With a cast as stacked as The Umbrella Academy’s, it can be hard to pick a favorite character from the first season. With household names like Mary J. Blige and Ellen Page, to niche fandom favorites like Robert Sheehan and Tom Hopper, to relative newcomers who blew us all away like David Castañeda and Emmy Raver-Lampman, there is truly an embarrassment of riches when it comes to talent on this Netflix series. But fans can’t get enough of The Umbrella Academy’s young Number 5 aka Aidan Gallagher, the 15-year-old sensation who brought so much wry wit and wise vibes to his role, making his character truly seem like he was an old man trapped in a kid’s body. In anyone else’s hands, this is a character that could have been annoying or unbelievable, but Gallagher managed to make Number Five hilarious and heart wrenching, terrifying and empathetic, all at the same time. He makes you feel awful about how this kid was robbed of his childhood, forced to spend decades alone in the apocalyptic future with nothing but a mannequin to talk to and no real name other than “Number Five” — because yes, the tragic character really doesn’t have a real name, unlike the rest of his Umbrella Academy siblings.
In fact, in Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba’s comics upon which the first season of the Netflix series is based, Number Five has an even more heartbreaking moniker. He’s sometimes referred to simply as The Boy, which couldn’t be more sterile or cold. He was never given a birth name. While the rest of The Boy’s siblings grew up in the normal world and adopted real names as they got older, The Boy disappeared when he was 10 years old when he tried to time travel and got stuck in the future.
When The Boy finally returned 20 years later, he had changed immensely and the more general, simple name fit. Now a sixty-year-old man stuck in a child’s body, he revealed his history to his siblings: in the future, his DNA had been modified and mixed with history’s most dangerous serial killers’ by the shadowy Temps Aeternalis agency of assassins (called The Commission on the Netflix series). He was now the perfect killer with a 100 percent success rate, making him all the more deadly and ruthless.
When Number Five got drunk on the show, it was sad more than anything to see how upset he was. When The Boy gets drunk in the comics, it’s way more messed up. There’s a real empathy and pathos to everything that happens to Number Five on the show that’s lost on the pages of the comics, where The Boy is more someone to be feared than pitied. At one point The Boy literally eats someone alive — it’s pretty gross. Gallagher’s performance adds so many more layers to the character that it feels almost like a completely different role.
But one thing both versions of the character have in common is that neither has a real name other than Number Five or The Boy. It’s one of the biggest mysteries still left to be uncovered in the comics, if Way and Ba ever do decide to give the character a real name. And whether it happens in the comics or another season of The Umbrella Academy, until then he remains to be Number Five or The Boy.