The Boys: The Self-Preservation Society

You’re about to find out why I’ve called you all here… and you’re not going to like it.

The Boys has been a very dark look into the world of superheroes. It’s compelling viewing, which is impressive as I generally don’t like shows where the majority of the characters are hard, if not impossible, to like. But the world building and the really twisted story, as well as the bits of history they’ve shown, have me very intrigued. Now, we see some more of Butcher’s history, someone get their arguably just desserts, and the main story gets darker and more dangerous as we see “The Self-Preservation Society.” There’s only one more episode after this for the first season, so things are really picking up steam.

Eight years ago, we see a big Christmas party at Vought International. Many of The Seven are there, and we see Butcher with his wife, Becca. It’s a bit of a shock seeing Butcher both clean-shaven and relatively happy. There’s some interaction between the Butchers and Homelander, and the leader of The Seven comes off as charming and more or less likable. He and Butcher talk about how celebrity social media accounts work, and Homelander seems utterly unfazed, even amused and agreeing with, Butcher’s take on it. In the present, Butcher spies on Hugh and Annie as they go to a hotel. The two have a very tender love scene, and, later, Annie asks some questions about what she doesn’t know about Hugh. He gives her honest answers, as far as they go, and you can see he’s feeling conflicted about his role in all this. In the Vought Boardroom, Homelander studies pictures they got from Mesmer’s doorbell camera, and finally puts some pieces together, which is going to be bad news for Butcher’s team.

The next day isn’t going great for most of the supes. A-Train is having some trouble as his brother pushes him through his paces for training, and tells the supe some harsh truths he doesn’t want to hear. The Deep, still in exile, gets acquainted with his newest posting, and it leaves a lot to be desired, considering the recent heights of wealth and privilege he was at. A-Train might have been happier sticking with the training and uncomfortable truths, as he and the others respond to a call from Homelander. The big gun is sharing what he’s learned, making Annie/Starlight miserable as she learns things about Hugh, and shattering A-Train’s self-confidence and arrogance. Homelander is clearly on edge under his calm demeanor, and is not above threatening his teammates to keep things going the way he wants. There’s a good circumstantial case for Starlight being part of the conspiracy against The Seven, and Homelander will do whatever it takes to get some answers. Surprisingly, Maeve speaks up for Starlight, and impresses Homelander enough that he backs off a bit. He ends the meeting, and clearly feels that not only is he in charge, but there’s no other possible way for things to be.

Butcher’s team is having a nice, relaxing scene, so you know things are going to hit the fan. Butcher is eating, while Frenchie is teaching Kimiko (The Female) the finer points of cooking. Hugh comes back after his date, and tries to have a talk with Butcher. Butcher is his usual disagreeable self, and Milk intervenes on Hugh’s behalf. Hugh brings up leaving the group, and Butcher argues with him as the others look on. The argument gets nasty, with Butcher admitting he’s been following Hugh, and Hugh getting surprisingly vicious in his comebacks. This gets interrupted by a call from Hugh’s dad, or, more accurately, dad’s phone. It’s A-Train, who is making threats and very comfortable believing he has all the advantages as he makes his demands. The others hear enough to get worried and find they’ve all been compromised. Butcher leaps to conclusions about what’s going on, but Milk points out the flaw in his reasoning. Butcher chews that over and figures out what really happened. Hugh, of course, goes to try and rescue his dad, and A-Train is smug and egotistical and overconfident. Normally, with a supe versus a lone normal, there’d be no contest. But Hugh isn’t exactly a normal guy anymore, and he’s learned a lot. A-Train gets a vicious reminder that speed is useless if you don’t know what’s coming, and is left to an uncertain fate. Milk goes to collect up his wife and child, and does not exactly get a warm reception, not that I blame her.

Madeline has a few surprises herself. She gets off the phone and reports a triumph for some legislation Vought has been pushing for, but Homelander doesn’t seem to care that much. He brings up Becca, and asks some questions. Madeline either is a superb actress, really doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or has done so many horrid things at this point she can’t remember them all. I could see it being either of the last two. Madeline makes a surprising offer, and is even more shocked when Homelander turns her down and leaves. Out in the sticks, Deep brings a woman back to his room and gets a lot of surprises. It’s a really ugly scene, and one could argue he gets what he deserves, but it was enough to make me uncomfortable watching. Down in the subway, Mesmer is clearly getting ready to leave town. Butcher shows up to tie up loose ends and get some payback, and there’s a short chase. Mesmer gets some idea what Butcher is after due to how Mesmer’s power works, but Butcher doesn’t take the bait and settles accounts. This triggers a flashback, and we see what you could call Butcher’s awakening several years ago as he gets a big clue about what happened to his wife.

Starlight is understandably ignoring Hugh’s calls as she tries to sort through everything she’s learned. Maeve is somewhat supportive in her odd way, and offers some bleak advice. The Deep goes shopping, has an odd conversation, and continues to be very dark comic relief. The team and their loved ones are gathered up in their hideout, as Frenchie has a bad phone call. Butcher comes in, playing very friendly, which is unusual for him. He has a few words with Hugh’s dad, then Monique, Milk’s wife. Monique is not happy to see him and makes that plain right off. Milk pulls Butcher aside and makes an urgent request, referencing something we’ve heard about but not seen. Homelander pays a visit to someone, and we learn a lot more about the mysterious supe’s actual past. At least a little bit of why he’s the way he is comes clear, and we also learn some more about another mystery, which has a very unhappy ending. Homelander makes a boastful statement, and gets an unexpected reply.

Hugh keeps trying to reach out, and getting ghosted. The team goes on high alert when unexpected company arrives, but Butcher tells them all to relax and shows he listens sometimes. The situation was needlessly tense, but Butcher isn’t the best communicator. This is the start of a team up, sort of, and protections are promised and valuable goods handed over. In the midst of this, Hugh hears back from Annie and agrees to a meet. Madeline has a very unpleasant meeting and learns her reach and influence aren’t infinite. As that wraps up, Raynor at the CIA gets a very unwelcome piece of news from one of the SEAL teams in the Middle East.

The episode ends with a really heartbreaking scene in Central Park. Hugh and Annie meet up, and she doesn’t like the answers she gets to the questions she asks. Hugh tells her some things she didn’t know and she’s shocked. Annie decides she knows best about what needs to happen next, but gets interrupted by one of Hugh’s allies who comes well prepared. Hugh flees, and Starlight gets a reminder she’s not invulnerable. The stage is set and the battlelines are drawn for the season finale. There are a few wild cards that I don’t know how they’ll come down, but it should be interesting and bloody.

What I liked: We finally learned more about Butcher’s background, and even some of Homelander’s. I hate where it’s heading, but I really like Annie and Hugh together. Speedsters are generally among my favorite characters, but I took some satisfaction in seeing A-Train getting taken down a few pegs. Homelander, while he’s a jerk, is smart, and I liked how he put things together. Madeline also has some out of control ego, and I enjoyed her setbacks this episode.

What I didn’t: I just find Deep unlikable, and the scenes he’s in don’t help. I get that Noir is supposed to be a Batman knock-off, but him never speaking and rarely doing anything is getting kind of old. I really don’t like where I think one of these sub-plots is going.  Well, many of them, really, but one in particular.

It’s a dark, ugly world, but well-executed and interesting. I’ll give this a 3.5 out of 5. The finale should be a hell of a ride.