[Editor’s note: Spoilers for The Umbrella Academy Season 2 follow below.]
One of the central characters of the Netflix series The Umbrella Academy remains, all the way through the show’s second season, a pretty big mystery. Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) was introduced in Season 1 as an eccentric billionaire who adopted seven special children and trained them to become superheroes. A recurring theme throughout the first season – which kicks off with Reggie’s death, which in turn brings the adult Hargreeves children back together after being estranged – is the implication that Reginald was a Bad Dad. Through flashbacks and the trauma that still haunts Vanya (Ellen Page), Luther (Tom Hopper), Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), Five (Aidan Gallagher), Diego (David Castañeda), Klaus (Robert Sheehan), and Ben (Justin H. Min), it’s revealed that Reggie was hard-nosed, cold, and uncaring when it came to his children’s feelings and well-being.
But in Season 2, when the children confront their father in 1963 before he ever adopted them, they attempt to have a heart-to-heart and end up indirectly revealing something major about Reginald Hargreeves – his face is not his real face.
Indeed, while this reveal doesn’t happen in front of the children, they do inadvertently let him on that JFK is about to be assassinated. And when JFK is assassinated in the Season 2 episode “Jello-Time,” Reginald makes his way up to his secret lair of sorts to confront that shady group of men he’d been seen consorting with all season. “Our little Kennedy problem is solved,” the Smoking Man in sunglasses says to Reggie, who is deeply upset that JFK has been killed.
The Smoking Man tells Reggie that JFK “had to go, one way or the other” because he “pissed off too many people,” before teeing up a curious reveal. He says to Reggie they all got what they wanted, then adds:
“The rocket technology you supplied us with will enable us to beat the Russians to the moon. And in turn, when we do arrive, five or six years from now, your interests on the dark side of the moon won’t be affected.”
Reggie, uh, does not take to this kindly and demands they never contact him again. But when they threaten to reveal “who you really are” if he doesn’t keep supplying them with “that fancy technology of yours,” he kind of goes ballistic. And reveals his true nature.
This kicks off one of the biggest WTF moments of Season 2, which is also not outright explained. Reginald Hargreeves zips his face off like a mask, revealing a slimy figure underneath that’s alien in nature. He then proceeds to presumably murder all the men in the room, as we don’t see what happens but hear lots and lots of screaming.
So who is Reginald Hargreeves really? What’s really going on here? This is where we add another spoiler warning because while the answer has been hinted at in the show, it hasn’t explicitly been answered yet. But it has been answered in the comics. So you’ve been warned, if you don’t want to know then turn back now.
Okay, still with us? You may or may not recall that we got a different WTF Reggie scene in Season 1 of The Umbrella Academy, during the finale episode “The White Violin.” The title onscreen said the scene took place “Long Ago…” and we saw a young-looking Reggie going to the bedside of a woman who looked ill. He presented her with a violin, noting she might want to play today, but she tells him he needs to “find someone who’ll love it as much as I have.” Clearly Reggie and this woman are in love, but she tells him, “I will die here but you won’t. I won’t allow it. The world needs you, Reggie. Now go.”
It’s then that we get a closer look at where, exactly, Reggie is. The room has various potion-looking bottles and future-tech of sorts. Reggie picks up one of the bottles and lets whatever is inside out (which looks kind of like the “special powers” stuff that came out of Vanya when she saved Harlan’s life in Season 2). We then see out the window that we’re definitely not on Earth. Various rocket ships fly up into the sky, as we see farming machines littering an alien landscape.
So if we combine that scene with Reggie’s “unmasking” in Season 2, we can reasonably assume he’s not from this Earth. Which is correct. In the Umbrella Academy comics created by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, Reggie is revealed to be an alien masquerading as a human on Earth.
We don’t know much more than that, but clearly he has a long lifespan. In the Season 1 finale, we saw Reggie first make landfall on Earth in New York City, which was filled with old-timey cars. He immediately saw a shop called D.S. Umbrella which was for sale by owner, and which was established in 1898. So we can probably assume Reggie first came to Earth in the early 1900s, and yet still looks to be in very good shape in 1963 and 2019, although in the 2019 timeline we can tell he’s aged a bit. Although why does he age if he’s wearing a mask? Is it make of organic material? How long does he live?
We’ll no doubt get more clarity on Reggie’s origin story in Season 3, since the Season 2 finale ended with the Umbrella Academy kids going back to 2019 to find their actions in 1963 irreparably changed the timeline. One of these butterfly effects, it appears, is that Reggie is still very much alive in 2019 in this new timeline. And the Umbrella Academy kids have beef.
The fact that Reginald Hargreeves is an alien explains quite a lot, including how terrible he was as a father. His perceived lack of empathy may simply be his nature. But a touching moment in the Season 1 finale saw him letting Vanya use the violin that used to belong to his alien soul mate, so clearly he has some kind of heart. And perhaps a sweet spot for Vanya.
We’ll surely find out more in future seasons assuming Netflix makes them (Season 3 hasn’t officially been ordered yet). For now, though, this is the best explanation we’ve got for who Reginald Hargreeves really is.