Non-Spoilery Preview (and Soldier Boy musings) of The Boys Episode 7 – Releasing Friday!

The penultimate episode of ‘The Boys’ Season 3, ominously titled ‘Here Comes A Candle To Light You To Bed,’ releases this Friday on Prime Video, and the little teasers already have everyone bouncing in anticipation (per usual). This is my non-spoilery teaser review of my own reaction to episode 3.7 – and as a Supernatural fan, this one is especially for everyone who was already a Jensen Ackles admirer or has joined the party recently and jumped on board in appreciation of Soldier Boy.

The last few episodes of Season 3 are going to be a rollercoaster for Ackles fans the likes of which we have never ridden. My advice is you’d better hold on tight, because this one is like that rollercoaster in the dark at Disney World where it’s extra scary because you never know when there’s gonna be a sudden twist or how violent the turn is gonna be. That also makes it extra exhilarating – for a long time that was my favorite ride there. But when I say my heart was pounding out of my chest and I had to jump up and sort of run around my kitchen a few times to calm down, to the accompaniment of colorful exclamations, I am not exaggerating.

Ackles himself weighed in on Instagram about his character’s wee bit of anger issues….

Ya’ think??

From the perspective of someone who has been a Supernatural fan for 17 years, there are all kinds of things that fandom has imagined a character Ackles plays doing – things that a show on the CW could not include, even if it might have made more sense for hardened traumatized hunter Dean Winchester than his PG vocabulary ever did. Most of those things have played out in fanfiction over the years, for sure, but somehow seeing and hearing a character onscreen who is not limited to the CW standards and practices was more shocking than I expected. No, I am very much not complaining.

Seeing Jensen be able to sink his teeth into a role like this, into a character who is raw and fucked up and in many ways the worst of a swatch of humanity in real life – it was awesome. For someone who’s a long-time fan, it was also a mind fuck, in that I could not help but love the character just a little even when I hated him.

cap acklesism
gif arachnidfellow

There’s a reason the fandom calls him Danger Grampa or Sweet Baby Murder Kitten, after all.

We learn about some of the horrible things he’s done in this episode, right alongside more of the things that have been done to him – and right alongside the moments when he lets his guard down a little and says something real and shows some genuine emotion. That is one of the things this show has excelled at from the beginning and why I’ve loved it since Season 1 – it’s always shades of gray, even the worst characters having moments of humanity when I feel for them. But having one of my favorite actors embody that kind of complexity made it so much more difficult for me to negotiate. I kept wanting to sympathize with him – especially when the traumas of his past are laid out – but each time there’s a punch to the gut that reminds me that I can’t get too pulled in. Talk about a mindfuck!

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It’s Almost Here! Episode 6 of The Boys Finally Arrives at Herogasm On Friday!

Episode 6 of The Boys Season 3 drops tomorrow (or tonight if we’re lucky) and has a lot of anticipation around it, simply because – as its title announces – it’s the Herogasm episode. It’s still amazing to me that the series was able to pull off the supe orgy event from the comics and put it on streaming video. Herogasm is every bit as zany as everyone expected, and surprisingly humorous too. I didn’t expect to laugh out loud when there were such … creative… things going on. Flying vibrators? Sex with a…. Okay, you have to watch. This show is good at that, though – mixing the sexual with the violent with the humorous with the occasionally touching. And not just the Herogasm kind of touching!

Herogasm comic cover by Darick Robertson

Here’s my non-spoilery teaser review of Episode 6, which everyone should watch when it drops on Friday (or Thursday night if we’re lucky). Stay tuned for a spoilery recap and in depth review this weekend once everyone has had a chance to watch.

I won’t give away what actually happens at the Herogasm bash, or who ends up being there to join in the fun (or pursue other goals while others have fun). Let’s just say that a lot happens, and it is both disturbing and darkly funny. I will forever appreciate The Boys for being able to combine all those things with a drug-fueled supe orgy that had so many pump bottles of lube on the set that many a hapless crew member apparently mistook one for covid-protocol hand sanitizer.

So yes, that happened.

Now that I’ve seen it, I can only imagine what it was like to be on the set that day. Jensen Ackles shared his own experience on set that day with us at a convention in Denver shortly after filming it.

Jensen: They had rented out this huge mansion, just gaudy and perfect, and I see the A camera operator, his mask down, eating a sandwich and he looks a little traumatized. I was like, hey man, what’s goin’ on, you good? And he just shakes his head nad says “I seen some shit, man. I seen some shit.” He was already PTSD and we hadn’t even gone to lunch yet. And he was right. I can’t unsee it, can’t put that toothpaste back in the bottle. There was the set dec stuff brought in by the art department and let’s just say there were a lot of sex toys all around, and in addition there were just like vats of lube. The problem was they looked very similar to the covid hand sanitizers that they had spread throughout the set, so every now and then you’d hear an expletive because somebody had done an entire pump of lube on their hand and was like oh crap!

Jensen to Supernatural costar Jared Padalecki standing next to him: I don’t know that you’re old enough to see this. (He then played it for Padalecki on their recent flight to another convention).

So, be prepared!

The underlying theme of the episode plays out before and alongside Herogasm — the slow but sure desertion of anyone who is truly “on his team” for Homelander. Because anyone who has watched Eric Kripke’s shows for a long long time knows he can bring the OMG and the OHMYHEART and the OUCH all in one episode.

Homelander is increasingly isolated, in one poignant and disturbing scene left with only himself to talk to – literally. He also talks back, which is never a good sign but makes for fascinating fictional media. It makes horrifying sense that it’s the persona created in childhood when John needed to dissociate, still with him after all this time – probably more and more present as the stress and isolation build up. It’s the ‘strong one’ who got him through the trauma that happened in the ‘bad room’, who at first tries to give him(self) a pep talk about being better than everyone and not needing anyone, then resorts to taunting him for the part of himself that still longs for love and approval. There’s the suggestion that he carve those parts of himself out, leave him pure, clean.

You get the feeling that’s exactly where Homelander is headed. Impermeable. Cold. Unfeeling.

Makes sense when you’re a helpless, traumatized child – shut off your feelings, make yourself like stone. Make the pain stop. My little bit of empathy for Homelander reappears briefly every time I hear about his horribly abusive childhood – his defenses make sense, but they are so far from helpful at this point, they’re likely to take everyone around him down. And there’s no justifying that, even if you can see how he got there. His lack of remorse when he kills, even innocent bystanders, is absolutely horrifying.

In contrast to Homelander’s coldness, Starlight in this episode runs hot and takes no shit. She’s increasingly fed up with everyone and their brother and sister who keep “telling me I need to be shitty in order to win.” You can tell she wants to give a big fuck you to all kinds of people in this episode, including Victoria Neuman, who is so damn pleasant even though you know she could pop everyone’s heads like a melon. That’s scarier than someone who actually looks scary! Annie January takes the spotlight in a different way in this episode, and I was cheering.

We also get more backstory of Frenchie’s childhood and how much it messed him up, which is for sure the theme of this entire show. We get more backstory on Mother’s Milk too, including exactly what happened with his family and Soldier Boy back in the day, the origin of his OCD and his current obsession to confront Soldier Boy and get some kind of revenge. For many of the characters, revenge seems like the only way to end that kind of obsession. Mother’s Milk is looking for that with Soldier Boy, Hughie is looking for that with A Train, and A Train is looking for it with Blue Hawk. Round and round and round we go.

And that brings us to Soldier Boy and Butcher. Butcher’s looking for that with Homelander; Soldier Boy is looking for that with the team who abandoned him. The utilitarian partnership between Butcher and Soldier Boy, with Hughie along for the ride, is a lot more fascinating than I expected it to be. Soldier Boy’s return shakes everything and everyone up, supes included. Having someone else on the playing field with at least as much power as Homelander is a game changer, but while there are plenty of similarities between the two, there are also differences.

I was thrilled that we get to know Soldier Boy better in this episode. Ackles brings unexpected depth to his character once again, much to my distress – he’s a jerk who’s stuck in the racist misogynistic homophobic ideas that were so common in his time, and that have clearly always worked just fine for him so why would he change them? They’re beliefs that have probably hurt countless people over the decades and he remains uninterested in changing them.  But he’s surprisingly open in sharing his feelings and how lost he is in this new world. A world that, as he says, forgot him.

Gif abordelimpala

He doesn’t seem interested in causing harm to anyone except the team that betrayed him.  Like Homelander, though, he’s also a man who has nothing and has lost everything; and that, as we’ve seen before, is a dangerous man. Especially when they have great power. He may not be out for revenge against anyone but Payback, but he also can’t control his explosions that destroy city blocks and he’s not very concerned about collateral damage.  Not exactly a caring, compassionate chap.

The rest of the original Payback team better be on the lookout…

The underlying theme of this episode is how much blame to give other things – whether outside influences or substances like V – for when people do bad things. Is it the V who turns people evil, corrupting them, or does it just bring out who they really are? It’s a metaphor both for the power and privilege someone gains and what that allows them to do, and also for the ways in which we absolve ourselves of blame for the things we do that hurt others – it’s not my fault, it’s the people who hurt me in the past. It’s the drugs. It’s the V. Or is it?

The episode is also very much about the mantra of Eric Kripke’s earlier show, Supernatural. Saving people, hunting things. What does it mean to be saved and what does it mean to be the one doing the saving? There are some pivotal choices made in this episode around that question. Mother’s Milk, Starlight, Kimiko and Hughie all make decisions about what’s most important to them, confronting some hard truths about themselves.

This is perhaps the most powerful episode yet of Season 3, with every actor stepping up with compelling performances, and twists and turns to make your head spin. One of the things I love most about this show is that I almost never know what’s coming. I don’t like it when things are predictable, and that is one thing The Boys has never been.

And just so you know, there are two episodes left of this season, and you can count on that unpredictability to remain. And then some!

Tune in tomorrow (or later tonight if we’re lucky) for Herogasm – and then check back here on the weekend for our spoilery review and recap!

– Lynn

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A Supernatural Homage to The Sixth Sense in ‘Roadkill’

Written by Raelle Tucker and directed by Charles Beeson, Roadkill wasn’t initially one of my favorite episodes, but on rewatch I was struck by how good it is. It’s not a feel good episode – it’s sad, tragic – but that is so well done. I feel for Molly, so it’s not an episode I tend to want to rewatch, but damn, the acting and writing are top notch. It’s a little bit of a Sixth Sense homage too, which always makes me happy since I was in that movie. (And it’s a great film, of course). Sure, I have zero lines and I’m just sitting in the auditorium audience but hey, I’m still in it.

Anyway…

THEN

The THEN reminds us that our boys are “smack in the middle of” the storm that’s coming, and that Dean especially is focused on “saving people, hunting things”. But we’re also reminded that the brothers are not entirely on the same page, as they both struggle with how to interpret their father’s mission and how much of it they want to take on.

Dean: If it’s supernatural, we kill it – that’s our job.

Sam: No, Dean – our job is hunting evil.

Well done THEN sequence, because that’s the crux of what Sam and Dean are trying to figure out right now, and they’re having a pretty epic brotherly tussle as they do it.

NOW

In a memorable opening, a car drives along a dark road at night as House of The Rising Sun plays on the car radio and the couple argue about being lost and turning around, the guy looking at the map (remember maps? I remember maps….and the days before your phone could just helpfully direct you where to go).  Their arguing is good natured, and the guy offers to make it up to the woman, kissing her neck although they’re driving and uh oh, this is not a good idea when you’re in the opening sequence of a Supernatural episode.

The woman, Molly, pushes him off, which takes her eyes off the road just as a man appears on the road. She tries to avoid him and ends up crashing into a tree, the windshield shattering. Uh oh.

Molly wakes up, the car smoking, David nowhere to be found. She crawls out of the car, calling for him, walking through dark and creepy woods as we all hold our breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

She finally sees a house with a light on in the woods and though it seems like a bad idea once again, she knocks on the door and then goes inside. There are knives on the wall and blood on the counter, and a man with his back turned.

Molly recognizes the man she almost hit, reaching out to see if he’s okay, though we as viewers can see that he’s not – his stomach is impaled and bleeding way too much to actually be alive, in fact.

Molly: Sir, are you hurt?

He turns around and opens his mouth – and his teeth start to fall out, mouth bloody, stomach wound gaping. It’s a Sixth Sense like reveal, and it’s so well done that it’s super creepy and scary. Season 2, Supernatural really was a little horror movie every week – so good!

The SUPERNATURAL title card pops up and lets us know our boys will be appearing soon. Perfect time for the logo of that season.

Molly screams and runs through the woods, terrified. It’s filmed in slow motion, adding to the terror of will the dead guy catch her or won’t he, and then she runs right onto the road. A car is coming as she yells Stop! Stop! The car skids to a halt – and we see that it’s the Impala.

Dean: Holy–  (The ‘shit’ is silent because CW)

Molly is totally freaked out, banging on the window and asking the boys to help her. Sam and Dean exchange a glance as she explains about the scary guy.

Dean: Did he look like he lost a fight with a lawn mower?

Molly: How did you know that?

Dean: Lucky guess…

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‘The Boys Presents: Diabolical’ Premieres This Friday – And Is Even More Out There!

‘The Boys’ kicks off its newest incarnation on March 4 with “The Boys Presents: Diabolical,” an 8 episode animated anthology series that takes place within the same universe as the original series, which in turn was based on the comic by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. Plenty of other well-known names are also contributors, including Awkwafina, Garth Ennis, Eliot Glazer and Ilana Glazer, Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, Simon Racioppa, Justin Roiland and Ben Bayouth, Andy Samberg, and Aisha Tyler.

While we all wait for Season 3 of ‘The Boys’ in June – and the introduction of Jensen Ackles as Soldier Boy – the animated series fills in some blanks and provides some even more over the top entertainment. Diabolical was described as a series that “plunges elbow-deep into the unseen crevices of superhero violence audiences have devoured—and emerges with a fistful of insanity.”  That part turned out to be true, but surprisingly so did another teaser in the press release: “Diabolical has something for everyone—everyone who enjoys blood-drenched but also shockingly emotional television. It’s cartoons with the safeties off!”

Of course, that’s an advantage of animation versus live action – the show really can portray anything it can get away with. And it does. I’m not nearly as much of a fan of the blood-drenched aspect as many of The Boys fans, but I’ve been fascinated by the psychological and sociological messages of the original show. To my pleasant surprise, ‘Diabolical’ picks up those themes too (along with a lot of blood and guts). I’m a big fan of watching shows an episode at a time, maybe because I didn’t grow up binge watching, but Diabolical lends itself to that since each episode tackles a different theme and focuses on a different character, usually one we don’t yet know. So, as a means of whetting your appetite for all of Diabolical on Friday, here are some thoughts on Episode One, which pays homage to classic American cartoons.

The first episode is titled ‘Laser Baby’s Day Out,’ and introduces Simon, a Vought researcher assigned to one particular laser eyed baby. In keeping with what we know about how Vought treats its subjects, from Homelander’s tragic childhood to its lab full of often failed human experiments, the babies are there to make themselves useful by getting control of their lethal powers – or else. There’s an intimidating security guy there to see to it that Simon makes sure Laser Baby fulfills her supe potential.

Simon, on the other hand, is a very human everyman just doing his job, but as the time limit for Laser Baby to prove herself draws near, increasingly a father figure whose parental instincts are firing thanks to the baby’s growing attachment to him. From my perspective as a psychologist, that makes sense. We’re all wired to respond to certain ‘demand characteristics’ that infants possess – their oversized eyes and heads, the way they cling, the sound of their crying. Simon is not immune, as much as he tries to be (and neither are we, watching). He begins to fantasize about taking Laser Baby home and being a dad to her, never mind that she could slice him into ribbons with her eyes. In spite of how ridiculous that sounds, as a parent myself, it was impossible for me not to start rooting for Laser Baby and the bumbling but well-intentioned Simon.

One of the fascinating things about ‘The Boys’ in all its incarnations is how much it leads all its characters (and us as viewers too) down the slippery slope of where good intentions often lead. We clearly see evidence that the babies are dangerous from the start, but when Laser Baby can only laser accidentally when she sneezes and is put on the termination list, we’re somehow on her side anyway. Simon goes all out to save ‘his’ baby when she escapes, pursuing her in a hilarious chase across the city with first the intimidating guard and then the whole Vought security team after them.

In typical cartoon fashion, both the unlikely escapes and the graphic violence are over the top – there is SO much blood and gore that you can’t help but laugh as the baby cluelessly crawls through the resulting mess of blood and guts she’s created and gets away each time, leaving red knee and hand prints as she goes. The ridiculousness of the scene is part of both its humor and its chillingness because she looks like an adorable little crawling baby and there are giant men with huge guns confronting her.  The chase scene is sprinkled with pop culture references from The Boys universe and in general, from King Kong to a poster in the local zoo of The Deep proclaiming that “Piranhas Need Love Too”. You can imagine what happened at that point in the episode. No, of course I wouldn’t cheer if a Vought sharpshooter almost caught up to the baby and a piranha ate his face.

I won’t give away the ending, but Simon and the baby end up on top of a skyscraper as he wraps the baby up in his coat and she calls him ‘Dada’.  You need to watch the episode on Prime Video to find out whether they escape the Vought security team ready to swoop in.

I was hooked on Diabolical from this first episode. I love the way this universe is constantly pulling me in multiple directions, including directions that I absolutely know I should not be going in. I love the way it manipulates and stretches and questions a sense of right and wrong and that it’s dark as hell yet has moments of optimism and hope anyway in the resilience of its characters fighting against impossible odds.

This episode, like many in the original series, challenged my original perspective.  It’s easy to see the threat of a human with lethal super powers and assess that as a 100% bad thing when you’re watching an adult onscreen – it’s a lot harder to root against that same human when you’re watching an adorable baby. Like Simon, we all feel like we’re bumbling through life sometimes, almost missing the elevator and then getting your coat caught when the doors close, being intimidated by the office bully, and just trying to do our jobs. We all want to make a difference somehow and most of us care – about someone. When that someone is threatened, how far would we go to save them? As a long time fan of executive producer Eric Kripke’s series ‘Supernatural’, that’s a familiar question – and I love that he’s still asking it.

You can watch ‘Diabolical’ starting March 4 on Prime Video. ‘The Boys Presents: Diabolical’ is executive produced by Simon Racioppa, Eric Kripke, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, James Weaver, Neal H. Moritz, Pavun Shetty, Ori Marmur, Ken F. Levin, Jason Netter, Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson, Michaela Starr, Loreli Alanís, Chris Prynoski, Shannon Prynoski, and Ben Kalina. The Boys Presents: Diabolical is produced by Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures Television Studios, with Titmouse, Kripke Enterprises, Original Film, and Point Grey Pictures.

Stay tuned for more Diabolical – there are seven more totally out there episodes in Season 1! And don’t forget, Season 3 of ‘The Boys’ with the amazing returning cast and Jensen Ackles as Soldier Boy joining in the fun premieres on June 3!

– Lynn

You can find all our pop culture books,

including lots of Supernatural, at the links

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Supernatural Charlotte Con 2021!

I headed to Charlotte last weekend for the second Supernatural convention that Creation has put on in 2021 post pandemic. While the one before, in Denver, was a whole lot of everyone being overjoyed to see each other and simultaneously get accustomed to a lot of new rules, this one felt a bit like “the new normal”, at least the one we’ll have for a while. We’re still in the midst of a global pandemic, so masks and Covid tests and social distancing (and the plexiglass photo ops) are here to stay for now.

It seems the altered schedule might also be here to stay – Jared and Jensen once again did some of their photo ops and both their meet and greets on Saturday instead of Sunday. When they were both working on Supernatural, it made sense that the production gave them Mondays off so they could be at conventions until late – now that both are working on different shows, no other production is going to be as accommodating. Doing some things on Saturday allowed them to finish up autographs on Sunday at a reasonable time so they could be back where they needed to be on Monday morning – in Jared’s case at least, on the Walker set! It also gave them a chance to hang out more now that they don’t get to see each other on a daily basis. I’m a creature of habit, so I pretty much loathe change, which means I miss the way Sundays at cons have been the same forever – but I’m also a realist, and the changes do make sense with the actors all working on other gigs. It made Sunday a bit less hectic at least!

Apparently at the next con, even autographs will be split between the two days, which I actually don’t like at all. If you don’t have a photo op for them to sign, you need to do autographs on Saturday now – but I’ll miss end of the con autographs as a nice way to wrap things up and say goodbye. Ah well.

Charlotte, for me, was different in other ways too. I got there late afternoon on Friday, which meant by the time I got the vendor table set up I missed pretty much everything, including some panels I really would have liked to see. There was once again no Richard Speight, Jr. to host and no Matt Cohen either, so I didn’t miss them -but I DID miss them! Rob Benedict stepped up the plate again as host and house band and generally kept things rolling like the pro that he is.

Friday night was the ‘Saturday Night Special’ concert, so at least I didn’t miss that – and it was a really good one. Louden Swain was on fire, and so were all the guest actors who joined them onstage that night.

Adam Fergus introduced everyone’s favorite photographer, Chris Schmelke, who played bass on Juliet. We missed out on an exhausted Chris at the SNS in Denver, so it was great to have him back onstage with the band!

Jake Abel joined in the fun to introduce her, Kim Rhodes sang ‘Be Me’ (no, it’s not actually called ‘Dimestore Refugee,’ who knew?) and made it clear why it was one of her favorite songs, and David Haydn-Jones channeled his inner rockstar (and George Michael) with ‘Faith’.

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