The Pitch: The Umbrella Academy is not a subtle show. Characters outwardly express both what’s happening on screen and their feelings about it. The cinematography calls constant attention to itself with aerial shots and CGI camera maneuvers to glide us around stately mansions and old-fashioned hotels. In one episode of the show’s third season, “Cat’s in the Cradle” plays as an ironic musical accompaniment for a spoof on a father-and-son bonding montage. There are somehow needle drops more obvious than that.
That The Umbrella Academy is a show that, in a way, serves as its own audio description, might be more of a liability were it not for its characters, both the core of ne’er-do-well estranged adopted Hargreeves super-siblings as well as the many beings they get to know. Watching this show means accepting that things can change irrevocably only to go back to how they were not even an episode later. This can admittedly diminish the emotional impact of would-be devastating moments. But the show, to its credit, has characters who are compelling for who they are, not for what happens to them.
Season 3 of the Netflix series generally delivers what viewers have come to expect: space-time continuum fuckery and dialogue that’s equal parts snark and sincerity. Once again, the world is about to end and our dysfunctional heroes can barely keep a family meeting on track, let alone come up with a plan to save the world.
About Viktor: This time around, a shift in the timeline means the Hargreeves return to find their home is now The Sparrow Academy and that their father opted to adopt and mold a different group of gifted children (and one floating, glowing cube). Among these is deceased Hargreeves brother Ben, played by Justin H. Min, who seems to relish the opportunity to swap playing conscience for his siblings for nose-in-the-air priggishness.
But the greatest change the show has undergone up to this point wasn’t some convoluted plot turn involving alternative timelines. Rather, it came from a cast member’s coming out. On December 1, 2020, four months after the second season of The Umbrella Academy dropped on Netflix, star Elliot Page introduced himself and became arguably the world’s most famous transgender man in the process.
It wasn’t until March of this year that the news was official: Enter Viktor Hargreeves, along with the show’s reality dealing with a shakeup more relatable — and sensitive — than the kinds it usually deals with. If there was ever a time for The Umbrella Academy to embrace subtlety, this was it. And while many characters and their respective journeys on this show have grabbed my attention, none can compare to learning where the man we’ll come to know as Viktor came from.
While there are some issues with the third season of The Umbrella Academy, how Viktor’s transition is handled is not one of them. There’s always room for critique, of course, but the show still manages to take something perceived as a tricky subject and succeeds by not making it any more complicated than it actually is. Viktor reintroduces himself to his family, they accept, and the show continues the status quo of quips about paradoxes and whatnot. It embraces Viktor without betraying itself.
It also doesn’t betray the other characters by not portraying their reactions, letting things play out in a way that feels true to the show’s reality and ours. As a plotline, Viktor’s coming out is hardly the primary or even secondary focus of Season 3. But its impact persists throughout the season and will continue for as long as Page is part of the show.
It must be understood that Viktor’s transness is an essential part of his identity, but it’s not the only part. So far, The Umbrella Academy has tackled this extremely delicate matter in an admirable way, likely helped in no small part by Page’s consultation and experiences. Hopefully, the bar keeps getting raised, by it and other series that may follow its example.