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The Umbrella Academy: Oblivion

Lila: Finally, someone with a power worth mimicking.
Viktor: Lila? Why were you in a closet?
Lila: I'll explain later.

Shaken, the family confronts the deadly mysteries of the Hotel Oblivion – and the growing suspicion that their mission is not what it seems.

After a little time in the mirror Hotel Oblivion (and note the original was called Obsidian), where the family is mourning the loss of Luther and Klaus, we go to an alternate realm: the realm of the dead, where Luther and Klaus are eating Hawaiian pizza and watching TV. Visiting the realm of the dead is an old trope, but such a rich one, that storytellers have been using it in every way for literally thousands of years. I don’t know why they started in a desert with an old-fashioned TV – is this Luther’s heaven? – but it’s fun. After realizing they’re dead, Luther wants to go back but Klaus doesn’t. Until Luther makes him go, by being so annoying.

Honestly, I’m with Klaus. I understand why, in our world, we want to stay alive. Most of us don’t know if there’s an afterlife, or if it’s at all pleasant. But if the afterlife is as heavenly as it is made out to be in The Umbrella Academy, returning to the land of the living seems unnecessary. Even if you miss someone, well, as Klaus says, everyone dies eventually.

Anyway, the characters who were not killed by Reggie are in the mirror universe. With both Luther and Klaus dead they’re quite upset, the reason for the word shaken in the blurb put out by the TV people. Sloane, naturally, is most upset, but the others caution restraint, or at least strategy, in tackling the problem. First they have to kill the guardian – or rather the guardians, for there are several – and then they have to restart the universe.

Of course, there’s time spent wandering around the hotel and fighting the various monsters. And time spent figuring out the star pattern on the floor of the Hotel Oblivion.

The episode attempts to hit certain emotional notes, and it hits them, but some lack logic or feel off-key.

A few things work well. Lila, even if she’s in the famished mode of an early pregnancy, isn’t ready to tell the others that she’s pregnant. That's consistent with her personality. And she still wants to fight. That also makes sense. Nevertheless, even though she refuses to go along with it, she adores Diego for trying to protect her.

One thing that doesn't make sense to me: Reggie knows he can reset the universe in the Hotel Oblivion. He’s programming certain things to make sure that he and Allison are reunited with their beloveds, which means he must have some knowledge of how the system works – yet he is clueless as to the sigil and the pattern on the floor.

Allison, after rejecting her siblings most of this season, turns back to her siblings and slashes out Reggie. I guess that’s supposed to make us be OK with her? Nevertheless, she pushes the button, but didn't she slash Reggie to stop him? And the universe resets, powered by the siblings on the various stars.

And we return to a restored world, with a bust of Reggie and most of those who stood on the various stars in the sigil appearing in a garden. They have resumed their usual human selves: Five has two arms, Diego has all his fingers, Ben is alive, and Luther, alive as well, no longer has any simian qualities. I haven't figured out the logic of the reset, because Sloane ought to be there; perhaps Reggie programmed it? – or perhaps it is simply the ending the creators want to give us. Anyway, after a few moments in the garden, the adopted siblings mostly disperse. Shared childhood trauma will no longer keep them together.

Allison also gets her wish: she goes to her home in Los Angeles, and both daughter Claire and husband Ray – who are not from the same timelines and who presumably needed some special programming to be brought together – are waiting for her.

We get visuals showing why Reggie was doing all this – and we see he’s wealthier and more powerful than ever, I guess included in the variables that reset the universe. He did all this so his beloved Abigail would still be alive and at his side. I have to assume he was responsible for everything that happened, including the births of all those born with quick pregnancies on October 1, 1989, with all those babies with special powers.

We have an explanation, and although it’s consistent with the other seasons, it’s not especially satisfying and so many questions remain unanswered. Reggie Hargreeves is mostly a cold, hard being. Could he really love someone so much that he’s willing to sacrifice the entire universe? Also, in the various timelines, was he behind them all? By the way, where is he from? He’s seen worlds end before, and couldn’t stop them; how could he so competent as to stop this one? Did he plan the Kugelblitz or was it just collateral damage? I guess the latter as he tried to take out the guardians a hundred years earlier.

Title musings. “Oblivion” is the title of this episode. Oblivion rhymes with Obsidian, or rather, Obsidian rhymes with Oblivion, because I have to think Oblivion was chosen first by the writers, and the word for the sharp dark stone only chosen afterwards. Anyway, oblivion means a state of forgetting, passing into nothingness. Oblivion is the name of the hotel in the mirror universe, but how did Reggie know this? Still, the title is OK, and works well for the last episode of a season or series.

Bits and pieces

I always appreciate it when an artifact that has been around for many episodes gets used. For three seasons, Five has been wearing his Umbrella Academy uniform and that includes a tie. Which saves his life as he uses it as a tourniquet when his arm is chopped off. Not exactly Chekov’s gun, but still.

I guess Grace from season two wasn’t sufficiently important to Reggie for her to be alive in the reset universe.

No one should get in the way of a hungry pregnant person.

Luther goes in search of Sloane, who might very well be alive in the reset. I wonder how they’ll get on given that they only expected their marriage to last a few hours. I assume neither has any powers at the moment, and now Luther, without the simian aspect, is more attractive. He’s going to have to learn not to eat stuff off her plate (I had to train my own husband in this, too).

Reggie is obviously filthy rich in the reset. I hope he gives money to the offspring.

Another unanswered question: why did the aged Five who was dying in the bunker of the Commission tell our Five not to save the universe? And what did he know about Oblivion?

Although borrowing the bodies of 43 human women to have them give birth to babies with special powers is rather offensive, it appears the pregnancies only took a little while. I wonder who gave birth to Christopher the cube?

Quotes

Dead Klaus: Why would you put pineapple on a pizza?
Dead Luther: You know, when you think about it, we are just tiny specks of sand in a desert full of other sand.
Dead Klaus: I mean, it's a garnish for cocktails, at best.
This feels of character. If any of the Umbrellas would be OK with pineapple on a pizza, it would be Klaus.

Lila: I can't believe you were just gonna blurt it out.
Diego: I'm sorry, alright? But maybe we should tell 'em about the baby.
Lila: No. I'd like to get through the mission before you throw a gender-reveal party.
Diego: Yeah, but imagine—
Lila: Can you pass me the soy sauce, please?
Diego: I don't get it. Like, we're with the people that love us the most, okay? So why wouldn't we tell them? Things suck right now. And it would be nice to give the family something to fight for.
Lila: Can you shut up and eat your fish?

Luther: So wait. You're just gonna turn your back on our family?
Klaus: I wouldn't worry about it too much. They'll be here soon enough. Everybody dies eventually.

Overall rating

It’s over. At least, I hope it’s over. We have some questions and some open threads, but even though not much time has passed since the beginning of the series – something like 28 days for Five – we have to allow for Luther, Klaus and Allison all spending several years in the 1960s – they’re all in their 30s or more, and it’s time to be done with daddy issues. Besides, Reggie has what he wants. They’re barely a family any more, with most of them leaving as soon as they realize they’re back. Yes, there’s the association of shared trauma, so I imagine they’ll be in occasional touch, but the story has run its course. They would have to be seriously creative to find more to say.

Although I enjoyed The Umbrella Academy, this season was weaker than the others and the last episode had some glaring inconsistencies. Moreover, some characters mostly ended up where they wanted to be without actually earning it. Two out four Hawaiian pizzas.

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

6 comments:

  1. Reggie loving his wife while being so cold makes sense to me. Reggie is an alien and humans are not. I suspect Reggie sees us as pets, and being Reggie as being dogs bred for a use. People are used for his needs, but not to be loved. If I were rewriting the universe, I, personally, would write in some of my most loved cats and dogs, but Reggie sees some of them as disposable. Grace would have been a complication for Abigail, so maybe he did write her in, but kept her far away. I'm guessing that Alison made it a requirement that her siblings be part of the new world, because otherwise I can't see Reggie keeping them around. They know too much. I'm not sure why he threw New Ben in, but I suspect he had a practical reason.

    The other option is that he doesn't LOVE Abigail, but needs her in some way. That she increases his power. We know so little about their relationship. She was important enough to him to keep in suspended animation on the moon, but otherwise who knows.

    I do wonder how he handled Pogo. Is Pogo just your average simian running around in the jungle, or a zoo without being enhanced? Is Grace alive and she has Pogo as an enhanced "person"?

    I know the writers say they have one more season envisioned to totally wrap up the story, but Netflix hasn't announced a renewal. The ending wrapped up enough that I will feel satisfied if it doesn't get a renewal and be happy if it does.

    Thanks for the reviews.

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    1. The above comment if from percysowner. I can't manage to change from Anonymous for some reason.

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  2. Thanks, Percy, for your comments! And if the writers are good enough to come up with something clever for moving forward, I will give it a chance.

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  3. Victoria, thank you so much for finishing the second and third seasons -- mostly because if you hadn't, I probably wouldn't have watched this series at all.

    You have an excellent point that this finale, if it is indeed the series finale, is flawed and a bit unsatisfying. It did bring things to a close of sorts and I can accept it as the end of this very strange series, but I wish they'd been a bit more forthcoming with some answers.

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  4. Thanks for posting these reviews!

    I quite enjoyed this season. I thought the Sparrow Academy was a cool idea and I like evil Ben. The characters are fun and I enjoy the trope of super heroes being turned around by some seriously incompetent ones. It's fun. I'll admit there were some major plot holes this season. Such as, didn't we already know Klaus was immortal when he went to the black and white place to talk to Reggie? Hopefully there will be another season to explain the universe reset thing. The explanations for that were rather thin. Hopefully Sloane is alive and well and the Umbrellas will get a chance to catch their breath from all the world ending and figure out what kinda universe they are in now.

    The siblings never talked about how they are all in very different places. They don't really know each other. They didn't talk to each other as adults at all before the funeral then they time travelled at different rates. for Five it's been 28 days and for Klaus it's been three years. It's just a fascinating topic that hasn't been explored.

    My only guess was that Reggie is trying to recreate the world he lost here on Earth, but if Allison was the one to push the button... did Reggie accomplish everything he wanted too?

    -Valerie

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