Spoilers ahead for The Umbrella Academy Season 2.
Of all the characters that Five and his siblings meet in The Umbrella Academy season two, the most intriguing is probably newcomer Lila. Played by Ritu Arya (Humans, Feel Good), Lila is more complex than she lets on. On a set visit, we gleaned some hints about who Lila is and her significance going forward. Diego first meets her in a 1960s psychiatric institution, and according to actor David Castañeda, Diego has “met his match 100 percent.”
At the end of season one, Five managed to teleport all his siblings away after Vanya’s powers shattered the moon. The time hop doesn’t work perfectly, and they all end up at different points in 1960s Dallas. When Diego arrives, he almost immediately gets picked up by cops and sent to a psychiatric hospital. (As it turns out, raving about time travel while brandishing knives scares people.) Lila is one of the patients that Diego meets there, and for all intents and purposes, it seems like she’s only there on a lark.
It’s not long before Diego and Lila break out and begin to fall in love. Sporting choppy bangs and a chip on her shoulder, Lila is in many ways Diego’s perfect match. They’re both clever and cynical, and as an orphan, Lila knows what it’s like to to have an unhappy childhood. There’s a certain level of understanding between them. Diego’s empathy (learned from the late Detective Patch) also allows him to really acknowledge Lila in a way no one has before. Sure, she can be a little blunt and strange, but most of Diego’s acquaintances are.
Lila is not there just to be Diego’s love interest, though. By the third episode, audiences learn that she has much more hiding beneath the surface. There’s a reason she has a vested interested in following Diego and Five around; Lila is the adopted daughter of The Handler, who trained her from childhood be one of The Temp Commission’s assassins. Her job is to keep an eye on Five, and falling for Diego was just an unexpected consequence. (One that The Handler, as you’d expect, doesn’t appreciate.)
It would be too simple to say that being The Handler’s daughter makes Lila an antagonist. At several points, she does put her hand-to-hand combat to good use for her mom. According to Five’s actor Aidan Gallagher, Lila is one of the reasons that the “fight scenes get to be a lot cooler” this season.
Castañeda agreed, saying that “[Lila is] a badass, man,” and the choreography was so intricate this season that he “went to Thailand for a month to train in Muay Thai.”
From the get-go, Lila shows signs that she feels pulled between two worlds. Her relationship with The Handler has edges. Meeting the Umbrella Academy teaches Lila just how little she knows about her mom. Does The Handler dream of a better world for the two of them, or is Lila just a tool to achieving ultimate power? It gets increasingly blurry for Lila. Unsurprisingly, this relation feels like a conscious mirroring of the prickly, and often emotionally abusive, relationship Diego and the rest of his siblings had with Reginald Hargreeves.
It isn’t until the season finale that we find out why Lila feels such a kinship with the Hargreeves kids. It’s a bombastic reveal that will undoubtedly ripple forward into future seasons, so we won’t reveal it here. But it’s a much needed change, as Lila fixes a major issue carried over from the comics. The Umbrella Academy, as fun as it is, suffers from The Smurfette Principle—a term coined by Katha Pollitt to describe how films and TV make “boys central” and “girls peripheral” through uneven gender representation. (See also: Justice League, The Avengers, Jumanji, It, and Stranger Things.)
Vanya and Allison have long been the only lead female protagonists in a mostly male team, but Lila seems poised to change that. If anything, the twist means we’ll likely see a vastly expanded universe in future seasons. And with some Commission tech in hand, it’s also all but guaranteed we’ll see Lila again, somehow and somewhere.
Featured Image: Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix