The Boys: The Female of the Species

Like riding the subway isn’t bad enough…

Things get even uglier on “The Boys,” which is quite an achievement. You keep thinking they’ve hit the bottom on how bad things can go, and then find out you’re wrong. There are grim events, interesting flashbacks, and some cracks in the ranks on “Female of the Species.”

The episode opens with Butcher, apparently happily married and with a dog even, enjoying his wife’s company. Nothing special or tragic happens, and, no doubt as intended, it left me wondering what happened to him between then and now. We see him in the modern era and get a few clues. I think he’s taking stalking his ex to a whole new level. Moving on with his day, Butcher surprises his contact at the CIA again, and they clearly don’t have a lot of good feelings for each other. She hints at knowing something about Translucent as the conversation goes on. It is impressive he managed to sneak into her office, so points for that. Butcher brings her up to speed on what they’ve learned about Compound V, and she’s mildly impressed, but demands more proof. It’s a brilliant move, really. We know the supes are utterly ruthless, so if she gets someone else to take all the risks, so much the better for her. Leaving, he touches base with/threatens Popclaw, who clearly is not having a good day.

Running surveillance, Frenchie and Mother’s Milk (still waiting for an explanation for that name), get into a weird argument that references marriage and Jean-Paul Sartre, possibly the first hero show to do that. Frenchie ends up raising a great point that Milk does his best to ignore. They are running down the sort of a lead they got from Popclaw. To me, it looks like they’re pretty bad at following people, but somehow they don’t get caught following oblivious noodle man down an alley, through a store, and into some weird secret tunnels. Eventually, they find some kind of hideout full of heavily armed men. Frenchie finds a woman locked in a cage, and decides to free her, which Milk objects to, but Frenchie does anyway. We very quickly find out why she was in a big steel cage as she kills all the men in the place and then flees. She’s definitely more than human and utterly savage.

For a great many reasons, I don’t like The Deep. I’m actually a fan of Aquaman, and this guy is not only a parody of him, but the personification of every bad joke about the character. Deep talks to his therapist, and decides he’s going to try and do something. Butcher remarks on the carnage of the scene while Frenchie does a careful search of the hideaway turned abattoir. Milk makes an important discovery and they try and figure out what this place has to do with A-Train. Frenchie and Milk argue again, and Hugh gets a text. Normally, this would be a good thing, but Butcher is on hand to twist it and make Hugh feel bad about something that should be a happy event.

Madeline and her PR guys talk about how to handle Translucent disappearing, and finally settle on a cover story. It won’t last, but I don’t think they’re aiming for long term here. Then, Madeline gets news about a hijacked airliner, and naturally goes into full “How can I take advantage of this?” mode. She recruits Homelander and Queen Maeve for her idea, and while Homelander loves it, Maeve clearly has some reservations. Frenchie and Cherie meet up again, and she gives him something important and makes a strongly put request of him. A-Train tries to sneak back to his weird hideout, sees all the cops, and takes off. Personally, if I was sneaking around, I probably wouldn’t do that in a well-known costume, but that’s me. I think Starlight is the only one of The Seven we’ve seen out of costume so far.

Madeline is making demands of some of her contacts on the phone when The Deep shows up. He tries to sell her on his new project, and she’s not remotely interested, or kind for that matter. A-Train pays a visit to Popclaw, and asks some pointed questions. She’s a decent liar, and he’s not that observant, so she gets away with it. He does bring up some things that make it sound like he actually cares about her, but she counters with his comments from the race, which I’d be pissed about, too. A-Train makes a few comments that show that whatever he’s up to, it’s not something all The Seven know about. The woman who escaped earlier (apparently actually called “The Female” in the comics) pays a visit to a nail salon and let’s just say there are some things a makeover won’t fix.

While a commercial featuring Deep plays, Annie and Hugh continue their awkward first date. They talk her childhood, prom, and first kisses. Hugh, clearly feeling the effects of everything he’s been through, blurts out a question to shake off what he’s reliving and gets an answer that makes things even worse for him. We then turn to the grimmest scene they’ve done on the series so far. Homelander and Maeve show up to deal with the hijacked plane. They fix one problem, but make things overall much, much worse, and show there are limits even for two of the most powerful beings on the planet. Maeve begs Homelander to do something, but he shoots down the various ideas, and shows he’s more concerned with their reputation than actually being heroes. A tearful Maeve has no choice but to go along with him, since he has a key power she lacks.

Butcher and Milk infiltrate the scene at the nail salon, gathering what intel they can. Things take a turn when A-Train shows up, and the team has to slip away. Between them, Frenchie and Milk figure out where their quarry is going and what she’s up to. Annie and Hugh’s date continues to be endearingly odd, and Hugh shows he really is a great guy, despite what he’s currently embarked on. Annie is also nothing like the corrupt group she’s with, and you just know tragedy is coming for these two.

Butcher, Milk, and Frenchie track the mystery woman to the subway and split up to find her. Frenchie shows some unexpected insight and empathy, managing to locate her, and showing her some of his own past. He almost has her calmed down when something spooks her and she runs off. Milk is furious that Frenchie has once again deviated from their plan. The two are within moments of coming to blows before they find something to unite against: Butcher’s pep talks. Annie finally reveals something Hugh has suspected and he reacts to it amazingly well. Then, while she’s away for a moment, he gets a vivid hallucination and is spooked into going along with Butcher’s plan.

The Deep goes off on his own, trying to do something he thinks is important, and handles it amazingly badly. There’s a casualty and huge mess even Vought Corporation is going to have trouble cleaning up and keeping quiet. Our mystery woman runs afoul of A-Train, but the team catches up and uses the speedster’s biggest weakness against him. They manage to find her later and do what they set out to. The episode ends with Homelander callously taking advantage of a major tragedy to push his own agenda, and he’s so slick and manipulative that even Madeline is impressed in spite of herself. Maeve is a lot less happy and I wonder if she’s going to turn against the others over this.

What I liked: This world is a very twisted place, but it’s really well imagined and fleshed out. Despite it being a “superhero” show, there are very few actual heroes here. That’s not generally something I enjoy, but it’s remarkably well executed on this show. Homelander is definitely more than a pretty face or a brainless jock, and that could be real trouble for the notional good guys. Frenchie has more layers than I would have suspected, and is getting more interesting. Annie and Hugh’s date was great, and I really wish I could see the two of them ending up together.

What I didn’t: Deep’s mission was flawed start to finish, and he really should have been better able to do it. Or at least not make it such a mess. While he’s slick, Homelander is a despicable person. I feel very bad for Hugh, who just doesn’t have a way to win in any of this.

It was an ugly episode, but well written, produced, and acted. I’m giving it a high 3.5 out of 5.

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