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Retired FBI agent has new theory about who betrayed Anne Frank’s family to Nazis



Enlarge / Anne Frank in 1940. A new book, The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation, by Rosemary Sullivan, claims that a retired FBI special agent and a team of investigators have solved the mystery of who betrayed the Frank family to the Nazis.

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Former FBI special agent Vincent Pankoke was looking forward to a relaxing retirement hanging out at the beach when he left the agency. Instead, he was drawn into solving a famous cold case: the question of who betrayed Anne Frank and her family to the Nazis, leading to their arrest and deportation to a concentration camp. Only the father, Otto Frank, survived. To find his own answer to that question, Pankoke assembled his own crack team of dogged investigators. They spent five years poring over every bit of pertinent material, setting up an extensive online database, and developing an AI program to help them sift through it all and find new connections.

While admitting that the case is circumstantial and some reasonable doubt remains, Pankoke et al. believe the most likely culprit is a man named Arnold van den Bergh, a local Jewish leader who may have handed over lists of addresses where fellow Jews were hiding to the Nazis in order to protect his own family. The Pankoke team’s story was featured in a segment on 60 Minutes earlier this week (see video at end of post), and is covered in detail in a new book by Rosemary Sullivan, The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation.

Millions of people have read The Diary of Anne Frank since it was first published posthumously in 1947. It’s been translated into 70 languages and inspired a theatrical play and subsequent Oscar-winning 1959 film, featuring Millie Perkins in the title role. Anne Frank was born in Frankfurt, Germany, but the family fled the country and settled in Amsterdam after Adolf Hitler came to power. They didn’t flee quite far enough: the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands began in May1940 and eventually forced the Franks (and many other Jews) into hiding.

A model of the building where Anne Frank stayed, including the Secret Annex
Enlarge / A model of the building where Anne Frank stayed, including the Secret Annex

Anne received the famous diary on June 12, 1942 for her 13th birthday, around the time the Gestapo began deporting Jews in Amsterdam. On July 6, the Frank family began their lives in the Secret Annex attached to the office building at Prinsengracht 263, where Otto Frank had worked. It was only accessible via a door on the landing, kept hidden by a bookcase. Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleiman, Miep Gies, and Bep Voskuijl were the only employees who knew where the Franks (and later, the Van Pels family) were hiding. The four supplied the families with food and other necessities, knowing full well that they could be condemned to death by the Nazis for aiding Jews.

Anne chronicled their lives in the Annex in her diary for the next two years, making her final entry on August 1, 1944. Just three days later, German police led by SS officers stormed the Annex, arresting the Franks and the Van Pels family and transferring them to the Westerbork transit camp after interrogation. Kugler and Kleiman were also arrested and held at a penal camp for “enemies of the regime.”

Gies and Voskuijl were questioned, but not detained, and found the pages of Anne’s diary strewn around the floor when they returned to the Annex, preserving it for posterity. As the whole world now knows, 15-year-old Anne Frank died (likely of typhoid fever) at Bergen-Belsen between February and April, 1945, the day after her older sister Margot. Their mother, Edith, had died of starvation the year before.

A reproduction of Anne Frank's diary, part of a permanent exhibition about the life of Anne Frank at the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance.
Enlarge / A reproduction of Anne Frank’s diary, part of a permanent exhibition about the life of Anne Frank at the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance.

Katie Falkenberg/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

There were two separate official investigations into who may have betrayed the family: one in 1947-1948, and the second (conducted by the Dutch police) in 1963-1964. In both cases, the findings were inconclusive. Since then, there have been several independent investigations identifying different possible suspects.

For instance, Melissa Muller’s 1998 biography of Anne Frank concluded that a woman named Lena Hartog, wife of the company’s assistant warehouse manager, betrayed the family. In 2003, Carol Ann Lee came to a different conclusion in her biography of Otto Frank: the culprit was a man named Anton “Tonny” Ahlers, a member of the National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands. Stockroom manager Willem van Maaren was another suspect, and since several possible culprits knew each other, there is also the possibility that more than one person betrayed the Frank family.

A 2015 biography of Bep Voskuijl (co-authored by her son Joop) suggested that one of Bep’s sisters, Nelly, may have snitched on the Franks. Nelly fell in love with a young Austrian Nazi, had worked for a year on a German air base, and her political leanings had sufficiently estranged her from the family that she left their house. This theory holds that Nelly—who returned to Amsterdam in 1943 when her romance soured—may have been the anonymous female caller who (allegedly) tipped off the SS about the secret Annex, per the testimony of SS officer Karl Josef Silbauer, who made the arrests.

The Anne Frank House undertook its own investigation and arrived at a surprising new theory in 2017, thanks to the efforts of a historian named Gertjan Brock. It’s possible, Brock suggested, that there was no betrayal, and the SS raid was really part of ongoing attempts to track down purveyors of illegal goods. This theory holds that the officers just happened to stumble upon the Jewish families hiding in the attic.

Otto Frank, father of Anne, shows Queen Juliana of The Netherlands the hiding place of the Frank family during World War II.
Enlarge / Otto Frank, father of Anne, shows Queen Juliana of The Netherlands the hiding place of the Frank family during World War II.

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Brock relied on Anne’s diary entries from March 1944 to confirm that the SS may have received a tip about ration coupon fraud or illegal workers, prompting the raid on Prinsengracht 263. Several diary entries noted the arrest of two men (identified only as “B” and “D,” for Martin Brouwer and Peter Daatzelaar) who trafficked in illegal ration cards. “B and D have been caught so we have no coupons,” Anne wrote on March 14.

This would almost certainly have attracted the attention of the authorities. Also, police reports indicated that the officers who arrested the Annex residents had primarily worked on cases involving cash, securities, and jewelry, rather than focusing on hunting down Jews.  Those officers spent over two hours searching the property, suggesting they were looking for something other than the Jewish families.

All of these theories, and more, were considered and carefully studied by Pankoke and his team (standard cold case procedure).  They enlisted the services of an Amsterdam-based data company called Xomia, who provided the foundation for a Web-based AI program developed by Microsoft. “[I]t would enable the team to marshal the millions of details surrounding the case and make connections among people and events that had been overlooked before,” Sullivan wrote.

Xomia’s scientists warned the team that because it was such an old case, with so much missing data, it was highly unlikely that even their advanced AI system would be able to completely solve the puzzle.  However, the program would be enormously helpful in narrowing down the suspects and predicting the most likely candidate(s).

Millie Perkins sits on a bed writing on a tablet of paper in a scene from the 1959 film <em>The Diary Of Anne Frank.</em>
Enlarge / Millie Perkins sits on a bed writing on a tablet of paper in a scene from the 1959 film The Diary Of Anne Frank.

20th Century-Fox/Getty Images

Of course, first they had to build a database by digitizing the many historical accounts and official records of what had happened. In addition to scanning, the program could convert video and audio recordings to text, translate them into English, and make the database searchable. Many street names in Amsterdam had changed since World War II, so the AI also included a program capable of converting street names from a current map to a WWII era map, complete with geolocation tags for all the relevant addresses.

Among the links that the program revealed were previously unknown connections between policemen who went on the same raids and female informants who had worked together. Team member Pieter van Twisk gave Sullivan an example of just how useful the program could be:

If for instance, an address of interest came up in one of the files I was examining, I could very quickly cross-reference it within the database. Running the address through the AI would provide me with all relevant documents or other sources in the data store in which this address was mentioned. Sources where it was mentioned the most would appear highest. It could also give me a graphic on how this address was connected to other relevant items such as different people who were somehow connected to this address. It could provide a map with all the connections between this address and others and would indicate which connections were the most common. It could also provide a timeline of when and where this address was most relevant.

The investigation also incorporated modern law enforcement techniques such as behavioral science (profiling), crowdsourcing, and forensic testing. Investigative psychologist Bram van der Meer was tasked with analyzing the data collected on all the witnesses, victims, and other persons of interest so he could profile them, noting especially their likely behavioral responses and decision-making in unusual or stressful situations.

Retired FBI special agent Vincent Pankoke hard at work.
Enlarge / Retired FBI special agent Vincent Pankoke hard at work.

YouTube/60 Minutes/CBS

All this helped the team identify about 30 different potential theories for why the SS had raided the Annex, and they closely examined each one—a process that led them down the occasional rabbit hole. Sullivan’s book covers several potential candidates in great detail.

For instance, one of many interviews Pankoke and his team conducted was with an elderly Holocaust survivor whose own family had been hiding in another house on the Prinsengracht, and had been betrayed to the Nazis shortly before the Frank family. The culprit in that instance was a woman named Anna van Dijk, a well-known informant. There was also a policeman who had participated in both raids, yielding helpful information about both operations, especially their similarities.

Van Dijk seemed like a promising candidate for the Frank family’s betrayal, especially given her role in the arrest of a Jewish couple who had been hiding in Utrecht. According to Sullivan’s account, the couple were friendly with the Frank family, traveling to Amsterdam every month to get food. They were arrested on one such trip, and van Dijk posed as a fellow prisoner, convincing them to reveal where other Jewish people might be hiding—ostensibly to “warn” them to relocate in case the couple cracked under interrogation.

Otto Frank's copy of an anonymous note he received, identifying Jewish Council member Arnold van den Bergh as the informant who betrayed the Frank family to the Nazis. The handwriting below is that of a 1963 detective.
Enlarge / Otto Frank’s copy of an anonymous note he received, identifying Jewish Council member Arnold van den Bergh as the informant who betrayed the Frank family to the Nazis. The handwriting below is that of a 1963 detective.

YouTube/60 Minutes/CBS

Alas, the official reports Pankoke and his team finally dug up revealed that the couple had been arrested several weeks after the Annex raid, and there was no mention of a female informant’s involvement. Van Dijk and her husband weren’t even in Amsterdam in August 1944, having moved to a small town near Utrecht to infiltrate a resistance network.

By the spring of 2019, the possible theories had been winnowed down to twelve, further reduced to just four possibilities by midsummer—either because the team had concluded the discarded theories were improbable, or there simply wasn’t enough available information to warrant additional investigation. Among the discarded candidates was Nelly Voskuijl, whom Panoke et al. had initially taken seriously as a suspect. But then they found an interview with Otto Frank by a Dutch journalist in the late 1940s. Otto claimed that “they’d been betrayed by Jews and he did not wish to pursue the culprit because he did not wish to punish the family and children of the man who had betrayed them,” Sullivan wrote.

This focused the team’s attention on van den Bergh, especially since his possible culpability was bolstered by a piece of actual physical evidence. Someone had sent Otto an anonymous note. The note informed him that their family hideout had been revealed to the Jewish Council, a body forced to implement Nazi policy in the Jewish areas of Amsterdam. Van den Bergh was a member, and was named in the note. The original note has been lost, but Otto had made a copy of it, indicating he found the tip to be credible. The Council was disbanded in 1943, and its members were sent to concentration camps—all except for van den Bergh, who continued to live in Amsterdam. He died in 1950.

Arnold van den Bergh was likely trying to protect his own family from capture and deportation.
Enlarge / Arnold van den Bergh was likely trying to protect his own family from capture and deportation.

YouTube/60 Minutes/CBS

From Pankoke’s perspective, van den Bergh met all the standard law enforcement criteria. He insists that the Jewish Council almost certainly maintained lists of Jews in hiding, and as a member, van den Bergh would have had access to them. He also had a motive: protecting himself and his family from capture and deportation, by providing the Nazis with useful information. Finally, van den Bergh had opportunity, because he was free to move about, and was in regular contact with highly placed Nazis, so he could have passed on a list of addresses at any time.

This was also the only possibility consistent with Otto’s own cryptic statements over the years, although Pankoke’s reasoning on Otto’s behavior and motivations for keeping van den Bergh’s identity a secret are largely speculative. “Perhaps he just felt that if I bring this up again… it’ll only stoke the fires [of anti-Semitism] further,” Pankoke told 60 Minutes. “But we have to keep in mind that the fact that [van den Bergh] was Jewish just meant that he was placed in an untenable position by the Nazis to do something to save his life.”

The identification of van den Bergh has naturally caused a stir, although there is still skepticism about whether Pankoke et al.’s conclusion is correct. University of Leiden historian Bart van der Boom dismissed the theory as “defamatory nonsense” to the BBC, while Amsterdam University’s Johannes Houwink insisted that if lists of Jews in hiding had existed, they would have surfaced long before now. The Anne Frank House was more circumspect in its reaction, stating that the Pankoke team’s investigation was impressive, and had “generated important new information and a fascinating hypothesis that merits further research.”

A retired FBI special agent and a team of investigators believe they’ve solved one of the world’s most well-known and tragic cold cases.



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Review: New Chip ‘N Dale movie hilariously spoofs classic games, cartoons



Enlarge / When there’s danger!


Traditionally, when Disney films skip theaters and go straight to video, it’s not a good sign. That’s changed somewhat now that the Disney+ content beast needs to be fed, yet the company still differentiates between “triple-A television” like The Mandalorian and “cheap, kid-friendly movies” like the Air Bud series.

Hence, today’s Disney+ premiere of Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers—a PG-rated reboot with little in the way of advance press screenings—had us assuming the worst, despite of its comedy pedigree. The Lonely Island (“Lazy Sunday,” “Mother Lover”) is all over the film’s credits, but how much of the group’s boundary-pushing Saturday Night Live work could survive the family-friendly demands of a straight-to-Disney+ launch?

I’m here with surprisingly good news. Chip ‘N Dale is a self-aware comedy romp that families will appreciate. What’s more, it knows exactly when and how to toy with ’80s and ’90s gaming, cartoon, and pop-culture references without losing character development and physical comedy.

Time-to-male-strippers: only a few minutes (but PG-rated, we swear)

As far as the two characters' aesthetics are concerned, even rendering of elements like motion blur is different between the pair. The result looks pretty cool in motion.
Enlarge / As far as the two characters’ aesthetics are concerned, even rendering of elements like motion blur is different between the pair. The result looks pretty cool in motion.


The film is Disney’s best-ever hybrid of live action, CGI, and hand-drawn animation, with lead characters Chip (voiced by John Mulaney) and Dale (voiced by Andy Samberg) each offering different spins on modern animation. Chip combines 3D rendering with a cel-shaded filter, hand-drawn touches, and intentionally narrowed animation speeds in order to look like a living 2D cartoon, complete with tasteful touches of ambient occlusion and light-bounce rendering.

Dale, as part of a running gag in the film, has gotten “CGI surgery” and emerges as a fully 3D-rendered chipmunk. The film begins by zooming in on his disproportionate eyes and other uncanny-valley weirdness for comedic effect, but this quickly softens, and as the film barrels toward emotional, kid-friendly connections between the chipmunks, Dale eventually looks quite good, with his animated, glossy eyes standing out.

Mild spoilers ahead, but we’re being mindful of how easily spoiled some of the gags in this film are.

Samberg’s opening narration suggests that the phrase “Chip ‘N Dale” is likely to remind viewers of a few things—and it then flashes a PG-rated image of male strippers. The film’s script and visual gags do a masterful job of making similar above-kids’-heads references or blink-and-you’ll-miss-them jabs at the gaming and cartoon worlds.

The film’s most howl-worthy stuff skewers beloved Disney properties and Disney rivals alike. So much so, in fact, that I watched the entirety of the credits to see exactly who got thanked for allowing their biggest franchises to be either passive-aggressively mocked or outright, er, melted in this film. Though a few gags reach back to the earliest days of Disney’s film catalog, a majority will land for any parents in the room who grew up in the Gen-X or elder millennial camps. That’s probably not surprising for a film whose lead characters hail from the “Disney Afternoon Collection” of late ’80s characters. If you can imagine a cartoon that emerged or competed with Disney around that time, it’s likely to appear here in either obvious or subtle ways.

The duo, seen here finishing each other's... sandwiches.
Enlarge / The duo, seen here finishing each other’s… sandwiches.


Mulaney and Samberg each double down on the archetypes of their two characters: Chip is brainy and assertive as a leader but also a stick-in-the-mud about pushing boundaries, while Dale favors impulsive and goofy solutions to serious problems, albeit while stomaching some raging insecurities. We get to see each lead character move on from early ’90s fame to their “adult” lives for the next 25 years or so before they’re forced to reunite. Their old castmate Monterrey Jack has crossed the wrong loan shark, and Chip and Dale decide to bury their decades-old feud to do some rescuing and rangering. (One of the plot threads has Mulaney’s Chip opining about Monterrey’s issues, and if you’re familiar with Mulaney’s real-life trials and tribulations, you may darkly chuckle the same way I did during these moments.)

Reaching comedic heights that Never Stop Never Stopping couldn’t

The film’s biggest gaming-related gags are already lighting up social media, which I’m bummed to see as I write this review, but even if you merely glance at one of the jokes in question, you can still look forward to how far the joke goes—and how hilariously the film zooms in on the gag in question. The same goes for the method by which the film’s villains rope in other pop-culture references, enabled by a clever mechanism that lets the film’s art team go nuts with surprise cameos.

KiKi Layne nails a likeable-but-mild amount of earnestness while portraying an apparently huge fan of the film's leading duo.
Enlarge / KiKi Layne nails a likeable-but-mild amount of earnestness while portraying an apparently huge fan of the film’s leading duo.


But I’m the kind of cartoon watcher who thinks stuff like the Shrek series erred by too harshly skewering its cartoon contemporaries instead of establishing its own humor, jokes, and pacing. If you identify with that unease about meta-obsessive films, you’ll appreciate how well Chip ‘N Dale focuses its story on the relatable, uneven friendship between the lead chipmunks, with each sappy moment buoyed by adorable, scaled-for-critters environments and goofy humans-and-cartoons interplay. This film’s world is essentially a Roger Rabbit mix of humans and cartoons, only this time expanded to puppets, CGI creations, and more. Any time Chip ‘N Dale‘s momentum appears to stutter, the film offers up a dose of humor and whimsy.

The supporting cast is rounded out by an earnest human detective (KiKi Layne, If Beale Street Could Talk), a Gumby-like police chief (JK Simmons), and a few surprise antagonists (each hilariously voiced by the likes of Tim Robinson, Seth Rogen, Keegan-Michael Key, and more). It’s arguably here that The Lonely Island succeeds as filmmakers compared to their cult-classic comedies like Hot Rod and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. I’m a Lonely Island apologist, but even I’ll admit that those films focus too squarely on their central cast instead of spreading the humor out and developing more funny characters along the way.

This stylish top-hat ensemble might not be enough to save Dale today.
Enlarge / This stylish top-hat ensemble might not be enough to save Dale today.


By splitting the difference between formulaic Disney journeys and sardonic Lonely Island satires, and getting more comedic voices in on the gags, Chip ‘N Dale delivers something for everyone. Parents will arguably have more access points for laughs than their kids. Yet the film still has enough modern gags and timeless humor to keep kids from getting too stir-crazy as it builds towards a riotous conclusion—and if your kids have enjoyed live-action gaming films like Sonic The Hedgehog or Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, they should give this one a shot for sure.

Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers is now streaming exclusively on Disney+.

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Blizzard offers refund for nerfed $25 Hearthstone card



Enlarge / Shine bright like a diamond.

Last month, Hearthstone broke a long-standing precedent by selling a single cosmetic card upgrade for a whopping $25 (or a similar amount of in-game currency). Now that the expensive card’s power level is being scaled back, Blizzard is offering a generous refund to players who made that purchase—and it’s letting them keep the ultra-rare card, to boot.

Drek’Thar has been an extremely popular Hearthstone card since its release in December alongside the Fractured in Alterac Valley set. Thanks to the card’s ability to draw and summon two minions from your deck whenever cast (if your deck is constructed correctly), Drek’Thar was showing up in upward of 20 percent of all competitive decks this month, according to statistics, and decks with the card were winning more than 60 percent of the time.

A diamond is forever

For months, Hearthstone players could find a Legendary Drek’Thar in regular packs, craft a copy by using in-game dust gained from excess cards, or earn a “free” Golden copy by completing various in-game quests. Starting April 5, though, Blizzard added a way to obtain a new version of Drek’Thar: pay $25 (or 3,000 in-game gold) to purchase an ultra-rare “Diamond” upgrade.

Diamond cards were first introduced in a late-March Hearthstone update as a purely cosmetic modification to existing cards. The ultra-rare Diamond versions, which come complete with custom animations, are targeted at hardcore collectors who want to show off the rarest and prettiest versions of their cards.

For the most part, players could obtain Diamond cards by completing quests on the game’s Tavern Pass Reward Track or by collecting full sets of other Legendary rarity cards. Drek’Thar was the exception, though; the only way to get the Diamond version of that card was to buy it with in-game gold or cold, hard cash during his April sales window.

Many players weren’t happy about that sales tactic, as exemplified by a popular Reddit thread full of complaints about perceived greed on Blizzard’s part. “It’d be one thing if you’d get multiple diamond cards, but for a single card, it is not even close enough to be worth 25 USD,” user prplehuskie13 wrote in a representative comment.

Sorry for the nerf—have some gold

Fast forward to Thursday, when Blizzard’s Hearthstone update 23.2.2 scaled back Drek’Thar’s in-game power level. Now, instead of summoning two additional minions, the card only summons one when cast. The change has led to an immediate reduction in Drek’Thar’s usage and win rates, according to HSReplay.

These kinds of nerfs are pretty common when a card becomes too dominant in the Hearthstone metagame. And when they happen, Blizzard offers affected players refunds in the form of in-game dust that can be used to craft other cards (while also letting players keep the newly nerfed cards in their collection).

For players who spent money on Diamond Drek’Thar, though, Blizzard is going the extra mile with its refund. “Any players who own Diamond Drek’Thar at the time that the patch goes live will automatically receive 3,000 Gold when they log in as a refund,” the company wrote.

That’s enough gold to buy 30 packs of cards, which would usually cost $35 to $40 if purchased in various bundles. And that refund is on top of the nerfed Diamond Drek’Thar itself, which players will get to keep as evidence of their conspicuous digital consumption.

While Blizzard stopped short of giving actual money back to players who spent $25 for a Diamond Drek’Thar, the in-game gold is a pretty generous bonus for those who made the investment. And who knows—maybe it will make those Hearthstone whales even more willing to throw money down on a single cosmetic card upgrade in the future.

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A time paradox births a “freaking Kugelblitz” in Umbrella Academy S3 trailer



The third season of The Umbrella Academy will debut in June on Netflix.

The Hargreeves siblings return to 2019 only to find themselves caught in an alternate timeline where they were never adopted by their wealthy father in the official trailer for The Umbrella Academy S3. Instead, they must confront their alt-timeline counterparts, the Sparrow Academy, and ward off yet another apocalypse as they try, once again, to return home.

(Spoilers for first two seasons below.)

For those unfamiliar with the premise, in S1, billionaire industrialist Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) adopted seven children out of 43 mysteriously born in 1989 to random women who had not been pregnant the day before. The children were raised at Hargreeves’ Umbrella Academy, with the help of a robot “mother” named Grace (Jordan Claire Robbins) and became a family of superheroes with special powers. But it was a dysfunctional arrangement, marred by the tragic death of one of the children, and the family members ultimately disbanded, only reuniting as adults when Hargreeves died. They soon learned that they had to team up to prevent a global apocalypse.

As I’ve written previously, S1 ended on a cliffhanger, after Vanya (Elliot Page) rediscovered his powers and destroyed the Moon with the acoustic energy he accumulated playing the violin in a concert at the Icarus Theater. As the Moon’s fragments rained down on Earth, marking the start of the apocalypse, Five (Aidan Gallagher) offered to bring his siblings back with him in time so they could once again try to avert the destruction of the world. The S1 finale ended with the group’s time jump.

Enlarge / (l-r) Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), Viktor (Elliott Page), Luther (Tom Hopper), Five (Aidan Gallagher), Diego (David Castaneda), and Klaus (Robert Sheehan) returned to an altered timeline in 2019.


But that jump didn’t go smoothly. The siblings landed in the early 1960s, but they all arrived at different times between 1960 and October 1963 in Dallas. Five landed on November 25, 1963, just in time to witness nuclear annihilation linked to the fact that history had been altered when the assassination of President John F. Kennedy did not occur. Five managed to travel back to 10 days before the nuclear apocalypse and track down the separated siblings, all of whom had built new lives for themselves.

The Umbrella Academy had to figure out how to avert the apocalypse while negotiating a deal with the Handler (Kate Walsh), head of the Commission, so they could return to their original timeline. They were also being pursued by a trio of Swedish assassins determined to wipe them out. And we learned that their adoptive father, Reginald Hargreeves, was actually an interdimensional being with some pretty devastating super powers of his own.

The siblings ultimately managed to travel back to 2019, only to find that the timeline had been altered. Hargreeves was still alive in this timeline and had adopted five different “gifted” children who made up the Sparrow Academy—one of whom was their deceased sibling Ben (Justin H. Min), who appeared in the first two seasons as a ghost who could only communicate through Klaus (Robert Sheehan). In the new timeline, Ben is very much alive and remembers nothing about the Umbrella Academy or his original siblings.

Their dead sibling Ben (Justin H. Min) is very much alive in this timeline and part of the rival Sparrow Academy.
Enlarge / Their dead sibling Ben (Justin H. Min) is very much alive in this timeline and part of the rival Sparrow Academy.


That’s quite a setup for S3. Per the official premise:

After putting a stop to 1963’s doomsday, the Umbrella Academy return home to the present, convinced they prevented the initial apocalypse and fixed this godforsaken timeline once and for all. But after a brief moment of celebration, they realize things aren’t exactly (okay, not at all) how they left them. Enter the Sparrow Academy. Smart, stylish, and about as warm as a sea of icebergs, the Sparrows immediately clash with the Umbrellas in a violent face-off that turns out to be the least of everyone’s concerns. Navigating challenges, losses, and surprises of their own—and dealing with an unidentified destructive entity wreaking havoc in the Universe (something they may have caused)—now all they need to do is convince Dad’s new and possibly better family to help them put right what their arrival made wrong. Will they find a way back to their pre-apocalyptic lives? Or is this new world about to reveal more than just a hiccup in the timeline?

We know that Vanya will come out as a transgender man, Viktor, in S3, mirroring Elliott Page’s own real-life transition. And it looks like Ritu Arya will be reprising her role as Lila, the late Handler’s adopted daughter (and Diego’s love interest) from 1963, who can mirror the powers of other gifted people. Ben’s fellow Sparrows in the new timeline are Marcus (Justin Cornwell), Fei (Britne Oldford), Alphonso (Jake Epstein), Sloane (Genesis Rodriguez), and Jayme (Cazzie David).

It's Pogo! The super-intelligent chimp is Reginald Hargreeve's closest assistant.
Enlarge / It’s Pogo! The super-intelligent chimp is Reginald Hargreeve’s closest assistant.


The trailer picks up where S2 left off, as the Umbrellas confront Reginald, who insists they don’t belong there, leading to the reveal of the Sparrows and Ben. “When we jumped here we created a time paradox,” Five explains. “Our little paradox brought forth the freaking Kugelblitz.” In physics, a kugelblitz is a black hole formed from radiation rather than matter. In the series, the Kugelblitz is a glowing cube that seems to be some kind of powerful weapon. It might just be turning into a black hole (if it isn’t one already), since it seems the paradox is swallowing everything up. That’s right, we’ve got another looming apocalypse on our hands, and only four or five days to save the world.

It’s good to see that the wry humor that raised S2 above its rather more dour freshman outing is intact. There’s the inevitable battle between Umbrellas and Sparrows, but perhaps they’ll decide to combine their gifts and work together, because apocalypse. There’s a great scene where Viktor tells Marcus that he’s not better than him. “I ended the world twice,” Viktor says. “And you? You’re just meat and spandex.” Burn!

Could this be an alt-timeline take on the comics' Hotel Oblivion?
Enlarge / Could this be an alt-timeline take on the comics’ Hotel Oblivion?


We might meet the alternate versions of the Umbrellas in this new timeline, since even though they weren’t adopted by Hargreeves, they should still exist. And what should our originals do when they meet those other selves? Diego wants to kill that self, and Klaus wants to sleep with his counterpart. (“Oh, come on, as if you wouldn’t climb Luther Mountain,” he says when Luther objects.) Avoidance is the wisest course of action, which probably means nobody will take it.

And is that the Hotel Oblivion making an unexpected appearance, renamed the Hotel Obsidian? In the comics, the hotel is a tower on another planet, built by Hargreeves, that serves as a prison for all the criminals captured by the Umbrella Academy. It’s briefly mentioned in The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite and plays a major role in 2019’s The Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion, in which a supervillain named Perseus X breaks out all the prisoners in 1980. We’ll have to see how much, if any, of this storyline will find its way into the series—it doesn’t look like the hotel is on another planet, and the name has been changed—but its presence here in an alternate timeline is intriguing.

The third season of The Umbrella Academy drops on Netflix on June 22, 2022.

Listing image by YouTube/Netflix

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