The world of “The Boys” is a very dark and ugly one. Making superheroes “gritty” is nothing new, of course, but this takes things to a whole new level. While I’m generally not a fan of that approach, I have to say this series, so far at least, is well written, with good performances, great special effects, and some interesting and original ideas. What seems to be shaping up so far is supers who have far too much power, celebrity, influence, and corporate backing, the power games behind them, and a small resistance group of humans who are fighting for various different motivations. “Cherry” is the second episode of the first season, as the Homelander-led uber group “The Seven” start to get the first vague inklings of trouble on the horizon, while Butcher and Hugh take some fateful steps down their path.
Picking up exactly where “The Name of the Game” left off, Hugh stares at Butcher in shock over the news that Butcher is not, in fact, a Federal agent. The two of them argue about what to do next, and Hugh shows some serious naiveite about what they have to do with Translucent. Butcher eventually brings them to a shady contact of his called Frenchie, who is, among other things, a gun-runner, weapons enthusiast, and, as Butcher called himself, an “independent contractor.” Frenchie is not at all happy about being dragged into Butcher’s war against the “supes” as they’re called. We also meet “Cherie,” who seems to be Frenchie’s lover, and is certainly delightfully decorative.
Translucent’s absence is being felt already, as A Train fills in for him at a “Make-A-Wish” kind of event, visiting a kid who has cancer. It goes remarkably poorly, as Vought executives Madeline (the big boss) and Ashley (more mid-level) watch the train wreck unfold. Madeline makes some comments about how A Train’s appearances need to be handled. Madeline also comments that Translucent is also scheduled for a team up with the Deep on the following night, and details Ashley to find a backup choice. So far, they seem more annoyed than troubled at Translucent’s absence. From their comments, he doesn’t have the best reputation.
Still getting a feel for her new workplace, Starlight runs into Black Noir in the hallway. She’s her usual friendly self, and he apparently has no interest in such things. Getting more surprises, Starlight meets with Ashley and Trevor, from crime analytics. Apparently, these heroes don’t even really patrol, per se, they go where the experts tell them crime is going to be. I suppose it’s logical, but it seems very cold, and Starlight doesn’t really take to the idea. She’s even less happy to find out she’ll be working with the Deep on the next night. Out in the streets, Butcher and Frenchie speed along, going to an abandoned restaurant. They begin setting up special equipment and trying to find a way to deal with their super-prisoner. Hugh isn’t happy at the direction this is taking, and Butcher doesn’t really care.
After a brief montage of news scenes (someone challenging A Train to a race, a piece about stuffed Homelander toys, the Deep investigating the crash of the Mayor of Baltimore’s plane), Homelander has an odd scene with Madeline involving who is looking out for who, babies, and breast pumps. There’s at least a bit more depth to Homelander, or at least self-awareness, than it’s looked like so far. Hugh tries to do something nice for Translucent, and is bemused that even that simple act can’t get away from The Seven merchandising. Translucent continues to be unlikable as he responds to Hugh’s gesture. Hugh also checks in with his dad, which doesn’t go well at all. This is followed by an even more tense meeting between Homelander and the Deep. Homelander has a few things to say about what the Deep has been telling people, and makes his position very, very clear.
Frenchie comes up with an idea about how to take care of Translucent, and, after a lot of buildup, it utterly fails. Translucent mocks and threatens them all, although he’s in no position to do so. Frenchie’s method to keep Translucent contained is working, at least. Butcher has one last, longshot idea to try, and leaves to follow up on it. Back at Vought, we meet Anika, one of the workers in analytics. Madeline has come looking for her after a vague hint about where Translucent might be. Madeline raps out some orders as she leaves. Starlight is not at all happy about her mission, and Deep standing there bitching about his limited role does nothing to improve her mood. She has done some homework, and tells the more established hero off. I definitely wouldn’t want to get on Starlight’s bad side. Bickering done, they bust a drug smuggling ring (using Homelander toys, nice touch), and then Starlight is surprised when she learns some of the details about how these things work.
Butcher pays a call on someone he used to know, and I really wonder if he’s on good terms with anyone he knows. He makes a simple sounding request, and she’s not interested at all. He explains the stakes in vague terms, and she remains unmoved. We do learn what she does, and she does seem like a very useful ally to have. Hugh has a scene with Translucent, and the captured “hero” ends up sounding worse the more he talks. He does demonstrate a useful skill, and starts playing head games with his captor. Frenchie has a close call with some opposing forces, and Hugh seems to take inspiration from an old sign on the wall.
The Seven and their corporate backers are having a big event, wining and dining some government officials. Most of them are wowed to be so close to the big name heroes, but Senator Calhoun remains unimpressed by the people he’s meeting and the trappings around them. Madeline does her best to win the man over, but he’s not having it, although he does pay a bit of attention to a cute bartender. Starlight is out walking after her irksome evening and finds some more trouble. She does what she thinks is right, but we get a hint that this is going to come back on her. Frenchie makes another attempt on Translucent which fails, and then discusses recreational drugs and his own history with Hugh.
Madeline really doesn’t play nice, and is utterly ruthless when she knows what she wants. Let’s just say the Senator doesn’t have the night he was anticipating, and the set up is dead perfect. This is one of most creative uses of powers for something like this I’ve seen. Back from her eventful night, Starlight has an odd meeting with Homelander in the hallway. He compliments her secret identity, saying he gave up his years ago. After some awkward conversation, she leaves, we find out why he’s hanging out in the hall, and the man has issues. Butcher and his team try and figure out what to do next. Frenchie gets an inspiration from a tv documentary, and wants to jump immediately into his next plan.
I guess The Seven live in the corporate tower, since Starlight’s brushing her teeth gets interrupted by Ashley storming in, very upset about Starlight’s extracurricular activities. I admit, one of the things she’s so worked up about makes no sense to me. Ashley says Starlight “blew her secret ID” with what she did. The Starlight costume doesn’t have a mask, and they’ve been plastering her face all over the news. How is this any different at all? Starlight is worried about her future, and Ashley isn’t reassuring. Elsewhere, Madeline shows just how ruthless she is when she has a second meeting with Senator Calhoun. She makes their relative positions crystal clear, and isn’t in the mood to listen to him try and weasel out of her grip.
Also having a bad day is Anika from Analytics. She gets a shock when Homelander himself shows up. He has some concerns and isn’t going to be put off or listen to excuses. He’s fairly low-key, considering what he’s capable of, but gets what he wants and takes off to find his missing teammate. As Homelander flies over the city, Frenchie revels in telling Translucent what measure he finally came up with to keep the man under control. Translucent finally starts to understand he doesn’t have the upper hand here, and doesn’t take it well. The captured supe starts babbling, desperate to say anything that will get him on his captors’ good side.
Just to ratchet up the tension, Frenchie’s cameras pick up Homelander in the area. Frenchie and Butcher slip out to set up some distractions, which prove very expensive and show Cherie isn’t just a pretty face. Taking advantage of the distraction, Translucent does something simultaneously clever, gross, and taking advantage of Hugh’s kind gesture earlier. While Frenchie has a close encounter of the nerve-wracking kind, Translucent tries to play more mind games with Hugh. Homelander ends up taking off, and Hugh reaches a decision which is going to have serious repercussions down the road.
What I liked: Again, while it’s amazingly dark, this is a well-fleshed-out world with some great detail and believable, if reprehensible, characters. Madeline was amazingly clever with her deviousness. Homelander, for his faults, is definitely loyal. I get we’re supposed to, but I really like Starlight. Frenchie is a genius. Translucent’s escape attempt was slick, I have to give it that. The Crime Analytics section was a nice idea and interesting spin on things. A Train’s disastrous public appearance was funny to watch.
What I didn’t: The Deep really needs to get put in his place. Most of the characters are actually hard to like. I’m hoping we get some kind of hint about why Butcher is so anti-supe. It seems like Translucent had an easy way to get rescued, based on what we’ve seen and he had to know, and just… didn’t do it?
I’m liking this more than I thought I would, almost in spite of myself. I’ll give this a 3.5 out of 5. Credit where it’s due, there is some good writing and a few clever ideas here.