The season finale of Season 3 of The Boys has been one of the most anticipated ever. It’s honestly been so much fun watching the excitement ramp up each week for each episode – it was a brilliant decision on Eric Kripke and Prime Video’s part to release the episodes over five weeks instead of all at once, especially with the insane promotion we were treated to each week. I watched the whole season before it streamed in the press screeners, but I still felt entirely swept up in the anticipation and excitement (and, let’s face it, dread!) each week.
The cast traveled to Brazil for four wild days of promotion, which only served to amp up the anticipation even more. We were treated to interviews and red carpets and the cast all having a bloody good time. And Jensen Ackles looking like this.
Now that everyone has had a chance to watch it, this is the spoilery recap and review of the season finale, so SPOILERS ahead. LOTS OF THEM!
I’ve been watching this show since its beginning and have loved it since then, but Season 3 has been a whole different ballgame. As a passionate Supernatural fan, the addition of Jensen Ackles as Soldier Boy meant that I was even more excited about this season, but even I wasn’t prepared for just how much I’d be drawn in by the character or just how complicated my feelings about Soldier Boy would be. He’s an asshole and a bigot and a bully, but Ackles also portrays him with vulnerability and humor and at times he’s almost charming. I feel like I should not have been hoping for any kind of redemption arc for Soldier Boy, and yet I found myself nervous as hell going into the finale, hoping that a) he wouldn’t be killed off and b) he might find at least a little bit of redemption. Help save the day, maybe?
Well… I should know Eric Kripke better than that by now!
I’ve been writing a lot about this season of The Boys being all about choice, and the season finale sees every main character have to make some difficult ones.
Passing It On From Father To Son – Or Not
This season is also about the intergenerational transmission of trauma, and the toxic masculinity messages that are passed down from fathers to sons. One of those messages is about strength and power. All the men whose fathers were abusive, with either physical or verbal violence or both, have a hard time not repeating the cycle.
Butcher’s father was both, and those toxic messages are ever-present in his head, bleeding out of him in eruptions of physical violence and caustic, cruel barbs thrown at enemies and friends alike.
In this episode, he vacillates wildly between giving into those violent impulses, laser focused (heh heh) on taking down Homelander and willing to use anyone as a weapon to do that, and trying to hang onto the caring part of him that wanted to protect Lenny and now wants to protect Hughie. He never does tell Hughie about the Temp V being fatal, but he unceremoniously knocks him out with a punch and shoves him in a convenience store bathroom to keep him from taking it again. So, a few points at least in his favor?
On the other hand, he’s been fine with using Frenchie and Kimiko and now Soldier Boy to get the revenge he wants, and he’s as manipulative as ever in this episode, as he repeatedly tells Soldier Boy that Homelander is not really his son. We see Soldier Boy’s ambivalence several times, hesitating to kill his own son and emotional about having a child – but Butcher knows to play to the rage he feels at being tossed aside and replaced, focusing that rage on Homelander by telling Soldier Boy that he is his replacement and the reason he was tortured. Well played, Butcher, but chillingly cruel.
Homelander was not just abused but neglected, deprived of not just a father but a mother too. A sensitive boy like Butcher seems to have been, he too had that knocked out of him with cruelty, absorbing the same message that to be “a man” you must not only be strong and powerful but unfeeling too. Showing vulnerability is weakness, unmanly. Both men struggle to have any kind of healthy relationships – even Butcher’s with his wife was doomed once Ryan existed – and both have been increasingly isolated and alone as this season progressed.
The season 3 finale of The Boys was a tour de force for the entire cast and crew, from the writing to the directing to the effects to the score, and certainly the performances from every single actor. I’ve been a Jensen Ackles fan since Supernatural premiered way back in 2005, so I know how powerful his acting is, but to see him bring to life an entirely different character in this season, who is so very not Dean Winchester, has been eye opening nevertheless. He brings to Soldier Boy not just the toxic masculinity we were expecting, but a vulnerability that is unexpected, with subtle expressions and gestures and tone of voice, showing us so much more than we would have understood from the dialogue alone.
SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE SEASON FINALE!
In the finale, Soldier Boy opens up to Butcher as the two drink together, perhaps sensing that they share some big time daddy issues. As a manufactured superhero who’s had to hold up a fake persona for literally a century, Soldier Boy seems relieved to tell the truth – the Soldier Boy Story movie was BS. He wasn’t a poor kid with a heart of gold on the streets of South Philly who woke up with abilities; his father owned half the steel mills in the state.
Soldier Boy: I went to boarding school. Got kicked out of boarding school. Because I was a fuck up. But he made sure I knew it.
This Butcher can relate to, intimately, asking if he used a belt (like Butcher’s father did).
Soldier Boy: Never laid a hand on me. He couldn’t be bothered. Said I was a disappointment. Not good enough to carry his name. So I went to his golf buddies in the War Department and they got me into Dr. Vought’s Compound V trials. I became a superhero. Strongest man alive, fuckin’ ticker tape parades when I came home.
He says it all with bravado, trying to keep the persona up even as he’s finally telling the truth. What did the old man say then, Butcher wonders.
Soldier Boy: Ah. He said I took a short cut. That a real man wouldn’t have cheated.
That toxic masculinity that Soldier Boy has been embodying all season laid out in his father’s brutal, intentionally cruel accusation, fueled with misogyny and homophobia, cut deep. That disgust that his son wasn’t a ‘real man’ and that complete rejection, even after Ben had transformed himself completely into what he was certain his father wanted him to be, must have been devastating. He must have thought that his father would surely love him then, only to be rejected once more.
The pain he still carries from that rejection is clear on Soldier Boys’ face, the way he hangs his head, suddenly feeling vulnerable.
I spoke to Jensen Ackles in an exclusive one on one interview about that scene in the finale, which is one of my favorites of the entire season. In typical Jensen fashion, he gave credit to all the talented people who collaborate to make the show so special.
Lynn: Hearing the backstory of how his father treated him, I felt like I started to “get it” a little. Not that it excuses his behavior, but it starts to explain it. And you made the decision to play the character with a lot of nuance, vacillating between vulnerability and trying to connect to others, and then just erupting in rage. It’s dizzying to watch all that happen within the space of seconds, but the best part of the character is that you really pulled that nuance off. Was that an explicit note to make that nuance part of the character or something you inferred?
Jensen: A lot of that is in the script, it’s just really good writing. Kripke is such a vivid storyteller with his words, and he does it in such a precise, almost surgical way, that in reading it – not just Kripke but his whole writing staff is so talented – that a lot of that nuance is either right there on the page or certainly implied. And they allow us to kinda navigate it and find it. So I definitely was looking for that, and that’s a note that he’s been giving me since the beginning of Supernatural.
Lynn: It was so much a part of Supernatural also, yes. A big part of why I fell for Dean Winchester so hard.
Jensen: It’s nice to know he’s still encouraging us to find the nuances of the scenes and make those moments in between the moments count.
Lynn: Well, you did. I was a little angry at you, like damn it, I knew he was gonna put just enough vulnerability in there that I was not gonna be able to just outright hate this character. And the entire fandom has been flailing along with me with the same quandary, so good job, good job.
Jensen: It was fun to play those colors, to be just such an outwardly gross character, but to play him in a way that you do feel bad, you feel bad for this big guy’s journey even though you shouldn’t.
Lynn: I think that’s exactly it. I felt bad even though I kept saying, what are you doing? It got to the point when I thought he might die and I was yelling at the screen no no no no don’t die don’t die!
Lynn: This episode was painful to watch because of all my conflicting feelings. But Supernatural was also painful, so I guess maybe that’s just me…. Don’t judge.
Jensen: (laughing) Maybe that’s what we should be delving into, Lynn. What does this say about you?
Lynn: Oh no, let’s not go there…
Luckily, he let me off the hook.
In the end, Soldier Boy can’t accept what his son is offering, even though he has wanted a chance to raise a child and “do it better”. But Soldier Boy is confronted with a son who personifies all the things he hates most about himself – all the things his father accused him of. It’s tragic that, in the final moment, Soldier Boy can’t shake loose of his father’s brutal definition of what it is to be a man. All he can see is Homelander looking weak. A disappointment. All those things that his father called him, and that he constantly fears in himself, and so he can’t bear to see that in his own son. So he lashes out, recapitulating his own father’s rejection and cruelty.
But he does it with no joy; his face reflects the pain he too is feeling, his inescapable disappointment in himself. And of course, there are tragic consequences.
At least he’s not dead – Eric Kripke has said that Soldier Boy will definitely be back at some point and Jensen has said that if Kripke asks, he’ll come running. I swear, I could hear the sigh of relief from the entire fandom from all over the globe at that moment. Thanks for making us care so much, Jensen and Eric. I think.
Stay tuned for my deep dive on The Boys season finale – coming later today!
The season finale of The Boys Season 3 has all the over the top fight scene showdowns we would expect from a finale episode – but it also has so much more. And much of that is a dizzying mix of heartbreaking and hopeful. Those emotions are so far apart that rocketing back and forth between them is what I called in my review of last week’s episode a mindfuck, and this week is even moreso. Back on the roller coaster for the finale, though – I’ve admitted that the twists and turns and speed are both terrifying and exhilarating, so I keep opting to climb right back on.
There are a lot of reckonings in the final episode. Some of the characters find their lines and then pick a side – and it’s not always the one we’re expecting them to pick. I went into watching this episode holding my breath, because despite all of us knowing he’s a Class A asshole, most of the show’s fans do not want Season 3 to be the last we see of Jensen Ackles as Soldier Boy.
The character is a big departure from Soldier Boy of the comics, from his overt cowardice to his origins (and not being the father of Homelander). That left Kripke and company the room to create a character that is much more nuanced and complex, and then to cast someone as brilliant as Ackles to portray him. The cast has been effusive in saying that Jensen “fit right in” and Ackles, in his customary humble way, has said that he was just hoping not to mess up a dynamic that was already working perfectly (which it was). All of that shows. Soldier Boy, Butcher and Hughie was the trio I had no clue I needed until they were on my screen – and now I definitely want MORE.
As I pushed play on this episode, now knowing that Homelander is Soldier Boy’s son, I had about a thousand hypotheses of which direction things could go. Suffice it to say, I bit my nails a lot while watching – and that I was still shocked. And once again, I felt more than I anticipated and more than I wanted to. No spoilers in this article for the finale episode, but HANG ON TIGHT! Here are my non-spoilery thoughts after watching the season finale, now that I’ve (sort of) composed myself.
The final episode revisits the main themes of the season, including toxic masculinity, which Kripke and many of the actors have talked about in interviews throughout the season. Almost every character struggles with what that means and what that role entails. Is masculinity inextricably linked with ‘strength’ and ‘saving people’ and if so, how is that defined? Who gets to define it?
The theme extends beyond gender. The Boys has an interesting twist to the “saving people, hunting things” mantra that Kripke wove into Supernatural, asking if it really matters who’s doing the saving. And there’s an underlying theme that’s deeper, and one that struck me as very real life – what does it do to the person who needs to be saved? Does being saved translate to weakness and saving to strength? Would we even be asking that question if we weren’t as a culture obsessed with being badass in some oddly strict definition of the word, no matter how we identify? It’s part and parcel of the whole superhero genre, but is that a message that’s actually helpful? Sometimes being strong isn’t about being able to laser someone in half or throw them across the room. Sometimes it’s about being there for someone else when they need it, even if that doesn’t look very badass. As a psychologist, I am awed when I see that kind of strength in my clients – ordinary human beings doing extraordinary things to help others. That’s a whole different definition of badass.
And what of the definitions that our culture instills in us? All those gendered stereotypes about what strength looks like, the strict boundaries of “what it means to be a man”. As this entire series has vividly shown, and perhaps this season especially, some of those rules and norms are toxic, harming the individual and everyone around them. Driving people away. The idea that you don’t need anyone, that relationships aren’t important, that everyone is a threat to your place in the hierarchy. That you can never be the one who needs saving. The reiteration of a hierarchy that says someone has to be the alpha male and everyone else has to fall in line – and that if you are that alpha male you have to hang onto that spot no matter what or who gets sacrificed. Do you have to internalize those rules you learned from a flawed parent and live by them, or can you decide to make your own rules? And will it be too late if you do?
I said in my review of the last episode that The Boys comes from a very Freudian perspective – that we are inevitably shaped by our pasts, whether we want to be or not. Especially, as Freud believed, those early years and our first caregivers. But neither Freud nor The Boys would say that there’s no escaping that early experience, even if it was traumatic. As Kimiko says in this episode, “Our past is not who we are. I thought I’d always be broken, but you saw something in me.” The question is, which of these characters can see that something in themselves, and will it be enough for them to break away?
The heartbreaking answer is that for some, no it will not.
One of the reasons this season, and especially these last few episodes, hit me so hard is because they also echo some of the main themes of Supernatural. There’s a reason I was and always will be so emotional about that show. This season of The Boys looks at family and its importance in our lives and its many definitions, just as Supernatural did. Family by blood, family by choice, family by shared time in a foxhole trying to survive. Family as the support system who gets you through, and family as abusive and controlling and ultimately soul-destroying. Family as the people who give you those ideas about what it means to be a man or a woman without leaving any space for any other options, and demonstrate those rules with the abuse that makes them unforgettable.
Sometimes. Sometimes the cycle doesn’t get broken – and I hate that.
There are vivid reminders that abuse doesn’t always mean beating the shit out of someone (though sometimes it does). Words can do lasting damage just as easily, and sometimes those are even harder to forget or fight back against – because it’s your own self you’re talking back to. (The Boys makes that literal at times, which I invariably love an unreasonable amount). The voices in our heads can talk us out of irrational thoughts that hold us back, or they can talk us into staying afraid and trying to stay safe the only way we’ve learned. With all the trauma and PTSD in The Boys, it’s inevitable that both of those voices exist – and are sometimes given voice themselves!
The messages about fathers and sons in this show are Freudian in their flavor too. There’s a tremendous fear of betrayal, the darkest side of competition, mixed with heartbreaking longing, very Oedipal. Sometimes I hope desperately that the message will be different, but this show has never been one to avoid the dark side.
The season ultimately turns out to be all about choice – as Kripke’s shows often are. Do you choose to have power if you can, or do you turn it down? Is there something worth giving it up for? Conversely, is there something worth holding onto it for, even if there is a price? There are no easy answers for any of the characters, and that holds true in the real world too.
I love that a show that’s entirely ‘out there’ rings so true for what is right here in front of us every single day. I love that it reflects the worst of humanity, specifically mirroring the things that make my stomach turn on a daily basis – and that it also reflects the best. It’s dark as hell, and disturbing, and sometimes truly painful to watch, but it makes me think and it makes me feel. It gets the wheels turning as fast as that roller coaster barrels down the steepest hill and leaves me just as breathless.
One more ride on the rollercoaster? Sign me up.
Do not miss the season finale of The Boys this Friday (or tonight if we’re lucky), and be prepared for some of the twists and turns not being what you expect. Season 4, anyone?
Only one more episode of Season 3 of The Boys to go, and I don’t think anyone is ready for this wild ride to be over! This week’s episode, ominously titled “Here Comes A Candle To Light You To Bed” brought one of the biggest revelations of the series, and delivered it in a way that ensured it left a powerful impact. I know some people guessed what was coming, but I wasn’t one of those people, so it left me gobsmacked and repeating WTF more than once. Luckily I love it when this show can surprise me, so this is far from a complaint.
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD, SO BE SURE YOU’VE WATCHED THE EPISODE FIRST!
It’s been amusing, as a long time Supernatural fan, to watch the rest of the world discover Jensen Ackles’ acting brilliance as they watch this season of The Boys. He gave a tour de force in this episode, once again making me feel a ridiculous range of emotions that shouldn’t be possible for one character – especially one like Soldier Boy. And yet…
Look, even the official accounts can’t help but get a little heart eyed over this character (and the guy who so vividly portrays him).
More than anything, this episode was about agency and choice, as many of the characters confront their own fears and make decisions about their trajectories in life that acknowledge those fears but refuse to be constrained by them. Homelander and Vought (as now personified by Ashley) continue to hold power by wielding that fear, Ashley utilizing their voicepiece Cameron Coleman to cast doubt on Annie’s accusations. Surely no one can take her seriously when she’s clearly just a woman scorned, and oh by the way, doesn’t she have ties to known terrorists and human traffickers? No wonder she started a home for runaway girls! Imagine a world where the real bad guys take the moral high ground to silence a voice for change and people just believe it…oh wait.
Maeve is one of the characters who has faced the worst case scenario and decided she’s willing to lose it all to go up against Vought and Homelander. He visits her to see if he can find out where Butcher and Soldier Boy are, trying to scare her by saying that Soldier Boy has already killed seven supes and fried the power out of others – reminding her that could happen to any of them. His fear mongering doesn’t work on her anymore though.
Maeve: That’s the difference between you and me. You need to be a supe; I can’t wait til it’s over.
In one of the many parallels in this episode, Homelander recalls almost fondly that at one time he wanted to have kids with Maeve, just as Soldier Boy recalled the same about Crimson Countess previously. In an eerily prescient theme for what’s going on in the real world right now, Homelander assures her that he’d never force himself on her – but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t harvest her eggs against her will to make himself some kids. It’s a shocking attempt to control her body and her reproductive decisions and how the hell are Kripke and this show always so good at predicting the dystopian future?
Maeve refuses to give him the upper hand though, saying that the day is still a top three for her, because she saw him scared. Touche.
Later, Homelander speaks at a rally and attacks Starlight once again when he’s supposed to be rallying in support of candidate Robert Singer (Supernatural’s own Jim Beaver). Homelander is losing it a bit though, hallucinating Soldier Boy in the crowd, his eyes glowing for a second before he gets himself under control. Walking it off, he ends up in a nearby barn where a cow is plaintively mooing. As ‘Crimson and Clover’ starts to play, the scene goes surreal, Homelander milking the cow and looking positively orgasmic while doing it and then drinking the milk right out of the bucket.
Only on The Boys, seriously.
Neuman catches him at it and tells him to pull himself together, offering him some information and a working alliance. That should go well.
A Train wakes up in the hospital with a new heart and an Ashley-written fake news story about how he got it that involves Soldier Boy killing Blue Hawk just as he and A Train were getting along again. Nice cover story, tying up all the loose ends. A Train is ambivalent about going along with all this, but you get the feeling he’s going to cave, drawn back in by the fame and fortune – and Ashley knows it.
Black Noir, on the run and hiding from Soldier Boy, also faces his fears – with the help of Buster Beaver and his cast of cartoon characters. Nathan Mitchell somehow manages to convey all kinds of emotions without saying a word, and it’s a brilliant use of cartoons to depict Noir’s backstory (as this show has done before). Much like Homelander’s heart to heart with his own mirror image, Black Noir’s dream sequence in his head gives voice to his own self doubt and trauma without him having to utter a thing.
This week’s episode of The Boys let us get to know Soldier Boy a lot better – in all sorts of ways, some for the better and some for the worse. When I spoke with Jensen Ackles about his portrayal of Soldier Boy, we touched on a few of the scenes that happen in this episode, “Here Comes A Candle To Light You To Bed.” The episode is a deep dive examination into toxic masculinity and how cultural norms of violence fueled by misogyny and homophobia have left many of the male characters on this show emotionally damaged and with ready access only to anger and rage.
SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE EPISODE YET!
Butcher, Homelander and Soldier Boy are all struggling with those messages and what it means to be a man, but it’s Hughie who is willing to call BS on some of them in this episode. As he and Soldier Boy walk through the woods in pursuit of more revenge on Payback, Hughie shows concern for an unconscious Butcher. Soldier Boy ridicules him for it, first asking how hard Butcher must have sucked his dick for all that worry, and then saying they’re on a mission and have to just get the job done, like he did when he fought the Nazis and stormed Normandy.
Soldier Boy: You wanna know what I do when I’m sad or scared? Fucking nothing. Because I’m not a fucking pussy.
That’s a pretty good description of toxic masculinity and its roots in raging misogyny, and it’s a mantra that Soldier Boy has adopted wholesale. It’s also tragic, leaving him with no outlet for legitimate feelings of sadness and fear and a lot of reasons to project so he doesn’t have to even recognize those emotions.
Hughie has had it with fear keeping him back though. He gets in Soldier Boy’s face, saying he didn’t storm shit and that his whole Marlboro Man act is fucking crap.
Soldier Boy punches him in the face – which is the perfect toxic masculinity response for sure!
I spoke with Jensen Ackles in an exclusive interview about that scene and the theme of toxic masculinity that Soldier Boy embodies in this season of The Boys.
Ackles: He’s a character from a time when men were supposed to shut up and not have feelings and not cry and be manly and be tough, and women were supposed to know their place. And I think he’s using it in a way which only Kripke can, in his satirical voice of pulling back the curtain on what we’re dealing with as a society to a certain extent now. Kripke uses Soldier Boy to represent that old ideology.
He touched on the scene in this episode where Soldier Boy and Hughie confront each other about how to handle emotions and what it means to be a man.
Ackles: In that scene where he’s talking to Hughie in the forest and he says, wanna know what I do when I’m scared? Nothing. Cause I don’t get scared. It’s like he doesn’t allow himself to have those feelings because he can’t, he was told to be tough.
Exactly. As were Butcher and Homelander, with similar results. And that’s pretty tragic.
I also asked Jensen about the lines he didn’t want to cross in the show and that he eventually worked through with showrunner Eric Kripke, which I was fairly certain had to do with some scenes in this week’s episode. He said there was a scene that got cut that started out with Soldier Boy “going in hot and heavy” making out with an older woman who was a maid at the motel, in the scene when Butcher and Hughie walk in with snacks.
Ackles: That wasn’t the line, but that was the jumping off point of when we see Soldier Boy in The Legend’s bedroom. That was supposed to be … a lot more interactive, we’ll say…
Me: That was my guess!
Ackles: Soldier Boy had a thing for women in their older years and maids for some reason. We were supposed to be in a … much more compromising position… when they walked in. But I was like, I don’t think any of us are gonna be comfortable doing this.
In typical Jensen fashion, he was more concerned about the actresses, who he said he was pretty sure didn’t want to be doing that either!
It’s clear that The Boys is every bit as much of a collaborative show as Supernatural always was, so of course they made some joint decisions about what would fly and what wouldn’t (apparently with the help of some stick figure sketches in those ‘compromising positions’ Jensen mentioned. Personally I thought the scene as it was aired worked perfectly.
Stay tuned for my deep dive recap and review of this episode coming up soon, and more from my exclusive interview with Jensen Ackles after the finale of Season 3 airs at the end of next week!
The sixth episode of The Boys third season was possibly the most anticipated one of all, and the title explains why. ‘Herogasm’ is a decadent, drug-fueled supe orgy taken from the pages of the original comics, and I’m fairly certain Eric Kripke is still giggling gleefully at somehow being given the green light to depict it in the series too.
Ackles is probably giggling along with him still too.
It is as over the top as advertised, though I’m guessing there were plenty of people who were hoping that there were more participants, such as some of our favorite supes, not just in the “I’m here” way but in the “take my pants off” way. Though we certainly do get some memorable moments with The Deep, don’t we?
This is the spoilery recap and review of the ‘Herogasm’ episode, so make sure you’ve watched before you read – hopefully your eyes are still working after some of the shit you saw!
The lead up to this episode was so much fun, with multiple ‘warnings’ including one from a shirtless Jensen Ackles standing in the Caribbean that should have come with a warning itself and a final warning on the episode itself as viewers were about to stream it.
There were even some real life screenings if you were lucky enough to be a town where that was happening! I am endlessly fascinated by how well the show crosses over into reality, both poking fun at itself and doing real life marketing while it lampoons its in-show marketing simultaneously. And somehow it keeps pulling it off!
There’s actually a lot going on in this episode that is not Herogasm though. It’s an episode full of crisis for Homelander, who is increasingly isolated and legitimately traumatized by the desertion of so many of his former team. He is also traumatized by finding out that there’s a new and unanticipated threat on the scene as he views the footage of Crimson Countess’ death.
Homelander: Soldier Boy…
The ever not helpful Ashley: Someone cosplaying maybe?
The Deep: CGI?
But Homelander knows what he’s seeing, and he’s rattled, freaking out and muttering that it’s not fair like a two year old before he pulls himself together.
He instructs Ashley to bury all the footage (complicated by Vought’s serious technical problems now that The Deep fired all the tech people and then blamed Ashley) and belatedly tries to shore up some support from Black Noir, saying he’s glad to have Black Noir on his team to count on and calling him “pal”. As a member of Soldier Boy’s Payback team, though, Black Noir knows he’s got a target on his back, and he knows who’s the biggest danger to him right now. He carves the chip right out of his arm in an elevator, handing it to a shocked and sobbing woman.
Woman: Uhhh, thank you…
The dark humor in this show, I love it.
The Deep, loyal to the end, tells Homelander about it, and Homelander of course takes it as yet another personal desertion, sending him into a spiral of desperation. (The Deep’s arranged wife, Cassandra, is still pulling his strings at this point, but it’s clear he’s getting pretty tired of it, which may partially explain his later dalliance with someone (something?) else….
This episode has one of my favorite scenes in the series so far – and no, it’s not Herogasm. It’s the quiet scene that follows the news about Noir, and it packs a tremendous psychological punch. Homelander, alone, upset. Feeling abandoned. His own image in the mirror talks back to him – literally – feeding his narcissism with reassurance that he can handle it, he’s at the top of the food chain.
When Homelander is still unsure, his mirror image reminds him that when they were kids “I got us through it…in the bad room…and now I’ll get us through this, as long as you and me stick together.”
It’s the day after the release of The Boys Episode 5 (The Last Time To Look on This World of Lies) after another week of anticipation running high and the official accounts doing a great job of teasing us while we wait. This episode was billed as “The Boys Musical” which left some fans expecting all the characters to burst into song ala Buffy’s musical episode – and while it wasn’t that, we did get some amazing song and dance (and there’s more if you make use of the XRay function on the streaming videos). Those moments provided a welcome interlude of lightness and even joy interspersed between the more usual moments of darkness, angst and violence. Oh, and kinky sex. I love The Boys for its ability to swing between those different states seamlessly, something Kripke seems to have mastered in all his shows.
The episode also introduces the new character of The Legend, a Stan Lee homage and iconic figure from the comics who is played to perfection by Paul Reiser. In the comics, The Legend was a Vought comic book writer who helped sell the Supes as heroes, and who later gives information to the boys.
He’s a former Vought employee in the series too, but more a producer and manager for the Supes with the official title of VP of Hero Management before Stillwell took that job. He’s also quite a character – decadent, irreverent, a man from a bygone era a bit like Soldier Boy is. He’s probably a complete asshole but somehow kind of appealing anyway. The Legend also provides some more pointed commentary on celebrity – to him, the Supes are “the talent”, and as he wryly notes, “who knows why they do what they do?” If you’ve ever been backstage or on the other side of the celebrity fence for even a little while, it’s both fascinating and disturbing to see how differently someone is treated who’s identified as “the talent”. They are both coddled and infantilized simultaneously, which is a great way to encourage narcissism and discourage self awareness. It’s doubly fascinating when this is a show employing a bunch of “talent” in real life, but The Boys never backs away from its own attempts at self awareness (or self parody).
I feel like I say this every time, but there are pivotal happenings in this episode for many of the characters. SPOILERS AHEAD, so be sure you’ve watched before you read!
Butcher is still sliding down that slippery slope at breakneck speed. He embraces taking the Temp V, rationalizing his decision to MM when he asks if it felt good to use his laser eyes and kill Gunpowder.
Butcher: It did – for once I leveled the fucking playing field.
MM isn’t having it, with the one line that encompasses the primary message of this show.
MM: The whole point of what we do – the whole goddamn point – is that no one should have that kind of power.
Butcher is not without ambivalence himself, especially about Hughie also taking the Temp V. He imagines Hughie as his younger brother Lenny, upset when Hughie reacts to the drug by vomiting a lot of green puke into the sink repeatedly.
After the epic events of last week’s episode of The Boys, this has been another week of anticipation while enjoying periodic teasers from the official accounts and lots of delicious back and forth between the Vought Intl. in-world social media and The Boys intrepid social media manager, who is hitting it just right with the fans. Whenever you see fans tweeting that they’d like to be friends with the person running a show’s twitter, you know someone has got their finger on the pulse of the fandom. But I would have expected no less! In one of my first chats with The Boys’ showrunner Eric Kripke, back in his Supernatural days, we talked about finding that elusive balance of keeping track of what fans want and also staying true to the vision of the work you’re putting out there. It goes wrong as often as it goes right, but so far, The Boys is finding that balance – and I am here for it!
We left off episode 4 at a pivotal time, with Soldier Boy freed from his cryogenic chamber and on the loose somewhere, Kimiko bleeding and badly injured, and Hughie still staring in awe at his magically (Temp V) healed arm and basking in the way he helped save the day.
So as I sat down to watch the screener for episode 5, I was practically bouncing waiting to see what happens next. To say I was on the edge of my seat for most of this episode is not an exaggeration. The title alone gave me chills – any title in this show that has the word “last” in it is guaranteed to put me on edge. Who can blame me?!
This is the non-spoilery preview of Episode 5 (Last Time To Look On This World Of Lies), so no major spoilers – you can read and still be assured of experiencing the full breakneck speed roller coaster of emotions that a new episode of The Boys is guaranteed to bring. We already know from the official account (so it’s not a spoiler) that this episode includes at least one musical sequence, which only Kripke can pull off integrating into a show as dark as this one. It is PRICELESS.
We also know from the official account that ‘The Legend’ appears for the first time, a character from the comics played in the series by Paul Reiser. Without spoiling anything about who he is or who he interacts with, let me just say that he is A CHARACTER – and that I thoroughly enjoyed everything about him.
In many ways, the fifth episode of the eight episode season ramps everything up into high gear. Almost everyone is at a turning point, back up against the wall, certain that they know best how to get what they want or what they think others want – and most of them willing to do just about anything to accomplish that. To say there are unlikely alliances as a result is also not an exaggeration – even if we did suspect some of them were coming. Mother’s Milk, as he often does, has the dialogue that sums up where they are right now, quoting his father who is so much the guiding light in his life even as he tries to live his own differently in terms of his daughter. If you don’t draw the line somewhere, how the hell are you gonna know where you stand?
There are lots of lines drawn in this episode, and there are also times when someone decides there is no line – which means there’s nothing to cross. This has essentially been the question the show has asked since the beginning, for all its characters. Where’s your line? The fact that not every character has one at this point is, frankly, terrifying. That’s becoming a risk to more characters than we might have expected, which threatens to blur the other line – the one between supes and the boys – into nothing. It’s interesting to see which characters have managed to hang onto keeping a line and which haven’t, with all the moral and ethical questions that brings with it. Is it okay to lie? Kill? Betray? If there’s no line, what will ever be off the table?
The other underlying theme of this episode is what it means to be human, and what we really mean by “humanity”. Is it determined by what’s inside you, literally or figuratively? Genetics, biology, what’s running through your veins? Is it the decisions you make and whether you retain a capacity for empathy, to care for other humans? And is it antithetical to power, the ultimate corrupter? So many good questions that are achingly relevant, not just on the screen, but in our real world right now.
I love that The Boys has slowly humanized its supe characters, with even Butcher pointing out that they’re all just people. And yet, knowing what they can do, he still fundamentally believes they’ve all “gotta go”. The exploration of what power is and what it does to people continues – we’ve seen reluctant supes wish they could go back to being just people, and we’ve seen what a taste of power does even to someone who has the best of intentions. At the end of last week’s episode, we left the ethical heart of the boys, Hughie, staring at his miraculously Temp V-healed arm with something like awe and wonder – while Kimiko lies gravely wounded in the same van. If that’s not a chilling case of power corrupting, I don’t know what is!
And then, of course, there are the people who have the worst of intentions.
At some points in this episode, the real life parallels are overt, echoing the ways in which those in power have marginalized and stigmatized those who are not. Sometimes Kripke and company really do seem prescient. I have sometimes heard the same words being spoken onscreen in the real world, from people trying to keep that power structure in place, gaslighting along the way to ensure there’s no change to it. From cancel culture to ‘bad apples’, from All Lives Matter, to ‘I don’t see color’, the talking points are all the more jarring because we’ve actually heard them. We even delve into the standard “this is no threat whatsoever, America is safe, go out there and go to your restaurants and movie theaters and live your lives” message – I might have jumped up and started cheering at that point, honestly.
I love when The Boys does that – it feels validating, cathartic. It’s fictional media but it’s reflective of so many of the things that are wrong in real life, and it feels like a relief to know others see it too. A Train’s arc at this point in the season is particularly interesting, and true to The Boys, takes some unexpected twists and turns.
Without giving anything away about his backstory and his journey, I have also been knocked on my ass by Jensen Ackles’ performance as Soldier Boy. I know how good he is from watching him bring Dean Winchester to life for fifteen years, but I didn’t know if he could make me feel anything for a new character who is only a parody of a hero, not a real one. I didn’t know if Kripke and the writers would bring as much nuance to this character as they have to the others, so that my emotions are all over the place and my empathy is pulled to the forefront again and again, only to be stomped back down. It’s exhausting, exhilarating – it’s why I watch fictional media! And this show does it so damn well.
Of course it’s all magnified with Soldier Boy. Ackles, if given even a crumb to work with, will pull you in and make you feel whatever the hell that character is feeling, whether you want to or not. I found myself cursing at the screen multiple times, overwhelmed with too many emotions, some that should definitely be mutually exclusive.
And of course they gave him a ton to sink his talented teeth into. You would think I would have been more prepared! (Not complaining, not even a little). Seeing our world through the eyes of a man who’s from another time – not to mention one who’s been through the unprecedented experiences that Soldier Boy has – is fascinating. Riveting. Ackles can show Soldier Boy’s suffering, derision, amusement or mystification with just a look, so we get to see it all. I’m trying not to be hyperbolic, but he’s amazing in this role.
That there are a couple of Supernatural Easter eggs in this episode that no one but a Supernatural fan would notice only amped up the emotionality for me. I think I might have yelled “Damn you, Kripke!” at least once. Sorry, Eric. Don’t ever stop.
There’s a lot of evolution in many of the characters in this episode, some of it the predictable slippery slope of trying to make nice with a homicidal narcissist, some of it an unflinching exploration of what happens when you get a taste of power and you’ve felt powerless all your life. That’s compelling for anyone, and the show doesn’t shy away from making that clear. Surprising, perhaps, what a taste of real power does to people – all people.
Homelander continues to consolidate his power base, his ruthlessness now knocking out even my little traces of empathy for him – that’s what narcissists do when cornered. Tell a narcissist that no one loves them and set the fuse on the powder keg is a theme we see played out in this episode more than once. And with my psychologist hat on, they got that one right.
There’s an interesting little theme running throughout this season that is very clear in this episode too about the cost of not being genuine – of pretending you’re okay with things you’re not. For some of the female characters, that has meant pretending to be into a man who was actually hated and feared, not loved. When there’s nothing left to lose, the truth comes out. I think most of us can relate to feeling the pressure to pretend you’re okay with things you’re not, and it seems like a strikingly relevant message when we look around at all the things that many people keep pretending are okay in the real world when they are clearly not.
This wouldn’t be The Boys if there wasn’t also an insane sequence that takes the emotions in a completely different direction for a few minutes, and also one that involves some sort of sex that’s vividly depicted, so don’t worry, this episode has those too! Also, if you’re not shipping a couple of twosomes after watching this episode, I’m surprised. Especially if you’re a Supernatural fan.
Don’t miss the new episode of The Boys dropping on Friday – or, as Kripke teased, tonight if Jensen’s ass doesn’t break Amazon again!
And stay tuned for my spoilery wrap up of episode 5 right here on the weekend!
It has been an intense 48 hours in The Boys fandom. For those of us who were Supernatural fans before discovering the wonder that is The Boys (back in the first season for me), this season is extra special – because it has Supernatural’s Jensen Ackles joining in the fun as Soldier Boy. The first three episodes of the eight episode season had flashbacks of Soldier Boy, but as far as the boys knew, the original supe was killed back in the 1980s by some mysterious weapon. If it’s a weapon powerful enough to kill Soldier Boy, the boys figure it might be powerful enough to kill Homelander – and by the fourth episode, they set out to find it.
Of course, all of us know that Soldier Boy is more or less alive, thanks to Jensen’s casting and the teaser trailers that show him awakening in some kind of chamber and ripping off a mask and medical equipment and breaking his shackles. All sans clothing. If you’ve ever met an Ackles fan, you know that amped up the anticipation for this episode exponentially.
Ackles made the rounds of talk shows leading up to his character’s memorable entrance this week, chatting with Good Morning America, Live with Kelly and Ryan, and Late Night with Seth Myers. There was so much buzz about Soldier Boy that he even got his own hashtag emoji – with Ackles own face!
Prime Video, The Boys TV and showrunner Eric Kripke made it worse (better?) by teasing the reveal of Ackles’ bare ass, showing off their fandom savvy by using the popular peach emoji and even a photo from the actor’s own Instagram of his backside in a revealing wet bathing suit. Well played, everyone.
Of course, fandom has been using that photo to anticipate this day for a very long time.
The fandom didn’t really need any assistance getting worked up over Episode 4, however. So by Thursday evening, anyone who was able to had logged into their Prime account and was breathlessly awaiting the drop of the new episode. And waiting. And waiting. The hours ticked by and no Episode 4! Some lucky fans found the episode on their Fire sticks, but others had to wait a while – which caused a lot of teeth gnashing, understandably. And a lot of memes.
Kripke and company were using the hashtag #TheHuntForSoldierBoy and suddenly it was literally that! Eric also quipped that Jensen Ackles’ ass had broken the internet, which I guess we all should have seen coming.
Friday morning Prime had fixed the glitch, so I spent the day grinning as my social media feeds posted screencaps and gifs in appreciation of Soldier Boy’s various assets (and argued about them too because…fandom.) There was also, to our credit, a lot of gushing about Ackles’ acting, because even in his first scene, he shows us so much about Soldier Boy and who he is, – and he is so obviously NOT Dean Winchester or any other character that Jensen has played. Ackles manages to convey a formidable sense of power and at the same time clear twinges of vulnerability, confusion and hurt. As soon as this episode ended, I wanted to know MORE.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Not all the spoilers, but there are some coming up since this is the recap article. So if you haven’t watched the episode yet, be warned!
Prime Video has a nifty feature that allows you to see (and hear) longer versions of some of the musical numbers peppered throughout this season, many of them by the brilliant Chris Lennertz, who also enriched Supernatural. This episode starts out with Mother’s Milk watching old video footage of Soldier Boy on ‘Solid Gold’, remembering happier times with his family before it was violently torn apart. As someone who has been a big Blondie fan since back in the day (and remembers Solid Gold and the Solid Gold dancers), it was an absolute treat to see Soldier Boy destroy Blondie’s ‘Rapture’ – and I do mean destroy. Ackles (who I’ve seen sing live many times and impromptu rap to some Ice Ice Baby) managed to make it hilariously bad, while letting Soldier Boy be his cocky ridiculous self and eat up the adoration of the scantily clad dancers fawning over him. If you haven’t watched the extended version yet, do it!
It may have been an… unusual…version of ‘Rapture’, but it did get the official seal of approval on twitter from Blondie’s Debbie Harry herself, so pat yourself on the back, Jensen!
This little scene also gave us more insight into Soldier Boy – how much he’s already addicted to the celebrity status that being a supe has brought him, and how much he’s buying his own hype. He’s affected by the adoration of the dancers who are of course paid to fawn over him – he needs it, and he doesn’t seem to have a clue that it’s not genuine. We saw that in his interaction with young Grace too, in a previous flashback – how hard it hits him when she shatters his illusion that people like him and want to sleep with him. It’s just a little flinch, a little quiver of the lip, a dropped gaze as the bravado slips – but Ackles makes it pack a punch.
Other than that kind of little interlude, this is a dark dark episode. Written by Supernatural alum Meredith Glynn, every single character has an evolution that plays out in this episode, and none of them are going in a positive direction. The sense of hopelessness is pervasive, broken only by some dark humor and some moments of mirroring things that are dark in the real world, which always feels therapeutic to me.
Butcher’s evolution from trying to be a father figure to Ryan and stay on the straight and narrow, to being sucked right back into revenge being all that matters and willing to make himself a monster to achieve it, was heartbreaking to watch. The parallels between Homelander and Butcher get more glaring all the time, and it’s terrifying.
It’s not just taking the Temp V either – it’s Butcher’s willingness to muscle everyone and anyone into doing what he believes needs to be done, no matter the cost to them. Wielding power means getting other people to do what you want, even if it destroys them in the process. He sends Kimiko on a murderous mission as pay for Little Nina’s help, even though she does not want to go and Frenchie tries to stand up for her.
Kimiko: I’m not your fucking gun!
Butcher: That’s exactly what you are. In case you two forgot, I tell you what to do and you fucking do it.
Hughie following the same path into prioritizing revenge over everything else was even more heartbreaking. Completely demoralized from finding out that the year he spent working with Neuman was just him being manipulated by one more dangerous homicidal supe, all he cares about now is bringing them down. And doing whatever it takes to make that happen, even if it means putting Annie’s mental health on the line by asking her to play along with Homelander. I felt sick to my stomach when she had to kiss him for the cameras, hand clenched into a fist behind her back just like she had to do at those long ago pageants her mother forced her to fake some love for. Hughie, who had managed to hang onto his moral compass, letting so much of it go – that hurt.
I figured it was coming, but when Hughie finds out that Butcher is shooting up Temp V (with the show purposely looking exactly like he’s shooting up heroin), he is far enough down the road of revenge-at-all-costs that he wants some too.
Butcher: It’s poison. I have to do this, you don’t.
Hughie’s reason for wanting V also has to do with power, but for him the compelling reason has to do with his own masculine identity and how that gets mistakenly tied up with specific notions of power and strength. He wants it in part because Homelander humiliated him in front of Starlight. He felt weak and helpless, flashing back to being a kid at school, bullied unmercifully and just taking it. The fact that Starlight had to save him is intolerable to him – and we’re right back to themes of toxic masculinity. Hughie says he’s so angry that he can’t even breathe, and doesn’t that sound frighteningly familiar?
Butcher: Oh Hughie. This shit, it’s not power – it’s punishment. You don’t deserve it.
That’s a recurring question on this season of The Boys. Is Compound V something that makes you powerful and potentially keeps you safe, or is it a curse that turns you in to a weapon to be controlled and wielded by others to keep their own power? Multiple characters struggle with that question by the mid point in the season.
Frenchie and Kimiko, by this episode, are tired of being wielded as weapons. Frenchie is increasingly fed up with being treated like a dog by everyone – as Little Nina points out, starting with his father, continuing with her, and now playing out with Butcher. There’s a pointed moment when Butcher literally pets him like a dog to calm him down and to insist that he go along with what Butcher wants him to do – you can see him bristle at it. Such good, subtle acting by both Tomer and Karl.
Kimiko is fed up too, reluctantly obeying Butcher when he orders her on that mission – which gives her the chance to take out the bad guy in an epic fight scene with The Seven-themed dildos as her weapon of choice – but realizing that to the prostitutes she just saved, she’s more terrifying than the bad guy was. She and Frenchie grow even closer as they share their frustration and disillusionment.
Kimiko: I can’t do this. Those girls, they were bought and sold, same as me. Butcher sold me. He doesn’t treat any of us as people. We only have each other. It’s you and me.
Supernatural fans recognize that line as a Kripke-ism, one of the main themes of that show. There’s a reason I love all of Kripke’s shows – the themes he tackles are universal ones, and I invariably relate. It’s always a compelling story when it’s you and me against the world.
The truly astounding PR for The Boys Season 3 has included a complex multi-platform in-world and real-world intersection of all kinds of content, from the fictional Vought social media as well as The Boys. The various Prime Video accounts also got into the act. There was a website for The Deep’s new book and an Audible version, and yesterday I stumbled on a website with The Seven themed sex toys like the ones Kimiko used to kill the bad guy. It’s mind blowing how much they’ve done and how brilliant it all is.
Mother’s Milk hangs onto some sense of morality for a little longer, Butcher’s treatment of Kimiko and Ryan prompting him to say what I might have been muttering – what an asshole Butcher is. We get more of Marvin’s backstory as a result, Butcher confiding that the reason they picked “some gruff Marine stuck in the brig” for the team was because every single person he went through basic training with said he was the one who held their platoon together. Butcher pulls MM back in, telling him he’s the one that is here to look after the boys. Butcher’s manipulation may sometimes be more subtle than Homelander’s, but they are both damn good at it.
There is just as much chaotic evolution on the supes side.
Homelander continues his downward slide, buoyed by the realization that he really can do whatever he fucking wants – including being his powerful, violent, vengeful self. He’s now discovered that his followers will continue to follow him even when he overtly expresses his violent, racist, misogynistic side – especially when it resonates with theirs. Does this sound familiar?? He’s a master at manipulation, constantly using the “lighten up, I’m just kidding” excuse after overt threats. He has a key to Starlight’s apartment, insinuates that he’s been watching her sleep, signs his name on Hughie’s cast like he owns it, knowing it’s unwanted. It’s chilling.
A Train’s desperation to be relevant again leads him to try to co-opt the Black Lives Matter movement and claiming he wants to explore his background. His motivation is mostly selfish, but his brother convinces him that there is a very real problem in their neighborhood (reflecting real life) and A Train actually tries to convince Ashley to do something about it.
A Train: He’s brutalizing black people in Trenton, and Vought has a responsibility here.
Ashley: (laughing then pausing) Oh, wait, you’re serious? Oh, of course, social justice is so important around here. Black Lives Matter is my favorite hashtag. My Insta? Nothing but black screens.
Priceless exchange skewering every disingenuous social media post ever. (Also we get more priceless Ashley content in this episode, including Homelander demanding to know “is your idiot brain getting fucked by stupid?” and Ashley turning that around on Cameron Coleman, who seems happy to say yes if it will get him fucked for real by Ashley’s impressive Homelander themed strap on. Powerful corporation in bed with news station…)
Vought’s response is an ad for A Train’s Turbo Rush energy drink in which he joins a march and gives a can to an officer confronting the protestors – and suddenly everyone is smiling and dancing. It’s a deliberate reflection of the infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad, and it was one of those dark humor moments that I so appreciate.
A Train even gets up the guts to talk to Homelander about the racist supe Bluehawk and the over patrolling of black neighborhoods, which is quickly foiled by The Deep parroting Cassandra’s message of “don’t we need more supes, not less?” which Homelander is much more receptive to. A Train is furious at the sabotage, and he and the Deep end up in a fistfight in the hallway, trading threats and then punches. Homelander breaks it up and gives the Deep a hand, leaving A Train on the ground and telling him to “rest those useless fucking legs.”
Queen Maeve, after giving Butcher the lead on Soldier Boy and the weapon that supposedly killed him, has also been on the straight and narrow – constantly training instead of sex and drink and drugs – hoping to at least buy the boys a second or two to get in a good shot at Homelander. Starlight confronts her about her hopelessness and willingness to sacrifice her own life for that shot at revenge.
Starlight: You really care that little about yourself?
Supernatural fans recognize that as another Kripke-ism, an iconic line from Supernatural in similar words when Bobby confronts Dean about his determination to sacrifice himself to save Sam.
Starlight pulls an informal team together against Homelander, with her supe ex boyfriend Supersonic, Queen Maeve and even A Train seeming like they’re on board with the take down. I won’t spoil exactly how that goes, because it packs a gut punch and needs to be seen and experienced.
Meanwhile, no one can be trusted not to betray anyone else, and I don’t think anyone saw it coming that Homelander would ally with Neuman and she would turn on her father figure/mentor Stan Edgar. It’s a recurring theme that when you manipulate people and use them as a weapon, they will eventually turn on you – Edgar learns that the hard way. Homelander echoes the same theme that Kimiko and Frenchie recognized.
Homelander: You’re not his daughter, you’re his weapon. That’s what they do, all of them.
He leaves Neuman with some original recipe V, saying he’s glad she chose “your own kind.” What do you suppose she wants that for? I won’t spoil it, because it made me gasp.
Edgar is defiant even if he’s no longer in charge, forgiving Neuman since he’s the one who taught her to “play all sides”. When Homelander tries to gloat, Stan retorts that if he gave Homelander respect it would just go into that “bottomless pit of insecurity you call a soul” and calls him out for looking for Edgar’s approval “like I’m your daddy.”
Edgar: You’re not a god, you are simply bad product.
And that constant dehumanizing has taken a toll, that’s for sure. Also this show is all about the daddy issues, just saying.
But those weren’t the scenes many of us were waiting for with so much anticipation. Soldier Boy’s dramatic entrance scene did not disappoint – and could not have been more iconic. The boys break into the lab to hopefully find the weapon that killed Soldier Boy. Instead they find a harmless looking hamster in a cage. Frenchie makes the mistake of talking to cute little Jamie, who turns out to be a supe hamster who goes suddenly crazy, bouncing off the walls and breaking the glass of his enclosure to escape. That brings guards and an epic fight scene ensues. Jamie helps out by flying through the air like the Monty Python rabbit in The Holy Grail and eating a guard’s face, but the boys run out of ammo and the guards are still coming.
The scene gets even more epic then, as the rest of the boys find out about Butcher’s temporary powers in a dramatic way. In a scene reminiscent of Castiel’s dramatic entrance in Supernatural, Butcher walks through the lab as the guards fire at him repeatedly, bullets shattering glass all over, flashes of light from the shots illuminating the room, rock music playing, laser eyes glowing green. We also get unexpected naked Hughie in this scene, for reasons I won’t spoil but you can probably guess and that also result in him punching one of the guards so hard it has a….dramatic result. They take out all the guards, and then Butcher turns to a large container.
He pulls the door off with brute strength.
The boys all gather around as steam pours from the opened container with a hissing noise, and slowly we see there’s a person inside, oxygen mask on and tubes keeping him alive. Naked. He wakes slowly, raising his head, looking confused, disoriented, gradually figuring it out.
He takes off the mask, rips off the tubes and sensors.
Snaps the restraints that are holding him down like they’re butter.
Butcher stares, whispers “Soldier Boy.”
Much of the fandom also stares and whispers, more like “omfg those shoulders holy shit”…
The others gape, Mother’s Milk looking horrified and Laz Alonso making his expression memorable.
Soldier Boy staggers out, holding onto the sides of the container, then turns toward the boys.
We get a full shot of Ackles in his birthday suit, most of us shocked into silence by that point just like the boys who are staring too.
Steam billows around him as he faces the people who have inadvertently freed him.
Here, have a screencap too, this is a pivotal moment.
This is one of the steamier ones – not that kind of steamy, though it is undeniably that kind of steamy too! Steamy to preserve a little blurriness and leave something to the imagination…
Soldier Boy stumbles, and energy starts to gather, the room humming with it.
He clutches his midsection and Kimiko realizes what’s about to happen, throwing herself in front of Frenchie just as a ball of energy explodes out of him, sending Kimiko flying backwards with such force that she breaks through multiple concrete walls.
Supernatural fans gasped a little extra at the exposed rebar protruding from the concrete, remembering all too vividly how Dean Winchester died.
Soldier Boy staggers out of the building, and the boys put a badly injured Kimiko in the van, Frenchie exclaiming over and over again that she’s not healing, Mother’s Milk trying desperately to save her.
Mother’s Milk turns to Butcher as he drives, Butcher and Hughie still frighteningly focused on their revenge mission instead of the gravely injured Kimiko.
Mother’s Milk: It’s over, Butcher. Ain’t no team for me to hold together anymore. You made sure of that.
If that scene doesn’t pack enough gut punch for you, the final one that I won’t spoil most certainly will. Hang on tight.
The fandom has been busy doing what fandoms do best ever since the episode aired – giffing and screencapping the Soldier Boy scene from every conceivable angle and discussing the relative merits of Jensen Ackles’ ass. It’s not an unfamiliar discussion for Supernatural fans – way back in Season 1 of the show, this shot of Dean Winchester’s backside resulted in what the fandom called the Ackles Ass Equation. It popped up on my timeline again today, 16 years later – some things never change!
All the fuss about his ass notwithstanding, even without any dialogue, Jensen Ackles made Soldier Boy a compelling character right from the start. He has always been able to convey more with a facial expression than many can with a page of dialogue, and we could see his confusion and vulnerability as he wakes up from what looks like it must have been a pretty horrific captivity. Shades of Dean Winchester thrown into hell for 30 years!
The scene was also beautifully filmed and directed, the steam everywhere making everything surreal, and if possible, making Ackles look even more beautiful. He has talked about how intimidating it was to have your very first day on set involve you in a robe and then the director saying okay, take off your robe now, and then the only thing between you and your new coworkers is a sock! (Karl Urban posted this bts photo from that day with a robe-clad Jensen -and that scary looking rebar!)
I can’t even imagine how intimidating that is, but you’d never know that by looking at the expression on his character’s face – he is in the moment, and embarrassment is the last thing he’s feeling. I guess that’s the mark of a good actor!
Jensen has told the story of that first day on set several times at recent Supernatural conventions, along with Supernatural costar Jared Padalecki – who has been waiting for those revealing scenes right along with us.
Let me just say that if you were fascinated by Ackles’ performance and by Soldier Boy in this episode, you won’t be disappointed by next week’s episode of The Boys, which drops once again at some point between Thursday night and Friday for where I am in the US. Just another reason to look forward to Fridays!
And here’s some more good news that dropped yesterday just to make the day even better – not that we were doubting it, but The Boys is renewed for Season 4!
We’ll have to wait and see if Soldier Boy returns, because much like Supernatural, anything can happen – fingers crossed!
The title of this episode (Glorious Five Year Plan) refers to something Mr. Edgar said about Vought’s long term planning, but I can’t help but think it also could refer to what The Boys showrunner Eric Kripke’s former show Supernatural originally was – Kripke’s Glorious Five Year Plan for the show that ended up running for a decade more and changing many people’s lives in the process. Mine included. The episode was written by Meredith Glynn, who also was a writer for Supernatural. It seems fitting to make the title into a Supernatural reference, because we get to see more of Soldier Boy.
Like, a lot more of him.
That was not a spoiler or a surprise to anyone following what Jensen Ackles and Eric Kripke and everyone else has said about that scene, but still, it’s maybe a bit eye opening. Okay, more than a bit. Let me just grab a cold drink here before I go on.
No significant spoilers here, by the way, so you can enjoy the full impact of the episode that is about to be released, which is AMAZING. I’ll be back with a more detailed recap in a few days once everyone has had a chance to watch and enjoy. This episode is a pivotal one, and not just for Soldier Boy. Most of the episode watches Homelander consolidate his power; he knows even more than we think he does about the people currently in power, and is not afraid to use every single method he can think of to flip that power balance to his favor. He makes some surprising alliances to do it – but that is so often what this show is about. The one you think holds all the power sometimes suddenly doesn’t, and the people you think are allies may just have been temporarily pretending to be. Virtually anyone is capable of stabbing anyone else in the back at any time, which keeps the suspense factor going every episode. The Deep, parroting his ambitious scheming wife, ingratiates himself with Homelander and gets into a physical fight with A Train, which leaves A Train roaring with rage. For a while it looks like Starlight has Queen Maeve, Supersonic and maybe even A Train (after that altercation) more or less united against Homelander, but underestimating him is never a good idea. Some people find that out the hard way.
I have to say that Antony Starr is brilliant as this unhinged-and-owning-it version of Homelander. He’s constantly manipulating everyone around him, keeping them off guard with provocative comments and overt threats that he then keeps insisting was “just kidding, lighten up you guys!” It’s like Gaslighting 101 and he is an absolute master. There’s a priceless scene with Ashley (Colby Minifie, always a favorite of mine) where he asks her in disgust, “Is your idiot brain getting fucked by stupid?” She says no, obviously flustered, but Ashley learns fast. Later she asks Cameron Coleman the same question, threatening/promising to punish him if he says yes, and did I mention there’s maybe an impressive strap-on somewhere in this scene? I can’t help it, I kinda love Ashley.
While the supes continue to smile for the cameras and engage in brutal infighting, the boys are in search of the weapon that was powerful enough to reputedly kill Soldier Boy – and thus maybe powerful enough to kill Homelander. Butcher is perfectly willing to send Kimiko on a mission of murder even when she protests that she’s “not your fucking gun”. In fact, that’s exactly what he says she is – he tells them what to do and they fucking do it. Frenchie bristles, especially after Butcher keeps treating him like a dog exactly as Little Nina taunted him about, but he also backs down. The parallels between Butcher, who is perfectly happy to use people as weapons instead of treating them like people, and the people in power at Vought who do exactly the same, are striking, and Karl Urban knows just how to make it chilling.
Kimiko doesn’t like it, but she does the job – decked out in silver stilettos and a skin tight sequined dress and looking like fire. This is not a spoiler since Karen Fukuhara has described this scene and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of fighting with dildos, but there’s nothing like actually seeing it. There’s the Star Spangled Banger for Homelander, the Deep’s Flounder Pounder, Black Noir’s Silent Screamer. It’s pretty epic. I’ve never really thought about a fight with dildos as the weapons of choice, but Kimiko makes it work – in a bloody, disgusting and entirely lethal way. As soon as I saw the cabinet, I started to snicker, after hearing Karen talk about enjoying the insane scene. She’s a brown belt in real life and it shows when Kimiko gets to do a fight scene. Sometimes the over-the-top scenes include an unexpected emotional impact too, which is something I value in this show – this is one of them. Kimiko’s innovative murder of the bad guy saves the prostitutes he hired or trafficked, but they’re more terrified of her than they were of him, and that isn’t lost on her.
And then there’s Soldier Boy. Eric Kripke tweeted some behind the scenes fun times with Soldier Boy back in the day, so you can look forward to more of that. Such as it is.
Everyone in the Supernatural fandom who has found their way over to The Boys is eagerly awaiting more of Jensen Ackles’ Soldier Boy. Without spoiling anything that isn’t already known, this episode includes a scene that is both insane (including a supe hamster that flies through the air like the Monty Python rabbit in The Holy Grail to eat a guard’s face) and dramatically epic (recall those temporary laser eyed powers we all know Butcher becomes desperate enough to take on) before Soldier Boy makes his memorable debut.
There’s a subtle Supernatural homage in there that reminds me of Castiel’s epic entrance complete with shattering glass and flashing lights, and then there’s a reveal that no one is going to soon forget. We’ve already seen in teasers and trailers what the boys see, so this is not a spoiler – steam pouring from an opened door, the shadowy figure of a person inside, oxygen mask on and tubes keeping him alive. He wakes slowly, raising his head, snapping his restraints and pulling out all his tubes and mask. He stands, staggers to the door, hands gripping the sides, looking disoriented, and then stumbles out.
I confess that I gasped. And maybe watched that scene more than once. Maybe.
Jensen Ackles has told the story of his very first day on set being naked in front of the coworkers he didn’t even know yet, “nothing between me and them but a sock”, so that’s no spoiler either. There’s a whole lot of steam going on, but let’s just say that all that working out he put himself through did not go to waste in my humble opinion. The Boys is all about showing its male cast with fewer clothes than its female cast, and I am here for it.
I won’t say what happens next so you can watch it for yourself, but I am looking forward to some gifs and screencaps from this episode. Like, a lot of them. ALL of them. Don’t let me down, fandom!
Halfway through the season and I don’t want it to end! Next episode drops in one week – stay tuned for a proper recap of this episode, for more from our exclusive chat with Jensen Ackles, and for more on The Boys Season 3!