In stark contrast to the replete material cultures of death and memory in the Umbrella Academy Season 1, in which the only real thing not represented is a cemetery scene, the second series is slim pickings. However, there are two memorable scenes of note in critical positions within the series. In this alternative dark comedy superhero story inspired by the graphic novels by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba, created for television by Steve Blackman, death has a key role.
Season 2 sees the Academy time-jumping back to the early 1960s and split up, arriving in the same Dallas alley but in different years. They meet up bit-by-bit days before the assassination of JFK and again attempt cluelessly to save the world, suspecting their own father is somehow involved in shooting President Kennedy.
To stop the Umbrella Academy in their efforts to subvert the workings of the Time Commission, we have introduced a trio of brothers – the Swedes. Assassins sent by the Time Commission, they first kill Hazel and try to get at Diego, and then later Number 5 and Diego together. In the process, they are set up by the ex-Handler and one of them is blown up, implicating Diego. In a truly comedic funeral scene, embodying every stereotype of Swedishness in US culture (in episode 5), the blonde-haired brothers set the blown-up body-parts of their brother afloat on a lake in a small boat and set it ablaze with a flaming arrow. A Swedish-language version of ‘Hello’ by Adele is sung by My Kullsvik. Hellbent on revenge, thinking that Diego was their brother’s killer, they set out on a renewed quest to track down their perceived enemy.
The result is one of the most simple, beautiful and ridiculous ‘Viking’ funerals on film. The episode is appropriately called ‘Valhalla’.
Ben’s funeral, 2006
There is a second funeral in the series: that of Number 6: Ben.
In snow, in the courtyard behind the house, we have an open-air eulogy for Ben: his coffin exposed and alone. The black umbrellas of Reginald, Grace and Pogo as well as the other children contrast with the dark-wood but white-lidded and snow-covered coffin and the layer of snow covering the ground. His coffin is set in an archaic late 19th-century anthropomorphic form with elaborate brass heraldic crest and photograph.
The euology is only a reprimand for the failings of the other children, with bickering the result. As with Reginald’s only ash-scattering, Klaus is the last on the scene, and he meets Ben in ghost-form. Again, the formality and Victoriana of the pathos-ridden event finds contrast with the dysfunctionality and lack of emotion of the mourning family.
It will be interesting to see if any funerary themes persist into series 3 and the alternative reality of 2019 and the Sparrow Academy.