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.”
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!
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.
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!
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!