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The big Umbrella Academy question not even the showrunner can answer

Spoilers for The Umbrella Academy season 2 ahead!

One of the longest-running questions among fans of both the Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba's The Umbrella Academy comics and Steven Blackman's Netflix adaptation is what happened to Ben Hargreeves

Played by fan-favorite Justin H. Min in the show, Number Six — also known as "The Horror" – died when The Academy was young. His passing split the team up until Reginald Hargreeve's death by suicide brought them all back together in the first episode of season 1. But small details noticed by fans, from The Academy's shifting portrait to the statue erected for Ben in the backyard of Reginald's mansion, coupled with the show's vagueness about Luther's role, had made it nearly impossible to nail down when or even how Number Six died. What fans do know is that he doesn't cross over, as revealed in season 1. The spirit of Ben has been hanging around with his brother, Klaus, who can manifest Ben in all his eldritch tentacled glory through his powers. 

With The Umbrella Academy's second season now out on Netflix, fans eager for an answer to the question of what killed Ben will be sad to know that they'll have to wait even longer to find out. The ending of season 2 sees Ben finally let go of his earthy tether and pass on. Unfortunately, he doesn't explain precisely what happened to him before he goes into the light. In a 2019 interview with IGN, Blackman confirmed that even he was on the outs about that small detail. "I don't even know what happened to Ben!" he said. 

While there's no definitive answer yet, season 2 does offer a few more clues. 

The Umbrella Academy season 2 confirms Ben's age at death

It's clear now that The Umbrella Academy is very into the aesthetic of funerals. Not only did season 1 kick off with Reginald's, but season 2 drops fans into Ben's, confirming a few things that have been frequently theorized about.

During the opening scene of the finale, "The End of Something," Reginald and the remaining members of The Academy gather around Ben's coffin and prepare to say goodbye. It's 2006, according to a title card, which confirms Ben's age as either 16 or 17 when he passed. As Reginald delivers the eulogy for his now-deceased adopted son, he painfully chastises his children for failing to be the kind of heroes that can defeat evil. "Despite years of training and weeks of preparation, you allowed Number Six to die on this mission," he tells them. 

When Allison tries to pipe up in defense of the siblings, Reginald coldly silences her. "Excuses? I will not hear them," he responds. "The Umbrella Academy has failed one of their own, the consequences of which are dire. Hold on to this feeling, children. Let it fester in your hearts, so there is never a next time."

Despite the story pointing to Luther being "the one" who gets Ben killed, it appears Blackman is leaning into a theory Gerard Way posed in the above IGN interview. When asked about Luther's potential role in Ben's fate, Way teased, "I think that they all maybe have some involvement in his death."

Unfortunately, he didn't offer up much more than that, stating that anything else would be a major spoiler for show and comics fans. "I'm not even quite sure if I could reveal that," he told IGN. "That's beyond a spoiler because it has to do with the comic too, and it hasn't been revealed in the comic."

Ben's ghost ages in The Umbrella Academy season 2

Fans at least now know when and generally how Ben died. Despite fan theories, it doesn't appear to be a death by suicide, but an accident on a mission. Ben's funeral scene also happens to address a frequent fan question about how Ben "exists" in the afterlife. Some had noticed that during season 1, Ben's statue was of his younger self, but that his ghost had significantly aged to match the age of the other Hargreeves siblings. 

That raised quite a few eyebrows about how the afterlife and Klaus's powers actually work. Now, it seems that Blackman is ready to fill in those plot holes. After the rest of his adopted siblings leave the backyard, bickering about whose fault it was, Klaus uses his power to manifest Ben. This moment reveals Ben's appearance as his younger self, proving that Ben's ghost ages right alongside his siblings. It also explains how Ben and Klaus became so attached and makes Ben's decision to leave at the end of the season so much more bittersweet. 

At one point, while talking to Klaus in the snow, young Ben tells him that "I need to go back," clarifying that Klaus pulled his brother from walking into his light. But Number Four isn't ready to say goodbye and manipulates his brother to not go into it. "That thing?" he says. "Don't worry about it. You can go whenever you want." Declaring himself an expert on the afterlife, Klaus convinces his brother to stay, and so begins their years-long spectral relationship.   

While it's not the explicit answer many were looking for, this scene does ultimately address several issues raised by fans about Ben during season 1. Now, we'll have to hope season 3 delivers even more answers.