The biggest mystery in Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy isn’t how the Hargreeves siblings will stop the apocalypse, or what The Commission is up to – it’s not even how Luther finds clothes big enough to fit into despite his massive muscles.
No, the real question all fans want to know is simpler – what happened to Ben, aka former team member Number Six?
As played by Justin H Min, when the series begins Ben is already dead, hanging out with medium Klaus (Robert Sheehan) and bitterly complaining about his brother’s life choices. We find out that Ben died some years before the series started (as commemorated by a statue in the Umbrella Academy grounds) but not much else, and fans have expended a lot of time and digital column inches trying to work out what happened to him.
The original comic the series is based on (by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá) isn’t much help either, with Ben’s death also occurring before the story begins and never being directly addressed, leaving fans in the dark about what happened… until now.
You see, in the second season of Netflix’s Umbrella Academy adaptation we finally learn a little more about how Ben died, with a flashback scene to his funeral dropping a few hints about what may have happed to the erstwhile Number Six.
We’ll delve into that scene now, but be warned – if you haven’t watched all of The Umbrella Academy season two yet you may be in for some mild spoilers, so feel free to look away now and watch ahead first.
Still here? Then you’ll have spotted the key flashback at the beginning of season two’s final episode, as the remaining Umbrella Academy members (minus Aidan Gallagher’s Five, who had already gone missing) gather in 2006 to say goodbye to their brother.
As their “father” Reginald Hargreeves delivers his eulogy, it’s clear that Ben died on one of the group’s first missions when he was around 16 or 17, a fact which Hargreeves already blames his children for.
“Despite years of training and weeks of preparation you allowed Number Six to die on this mission,” he says, ignoring the pleas of daughter Allison that the events weren’t their fault.
“Excuses? I will not hear them,” he continues. “The Umbrella Academy has failed one of their own, the consequences of which are dire. Hold on to this feeling, children – let it fester in your hearts. So there is never a next time.”
After he leaves the funeral the teenage Hargreeves siblings devolve into in-fighting, with Vanya’s attempt to comfort the others that “it wasn’t anybody’s fault” knocked back by brother Diego, who notes that she wasn’t even on the mission in question.
And the younger version of team leader Luther agrees with Sir Reginald, noting that “Dad was right, we should have done more, this didn’t have to happen.”
Later, as the group walks off more distant arguing can be heard, with Diego noting that “I couldn’t do it all by myself…you’re supposed to be Number One!” calling back to his insecurity at being ranked under Luther and suggesting that mistakes had been made on the mission.
Altogether, this seems to suggest that Ben was slain during an early outing for the Umbrella Academy, with his special abilities – of calling forth horrible demon tentacles from within his stomach – offering little help against whatever terrible danger he eventually succumbed to. Whether his brothers and sisters truly could have prevented his death, or whether this was more emotional manipulation from Sir Reginald is left unclear, though it is clear that the events continued to haunt the family for years to come.
Speaking of haunting, the episode also reveals exactly how Ben ended up spending his afterlife with Klaus, with the younger version of the ghost-summoning Hargreeves conjuring Ben from the Other Side and tricking him into sticking around rather than moving forward into the next world. Interestingly, while dressed the same as his older counterpart this spectral version of Ben is notably younger, suggesting his astral form changed as Klaus grew older.
Whether we’ll ever get to see Ben’s death in more detail or whether the facts will remain hazy remain to be seen, but we’d be surprised if season three didn’t at least touch on the details. For now, we’re just happy that a little more information about poor Ben’s end is out there.