if... What if we just told the truth? Marcus is gone, and maybe we're partially responsible.

Lila: We'd have to trust each other.
Five: Lila, you just spent the better part of the last ten days trying to end my life.
Lila: You killed my birth parents.
Five: Fair enough.

Fei: Sweet Jesus.
Grace: Jesus is one possible interpretation of this deity. Or perhaps it's the reincarnation of Buddha or Brahma the Creator.

Lila: Nice suit.
Five: Thanks. Tailor in the lobby is a master craftsman.
Lila: Still, I will miss those pasty knees.
Five: Yeah, well, we could all stand to be showing a little less skin these days.
Reminder of Five’s fight scene with naked Lila.

Five: Oh, and by the way, if you're leading Diego on as payback for what happened in Texas, you're pissing up the wrong ladder there 'cause that idiot may actually love you. The Handler never did.

Diego: Is... Is Sloane the gravity one? Oh shit. You guys had gravity sеx.

Reggie: Never turn your back, my boy. Especially not to your children. You try your best, give them your all, but it's too much. Then it's pills in the porridge and something extra in the tea. Next thing you know, you've signed your life away. All your dreams have been quashed. All your plans run aground, and the worst of it? No one ever comes to visit anymore. But you wouldn't understand that.

Overall rating

Entertaining, moving the story along. Three out of four sappy mix tapes.

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

1 comment:

  1. Definitely entertaining. I laughed through this entire episode. The Elmer presentation? The mix tape? And I loved the Callum Keith Rennie reveal.

    Klaus, let your dad keep taking pills. He's a scary guy.

    Aiden Gallagher is 18, according to IMDb.


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