We've seen many morally dubious characters that we might not have generally looked at as so morally dubious in our "Who is the actual worst?" series. (Or, in the case of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, "Who is the actual best?") Today, however, we're changing things up like a baseball pitch you weren't expecting. (Damn, what are those called again?) Now, we're asking, "Who is the most tragic character in The Umbrella Academy?" For this exercise, we're limiting the candidates to just the main members of the team, so none of that "Pogo had it the worst" shit. Yeah, he probably did, but he's also a monkey, and my made-up degree in armchair psychology barely extends to homo-sapiens as it is. Still, we have some worthy candidates because each of these characters has had the dopamine sand-blasted out of their skulls by childhood and then finished off with a blowtorch from adulthood.
Tragedy and sadness are obviously subjective, but we're going to do our best to provide as much of an objective framework as possible. Also, we'll only be using the Netflix series as material, as it's what most people are familiar with. So, spoilers ahoy and, without further ado, here's my list of the least - to most tragic members of The Umbrella Academy:
The Case For Allison:
Arguing that Allison has had the least tragic life of the team is like saying someone has the largest bowl at the soup kitchen. It doesn't mean much. Still, if you were to make an argument for Allison it would be that she has had the most to lose. Allison has had two marriages and a child, and throughout the series, she loses all three.
But the argument for Allison ends when you consider that she was even able to have those relationships in the first place. The rest of the Umbrella Academy hasn't been so lucky. Allison also used her powers to enrich her life the most, becoming a successful actress and celebrity, all through mental manipulation.
The Case For Diego:
Like Allison, Diego was able to enjoy somewhat of a positive life after leaving the Umbrella Academy. On his best day, he's about as happy as the saddest version of Batman (not exactly known as a paragon for emotional stability), but that's still saying a lot in comparison to the others. Diego had to overcome a stutter in his childhood and an inferiority complex to Luther, who Reginald Hargreaves deemed the better of the two and worthy of being the leader. He's also doing all the Batman-style crime-fighting in season 1 and has undoubtedly seen enough gruesome criminal activity to lose his mind three times over.
But, in his own way, I'd say Diego is surprisingly well adjusted. He's had romantic relationships with both Detective Patch and Lila from seasons 1 & 2, respectively, and, while both of those end horribly, I'm giving him happy points for having been loved at all.
The Case For Luther:
In some ways, it could be argued that Luther had the happiest childhood. He was the leader, a mark of approval from his father in an otherwise approval-less desert. But leadership comes with a burden, and Luther certainly felt the brunt of that weight when Ben died.
Things get really sad for Luther after childhood. His father saves his life after a mission gone south, but to do so, he's injected with a serum that permanently leaves him with a gorilla-like physique. He then spends years in isolation on the moon only to find out that he was sent up there to do busywork. The only love he's ever known is from his sister, and uh... the less we get into that, the better.
The Case For Vanya:
The show portrays Vanya as the saddest, most pathetic thing to ever live, so it might be surprising that Vanya only takes fourth on this list. She's like if the character Eeyore was written by Charles Dickens and played by Ellen Page. But, for me, Vanya's life isn't too bad. Sure, she was locked in a soundproof box as a child and is continuously made to feel inferior to that of her super-powered siblings. They could have at least given her a damn umbrella tattoo just so she could feel like a part of the gang.
But Vanya bounces back after childhood. She's an accomplished violinist and a moderately successful author. In season 2, she has a passionate romance with a housewife named Sissy. You could even say her season 1 relationship was going pretty swell until her boyfriend turned out to be a homicidal maniac. But hey, that's men for ya, right? No? Okay, well, I'd still say Vanya's life, while sad, has nothing on the remaining three.
The Case For Ben:
He's dead. I feel like that's reason enough to put him near the end of this list, but maybe you could claim that some fates are worse than death, and with that, I would agree. But Ben isn't just dead. He's a ghost, and, for almost 20 years, his only interaction comes from Klaus. Imagine how exhausting that would be? Every day he's summoned only to watch his brother piss himself before entering a k-hole, then is sent back to purgatory on a whim. He can't feel, or taste, or smell. (Side note: Why is it that ghosts have access to two senses, but not the other three?) Ben's happiest moment comes in possessing Klaus's body and lying in the dirt with one of Klaus's cult followers.
It's no wonder that Ben so gleefully let Vanya vaporize his soul at the end of season 2. Anything to get some space from Klaus.
The Case For Klaus:
Vanya might be the black sheep of the family, but Klaus is something close to that. He's like a very dark gray sheep with a narcotics addiction. Unlike Vanya, Klaus has the added detriment of being exposed to all the rigors and horrors of superhero work. The Umbrella Academy didn't just stop bad guys. They murdered them. It's a traumatic enough event for any child to face, but I can't even fathom the psychological effects it would have on Klaus, whose ability allows him to commune with the dead. There are probably nights where he lies awake and literally is able to see the faces of the people he killed.
Klaus got locked in a mausoleum as a child as part of his training, which is akin to teaching baby to swim by repeatedly dunking her head into a pool. Klaus finds some happiness when he travels to 1968 and strikes up a relationship with a soldier named Dave. But, of course, Dave dies in Klaus' arms during the Vietnam war.
The Case For Five:
Now we get to Five, who, for my money, has the most tragic story in all of the show. At 13 years old, he travels forward in time to the day after the apocalypse and then gets stuck. He wanders aimlessly through the wasteland of Earth for decades, surviving on scraps of food, and having sex with his mannequin girlfriend. (Understandable. Wilson might have been Tom Hanks' best friend in Castaway, but given a few more days on that island and we all know what he was going to do with that beach ball.) Luther's experience on the moon must have been incredibly isolating, but at least he had a good view. Meanwhile, Five spent his time in isolation with the constant reminder that everything would be destroyed unless he somehow found a way to escape.
I think what's ironic about Five's storyline, and possibly what makes it even more tragic, is that he never was able to mature past his thirteen-year-old-self. I don't just mean that he has the literal body of a child or lost his virginity to an inanimate object like an unreleased outtake from American Pie. I'm talking about how he's been on a mission for the entirety of the series, and he's never once been able to take a break. Sure, Luther and Diego also still hold on to a hero complex, but they've also had moments of catharsis. They've grown up and picked out names. Five is still called "Five." He's still embroiled in his childhood's traumatic identity, and he'll only be able to move on once the mission is complete and the apocalypse is averted. I hope he's still going to have access to his time travel abilities when that happens because he's going to need centuries worth of therapy to sort this shit out.
Support Dan on Twitter and he will talk about his life with you in lieu of getting the centuries worth of therapy that he also probably needs.
Top Image: Netflix