I’m getting close to the end of the first season of The Boys. This world is dark and depressing, but oddly compelling. Things are building to a head as both sides are feeling the pressure and events gain momentum. A major confrontation is coming closer, we learn some motivations for major characters, and fewer and fewer of the characters are among “The Innocents.”
The celebrity/reality tv part of the world takes center stage for the opening, and through a few other bits of the episode. There are assorted bits of The Seven doing public service announcements/PR appearances. Translucent’s, amusingly, is an empty screen. The director and editor argue about some of the content, and then talk about Starlight not cooperating with the film crews. This harkens back to her dramatic speech at Believe! in in the last episode, with a lot of social media reaction and news coverage. People are overwhelmingly supportive of the heroine, which is nice to see, especially in this world. Trying to avoid all this, Annie and Hugh are in a bar doing a trivia contest, which gets amusing with some of the things he ends up knowing that she doesn’t. Hugh unexpectedly runs into an old friend, and we get reminded he had a life before being caught up in Butcher’s crusade.
The Vought Video team keeps rolling, and we see what appears to be Homelander’s life story, which is very similar to that of a certain Man of Steel that Homelander resembles. We start getting hints as to why that is, and Homelander has a very strong reaction to something that gets left out. While a mystified director tries to figure out what just happened, Mother’s Milk (still waiting for an explanation of that name), runs a briefing for his team on what they’ve learned. I don’t know why this was needed, as pretty much everyone has been involved, but I guess it makes him feel better, except for when the Female keeps interrupting to filch office supplies for her odd and ongoing drawing project. Milk and Frenchie argue about her, and Butcher seems to have suspicions about Hughie’s relationship with Annie. To everyone’s surprise, Butcher brings Hughie along for a special mission, leaving everyone confused.
Annie walks the hallways of Vought, looking around, and hearing screaming as she gets closer to Madeline’s office. I think it’s a great characterization that, not only is Starlight here the only one of the Seven whose name we know, but she’s the only one that appears out of costume. Ashleigh comes out of the office, clearly upset, and gives Annie a very odd ranting lecture before stalking off. Inside the office, Madeline tries to play her usual power and control games with Annie, but Annie isn’t having it, stands up for herself, and points out some things that even Madeline has to take into account. Annie being the only decent one of the Seven (except Maeve sometimes) leaves Madeline with no leverage. Annie learns something about one of her childhood heroes and then leaves. While this confrontation goes on, Deep does another PSA where his true self starts showing through, and A-Train finds his past being edited, as well as being asked awkward questions he lies badly about.
Not done with her difficult day, Annie ends up in an elevator with Maeve, who says some very jaded, cynical, completely in character things. Annie once again makes a stand and says a few things that surprise the older hero. Frenchie and his friend watch tv while Milk looks on. The two men argue about the woman, and Frenchie pushes a new idea. Milk utterly refuses, and then Frenchie shows that he really does have a sharp mind. After paying Hugh an odd compliment, Butcher brings him to a meeting that I’d never even considered, but makes perfect sense for this world. We hear some tragic stories, and then Butcher goes off on the whole group before storming back out. Realizing she has no options, Madeline summons Deep and lays out exactly what he is going to have to do. He is not at all happy, and proves very whiny and weak, which is no surprise at all. Deep has to go public with something he really doesn’t want to, does it badly, and then we see a really unexpected guest star and a reference to the Vought Cinematic Universe, which was a nice touch.
You have to give Milk credit: pushed into something he doesn’t want to do, he gives it his all, and we meet a new “supe” as they call them who is something of a fallen star. Milk applies just the right pressure and gets the man to cooperate. Milk uses both the carrot and the stick, does it well, and shows how much of a better man he is than Deep, who we just saw in similar circumstances. We see just what this new character wanted, and a bit more of his past, including a tv show and a tagline. Milk definitely found the right leverage for this guy. Hugh catches up with Butcher after his outburst, and we get a lot more information on Butcher’s motivation to go after supes. I’d be tempted to say it’s just another story Butcher is using to get people to do what he wants, but it fits with some other hints we have and just rang true. It does put some pressure on Hugh that he’s going to have to figure out how to deal with.
At the scene of his earlier video appearances, Homelander throws a minor temper tantrum that says a lot about both him and Madeline, who arrives at the end and makes an utterly cold and uncaring comment. She once again manipulates what appears to be the most powerful supe on the planet, and shows the lengths, or depths, she’ll go to in order to keep things going the way she wants. No match for her, Homelander behaves and does as he’s asked. Milk, Frenchie, and the Female (really, could we get her a name?) show up at the new guy’s house for a special meeting. Things go badly at first, but Milk keeps everyone on program. He doesn’t manage as well when Butcher calls, and reveals a few things that make everyone uncomfortable. Maeve does her own turn in front of the camera, when someone shows up and interrupts. Maeve tries to have a private conversation, but that’s hard to do with an unscrupulous film crew around. Really, most of the people that work for Vought are just outright asses.
Butcher arrives, tells some lies, and gets things moving again. We finally get a lot more background on the Female, now with a name! Kimiko has a tragic history, and it’s really disturbing to hear both how she’s been used and what was intended for her next. As more of this story unfolds, Homelander finds something that gives us the first glimpse of his background. Homelander is, in my view, an irredeemable jerk, but this does explain some of that. Back at the gathering, the rest of Kimiko’s story comes out, and it really is tragic. Butcher finally agrees to do what Milk is asking of him, rolling his eyes the whole way. Butcher leaves to meet up with his CIA contact after delivering a big threat. On his way to his new assignment, and clearly showing himself for the hypocrite he is, Deep has an unpleasant encounter at a gas station.
Susan Raynor, Butcher’s CIA contact, is clearly sick of the man, but interested in what he has to say. They do some negotiating, but she’s asking for a lot of trust, which Butcher doesn’t have. She also won’t agree to one of his conditions, which is the most important to Butcher. Irritated, he leaves, and Raynor no doubt is wondering what he’s going to do next. For that matter, so am I. Annie gets some surprising, and displeasing, news at Vought, and is at a loss for what to do now. Maeve actually seems sympathetic. Not surprised or helpful, but sympathetic. I think there’s still a decent person buried in Maeve, but she’s down so deep I don’t know that Maeve will end up doing the right thing.
Frenchie makes an offer to Kimiko that I’m sure Butcher would hate, but fortunately, the group’s leader, or at least driving force, isn’t around to hear it. Kimiko makes a surprising response, and then Butcher does show up. He shares the bad news about Raynor, which Milk clearly doesn’t believe. Butcher is all set to switch to a new mission, and then realizes someone is missing. We see the supposed new ally make a surprising phone call and then have a meeting in a strange place. It’s ugly and is definitely going to make things harder for Butcher, who was right in his harshness before that Milk talked him out of. Hugh, the missing one, is at the bar with Annie again. Annie tells a story that indicates either she is lying (which I don’t believe), Annie’s mother is lying (a lot more likely), or there is truly something unusual about Annie. Their date gets interrupted when Butcher shows up, playing the part of an old friend. When Annie leaves, Butcher hisses some strong words and is pushing Hugh places I’m sure he doesn’t want to go, and probably won’t in the long term. Butcher ends the conversation with a not so veiled threat, and I suspect things will be getting a lot worse in these final two episodes.
What I liked: The detail in this world is really well done. Lots of little things keep popping up that make a great deal of sense and connect to give a remarkably well-fleshed-out story in the background. Annie handled herself really well. I like her a lot, which makes me worry for her, and especially for her and Hugh. The group Butcher took Hugh too was grim but a great detail, and Butcher’s story after made a lot of sense. The small glimpse into Homelander’s past was disturbing, but well done. Frenchie’s ongoing attempts to do right by Kimiko (yay for her getting a name) speak well of him. The glimpses into the social media and general coverage of the Seven, as well as the behind-the-scenes stuff, gave us some great detail.
What I didn’t: I generally don’t like Butcher, his attitude, or the way he does things. I like even less that he was right about the new ally. I feel bad for Hugh. While he mostly put himself in this spot, he’s out of his depth with Butcher, who is taking full advantage of that.
This was another great installment of a very dark, twisted, but well-executed story. I’m giving it a 4 out of 5.