Warning: Major spoilers ahead for Umbrella Academy season 2 finale, “The End of Something.”
For just a few moments of The Umbrella Academy season 2 finale, “The End of Something,” you feel calm. The Hargreeves siblings have averted the apocalypse in 1963, saved an overwhelmed little boy (Justin Paul Kelly), defeated their enemies in The Commision, and made it back to their present of 2019, which is mercifully free of a Vanya (Ellen Page) armageddon. Save for the tragic, final death of long-deceased brother Ben (Justin H. Min), it seems like a good day to be in the Umbrella Academy.
Then the Hargreeves kids find out their formerly late dad, Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore), is alive. To add insult to injury, Reginald totally scrapped the Umbrella Academy and named his team of superhero children the Sparrow Academy. The Sparrow Academy is led by a totally new, Gerard Way circa 2006 version of Ben, who is immediately ready to pick a fight with the Umbrella Academy intruders.
As our cast of Umbrella Academy heroes say in unison to close out the finale, “Shit.”
All of a sudden, the finale’s neatly contained ending is a complicated mess. Luckily, we’re here to answer your biggest burning questions about the person who quickly became the finale’s most important person: Number 6 himself, Ben.
How did Ben die?
Technically, Ben has “died” twice. The first time was in 2006, as the cold open of finale confirms, and it happened during a crime fighting mission. Umbrella Academy season 1 did little to explain the particulars of this mission and season 2 mostly follows suit. During Ben’s eulogy flashback, Reginald accuses his children of refusing to “sacrifice” themselves for Ben’s life and claims they “allowed” Ben to die. If you read the subtitles as the kids argue after the eulogy, they are split on whether Luther (Tom Hopper, as an adult) or Diego (David Castañeda, as an adult) is more at fault.
The second time Ben died arrives in “743,” season 2’s penultimate episode. During this chapter, Diego, Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), and Klaus (Robert Sheehan) attempt to free Vanya, who is emitting a world-ending level of energy after being tortured by the FBI. As we see at the end of “743,” Vanya’s energy is so powerful it has maimed and murdered every human person on the floor with her. The superpowered corporeal Hargreeves are no match for Vanya’s energy and all fall to its strength.
Ben is the only one who can approach Vanya since he has no physical presence. He then possesses her, as he learned to do with Klaus earlier in season 2. Unfortunately, we learn Vanya’s energy does have a delayed effect on Ben. It decays Ben’s spiritual form so intensely he is left unable to remain on our plane. After more than a decade as a ghost, Ben must finally let go of Earth and ascend to whatever place is next.
When did Ben die?
At the beginning of “The End,” we are told Ben’s funeral was held in 2006. However, in prior episode “743,” Ben says he has been dead for 17 years, which would put his death in 2002 (since the “present” in Umbrella Academy season 2 is 2019). While it is possible Reginald is such a monster that he made the Umbrella Academy kids wait four years to properly say goodbye to their fallen brother, it is far more likely Ben’s dialogue was an accidental mistake in the script.
Because, it seems Ben died when he was 17 in 2006, rather than 17 years prior to the events of Umbrella Academy.
The siblings’ grief seems raw and young Klaus (Dante Albidone) conjures Ben immediately after the funeral. Klaus does not have the patience necessary to wait four years to do something he wants, especially not when the immortal soul of a loved one is involved. So let’s assume Ben died in 2006.
What did Ben tell Vanya?
Before Ben vanishes into the ether, he asks Vanya to “tell Klaus something for him.” He then whispers a mystery sentence or two into her ear. We can’t hear Ben’s words and the subtitles for the moment simply read “[whispers inaudibly].”
Thankfully, Ben’s message is revealed about 30 minutes later if you’re binge watching the season. In “End of Something,” Vanya and Klaus have a few seconds of alone time before going to stop a secondary apocalypse threat. Klaus asks Vanya if Ben said anything to her before he left.
“He wanted me to tell you that he was too scared to go to the light,” she explains. “It wasn’t you that made him stay.” After 13 years together, Klaus finally knows once and for all Ben wanted to be with him — they weren’t cosmically trapped together and Klaus didn’t selfishly curse Ben to a life on earth by bringing him back in 2006.
How is Ben alive at the end of season 2?
The living Umbrella Academy siblings mourn the official death of Ben at the beginning of the finale. However, by the end of the episode, a version of Ben is alive and well once again in the “present” of 2019. Ben is also seemingly the leader/No.1 of the Sparrow Academy, the child superhero group Reginald put together to avoid creating the adults he met in 1963. This evolution makes sense because Reginald didn’t see his ghost son in Umbrella Academy season 2’s take on 1963 — so he has no reason to be suspicious of Ben after adopting him in October 1989, when the series’ superpowered babies were born.
However, Ben wasn’t resurrected. We are instead looking at a totally new version of Ben in a new timeline created by the Hargeeves’ actions in 1963. The Umbrella Academy may have stopped the Cold War apocalypse, but they also irrevocably created a new future. That future led to the new, very emo Ben we see at the close of the finale.
This news is a double-edged sword, as it confirms the sad, sweet Ben we came to love over Umbrella Academy’s first two seasons is truly dead and gone. In his place, we have Emo Ben, who quickly comes off like a hothead. Yet, this update is also a positive, since Emo Ben’s newfound standing (and mere existence) means we will get to keep his portrayer Justin H. Min on our screens. As an extra treat, Min is poised to flex his acting muscles beyond following Rob Sheehan’s Klaus through his worst decisions. New Ben is destined to be a central character — if not all-out antagonist — in a prospective season 3 as the Sparrow Academy’s No. 1 and the series’ physical avatar for co-executive producer Way.
As they say on a very different fantasy show, “What is dead may never die, but rises again, harder and stronger.”