The Umbrella Academy has yet to reveal how Ben died, but did leave a trail of clues throughout season 1. Based on the comic books by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba, The Umbrella Academy tells the story of 7 children with superpowers who are adopted, trained into heroes and go on to become deeply flawed, dysfunctional adults. When the show's present-day story begins, Ben, the sixth of the Hargreeves children, has already passed away but, fortunately, one of his siblings has the ability to commune with the dead. Unfortunately, said sibling, Robert Sheehan's Klaus, is deeply hooked on alcohol and drugs and is unable to use his powers properly while in such a state.
While Ben appears to Klaus as a ghost throughout season 1 of The Umbrella Academy, only during the final episode is Klaus able to physically manifest Ben - to the amazement of the other siblings. Ben's ghost seems largely ashamed of Klaus' hedonism but despite being quick to chastise his brother, Ben doesn't reveal anything to the audience about how he actually died. The other Academy members, with the exception of the time-travelling Number 5, clearly know the details of Ben's demise, but the event is only ever mentioned in hushed references, leaving viewers none the wiser.
The Umbrella Academy has now been confirmed for a second season and Ben's death remains one of the show's biggest outstanding mysteries. Season 1 may have left this question unanswered, but there are several breadcrumbs hidden in season 1, providing some hints and teases regarding what may have happened to Ben on that fateful day.
What We Know About Ben's Death In The Umbrella Academy
It's not clear exactly when Ben died in The Umbrella Academy's timeline, but deduction would imply that it happened during his late teens. In the Hargreeves mansion, a series of family portraits depicts the crime-fighting youngsters through the years and, in the first portrait without Ben, the other siblings are clearly at the beginning of adulthood. It's established that Ben died before Diego, Allison and Klaus left the Academy and before Luther spent years on the moon, so it would make the most sense for Ben to have died between the ages of 18 and 21.
The Ben-less family portrait also shows all of the team looking noticeably miserable, with the exception of Luther. Since Luther is the only Academy member never to leave, this hints that Ben's death acted as the motivation for Klaus, Allison and Diego to strike out on their own, since this too is never explicitly addressed.
When it comes to the manner of Ben's death, The Umbrella Academy provides conflicting information. After Number 5 returns from the future, Vanya ominously confirms that Ben's final moments were "bad," implying a violent end for her brother. However, when Klaus sees ghosts, many of them still are still sporting their fatal injuries in the afterlife. On the other hand, Ben's ghost looks more or less untouched, which perhaps nods towards a more unconventional death than viewers might assume. Had Ben died from a gunshot wound, stabbing, explosion or fall from height, the evidence would likely be visible on his spectral form.
What The Umbrella Academy Comics Reveal About Ben's Death
Usually, fans of a live action comic book adaptation can go back and check the source material to find out answers to certain key mysteries. This is not exactly true when it comes to Ben's death in The Umbrella Academy. At the time of writing, the Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba series has yet to reveal the exact circumstances surrounding Ben, despite the story being much further along that the Netflix series. Once again, there have been a few hints and clues, but no concrete confirmation or exploration of how Ben died.
In the Umbrella Academy comics, Allison claims that the Hargreeves siblings blame Luther for Ben dying, and it's suggested that he, alongside the group's adoptive father, pushed Ben too hard. Certainly, Luther is the most dedicated member of the group but there's no real suggestion in the TV show that the Academy pin any responsibility on their furry leader.
Furthermore, Way has since suggested that Luther won't necessarily be linked to Ben's death in the Netflix series, at least not solely. Speaking with IGN, the former My Chemical Romance vocalist stated, "I think that they all maybe have some involvement in Ben's death." If ultimately proven true, this would account for the general sense of morose unease when the remaining members of the Umbrella Academy discuss their fallen brother. The subject of Ben is more than just a sensitive topic or painful memory in the Hargreeves household, it's a huge shadow weighing over the group.
Ben Didn't Have A Cause Of Death Until The Umbrella Academy Came To Netflix
Interestingly, Way has also claimed that he didn't have Ben's death planned out properly before the TV adaptation was developed, and that while writing the comics, his intention was to simply address the issue at a later stage. In a Forbes interview, Way described his writing process as "improvisational jazz," where the details are gradually added to a rough eight-volume outline and the specifics of Ben's death hadn't actually been jammed-out until Way sat down with The Umbrella Academy's showrunner, Steve Blackman. In order to create a fully-realized TV series, Way was forced to flesh out his fictional world and it was only at this point that he came up with an answer to Ben's death.
Theories About How Ben Died In The Umbrella Academy
One popular online fan theory regarding Ben's death is that the character took his own life. This largely stems from the inscription seen on Ben's memorial statue, which reads, "May the darkness within you find peace in light." If Ben did commit suicide, that might help explain why his ghost shows no sign of injury and would also fit in with The Umbrella Academy's general message that training kids to fight crime was tantamount to abuse. Committing suicide naturally follows on from the idea that Ben hated using his powers - something highlighted in the bank robbery flashback - and could explain Gerard Way's claim that the other siblings share responsibility for Ben's fate. After all, it was they who encouraged a reluctant Ben to summon his inter-dimensional beasts and beat up bad guys. This theory doesn't, however, fit with the overall suggestion that Ben died as the result of a mission gone wrong.
The "darkness" mentioned in Ben's epitaph could also be interpreted more literally, referring to the monsters he's capable of bringing forth. This would account for Vanya's claim that something went badly wrong and fit with the idea that Ben wasn't comfortable with his ability. The season 1 finale demonstrated that powers can easily spiral out of control if not properly trained, so it would make sense if Ben was killed while trying to push his ability past its limit and summoned something he couldn't control.
Of course, it's completely plausible that Ben simply died while taking part in a routine mission, and that a formidable crook took advantage of his youth and inexperience to take down one of the famous Umbrella kids. Alternatively, if this were the case, The Umbrella Academy surely wouldn't build up such a sense of mystery around Ben's death, and instead would've explained what happened at the first opportunity. After so much speculation, a routine demise could feel like somewhat of a letdown, and therefore The Umbrella Academy could have something typically unique in store for the eventual reveal of Ben's death.
The Umbrella Academy season 2 has been confirmed by Netflix. More news as it arrives.