After bringing on the apocalypse in The Umbrella Academy season one, we find Vanya Hargreeves (Ellen Page) in a very different place in season two, both literally and mentally. Separated from her siblings in 1960s Dallas, Vanya is immediately struck by a car and develops amnesia. Without her past trauma to define her, Vanya becomes “much more comfortable in her skin,” Page explained to us at a set visit. And Vanya’s newfound confidence leads to a major turning point for her in The Umbrella Academy season two; she embarks on a romance with Sissy (Marin Ireland), the housewife who accidentally hit her.
After the accident, Sissy invites Vanya to move in with her and her husband as the live-in nanny. Vanya cares for Sissy’s son Harlan, who has autism; eventually, the two women fall in love and dream of running away together. Removed from the shadow of Reginald Hargreeves, “Vanya finds a nice sense of peace and solace,” Page said. “[It has] freed her in so many ways.”
For many viewers, the reveal of Vanya’s queer romance will confirm a long held assumption about season one’s subtext. When the show debuted the character in 2019, many interpreted Vanya as queer-coded. The show’s Vanya wears more masculine-looking clothing, for example, and in the final battle she wears a crisp white suit rather than, well, fighting nude like in the comics. Costume designer Chris Hargadon explained to Fashionista in 2019 that Page wanted to play “an androgynous character,” and that informed Vanya’s outfits and overall presentation.
Vanya had a tepid romance with Harold Jenkins in season one; after his villainous reveal, it became unclear if she ever really loved Harold, or if she just clung to him because he claimed to accept her in a way her father and siblings never did.
Interviews with Page also seemed to support that there was something else going on under the surface for Vanya. In a conversation with E! Online, Page described Vanya as someone who struggled to “have intimate relationships” due to anxiety. The actor then talked about how she was pressured to keep her own sexuality a secret to succeed in the industry.
“Before, Vanya was extremely shut down, isolated, and obviously deeply, deeply repressed,” Page explained to Nerdist. Hargreeves emotionally abused her and gave her drug suppressants from a young age, so it’s likely that Vanya never felt comfortable pursuing any of her own desires. In comparison, being with Sissy in the 1960s means she doesn’t have the shame and unhappiness that came to define her adult life. Rather than mock or ignore Vanya, Sissy and Harlan welcome her with open arms.
“Vanya isn’t conscious of what she’s done or what’s happened in her life,” Page said. “She’s just in the space where she’s, in many ways, able to just be who she is and be comfortable with that.”
This marks a key departure from the comics, and opens the door for a more sensitive and nuanced exploration of Vanya’s character going forward. At the end of Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá’s Apocalypse Suite, the siblings realize the only way to stop Vanya is to kill her. This is similar to the show, but in the comic Five actually shoots her in the head (while cruelly noting that he never liked her).
In the sequel Dallas, Vanya wakes up with amnesia and brain damage. There her amnesia is an obvious detriment, but in the show it becomes a strange blessing. Not only does Vanya become comfortable with pursuing a woman, but the fresh start means she’s able to repair the relationships with her siblings too. Vanya’s romance is just one facet of a more content and fully realized season two character. “This season [Vanya’s] very different because she’s just more animated,” Page said. “This is like a whole starting-off point, and an opportunity for her to just feel and explore exactly who she is.”
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