Callum Keith Rennie as Harlan in Umbrella Academy

Harlan’s Timeline and Powers in ‘The Umbrella Academy,’ Explained

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The Umbrella Academy season 3 featured both new and old faces. Mostly because Season 2 ended on a cliffhanger—with the Hargreeves siblings discovering they had vastly changed the timeline while they were stuck in the 1960s. Season 3 fully explores the changes that have occurred. In this timeline, Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) is still alive. However, instead of adopting the 7 Hargreeves children and forming the Umbrella Academy, he adopted 7 different children and formed the Sparrow Academy.

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The only child who was chosen for both teams is Ben (Justin H. Kim), who was deceased in the old timeline, but alive and one of the Sparrows in the new one. On the surface, it is pretty easily explainable. Reginald met the Umbrella Academy in the 1960s and was so disappointed by them, he chose not to adopt any of them. However, things prove to be much more complicated when the Hargreeves discover they don’t exist in this timeline. Meanwhile, they’ve caused a grandfather paradox by jumping into a timeline they don’t exist in and it, in turn, forms a dangerous kugelblitz.

On top of that all, Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) realizes they are being followed by a mysterious old man. The elderly man follows them from a distance and has a suitcase filled with cassette tapes. Viewers see his name written down as Lester Pockets. “Lester Pockets,” though, turns out to be an alias. The old man is actually a familiar character from season 2—Harlan.

Who is Harlan in The Umbrella Academy?

Justin Paul Kelly as Harlan and Elliot Page as Viktor in Umbrella Academy
(Netflix)

Harlan Cooper (Justin Paul Kelly) was first introduced in season 2, when he met Viktor (Elliot Page) in the 1960s. In 1960s, Harlan was a young, nonverbal autistic boy. When Viktor landed in the 1960s, he was taken in by the Cooper family and quickly formed a connection with Harlan and his mother, Sissy (Marin Ireland). In fact, Viktor saves Harlan’s life when he drowns, but during this event, accidentally transfers some of his powers into Harlan in the process. Later, Viktor discovers that Harlan has powers that seem stronger than even his and he cannot control them.

Before departing the 1960s, Viktor seemingly takes back his powers from Harlan. However, it turns out it did not succeed as Harlan is later seen levitating objects in the backseat of his mom’s car. That is the last we see of Harlan until The Umbrella Academy season 3. Still disguised as Lester, Harlan (Callum Keith Renny) finds the Umbrella Academy and unleashes his powers when they are attacked by the Sparrows, killing two of the Sparrows in the process. Viktor instantly recognizes that it is Harlan, all grown up in the present day.

We soon learn that Harlan maintained his powers for his entire life, though he didn’t want them. He also never learned to control them. He and his mom moved around from place to place, having to relocate every time his powers caused an incident. This carried on until she passed away from cancer. In the hospital, when she died, Harlan lost control of his powers in one of his most serious incidents. When the Hargreeves returned to the present day, Harlan sensed them and went to find them.

What are Harlan’s powers?

Elliot Page as Viktor Hargreeves in The Umbrella Academy
(Netflix)

Harlan has very similar powers to Viktor, meaning he can manipulate soundwaves into energy. This can be manifested in a number of ways, such as a telekinesis or in unleashing white, powerful energy blasts. Harlan has been seen levitating objects, killing a rabbit with his mind, and unleashing fatally strong waves of energy. However, he does boast two key differences from Viktor—he is extremely sensitive to sound and he has a connection to the Umbrella Academy.

As a result of his autism and his powers, Harlan is very sensitive to external stimuli. This leads him to use cassette tapes and music to hone his senses. Most of the time it works, but sometimes, he can’t drown out the noise. In particular, he struggles to drown out his connection to the Academy and people with powers like them. Whenever they are near, he knows it because he gets a sensation like a tuning fork in his head. The connection is painful to him and it sometimes makes him lose control.

How Harlan is connected to the timeline changes

Harlan reveals to Viktor that he is actually responsible for the grandfather paradox and the kugelblitz. When he lost control of his powers in the hospital, he tried to connect with the Academy, but connected with their mothers instead. The connection was so powerful that he accidentally killed them all. The story of Harlan in The Umbrella Academy is one of the most tragic story arcs of season 3.

(featured image: Netflix)


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.