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Aidan Gallagher talks Number Five's wild Umbrella Academy season 2 arc - Exclusive

Contains spoilers for The Umbrella Academy season 2

Among all the Hargreeves siblings on The Umbrella Academy, Number Five had the craziest season 1 arc. Time-traveling into the future, he got stuck in the post-apocalypse. Five lived alone (save for what mannequin companionship he could drum up) until the timeline-preserving Commission recruited him and turned him into a hyper-effective assassin ... all before he was bounced back to the present as a much older man trapped in the body of a teenager. This bananas backstory, coupled with actor Aidan Gallagher's charismatic performance, made Number Five a fan favorite on Netflix's surprise hit series.

Now, season 2 has arrived, and Five's journey has only gotten weirder. Trapped in 1960s Dallas, he has to reunite his clan and fend off another apocalypse — all while dealing with the machinations of the Commission and its new leader, the Handler (Kate Walsh). In the process, he runs into that old time-traveler's dilemma: facing the prospect of dealing with another version of himself.

This is extended sequence is one of the second season's more out-there moments, so we sat down with Gallagher to talk about what it was like bringing a temporal paradox to life on screen.

Aidan Gallagher gets physical for Paradox Psychosis

In the season's eighth episode, "The Seven Stages," Five enlists Luther's help to confront an older version of himself who's in Dallas on orders from the Commission to take part in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The older Five is played by Sean Sullivan, and Gallagher says there was some work done to bridge the gap between the two actors' performances. 

"I did notice that in season 1, for example, the way he holds a rifle is how I did in the scene where I'm confronting Luther," he recalls. "So I think there may have been some correlation in terms of him getting to see some of those scenes and pick up on what I might've been doing with the character."

Both actors also had to deal with the effects of Paradox Psychosis, which the younger version of Five describes as a multi-stage mental breakdown brought about by being in the presence of one's previous self. For Gallagher, manifesting it on-screen was a particularly enjoyable challenge. 

"Whenever you get to build a new element of your character as an actor, it's exceedingly interesting," he says. "I did that for the blink, what the physicality might be like, but for Paradox Psychosis, before every tape, I would sprint. I would sprint into mark and I would contort my body in all these weird ways and really just create this sort of stress and all these different little weird takes on his emotions that didn't necessarily make sense within the context of the regular team for Five, but were completely at home and cohesive with the Paradox Psychosis."

Number Five's two forms of madness on The Umbrella Academy

Faithful Umbrella Academy viewers will recognize that this isn't the first time we've seen Five go a little nuts. His decades alone in the post-apocalypse rendered him a certain degree of unstable, and being turned into one of the world's deadliest assassins by the Commission also did a number on him. Still, according to Gallagher, Paradox Psychosis was a whole new ball of wax. 

"You never really get to see Five's insanity fully come out," he muses. "And occasionally, that does bubble over when he goes to assassinate the Commission, but the whole Paradox Psychosis arc was a completely different version of insanity."

Gallagher calls drawing that contrast between Five's various takes on insanity one of the most interesting parts of crafting his character on season 2, saying, "It's fun to imagine there's rage-filled, vengeful, vile insanity when Five goes around just creating a blood bath with an axe, like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. But there's also this interesting time-traveling insanity that happens when you encounter a younger version of yourself. So yeah, the whole Paradox Psychosis thing was something that was very fun to play as an actor."

You can watch Aidan Gallagher and Sean Sullivan trip through the various stages of Paradox Psychosis on season 2 of The Umbrella Academy, which is currently streaming on Netflix.

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