Did Number Five kill Ben to prevent another apocalypse in The Umbrella Academy? The Hargreeves siblings are a gloriously eccentric band of misfits – their ranks including both an ape-man and a pensioner in a child’s body. But by far the strangest member of the Umbrella Academy is the one hardly anybody can see. Played by Justin H. Min, Ben lives as a phantom via the powers of his brother Klaus, who can commune with the dead, and the pair create a wonderfully dysfunctional double act throughout The Umbrella Academy.
The Umbrella Academy season 2 took the Hargreeves siblings back to the 1960s, where they faced the prospect of yet another world-ending event, this time surrounding the impending JFK assassination. The Academy successfully prevent World War III, save young Harlan from imploding, take down The Commission, and find a way back to their own timeline. A solid season’s work. Or, at least, it would’ve been if the Hargreeves siblings hadn’t landed in 2019 to find Reginald Hargreeves still alive, leading a completely different team of super-powered kids known as the Sparrow Academy. Evidently, the timeline was disrupted during the exploits of The Umbrella Academy season 2.
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The Umbrella Academy season 3 could see the Hargreeves siblings attempt to fix the alternate 2019 they created, and at the very center of that story lies Ben. The present-day ghost of Ben Hargreeves was seemingly vanquished in The Umbrella Academy season 2, with Klaus no longer able to contact his departed brother by the end. But in the new 2019, Ben is the snarky leader of the Sparrow Academy. When The Umbrella Academy returns, the full story of Ben Hargreeves might finally be revealed, with past, present and future all blending together, and Number Five shown as the true cause of Ben’s death.
Ben’s Death Is Still A Mystery
Ben Hargreeves is already long dead when The Umbrella Academy begins, and it’s a hallmark of the series that no one ever directly references the incident. The Hargreeves siblings all acknowledge Ben’s death at one time or another, usually to lament the loss of their brother, but The Umbrella Academy purposely obscures the details. Gerard Way’s original comic also casts a veil over Ben’s demise, and the unspoken nature of what truly happened only deepens the audience’s desperation to find out.
One popular The Umbrella Academy theory suggests Ben might’ve taken his own life, and the show certainly hints towards this tragic outcome at various points. The inscription on Ben’s statue at the Hargreeves mansion is more in-keeping with suicide than a murder or accident, and flashbacks highlight how desperately unhappy Ben was fighting crime alongside his brothers and sisters. During the bank robbery scene in The Umbrella Academy season 1, Ben is reluctant to use his horrifying inter-dimensional powers, and emerges from the fight drenched in the blood of his enemies. However, certain lines of dialogue lean more towards Ben dying in the line of duty. Diego’s feud with Luther appears to trace back to Ben’s death, and the siblings’ anger at Sir Reginald also derives partially from the Ben incident. These moments imply that Ben was killed during an Umbrella Academy mission, and might’ve survived if Reginald wasn’t so pushy, or if Luther was a better leader. As of season 2, the truth is yet to be revealed.
Five Was Previously Employed By The Commission
Number Five’s shady past with The Commission is well documented. After accidentally time-traveling into a post-apocalyptic future during childhood, Five was recruited by The Handler to work as one of The Commission’s time agents. Like many others in the organization, Five would respond to events that could potentially disrupt the natural flow of time, flagged by the Infinite Switchboard. Usually, correcting the timeline would involve killing someone, and Five developed a reputation as the best in his field, not to mention the most ruthless. Despite being a pint-sized, sarcastic hero in the present, Five during his Commission days was a cold-hearted killer, as demonstrated in The Umbrella Academy season 2 through the deaths of Lila’s mother and father.
Since Number Five returned home in The Umbrella Academy‘s opening episode, the superhero group has been a thorn in The Commission’s side, constantly changing and rewriting history using Five’s natural ability to time travel. Numerous agents have been sent to deal with the siblings, from Hazel and Cha-Cha in The Umbrella Academy season 1 to the Swedes in season 2, before an army of Commission operatives face down Vanya in a final showdown. The older Number Five was never sent to fight his own siblings, presumably because The Commission knew he would refuse, and also due to the infamous “seven symptoms” when two versions of the same person meet. But there is one scenario where Five would have no choice but to kill his own brother…
Ben Needed To Be A Ghost To Stop Vanya In The Umbrella Academy Season 2
After ending the world previously in The Umbrella Academy season 1, the fearsome powers of Vanya Hargreeves threaten the world again in season 2. Vanya is arrested after trying to run away with Sissy and Harlan, and immediately suspected as a Russian spy in the Cold War paranoia of the 1960s. The FBI brutally interrogate Vanya with electric shocks, and the torture sends her notoriously temperamental abilities into overdrive, triggering the World War III apocalypse glimpsed by Number Five in The Umbrella Academy‘s season 2 premiere. Realizing this is how the world ends, Klaus, Allison and Diego all attempt to reach Vanya, but none can compete with her immense strength. The onus of stopping Vanya falls to Ben, who uses his ghost powers to close in and enter Vanya’s mind, talking her down from the brink at the cost of his own life (or whatever life a ghost can claim to have).
The unspoken, uncomfortable truth is that Ben needed to be a ghost in order to stop the 1960s apocalypse. Were Ben still alive when the Hargreeves siblings time-traveled at the end of The Umbrella Academy season 1, he too would’ve been overwhelmed by Vanya’s surging power, unable to reach her in time.
The Commission surely would’ve been aware of the temporal anomaly caused during Vanya’s interrogation, so it’s strange that an agent wasn’t sent to deal with this history-altering phenomenon. But perhaps The Commission already prevented Vanya’s 1960s apocalypse by killing Ben Hargreeves, thereby ensuring his ghost could save the day. If Ben was killed by a regular Commission agent, he surely would’ve mentioned this already to Klaus during their many years stuck together. The only reason Ben might hide the truth would be if the assassin was his own brother…
Five Corrected The Timeline By Killing Ben
It’s possible that Number Five was tasked with killing his brother while working at The Commission. The Infinite Switchboard responds to Vanya’s uncontrollable power in the 1960s, and while they organization would prefer to send someone else, Five is the only agent capable of taking down The Horror. Recognizing that Ben’s death would save the world, Five might agree, but only if The Commission wipe his memory afterwards, explaining why the guilt of killing Ben doesn’t seem to weigh on Five’s mind in the present. Five could even snipe his target from afar, leaving Ben and the rest of the Academy members to assume he was killed by an enemy while on a mission. The Hargreeves siblings’ time travelling in The Umbrella Academy season 3 could finally reveal the truth.
However, it’s also possible that Five killing Ben ties into the Sparrow Academy. During season 3’s time travel shenanigans, Five could discover that Ben’s death is a key event that must happen in order to preserve the timeline, and the fact that Ben is now alive in 2019 creates a paradox. Given how dearly the Hargreeves siblings miss Ben, none of them would be steely enough to actually kill their brother, but Old-Man Five might be. Five could rendezvous with his younger (older) self and assign him the mission of killing this new, Sparrow Academy Ben, thereby ending the paradox and correcting history. The collapse of the Sparrow timeline would erase the event from Old-Man Five’s memory. Only after requesting his past self carry out the assassination would Five realize he was the one who killed his brother all along.
But if it’s Sparrow Ben who dies by Five’s hand, why would the original Umbrella Ben die too? Ben’s dimensional powers might be responsible. If Ben is killed while using his summoning ability, all versions of him might suffer the same fate. This accounts for why the Hargreeves siblings discuss Ben’s death in such vague terms – they assume he died during a mission or committed suicide, when it was actually the ripple of Ben dying in an alternate Umbrella Academy timeline. Ben himself would remember what happened, but would understandably keep the secret to avoid hurting his brother.
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