There’s an increasingly frustrating downside to Umbrella Academy separating all its characters at the beginning of the season: It’s starting to feel like it’s going to take a very, very long time to get them all back together again. The first season thrived on the oddball chemistry, and the natural tensions, that bubbled to the surface whenever this whole dysfunctional family was stuck in the same room. But season two decided to split them all up again, and so far, none of the individual stories are compelling enough to stand alone for long. There’s a reason “The Swedish Job” opens with a brief, breathless montage chronicling Klaus’s yearslong, globe-trotting rise to becoming a cult leader: This material — while worth a chuckle — just isn’t enough to sustain more than a few minutes of an audience’s attention.
You can feel the strain across every story in this episode, which manages to be very busy without doing much to actually move the plot forward. Vanya fends off an attack from the trio of Swedish assassins (and rediscovers her own superpower in the process). Klaus springs Allison’s husband Ray from prison. Luther attempts to reconnect with Allison and discovers that she’s married, spiraling into an even deeper depression. Diego and Lila finally hook up.
“The Swedish Job” does feature one story with a little extra emotional punch. Klaus tracks down his old partner, David, who is working at a local hardware shop. You might remember David from season one when he and Klaus fell in love while serving in Vietnam together. David died, and Klaus returned to 2019, wracked with grief and PTSD from a life no one else could ever really understand.
And now, thanks to time travel, Klaus and David can be reunited again — but how well will that go? By and large, the Hargreeves children have adjusted to life in Dallas pretty well. But this story gets at one of the tragic complexities of time travel: The desperate desire to fix everything that originally went wrong. Klaus and David fell in love in the middle of a war. Here, before the war, Klaus believes he can dissuade David from enlisting and save his life — even if there’s a very real chance that would also mean David never falls for him in the first place.
Unfortunately, one of the strange things about building Umbrella Academy’s second season around a second apocalypse (eight days and counting!) is that it renders most of these smaller, more personal story lines moot. It doesn’t actually matter if Klaus stops David from enlisting if he’s just going to die via nuclear bomb before he’d go to Vietnam anyway. When you’re ranking priorities, stopping the death of literally everyone in the world is a pretty big trump card.
And then there’s Allison and Ray’s sit-in at the whites-only diner. We’ve been building up to this moment for a few episodes, and it’s legitimately difficult to watch. The diner explodes with resentment, with employees pouring salt and coffee on peaceful Black protestors who know that the arrival of the police might mean their deaths.
Unfortunately, the episode also makes the very misguided choice to cut between the diner and Luther’s latest brawl in the fighting pit. Luther, grieving over the knowledge that Allison has found love with someone else, decides to take a dive, begging his opponent to pummel him into numbness. As a result, the crosscutting between Allison and Luther’s stories has the effect of conflating the very stark reality of a police officer beating a Black man to death — a national shame that America is actually, painfully grappling with right now — with the ridiculous spectacle of a depressed superhero inviting someone to punch him into oblivion.