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.
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.
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….
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.
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!
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!