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The Umbrella Academy: The Ben Hargreeves plot hole no one is talking about

Netflix's The Umbrella Academy is beloved by fans for its compelling cast of characters and catchy soundtrack, but its many mysteries also drive viewers' obsession.

At the center of much of the fandom's theorizing is Ben Hargreeves (Justin H. Min), also known as the Horror. Ben had the power to summon and control eldritch tentacle creatures — or demonic entities — from a portal in his stomach when he was alive. As the series illustrates, unlike some of his siblings, Ben was somewhat reluctant to use these powers. And though the show hasn't been clear, this may have played a part in why Ben is ultimately not with his siblings or the Umbrella Academy when season 1 starts (at least not in a corporeal form). 

The biggest mystery hanging over the hit Netflix series involves how the tender-hearted yet powerful Ben met his fate. What happened to Ben Hargreeves isn't explained in any of the currently published comics from Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, but the series does offer a few clues. It's revealed that Luther (Tom Hopper) and Sir Reginald (Colm Feore) watched Ben die, and that for some reason, Luther feels responsible for it. Ben's death is also the catalyst for the hero-squad's eventual break-up. A statue erected in Ben's honor at the Hargreeves' mansion also offers another clue: The monument's plaque reads, "May the darkness within you find peace in the light." 

While this somewhat plays out for Ben through his season 1 arc with Klaus (Robert Sheehan) as he becomes stronger and increasingly visible, the statue also creates a contradiction. That's because the Ben we see with Klaus looks a lot older than the Ben memorialized in the sculpture.

There could be a very simple answer to why Ben's statue looks young

The Umbrella Academy implies that whatever reason Ben died split the team up, until Reginald's mysterious death brings them back together at the start of season 1. For the characters to "go their separate ways" without a guardian or parental supervision means they had to either be legal adults or emancipated from their father. The former seems more likely, and Ben's appearance as a ghost implies that he died while older. But his specific age isn't hinted at beyond a series of family portraits that he's suddenly no longer featured in.

With his memorial statue looking more like a young boy, fans are scrambling to figure out why ghost Ben and his statue look so different ⁠— and what it may reveal about his death. There is, of course, an obvious and unexciting answer to the age discrepancy between the statue and Ben: When Reginald had it made, he modeled it after a younger version of Ben. Redditor u/rustysalamander even argues that the figure is "probably based on [the] portraits."

Statues aren't necessarily reflective of a person's exact age when they pass. Often with monuments of real-life historical figures, the imagery matches the best vision or memory of them. As Umbrella Academy fan u/AnniaT notes, perhaps the person Ben was as a younger boy and not a potentially tortured young adult was how Reginald wanted to remember him.

Yet, with how many clues the show quietly tucks away in its visuals ⁠— from Grace's needlepoint to Vanya's bathtub scene ⁠— it's hard not to think the statue might be hinting at something more. Umbrella Academy fans on Reddit have offered several theories, ranging from the more practical to the all-out supernatural.

Ben's statue could be a result of production issues or demonic dimensions

Some fans have theorized that the discrepancy in age between Ben's ghost and his statue has more to do with production technicalities than creative ones. Redditr u/myrisotto73 noted that there are many labor restrictions on using child actors, which might have deterred them from casting a younger Ben. While it's possible, Number Five actor Aidan Gallagher was around 15 years old when Netflix filmed the first season of The Umbrella Academy, which means hiring someone under 18 was a feasible option.

Others question whether Ben is actually dead. Fans know that Ben's powers opened up his stomach to another dimension. U/Tristain7 argues that "he's in the dimension that his powers come from," and as a result, he's still alive. But being caught somewhere else means he's only able to communicate with Klaus, whose abilities allow him to see and talk to things beyond the living plane. Fans already know that the Hargreeves believed Number Five was dead for years, despite him being very much alive. Why not Ben, too?

This might help explain why Ben seemingly travels through time with his entire family at the end of season 1. While it's possible ghosts can time-travel, they're arguably trapped in time, making it less likely for one to portal around for no other reason than narrative convenience.

The biggest theory around Ben's statue involves Klaus

The most prominent theory around the aging of Ben's ghost compared to his statue is based on Ben's connection to Klaus. Several fans, including u/zdaarlight, suggest that between when the siblings were born in 1989, the year the show takes place, and the 13 years Reginald's chimpanzee assistant Pogo recalls he's been alone in the mansion, Ben most likely died at the age of 16 or 17. If the show takes place in 2019, that makes him and the rest of his siblings somewhere between 29 and 30 years old.

The series establishes that the ghosts Klaus sees don't appear to age beyond the day that they have died. Ben also openly laments that he can't change anything, even though he doesn't look like he experienced the type of violent death Klaus alluded to. He's also wearing an outfit discernibly different than what the Academy often wore when they were young. Even more curious, viewers see that as Klaus sobers up, his powers not only "brighten" Ben's appearance and mood, but also help him physically interact with things in the living world.

If the degree of Ben's manifestation is anchored directly to Klaus' increasing command of his powers, it could mean that his age could be tied to his brother. Coupled with the fact that Klaus can make other ghosts go away while Ben never leaves him, this might be the best explanation for why Ben is so different from his statue. 

While the theory is plausible, fans won't know the real reason until The Umbrella Academy decides to explain. Hopefully, the answer will come when season 2 drops on Netflix on July 31, 2020.