The Grandfather Paradox in ‘The Umbrella Academy,’ Explained
rick and morty Creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland have long declared their aversion to time travel, despite their series’ often cynical copulation with sci-fi concepts found in literature and philosophy, simply saying it’s ” a real shark leap”. Once you have introduced [time travel] to the canon of your show, it’s just a dangerous toy to take out.
Series that have released time travel in recent years often find the toy a bit cumbersome. (See: Russian doll and Loki). The Umbrella Academywho spent season 2 in the 1960s, returns with an even more ambitious use of time travel in season 3. And like the two Russian dolls and Loki, the series wants to change its timeline; he wants to go back in time to remake the future. The result is equally disastrous.
Unlike those other shows, however, The Umbrella Academy is perfectly fine to explain why his own time travel is so great – why it’s confusing, stupid and nonsensical.
Episode 3 opens with an instructional video for a well-known paradox, titled “Paradox Protocols: The Complete Guide to the Time Anomaly Commission – Chapter Sixty-Eight: The Grandfather Paradox.”
The video shows a boy, Elmer, who invents a time machine in order to go back in time and kill his grandfather, ridding the family of their current wrath. Of course, killing his maternal grandfather means Elmer’s mother wouldn’t have been born. (In the dramatization, Elmer kills his grandfather before his mother’s conception). That would be impossible though, because if Elmer’s mother was never born, then Elmer was never born either – meaning Elmer could not go back in time to kill his grandfather, because Elmer would never have existed.
This contradiction is called the “grandfather paradox”.
The Commission implies that it is possible to violate the paradox (or rather, it is possible to actually kill one’s grandfather), concluding the video with a warning: “This story is not true, but if it were the case, Elmer would have placed time, space, and all living beings in grave peril.
When Five and Lila manage to find their way back to the Commission, they discover the Paradox Handbook. Inside are the steps to follow should the paradox occur. Again, this book assumes that the time traveler can actually kill his grandfather. (A real paradox has no solution; that’s why it’s a paradox.)
This possibility is never explained in the series, and the fact of each of the characters’ continued existence given the untimely death of their mother is also never really explained.
In some ways, the whole concept of Season 3 is impossible, even in sci-fi terms. The series, however, doesn’t seem to care.
If he cared, how could he have responded to the paradox?
Is the grandfather paradox a reality?
The temporal paradox described in The Umbrella Academy has been discussed in literature as far back as the 1920s, when science fiction magazines debated the possibility of going back in time and killing yourself by killing your younger self.
This thought experiment eventually used the example of a grandfather, becoming colloquially known as the “Grandfather Paradox”.
The paradox is supposed to prove that backwards time travel is impossible.
If such time travel were possible, the time traveler would be put in a position to make changes that would make their own time travel impossible (such as going back in time, destroying the time machine, and killing his younger self or a grandparent). .) In other words: the time traveler does something impossible. Therefore: time travel must not allow this situation to be possible. Therefore: backward time travel is impossible.
Another way to think about argument is to consider the truth of two statements.
(1) The time traveler can kill Grandfather.
(2) The Time Traveler cannot kill Grandpa.
Both statements seem true. (1) is true because if he faced his grandfather with a gun, he could (provided he has the physical ability to pull the trigger) kill him. (2) is true, because killing his grandfather would make his own existence impossible.
If both statements are true, then there is a contradiction. If backward time travel leads to a contradiction, then it’s impossible.
We can answer this argument by saying that (1) is not true. It seems the time traveler box kill grandpa, but maybe the time traveler fails. The gun jams. He only hurts Grandpa. Etc. If any of these events occur, then the time traveler is prevented from doing the impossible: killing his grandfather. If he is prevented from doing the impossible, then there is no contradiction. So: a trip back in time is possible.
(If you’re interested in even more arguments, check out the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophythe time travel input.)
To describe time travel without showing a contradiction (and therefore an impossibility), most fictional accounts show that (1) is false; they prevent the time traveler from altering events. In many cases, the time traveler actually makes these future events possible (by Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter is the one who summons the Patronus by the lake, helping his past to escape death, for example.)
The Umbrella Academy, however, said shit, we’re changing the clock. How are they able to do this without making time travel itself impossible… well, that’s the paradox. And they don’t seem interested in exploring it further.
Maybe Season 4 will provide some answers. Or maybe the writers will take note of rick and morty and treat all of these timeline changes as consequences of multiple universes instead. No need to keep playing with such a dangerous toy.
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