[Editor’s note: The following contains mild spoilers for The Umbrella Academy Season 3.]
Cliffhangers rule The Umbrella Academy. Every season, including the just-premiered third, of Netflix’s adaptation of Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá’s comic book series has ended with the status quo being shaken up more than it already has. And Season 2 ended with a particularly intriguing move: The Hargreeves, a dysfunctional family of adopted super-siblings, returned to the present from 1960s Dallas, only to find their home is no longer their home. Instead, Reginald Hargreeves adopted a different group of children with special powers (including original Umbrella Ben) for what’s now known as “The Sparrow Academy.”
But a different sort of lingering question about the show’s direction arose between the second and third seasons. Elliot Page, a member of the main ensemble, came out as trans in December 2020. Then, a few months before the show’s third season premiered, fans were introduced to Viktor Hargreeves via Twitter. The show was seemingly going to have Page’s character coming out and transitioning — how and when was a mystery.
The worst-case scenario would be that the show would play one of its many sci-fi cards at the wrong time and have Viktor be the product of some kind of black hole overreach. The Umbrella Academy is a pointedly ungrounded show, a world of time-traveling briefcases and humanoid chimps. But handling this matter like that would feel unacceptably flippant.
The other concern was that the show might lean too much into its earnest side and treat Viktor’s coming out with a reverence bordering on othering. Narratives portraying trans people (or really any marginalized group) as being on some kind of higher plane of ability aren’t empowering; they’re infantilizing.
This is complicated by Viktor as a character actually being on a higher plane of ability, through his powers of sound manipulation and beyond. How can a show whose characters are, by definition, extraordinary, reveal something so essential about one without succumbing to cheap dramatic fodder? Would Viktor’s revelation become “A Very Special Episode of The Umbrella Academy,” one where the show temporarily stops being itself so it has a better chance of winning a GLAAD Media Award?
Thankfully, the show finds a way to acknowledge this momentous change without feeling exploitative. In Season 3, after entering a barbershop and emerging with a shorter haircut, Viktor introduces himself to his family. First to Klaus, Diego, and Number Five, then later to Allison and Luther. Some of these conversations are more heartfelt than others. But all of Viktor’s siblings are accepting of their brother, and the show continues in its plot-driven ways. After all, it makes total sense that characters in a show centered around a constant threat of doomsday wouldn’t dwell too much on their siblings’ gender.
Viktor comes out in the second episode of the season, and his transition comes up later in the season in organic, non-patronizing ways: The biggest being lunkheaded-but-kindhearted brother Luther asking him to be his best man at his wedding and Viktor joining his brothers for a karaoke rendition of “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” at Luther’s bachelor party. These moments clearly aim to tug on the heartstrings, but they’re contained to the show’s most sentimental episode to date, and they possess a warmth that’s hard to resist.
Page’s character in the first two seasons technically isn’t meant to be seen as transgender. But considering how much art mimics the trans experience through unintentional parallels and metaphors, it doesn’t seem unfair to see the first two seasons, retroactively, as essential chapters in a book of self-discovery and acceptance. In fact, it seems impossible to see it any other way, for a variety of reasons.