Halfway through the first season, I’m still not exactly sure what to call The Boys. There are supers, certainly, but very few heroes. It’s a dark world of power games (super and not), celebrity, and more vengeance than justice. There’s a good bit of action, but a fair amount of background for various characters is also revealed in “Good For The Soul.”
The show opens with Popclaw, hiding out in Havana after the fiasco at her apartment and A-Train’s clash with the other characters (I can’t really say our heroes). She’s clearly scared and desperate, which is thrown into sharper focus when A-Train arrives. She’s seeking reassurance, and is so frantic that she doesn’t notice that he’s pumping her for information about who may have learned about their secret Compound V. She’s putty in his hands as he gets everything he needs, and then makes sure that she won’t be telling secrets any more. He returns to the Vought Building and has a meeting with Homelander. Just a Popclaw was clearly not the one in charge of their talk, A-Train is without doubt not the alpha dog here. Homelander does a bit of a debrief, offers some small praise, and makes sure A-Train is going to focus on his next task.
In their hideout, Frenchie is continuing to try and reach the nameless woman they rescued, then captured. She’s clearly not anything approaching calm, or even tame, despite him making an ongoing effort. There’s a sort of odd, reversed Beauty and the Beast vibe going on with these two, and, given the nature of the show overall, I can’t help but think there’s a very unhappy ending lurking in the wings.
A great deal of the episode takes place at the Believe! event, a sort of big Jesus-con with lots of ardent worshipers and several famous supers as star attractions. Starlight is there, looking less happy about it as the day goes on, and Hugh is with her on a date. There, too, I’m betting on an unhappy ending, considering that Hugh is at least partially doing this as part of the conspiracy, or whatever you want to call it, with Butcher and Mother’s Milk, who are also in attendance. Because of the nature of the crowd, Starlight has been allowed to wear her old costume, that she likes a lot better, and she talks with Hugh about her past with this event. We also get to see her stage-mom Donna again. Donna’s first meeting with Hugh doesn’t go well, although it’s entertaining, and Butcher and Mother’s Milk assess the very heavy security. Butcher gives Hugh another task, and he’s not happy about it. Playing the political figure, and being hypocritical to an amazingly new level, Homelander speaks at an event remembering the recent airliner crash, that he more or less caused. Maeve is there, but ends up leaving, overcome with flashbacks. The two of them have a tense encounter after the event. She might be the one of the Seven with most conscience after Starlight.
Speaking of, Starlight’s next event at Believe! is a roundtable with some teens. Her past gets talked up a lot, and she has to field some questions that get increasingly uncomfortable for her. The priest sitting in with her is one of the types that make me glad I’m not part of organized religion, as he puts spins on all of her answers and evokes some of the worst of modern “Christian” stereotypes. Butcher, never one to leave well enough alone, picks a fight with a priest, and Milk gets him away before things get worse. Butcher then gets into a religious discussion with Hugh that I found interesting, at least until Butcher started being a dick. Or kept on doing it, I guess, as that’s pretty much his default setting. Starlight talks with her mother about some important doubts she’s having, and mom is no help whatsoever. Butcher slips away for a mysterious meeting, and Hugh, plagued by Robin’s ghost, pushes forward on his newest task, which also upsets Starlight.
Homelander makes his big arrival at the revival (had to), and then gets very irritated to learn that while Ashley the handler is there, Madeline, the big boss, is not. Homelander tracks her down while she attends to something important, and they have a tense discussion. I haven’t read the comics, so I have no idea where this story is going, but I really hope Homelander gets some of what’s coming to him. I am really growing to despise the man. Butcher’s secret task turns out to be dealing with some of his family, and that goes badly too. The ugly scene does give us some insight about why Butcher is doing what he does. Things start to get bad for Team Butcher when A-Train indulges in some very odd grieving which, through an accident, gives them a lead on one of Butcher’s team. A-Train and Black Noir take full advantage of the huge and powerful machine behind them and work Vought’s intel sources to run this down.
Hugh’s target is Ezekiel, a preacher super who we already know doesn’t live up to his wholesome image from some video we’ve seen before. Making things even more tense, Homelander is there, and starts chatting with Hugh. The special event that Starlight got Hugh into doesn’t go at all as Hugh expected, but once again, the man is great at thinking on his feet, and he bluffs his way through. For someone who just got dragged into this high-stakes world recently, after a brutal loss, Hugh is proving remarkably adept at dealing with this craziness. He also manages to get in at least one agenda item that I suspect Butcher wouldn’t have even thought to bring up. Hugh meets up with Milk afterwards, and impresses the man. Butcher, meanwhile, handles his family trauma in a uniquely destructive way.
Homelander speaks to the crowd at Believe! and there’s some really sickening mixing of political agenda, pro-super propaganda, and religion. Once again, Homelander veers off in his own direction during the televised speech, prompting a frantic phone call from Ashleigh and head shaking amazement from Madeline as she watches from her office. Shaken from her own earlier encounter with Homelander’s self-promotion, Maeve goes to see someone from her past. It’s not a great meeting, although we do learn a lot more about her past. Let’s just say that there are very few characters on this show who have led happy lives. Cherie returns to give Frenchie a warning before she walks off into the night and breaks her phone, making herself even harder to find. She’s definitely a lot more than eye candy, that one.
Buther and Milk are following up on the information Hugh got out of Ezekiel, and they bicker as they work their way inside. Frenchie calls them and passes on the warning he got, and they disagree about Nameless Woman. Her name in the comics is The Female, and that’s not much better than what I’ve been calling her. Butcher and Milk make a pretty obvious mistake on their job, and I’ll be generous and presume that they were distracted by what Frenchie told them. Starlight attempts to have a heart to heart with Donna, but her mother is way too wrapped up in the trappings of fame to really hear what her daughter is telling her. Frenchie decides to follow his conscience as he readies to run, and ends up freeing The Female (that’s just awkward to write). She doesn’t attack him, which is some progress I suppose, but she runs off.
Sulking back at Vought after his debacle last episode, Deep finds some news coverage of himself and hurriedly turns the channel. He ends up catching Starlight’s big address, which also doesn’t go as the organizers intended. Starlight starts off saying her lines like a good girl, but finally can’t take it anymore. She goes way off script as she does some very real talk, pleasing no one and drawing shocked gasps from the crowd. She also manages to really make Deep nervous, which I’m sure would please her if she knew. Butcher and Milk make a shocking discovery that may be the major secret behind the super population in this world.
Hugh finds Starlight after her speech (he’s the only one that clapped), and things start off tense. She thinks he’s using her like everyone else (he sort of is, which he, and I, feel bad about), but he makes a partial confession to her and they end up hugging and arguably becoming closer. Hugh does give a hell of a little speech there. Butcher and Milk run into some complications on their mission, and Butcher improvises brilliantly, if ruthlessly. Madeline and Homelander have a really creepy encounter, in which we see just how screwed up Homelander is, and the lengths Madeline will go to in order to maintain her power and control. It’s a really uncomfortable scene.
The final scene involves several of the secondary characters. Frenchie is trying to get away when he learns he’s already too late. He has a run-in with Black Noir, and this is the first time we’ve seen him actually do anything. It’s an ugly fight that takes a turn when The Female (I’m going to name her something, this is ridiculous) shows up, and things get even more brutal. It looks like this ends in another tragedy, but there’s a new development that surprises and delights one of the characters.
What I liked: The writing on this show is really impressive. I don’t like the world, or most of the characters, but the quality of the storytelling keeps me watching. We learn a lot about several characters, their backgrounds, and what they’re willing to do to further their own agendas. Black Noir’s fight near the end was really well done, and apparently two of the actors involved have actual martial arts backgrounds, which helped it look even better. The big reveal on Butcher and Milk’s mission has a lot of repercussions for this world. Hugh is impressing me more as this goes on, and I feel really bad for Starlight, and a bit for Maeve.
What I didn’t: Butcher and Milk missed something fairly obvious, and it was a glaring omission on their part. I’m not quite sure how The Female found Frenchie and Black Noir for that big fight. I’m also not sure how Butcher pulled off his trick during the fight on their mission. A lot of these things seem to fall into the “had to happen for the script” or “looked cool so who cares” umbrella, which I really think this show is better than.
I’ll give this a 4 out of 5. It’s a really dark world of supers, and it reminds me a bit of the Wild Cards novel series by George RR Martin, now that I think about it. I’m definitely invested enough to see the rest of the episodes.