Warning: Spoilers are ahead for Umbrella Academy season 2.
Midway through season 2 of Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy, Five (Aidan Gallagher) decides to go for a last-ditch deus ex machina and seeing no other option, starts reciting ancient Greek. It’s probably not what you would do in hopes of saving the day, but Five believes this plan will work, and surprisingly, it does. Trying to stop his father from leaving a party in 1963, Five says a few lines in ancient Greek to Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) in hopes to get his attention. It succeeds, but not well enough.
And usually, when presented with dialogue in a different language, Netflix goes ahead and does the hard work for viewers and translates it right on the screen. Not here, though. If you’re trying to figure out what Five says, and why Reginald pauses, that’s going to take a little bit more effort. And on top of that, Five is bringing up something that’s deeply rooted in the childhood of the Hargreeves children — and, in a way, sets a course for the second half of the season.
In hopes of getting Reginald's attention — or at least to let him know he means no trouble — Five yells this, in Greek: “Ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ.”
Can you not understand, let alone read, Ancient Greek? Don’t worry! You’ve actually more than likely come across this passage before considering it’s the opening of Homer’s Odyssey. Chances are you just haven’t come across it in Greek. Five doesn’t say all of it to Reginald, but let’s go ahead and look at the full first passage of the epic tale (translated by Emily Wilson, the first woman to translate the epic poem):
“Tell me about a complicated man, muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost. When he had wrecked the holy town of Troy, and where he went, and who he met, the pain he suffered in the storms at sea, and how he worked to save his life and bring his men back home.”
Five only approaches his dad — who does not know who he is since this moment takes place long before Reginald adopts Five and his siblings — in hopes of talking to him about time travel since he’s managed to get himself and all his siblings stuck in the 1960s. Reginald, however, isn’t keen to have this discussion. At the first sight of a scuffle, he heads away from the chaos Five has caused (they were both at a party, some assassins tried to kill Five, he fought them off — you know how it goes). Still, when Five utters this passage from the Odyssey from across the driveway, it gives Reginald pause, and later gets Five (and his siblings) invited to a light supper with their father.
Warning: This is where the major spoilers start.
Though the dinner with Reginald goes horribly wrong — he essentially says he won’t help his supposed children — he does have a heart to heart with Five. Reginald asks why Five shouted Homer at him, and Five explains that as kids (in the future) they were forced to all learn it in the original ancient Greek.
While Reginald doesn’t exactly give Five the help he needs at the moment, he recognizes that Five is wandering and lost and just trying to bring his men (and women) back home. Offering up the only advice he can, Reginald advises Five to think small, not big, when it comes to time travel — which leads to the “seconds, not minutes” save in the season 2 finale.
Homer’s words also very much mirror Five’s journey through season 2. In case it’s been a while since you the Odyssey in high school, the story follows Odysseus, a soldier in the Trojan War who is trying to return home to his family. And while his journey is met with literally every obstacle you could possibly imagine he never gives up his quest to make it back to his wife and son. (And let’s not even get into how when Odysseus does make it home he finds out that there are a bunch of people who have moved into his home, are living his life, and are trying to win over his wife. Hello, Sparrow Academy.)
In this instance, there’s a straight line between Five and Odysseus, as both are are strange men in a strange world, and trying to save the ones they love from horrible fates. And on top of that, Homer's tale could also apply to Reginald. It’s confirmed in season 2 that he’s not from this world, and we also see him read a passage of Homer to his “child” in the '60s, Pogo the chimpanzee. Was he actually the first in this family to be displaced from home and work to get back to home? Is that why he had his human children memorize this story, in Greek, as they were growing up? You probably hadn’t thought about comparing The Umbrella Academy to an epic ancient poem, but now it all just fits, doesn't it?