Warning! Major spoilers for The Umbrella Academy season 2 below.
With Vanya unknowingly transferring her powers to Harlan in The Umbrella Academy season 2, a path has been paved for him to become the villain in a potential season 3 of the show. After she realized what happened, Vanya believed she had removed any trace of her powers from Harlan, but the final shot of him in The Umbrella Academy season 2 was proof that Vanya didn’t complete the job and traces of her power still remain within Harlan.
Vanya and Harlan shared a special connection in The Umbrella Academy season 2 and not only in terms of their relationship. When the Umbrella Academy members were dropped into the 1960s, Vanya ended up as Harlan’s nanny, connecting with him in a way his parents could not. After he nearly drowned, Vanya saved his life with mouth-to-mouth, unwittingly physically transferring some of her powers to him in the process. Whether it was in day-to-day life or the confusion and fear in trying to understand his new powers, Harlan could always turn to Vanya for comfort.
Interestingly, the connection between Vanya and Harlan could lead to an interesting hero and villain dynamic between the two in a potential third season of the show. The Umbrella Academy season 2 carefully crafted an arc for Harlan that could become a tragic origin story and a path is set for him to become the villain in The Umbrella Academy season 3.
The Umbrella Academy season 2 shows that Harlan’s childhood is anything but idyllic thanks to his severe but undiagnosed disability. Whether help isn’t available in the 1960s or his parents simply never sought it out, Harlan never received treatment or outside support with only the threat of an institution occasionally brought up by his father. He received plenty of love from his mother Sissy and Vanya, but Harlan’s dad was never particularly affectionate or understanding. His dad was portrayed as fairly cruel, so the lack of effort he put in with his son is likely one of things that destroyed his marriage to Sissy.
Vanya accidentally transferring her powers added a whole new level of complication to Harlan’s life. Vanya arguably has the strongest powers of the Umbrella Academy and that much power in any young boy would be overwhelming. On top of that, Harlan’s disability renders him mute, so he was unable to ask any questions or for help while experiencing the full extent of his power. Not to mention that killing his dad in defense of his mom with those new powers is pretty traumatizing. Vanya incorrectly thought that she drained the power out of Harlan before she returned to her rightful place in 2019. But since she didn’t, and wasn’t there to guide Harlan in controlling his powers, this could very easily lead to dangerous consequences. And those consequences could also bring Harlan face-to-face with the Umbrella Academy once more.
Harlan’s story arc in The Umbrella Academy season 2 is the perfect origin story for a tragic and sympathetic villain. After all, he carried an immense power, but he had no idea how to control it, which is just a recipe for disaster. The Umbrella Academy season 2 demonstrated that, once she came into his life, Vanya became something of an anchor to Harlan. Harlan’s dad never supported him and while Sissy tried her best and gave him all the love in the world, but she couldn’t fully understand the disability he was dealing with. Vanya had the advantage of coming from the future and she knew what he was living with, but when Vanya left without them, she took that understanding of Harlan with her.
Vanya and Harlan are further connected in their mirrored upbringings. As a child, Vanya’s powers were suppressed by her father, Sir Reginald Hargreeves, isolating her from a family of super powered-siblings. Her brothers and sisters treated her poorly because she was different, so Vanya grew up with intense but mostly internalised feelings of anger, sadness and confusion. Those all eventually came to a boiling point when she caused the moon to explode in The Umbrella Academy season 1 and nearly repeated that catastrophic event in The Umbrella Academy season 2. It seems to be Vanya’s fate to always bring about chaos and destruction.
Harlan’s disability also causes him to live with something he can’t understand. His father refused to try and understand and his mom simply did not have the capacity to understand, despite her best efforts. His life was thrown into even more chaos when he inherited a portion of Vanya’s powers and when his father saw what was happening, it was clear that he was terrified of Harlan. He placed the blame on Sissy and attempted to take Harlan away to get “help” – mirroring Vanya’s suppressed powers – but Harlan instead killed his father in defense of his mother. All of that would likely lead to very similar feelings to those Vanya experienced as a child. Harlan was already prone to outbursts beforehand, so he’d likely have difficulty understanding everything else that happened to him. The last shot of Harlan in The Umbrella Academy season 2 sees him demonstrating his power and rather than a flash of hope, it could be seen as an ominous foreshadowing of what’s to come in the show’s future.
When Vanya and the other members of the Umbrella Academy return to their rightful place in 2019 after escaping the 1960s, they’ve created a new timeline. It’s one in which Sir Reginald turned his back on his intended fate and instead adopted another group of gifted children and dubbed them the Sparrow Academy. It’s very possible that the Sparrow Academy’s foe could be none other than an adult Harlan who would be a fully-grown man when Vanya returns to 2019.
Harlan grew up with a lot of anger and confusion that he likely eventually channeled toward Vanya. After all, she was the reason behind Harlan’s powers, and she’s technically the reason his parents’ marriage blew up and his father ended up dying. The road is very much set for a showdown between Vanya and Harlan, most likely in the climax of The Umbrella Academy season 3 as the Academy seeks to fix their own pasts to restore the timeline. Given that the show tends to have two separate foes at once, it would fit for Harlan to be involved as the second issue they’re forced to navigate along the way.
On top of being a show about superheroes, The Umbrella Academy is a show about family — how they can damage people and lift them up simultaneously. A showdown between Harlan and Vanya would nicely compliment this theme. Vanya and Harlan were temporarily an unofficial family but, in Harlan’s eyes, she destroyed his life and tore apart his family. And should that happen, Vanya’s family will be there to support her and help her stop Harlan and whatever damage he may cause. But it wouldn’t be without a struggle: should Harlan become the villain in The Umbrella Academy season 3, he would become the most dangerous villain the Hargreeves siblings have ever faced.