The Hargreeves children of The Umbrella Academy fame just can’t catch a break. After dodging the apocalypse in season 1 and managing to escape another one in 1960s Dallas during season 2, they find themselves in an unfriendly alternate present. In this universe, their father, Reginald Hargreeves, adopted a different set of children he named The Sparrow Academy, while doppelgangers of our favorite band of misfits are nowhere to be found.
The Sparrow Academy consists of (in the order of appearance) Marcus (Justin Cornwell), the leader of the pack; Fei (Britney Oldford), who is blind but uses magic ravens for sight; Ben (Justin H. Min), the snobby, acerbic alternate version of the original Ben; Christopher, a sentient cube who communicates in an unintelligible language; Jayme (Cazzie David), who can spit hallucinogenic venom; Alphonso (Jake Epstein), who reflects damage he incurs back onto his attacker; and Sloane (Genesis Rodriguez), who can float. They are tougher and better than the Umbrellas, devastating them in a fight in the first episode before Viktor (Elliot Page) steps in.
To make matters worse, a gigantic ball of fire in the Sparrow Academy’s home sends ripples out into the world, slowly but surely deleting living beings. Sounds like the Hargreeves might have another apocalypse on their hands.
There are a lot of surprises for the characters along the way. Broke and unhoused, the Umbrellas find their way to a peculiar, cheap, and enormous hotel. It serves as a kooky location for much of the season’s action. Lila (Ritu Arya) shows up at the hotel, claiming she’s brought along Diego’s (David Castañeda) son, Stan (Javon Walton). Tensions rise and further conflict breaks out between the Umbrellas and the Sparrows as uneasy negotiations unfold. Will they be able to stop the apocalypse?
The Sparrow Academy features some interesting powers and new personalities, but, as one of my friends pointed out to me when we discussed the season, the series under-utilizes the new characters. It chooses instead to focus more on the looming threat of the “kugelblitz” (the fireball) than the fraught interpersonal issues between the families. This is odd given the amount of rich relationship navigation that could occur between the sets of siblings and how they could both come to terms with sharing alternate fathers. Perhaps most frustrating for Ben Hargreeves fans like me, his alternate self is so cruel that he becomes unnecessarily annoying and would have benefited from more nuance.
Additionally, the season lacks much of the beloved absurdity one might associate with the show, particularly with season one. In a world where time-traveling assassins wear cartoon masks, distinguished chimpanzee talks, and a man is sent by his father to the moon (no NASA funding in sight!), the door is wide-open for a lot of earned suspension of disbelief from the audience. Although a few things stand out as unusual, like Grace’s (Jordan Claire Robbins) religious worship of the basement’s ball of fire, the season feels relatively safe in tone. More wacky stuff in the final season, please!
The third season does, however, do well, re-introducing Viktor as a trans character. Toward the end of 2020, Elliot Page announced his gender identity and introduced new pronouns for the public to use for him. Fans wondered if this would affect his character on The Umbrella Academy, and it does–Viktor comes out as trans to his family after getting a shorter haircut at the barber shop. His first coming out to Luther (Tom Hopper), Diego, and Five (Aidan Gallagher) at the hotel, is casual but crucial. They accept him, and the conversation moves onto plot problem-solving. Generally, the show doesn’t make a dramatic deal of it, which feels right. For some people, coming out as trans to a family can be a huge, life-changing moment. Some people even choose to film their family’s reactions to the announcements. For others, like Viktor, it’s something introduced matter-of-factly, expanded upon when it feels right to in Viktor’s conversation with Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), but the show never exploits it.
Although season 3 doesn’t soar above the excellent first season, it certainly outmatches the rather weak sequel. There are some good, touching moments between the Umbrellas and the people they’ve invited to be a part of their family, and the finale is exciting and a lot of fun. In fact, I wish they had gotten to some of the material in the finale earlier to really dig their heels into it and expand on the interesting lore. The fourth season will be their final, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the Hargreeves manage the cliffhanger they find themselves in at the end of season 3’s finale. Here’s hoping they get the happy ending they deserve.