The Umbrella Academy season 1, episode 7 review: The Day That Was


Events play out slightly differently for the Hargreeves children, as we learn more about Leonard in The Umbrella Academy’s seventh episode.

Previously on The Umbrella Academy, Luther and Allison confess their true feelings for one another; Klaus reunites with his dead lover, Dave, from the Vietnam War; Mom was about to tell Diego the truth behind Hargreeves’ death; and Vanya found Hargreeves’ journal at Leonard’s house, which confirmed Hargreeves did indeed suppress her powers. Or at least that’s what would’ve happened if Number Five hadn’t appeared during the Hargreeves’ family meeting earlier that same day, thereby erasing nearly all the last episode.

Thus, episode seven, entitled “The Day That Was,” winds up as both a do-over and a regurgitation of “The Day That Wasn’t.” Scenes, such as Vanya (Ellen Page) unconsciously bending the street lamps, are replayed almost verbatim. Other characters wind up at the same place emotionally they were last episode, despite taking different paths getting there.  All this serves is to reinforce the notion that last episode was made just to pad out the season and thus also a literal waste of time.

Fortunately, the end of the last episode advances the plot in one respect. Thanks to Number Five’s infiltrating and double-crossing the Commission, the Hargreeves family now know who’s responsible for the upcoming apocalypse: Harold Jenkins. Who’s Harold Jenkins, you may ask? Well, unsurprisingly, it turns out he’s really Leonard Peabody (John Magaro).

The truth about “Leonard”

Earlier episodes already established how, despite his boyish charms, Leonard was a stalkerish creep capable of murder. With the “The Day That Was,” we now learn that Leonard, or rather Harold, has manipulated Vanya from the moment they first met.

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In an extended prologue, we learn Leonard/Harold was also born on October 1, 1989, only he wasn’t one of the forty-three spontaneous pregnancies. His birth was completely normal, save for his mother dying after delivery. Harold’s father, blaming him for his wife’s death, became an abusive alcoholic. Desperate to escape home and convinced he was special, Harold tried joining the Umbrella Academy. Sir Hargreeves (Colm Feore), however, bluntly told Harold he didn’t have powers and to go home. Humiliated, Harold murdered his father and, after seventeen years in prison, now seeks revenge.

Aside from establishing his motives, Leonard/Harold’s backstory also gives context about why he latches onto Vanya. While he sees her as a fellow victim, he also sees her as a potential weapon. Little wonder then that, in Magaro’s performance, Leonard/Harold’s own abusive tendencies are starting to surface. Such is the case during the lakeside scene, where he tries making Vanya move a rowboat with her mind. Behind his nutring, encouraging words, he’s barely holding back an explosive anger, much like Vanya herself.

And yes, “explosive” isn’t just a metaphor. An altercation between a trio of drunken rednecks results in Vanya using her powers to defend Leonard/Harold. The attack also leads to Leonard/Harold losing his eye, confirming he’s the future recipient of the prosthetic eye. Was the attack staged? Given what we learn about Leonard/Harold and his intentions for Vanya, we shouldn’t put it past him.

Déjà vu, amour, and other nonsense

Paradoxically, the Cha-Cha (Mary J. Blige) and Hazel (Cameron Britton) subplot remains unchanged, except now it’s shown (mostly) from Hazel’s POV. Moreover, it turns the story of these time-travelling assassins into a love triangle. Turns out the reason Cha-Cha didn’t kill Hazel in the woods is because she thought he was admitting his love for her. In reality, Hazel was admitting his love for Agnes (Shelia McCarthy), the doughnut-shop waitress, who he plans on running off with. As his first act of retirement, he spares Cha-Cha’s life, leaving her chained up in their hotel room.

The problem is Hazel’s change-of-heart rings false. True, earlier episodes do show he’s frustrated with the job and that he appreciates Agnes’ company and her donuts. Yet his declaration of love for Agnes in the Griddy’s Doughnuts parking lot still feels unearned. What do these two even see in each other? Moreover, it further gives the impression that the series has no idea what to do with these characters.

Yet it’s during the Hargreeves siblings investigating Harold Jenkins’ identity, which result in the most contrived developments. Somehow, the Handler wounded Number Five (Aiden Gallagher) during their confrontation last episode. Thus twenty minutes in, Five falls into a coma and spends the rest of the episode under the care of Pogo (Adam Godley) and Mom (Jordan Claire Robbins).

Moreover, the police arrest Diego (David Castañeda) for Detective Patch’s murder on the basis that his fingerprints were found “all over the scene” and their “contentious relationship.” Never mind there’s probably other fingerprints all over that same crime scene, including Klaus, Hazel, and Cha-Cha’s. Never mind, too, that the cops are well aware that Diego uses throwing knives instead of guns. If this feels like a flimsy excuse for throwing obstacles into the Umbrella Academy’s path, that’s because it is.

Wait? Klaus is the responsible sibling?

Meanwhile, Luther (Tom Hopper) still discovers all his unread mission reports from the Moon just like he did the last episode. Yet since Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) is off investigating with Diego and Number Five, Luther turns to alcohol and, believing he’s wasted the better part of his life, takes off for a night of hedonistic delights at a local rave.

Ironically, it’s Klaus (Robert Sheehan) who has to remind his brother of his responsibilities and bring him home. Easier said than done, of course. The rave gives Klaus’ sensory overload, resulting in Vietnam flashbacks and a craving for MDMAs (Ecstasy). Not to mention he also seems to be temporally killed while trying to save Luther from a furry’s jealous boyfriend. This leads to a stunning and surreal black-and-white sequence where Klaus meets God in the form of little girl riding a bicycle. He also finally (albeit unintentionally) reunites with Sir Hargreeves, whose idea of Heaven is a barber shop for some reason.

Naturally, this results in some much-needed exposition. Turns out Sir Hargreeves knew about the upcoming apocalypse all along. It’s why, he explains, he was so hard on the children because he wanted to untap their full potential. Furthermore, his mysterious death wasn’t murder but an elaborately staged suicide designed to bring the family back together so they could save the world. Of course, if he wasn’t such a bad father who drove his adoptive kids away, he wouldn’t have had to kill himself in the first place.

It’s definitely nuts to put it mildly. Even so, this has the effect of humanizing Hargreeves even though he’s still unapologetic over his actions. The scene also stages a bit of nice dark comedy between an estranged father and son, which both Feore and Sheehan brilliantly pull off. That Hargreeves gives Klaus a shave even while rebuking him for wasting his life on drugs does show he did care about his adoptive children to some degree. It’s a welcome layer of complexity for a character who’s been otherwise a cipher up until this point.

Next. The Umbrella Academy season 1, episode 6 review. dark

In the end, though “The Day That Was” is a frustrating episode. After two-thirds of the way through the first season, only half of these characters stories seem remotely interesting. Even so, the compelling aspects about this series isn’t much the Academy trying to stop the literal end of the world but how they’re coping with the pains of childhood as adults. Hopefully, we won’t have to undergo any more time travel resets.