When the Umbrella Academy faces the Sparrow Academy in season 3, they might reveal something that hasn’t even been covered in the comics: Ben’s death.
Neither The Umbrella Academy nor the comics it’s based on have fully revealed Ben’s cause of death, but season 3 and the Sparrow Academy may change that. Adopted at birth and brought together by a disguised alien billionaire named Sir Reginald Hargreeves, the Umbrella Academy consists of seven immaculately conceived, superpowered individuals. Ben’s particular power involves summoning aspects of extradimensional, Lovecraftian creatures by opening a portal in his body, leading to his nickname, the Horror.
In both the comic book and Netflix versions of the story, Ben’s death occurs before the main plot begins. Despite never being detailed to the audience (or potentially even to the other characters), the memory of it serves as a vivid illustration of the irresponsibly dangerous situations Hargreeves put his children in and, relatedly, as a critical reason why the team initially went their separate ways. In the intervening time before Hargreeves’ death reunites the full group, Ben’s ghost remains in contact with his foster brother Klaus through the latter’s ability to communicate with the dead, occasionally possessing and at times even traveling through time with him.
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Season 2 sees Ben’s soul depart the mortal world after using the last of his strength to comfort Vanya and calm her destructive powers down. But at the conclusion of the season, following the Umbrella Academy’s fiddling with history, their present reality is altered, most prominently exemplified by the presence of a still-living Ben and something called the Sparrow Academy. This is left as the major seasonal cliffhanger, but because he looks to have taken up some sort of leadership role, when the show returns, it can’t be as reticent about Ben’s death as the comics were; even when the nature of his patron eldritch horrors may have been specifically plot-relevant, the source material chose to leave the circumstances around his unnatural demise implicit. Now that season 3 seems poised to feature Ben as an important part of its story, the event may need some clarification.
The altered timeline device, in particular, will encourage this exploration, as it will no doubt be of some interest to his foster siblings what change occurred that allowed Ben to live. This is especially true if the event impacted the world at large in some other way as well, which isn’t unlikely, given the frightening source of his powers. Additionally, because the Umbrella Academy interfered with history in season 2 in a way that specifically involved Hargreeves, his position in the new reality will likely be heavily altered as well. As a result, Ben’s Umbrella Academy powers could be tied into further exploration of the old billionaire’s extraterrestrial origins, which the show has briefly examined a few times already.
Digging into a central character’s backstory presents the potential for an unprecedentedly large expansion on the source material’s lore, and Ben is the perfect subject for this, as he has been the most narratively neglected of the seven by far (although his being deceased is a pretty reasonable excuse for this). However, because the comics are still being produced intermittently, this also makes possible conflicting explanations. And while the Netflix show has diverged from the comic books a number of times, creating a schism over such a significant uncharted story beat would be more troublesome than, say, changing who killed Carmichael or making Hazel and Cha Cha more sympathetic. That said, good storytelling should come first and foremost, and in any case, Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, the creators of the comics, remain involved with The Umbrella Academy as executive producers, so there’s a good chance of a generally unified artistic vision with some semblance of synchronicity, regardless of which medium takes the lead.
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