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What happened to The Umbrella Academy's Ben Hargreeves?

There's a reason he's called "The Horror."

Both the Netflix series The Umbrella Academy and the comic series upon which it's based introduce Ben Hargreeves — also known as Number Six and The Horror — as a dead member of the dysfunctional Hargreeves family. There's a statue in his honor in front of the Academy, and his adopted brother Klaus (Robert Sheehan) sees visions of him on a fairly regular basis. On the show, Ben (Justin H. Min) acts as Klaus's conscience in a way, and it's thanks to him that Klaus discovers he has far more power than just communicating with the dead. 

Despite it being obvious that Ben isn't among the living, a mystery has always remained: what led to Ben's death? While neither the Netflix show nor the Umbrella Academy comics have actually answered that question, there are clues in both that point to an incredibly tragic fate — and one that has nothing to do with a mission gone wrong. As it happens, the circumstances surrounding Ben's death may be even darker than what he was forced to endure during his tenure on the team. 

Here's what may have happened to Ben Hargreeves on The Umbrella Academy.

Ben Hargreeves was a reluctant superhero

There's more to Ben Hargreeves than just being the dead guy in the family. Like his six adopted siblings, Ben has otherworldly powers (that some may argue are stronger than those of his brothers and sisters), but his aversion to using them can clue us into what might have contributed to his death. 

We're first introduced to Ben's powers on the show right from the get-go, during the premiere episode entitled "We Only See Each Other at Weddings and Funerals." In a flashback sequence, we watch as the young Umbrella Academy members stop a bank robbery in progress. Ben is reluctant to enter the bank's vault, but is persuaded by his brother Luther to go in and take care of the rest of the robbers. He does — and from the other side of the glass, we see tentacles, bodies, and blood flying everywhere. Ben then emerges, covered in gore, and asks if they can go home.

For those who need a refresher, Ben has the ability to control so-called "eldritch creatures," which is the reason for his codename The Horror. In the Umbrella Academy comics, Ben's power is depicted as tentacles that emerge from his stomach. Our first real glimpse of Ben's ability on the series is during the season 1 finale, "The White Violin," when Klaus channels Ben to help defeat the gunmen in the theater. 

In every appearance, it's clear that Ben doesn't enjoy using his powers. As a child, he looks dejected, separating himself from his other siblings after their victory at the bank. While Ben's childhood experience has yet to be fully explored on the Netflix series, there are a few things from the comics that point to his unhappiness. In The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite #5, Sir Reginald Hargreeves' assistant Pogo writes in a diary entry, "None of the children want to be heroes, and none less than The Horror. He's only trying to please Hargreeves and Spaceboy [Luther's codeman]. I suppose this is normal enough for a teenage human, but he's not learning how to be an individual in his own right." 

Additionally, Ben is often referred to as eager to please and naive, so being forced to use a power that he wants nothing to do with would have taken a heavy toll and could have been a major factor in his death.

Was Ben's death a suicide?

The idea that Ben died by his own hand rather than mid-mission is backed up by a couple of things. 

For one, the inscription on his memorial statue reads, "May the darkness within you find peace in the light," which definitely points to the idea that he had struggled with depression while he was alive and may have taken his own life. 

Most importantly, though, there's the fact that when Ben appears to Klaus, he looks just like a regular guy, wearing a dark hoodie, leather jacket, and jeans. We know from the Umbrella Academy episode "Man on the Moon" that the dead appear to Klaus exactly as they died, so if Ben had died during a mission, the likelihood of him showing up to Klaus wearing anything other than his Academy uniform would be incredibly low. According to one Reddit theory, Ben looks the way he does because it's possible he killed himself in a way that's easily hidden by his clothing, possibly through self-inflicted wounds on his arms. 

Luther's guilty conscience provides more clues about what happened to Ben

The Umbrella Academy makes it clear that Luther feels responsible for Ben's death in some way or another. In the comic, Luther and Ben's sister Allison assures Luther that it isn't his fault, in spite of what the others may think. But perhaps the reason for Luther's guilty conscience is because he pushed Ben too far during a mission, and that led to Ben's inevitable emotional break and eventual passing.

As of now, that's merely a guess — as are all theories about what contributed to Ben's death. Even The Umbrella Academy creator Gerard Way is still working out what happened to Ben. He told Forbes in Februaary 2019 that while Ben's passing is the thing he gets asked about the most, he still doesn't know what went down. "I never really answered that. I originally just wrote the character to be dead, that was his function. I always knew I was going to resolve it," said Way. "The thing about The Umbrella Academy, it's almost like improvisational jazz. You're just making it up as you go along."

If we're lucky, maybe Way will have figured it out by the time The Umbrella season 2 premieres on Netflix.