While no comic book superhero has ever been immune from mistakes or occasionally falling victim to their worst instincts, when most people think of superheroes, we tend to think of morally upstanding individuals who try their hardest to do what’s right, even if they sometimes fall short. However, that’s not really the case with the Umbrella Academy, the team made up of high-powered adopted siblings who were all supernaturally conceived and born on the same day. See, when it comes to the Hargreeves, while they do at least try (some of the time, anyway) to do the right thing, bad decisions and moral ambiguity are more the rule than the exception.
The Netflix series differs quite a bit from the original Umbrella Academy comics by Gerard Way, and it works a little harder to earn the "hero" part of being super. Yet even the members of Netflix’s more sanitized team still make some pretty terrible calls a not-insignificant portion of the time. And while some of the worst acts were performed by the family’s rigidly controlling alien patriarch, Reginald Hargreeves, many others were carried out by the Hargreeves siblings themselves. So taking into account both the comics and the TV series, here are some of the worst things the Umbrella Academy has ever done.
Reginald Hargreeves lied to Vanya her whole life
Whether you’re talking about the comics or the TV series, there’s no denying Reginald Hargreeves is the worst. After all, he probably caused all those spontaneous, non-consensual pregnancies through his magic alien sparkles, resulting in the births of the Hargreeves children. (And that’s not a euphemism. The TV series implies he literally released a jar of alien sparkles into the air that created the mysterious pregnancies.) And then he raised the seven kids he was able to purchase in a sterile, unloving environment, where his only focus was on the children’s special abilities and not their emotional needs.
Yet while Hargreeves mistreated all of his adopted children to varying degrees, it’s no contest which one of the Hargreeves siblings drew the shortest straw. Poor Vanya Hargreeves was raised to believe she had no powers at all and was, therefore, unworthy in every sense of the word. It’s only once she becomes an adult that she learns she’s actually the most powerful of the seven and that her father had been suppressing her abilities with medication her whole life, claiming she needed it to regulate her mental health. Not only did he lie to Vanya for decades, but he excluded her from the Umbrella Academy’s missions, causing her to feel distanced from her family and doubt her own self-worth. Reginald Hargreeves was a horrible father no matter how you slice it, but his treatment of Vanya took the cake.
Allison rumors her husband into marrying her
As a child, Allison Hargreeves received the superhero moniker "the Rumor," thanks to her ability to use her voice to convince anyone to do anything she wanted. With a gift like that, the world is truly Allison’s oyster, and once she leaves home as a teenager, she uses it to her full advantage. Allison rumors herself into fame and fortune, which, while definitely not the most forthright way to engage with the world, at least doesn’t seem to be hurting anyone.
However, she crosses a line in both the comics and the series when it’s implied that she rumors a man named Patrick into falling in love with her and, subsequently, marrying her. While we never get a detailed look at Allison and Patrick’s relationship, it seems that at some point, Allison told Patrick about her powers and agreed to stop using them. However, their marriage fell apart when he caught her using her powers on their daughter, Claire.
Although Allison swore that rumoring Claire was a one-time thing, that doesn’t make her initial rumoring of Patrick any more palatable. After all, if Allison rumored Patrick into loving her, he couldn’t truly consent to any part of their relationship — not their physical interactions, not their marriage, and not the conception of their daughter. The implications are horrifying, and although Allison is presented in both the comics and the TV series as one of The Umbrella Academy‘s more sympathetic characters, what she does to Patrick is truly inexcusable.
None of the Hargreeves brothers listen to their sisters
"Dysfunctional" is honestly a pretty tame way of describing the dynamic among the Hargreeves siblings. But at least the Netflix characters make slightly more of an effort to establish meaningful relationships with one another than the siblings in the comics do. However, one place in which the TV heroes really drop the ball is toward the end of the first season of The Umbrella Academy, when the men of the Hargreeves family (most notably the gorilla-bodied Luther, aka Spaceboy, aka Number One) utterly disregard the opinions and suggestions of their sisters.
After Luther realizes how powerful Vanya is, he betrays her trust when she returns home to ask for help, choking her unconscious and locking her in a soundproof bunker underneath the Umbrella Academy mansion. Vanya pleads with him to let her out, but he refuses to listen to her. Allison — whose throat Vanya accidentally slit earlier in a fit of rage — also demands that Luther release Vanya, but he won’t listen to her, either. Later, after Vanya escapes and destroys the Academy, Allison beseeches her brothers to try to talk to Vanya, but this time, all of them ignore her and attempt to attack Vanya, instead (it does not go well). Not only does this strip both Vanya and Allison of their agency, but it’s grossly misogynistic to have the men calling all the shots while the women are literally robbed of their voices — especially when all of the decisions are about one of those same women.
In the Umbrella Academy comics, Klaus leaves his baby in Vietnam
In both the comics and the TV show, Klaus (aka Séance, aka Number Four) winds up time traveling back to the ’60s, where he winds up enlisting in the army and fighting in the Vietnam War. However, the details of Klaus’ time in the ’60s are very different, and while the TV series sees him falling in love with — and then witnessing the death of — a young soldier named Dave, the comics don’t give him a tragic love story. Instead, they give him a job running a nightclub and creating a Televator, a sort of TARDIS-like transport originally invented by Reginald Hargreeves that allows occupants to travel through space, time, and other dimensions.
When it’s finally time for Klaus, Diego, and Luther to head back to their time in the Televator, Klaus hands an unexplained baby he’d been carrying around off to a local Vietnamese woman. It turns out that, much to everyone’s surprise, the baby belongs to Klaus, although we never learn anything about the mother or even the baby’s name. Truthfully, it’s probably good that Klaus realized he had no business raising a baby. On the other hand, especially given his own upbringing, it seems rather callous that he just casually hands off his own child without much of a thought before departing forever … and he never mentions his offspring ever again.
Allison kills JFK
Both the second season of Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy and the second volume of the comics center around the assassination of John F. Kennedy, but the way it plays out in each is very different. In both the TV series and the comics, Number Five winds up duking it out with his older self after he’s tasked by the Temps Aeternalis with killing the president, but in the TV show, it’s actually the sinister Majestic 12 organization that carries out the assassination plot, absolving the Umbrella Academy of any role in the murder.
However, in the comics, things play out very differently. After witnessing a cataclysmic future in which Kennedy survives, setting off a chain of events leading to the end of the world, Five travels to the past, intent on making sure the assassination is carried out. Like in the show, his brothers are determined to stop the assassination, but Five has accounted for this. Just when his siblings think they’ve stopped the assassination, we see that Allison has taken Jackie Kennedy’s place in Kennedy’s car, and she rumors Kennedy’s head to explode. It turns out that the Temps Aeternalis manipulated her into doing it by threatening to kill Luther’s mother before he was born. But even though her cause was noble, she still murdered an innocent man in cold blood, and even Luther is horrified that she was willing to go that far.
Klaus lies to his siblings about Ben being present
In season 2 of the Netflix series, after the entire Hargreeves clan accidentally travels through time back to the ’60s, Klaus drops into the year 1960 alongside the ghost of his dead brother, Ben (aka the Horror, aka Number Six). Ben died when they were all teenagers, but thanks to Klaus’ power that allows him to communicate with the dead, Klaus has remained in constant communication with him in the years since. However, after becoming irritated with Ben, Klaus lies to their siblings when they ask if Ben is there after they’ve eventually reunited, telling them that ghosts can’t time travel.
It’s played for laughs in the show, but if you think about it, this is a particularly cruel thing for Klaus to do to Ben. Numerous times, Ben voices how much he misses his siblings and wishes to be with them again. Yet even though the rest of their siblings express a desire to speak to Ben, and even though Klaus knows he’s Ben’s only connection to the rest of the world, he still refuses to acknowledge Ben’s presence. Klaus is likely motivated much more by pettiness than any sort of real maliciousness, but even so, punishing your dead brother by refusing to let him communicate with his loved ones just because you’re annoyed is a pretty jerkish thing to do.
Klaus starts a cult in season 2 of The Umbrella Academy
In the Umbrella Academy comics, Klaus is more of a sad character than a comedic one, but in the TV series, he largely serves to provide some laughs. This is how it’s framed when the beginning of season 2 reveals that, in the interest of self-preservation, Klaus started a cult in the 1960s. Granted, he didn’t fully set out to start a cult, but he quickly realized he could get special treatment if he used his knowledge of the future and his powers to convince people that he was some sort of oracle.
Klaus’ cult — which he dubs Destiny’s Children — is played almost entirely for laughs, until he eventually abandons them to return to the future with his siblings. However, in the real world, cults are deeply problematic organizations that thrive on brainwashing, manipulation, and abuse. That Klaus started his mostly by accident doesn’t actually override the fact that he started a cult at all, and it doesn’t make it okay that he selfishly justified playing into his acolytes’ misconception of him as a prophet. Viewers know Klaus isn’t a predatory person, but he still wound up brainwashing his followers through lies and manipulation. Once he left, his cult was primed to need a new leader, and the odds are good that the type of person who’d be drawn to take over a leaderless cult isn’t going to be nearly as harmless as Klaus.
Reginald Hargreeves creates the Hotel Oblivion
After adopting his seven superpowered children as babies, Reginald Hargreeves molds them into a crime-fighting superteam. But of course, defeated supervillains have to go somewhere, and in the comics, it’s revealed that after being subdued by the Umbrella Academy, Reginald Hargreeves ships off the cowed baddies to the Hotel Oblivion. The Hotel Oblivion isn’t really a hotel at all, but instead, it’s a prison located in a hellish alternate dimension, where bad guys are locked inside indefinitely.
A glimpse inside one inmate’s Hotel Oblivion experience shows that the residents gradually go mad from isolation, that the TVs play really weird cartoons, and that the rooms are stocked with Hargreeves-authored self-help literature. Yet despite pamphlets promising to help residents of the hotel "be a better you," Hargreeves doesn’t seem to have any intention of ever releasing his prisoners, even if they do manage to rehabilitate themselves.
Eventually, a number of criminals manage to break out of the hotel, but truthfully, who can blame them when the alternative was to stay locked up forever? Hargreeves was really setting himself, and his children, up for catastrophic failure with a never-ending punishment that seems the very definition of cruel and unusual.
Vanya joins the Orchestra Verdammten
In the first season of the Netflix show, Vanya spends much of the season vying for the competitive first chair violin position in her local orchestra. At the end of the season, she unleashes her newly discovered powers and winds up accidentally blowing a chunk off the moon, triggering an apocalyptic event. However, in the comics, the orchestra Vanya joins isn’t just a regular musical group. Instead, it’s an ensemble made up of "madmen and murderesses," intent on bringing about the end of the world. And they call themselves the Orchestra Verdammten ("Orchestra of the Damned").
The conductor of the orchestra tries to recruit Vanya early on in order to help them bring about their goal, but she refuses. However, once Vanya learns the truth of her powers and her father’s deception, she returns to the Orchestra Verdammten and voluntarily joins their ranks. While it’s understandable that Vanya would be deeply hurt after learning that she’s been lied to and manipulated her entire life, joining a group bent on destroying the world seems like overkill. This is one area where the Netflix show makes Vanya much more sympathetic. In the comics, it’s impossible to justify such an extreme reaction to her familial trauma.
Vanya kills Pogo
Vanya’s tour of destruction once she realizes the extent of her family’s betrayal doesn’t stop at her joining a villainous orchestra. Before she heads off to her fateful performance, she also unleashes her powers on her family mansion, and in the process, she murders her family’s primate caretaker, Pogo. Now, Pogo isn’t just any ape. He’s been enhanced by Reginald Hargreeves to be able to think and communicate like a human. Throughout the lives of the Hargreeves siblings, Pogo has served as both a mentor and a surrogate father figure, considering that their actual adoptive father was as hard and cold as the monocle he always wore.
Vanya feels understandably betrayed when she learns that Pogo was in on Reginald’s secret, but it still seems like a bridge too far when she murders him in cold blood. In the comics, she uses her powers to make his head explode, while in the Netflix series, she impales him on a pair of antlers mounted above their fireplace. Both are brutal ends for a character who, while he did help Hargreeves deceive Vanya, did seem to genuinely care about her and her siblings. What Pogo did wasn’t okay, but Vanya’s retaliation seems far more severe.
Five hands the Temps Commission over to the Handler
One of a handful of important characters created just for the Netflix series is the cunning Handler, who works for the Temps Commission and serves as both a frequent ally and nemesis of Number Five. While the Temps Commision exists to maintain and protect the timeline, the Handler’s role has always felt a little more ambiguous. She claims to be acting in the best interests of the Commission, but she always seems to have a hidden agenda that serves only herself. So it’s worrisome when, as a tradeoff for giving Five a means to return himself and his siblings to their proper time after getting stuck in the ’60s, she requests that he assassinate the entire Board of Directors of the Commission, putting her in charge.
Granted, Five is rather desperate at the time, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s willing to hand over control of time itself to someone entirely untrustworthy and self-serving, all in the name of getting himself and his siblings back home. Family has always been the beating heart at the center of The Umbrella Academy, and so it’s easy to sympathize with Five’s motives here, but it’s still rather horrifying when one considers that Five is throwing the entire timeline to the wind in the name of the Hargreeves family’s self-interest.
The Umbrella Academy causes the apocalypse … twice
No list of terrible actions committed at the hands of the Hargreeves family would be complete without mentioning the not one but two apocalypses the siblings have managed to cause. The first one, in the first season of the show and in the "Apocalypse Suite" comics collection, occurs when Vanya embraces her powers as the White Violin and blows a chunk off the moon that then comes hurtling toward Earth. That apocalypse is thwarted in the comics by Séance and circumvented in the show by Five transporting all of his siblings back in time. But even so, there’s no denying that the actions of the Umbrella Academy caused it in the first place.
The second takes place in the ’60s, after the Academy successfully prevents the assassination of JFK … which winds up ultimately triggering a nuclear war with the U.S.S.R. Five sees this second apocalypse play out before going back in time and trying to prevent it, and while the circumstances of how he changes things is different between the comics and the show, he’s ultimately successful both times. But once again, it’s the Hargreeves siblings interfering in the timeline to begin with that triggers the eventual apocalypse, proving that in the world of The Umbrella Academy, it’s true that no good deed goes unpunished.