Note: This interview contains spoilers for The Umbrella Academy’s second season. So, especially if you’re watching along with our daily TV Club reviews, read with caution.
The Umbrella Academy’s recently dropped second season ends on another time-jump cliffhanger, but this time we’re given a tantalizing look at where things could be headed next. The good news? The Hargreeves siblings have made it back home to their present-day timeline. The bad news? Home doesn’t look the way they left it. In the final scene, they come across their father, Sir Reginald Hargreeves, shockingly alive and well in the year 2019. Hargreeves has been expecting them, but, as we quickly learn, this is not the Umbrella Academy they left behind—“This is the Sparrow Academy,” he tells them. Cue five shadowy figures (and one glowing, floating cube?) peering down from the ledge above. Before we can get a proper look, none other than Ben walks into the room, looking decidedly un-ghost-like, and rocking a ’stache, facial scar, and some emo bangs that would make Spider-Man jealous. “Dad, who the hell are these assholes?” Ben asks. In true Umbrella Academy fashion, Ben’s question is met with an in-unison “shit” from our heroes, before the season cuts to black.
Overwhelmed by those twist-happy final minutes? So were we. Luckily, The A.V. Club had the opportunity to speak with The Umbrella Academy showrunner Steve Blackman late last month during Netflix’s virtual press junket, so we had him clear a few things up for us. Though Blackman was, understandably, tight-lipped about what this all could mean for a yet-to-be-announced third season, he was able to provide just enough intel to make us want to watch season two all over again with sharper eyes. Elsewhere in our chat, Blackman explained some of the show’s diversions from Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá’s graphic novels, and sang the praises of Kate Walsh—and her fascinators—which made a welcome return to the series. Excerpts of that chat are in the video above, with the full transcript below.
The A.V. Club: What are we seeing in this final scene? Is it safe to say the Hargreeves siblings’ time in the ’60s changed the future more than they had bargained for?
Steve Blackman: Yeah, something has happened—without giving away where we want to go with season three—that they have [caused]. They fix one thing, but they might’ve had an effect on another. There’s a twist in what they affected, but I mean, clearly in their proper timeline, there is no “Sparrow Academy” and [Sir Reginald] Hargreeves is dead and, yet, he’s standing right there in the living room. So something has changed and now there’s Ben, who is alive. So, something’s gone wrong.
AVC: If there’s a bit of a “butterfly effect” involved, are there certain details from season two we should keep an eye on? Certain moments that might dictate where the story could be headed next?
SB: Yeah, I won’t tell you [Laughs]. But, first of all, there’s a ton of Easter eggs in the show that we planted that will give you some sense of what’s going to happen if there’s a season three, plus they answer some of the questions about seasons two and one. So should people should look for the Easter eggs, but yes, a lot of the clues of where we’re going already planted in the show.
AVC: Harlan’s final scene feels like one of those moments—one of the places where the seeds are being planted.
SB: You’re on the right page.
AVC: And it feels like uncharted territory because this season uses the comics—specifically The Umbrella Academy: Dallas—as kind of a springboard to continue to take the show on its own direction. Many of the diversions from the comics feel born out of the characters, and what the ensemble brings to their roles. How much was the cast involved in the process of plotting out this season?
SB: Well, ultimately I start with the writers. I mean, I always get the input of the actors, but the first process for me is sitting down with the writers. I start with a network, I give them my pitch for the next season. Then I sit down with the writers, but there’s a point where we bring in the actors and I asked them individually, you know, “What do you think about the storyline? What do you think you would be doing in the ’60s?” So we’re very collaborative on that front. We had a lot of fun positioning them as fish-out-of-water in the ’60s. It was a fun time, but it was a very tumultuous time. I thought it was a good setting for the second season.
AVC: And we’d be remiss if we didn’t bring up Kate Walsh, who makes a surprising return this season with an even more crucial role.
SB: I’ve worked with Kate Walsh for years and I really love working with her, and the crew and cast loved her. I wanted to tell a story—she never got to really finish what she started—and I thought it’d be interesting to see her as a rogue character. She’s worked with The Commission loyally her whole life, so, what happens if she decides to go it on her own? How smart is The Handler? It turns out, she’s quite smart! And I wanted to see how that would be portrayed and how we could sort of have fun with that. I think she’s fun in just about every scene she’s in, she brings something really weird.
And then the costuming by Chris Hargadon was just truly amazing. [Kate Walsh] is in many different outfits: Some of them are ’50s, some of the are ’60s, some of them I don’t know where they’re from, but they’re all sort of weird and unique and beautiful.
AVC: The fascinators alone!
SB: And the Jackie O. blue dress [allusion] going on.
AVC: Aside from the fashion, we learn a lot about The Handler through her relationship with Lila [Ritu Arya]. Where did the idea come from to show the motherly side of her?
SB: Well, I wanted to show the motherly side of her, and then I wanted to show that these kids weren’t alone—that there is another special kid in the universe just like them. Clearly of the 43, there’s more than just the seven of them, and Lila is proof of that. So it’s not quite about the maternal side of The Handler because she had an ulterior motive in why she picked Lila. Ritu Arya is a very good addition.
Graphic: Karl Gustafson; Photo: George Pimentel (Getty Images)