'The Boys’ blows it all up in the penultimate episode of the season.
by Jeremy Fogelman
The latest episode of The Boys is called “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker”, once again more from a graphic novel title that barely connects to the radically different story of the adapted work. Here we see mainly four through lines interconnected, one the Scientology parody barely connected to the rest, one with Queen Maeve slightly more connected, and the two main ones, setting up the big hearings and rescuing Starlight.
As per usual, the Scientology satire with The Deep and A-Train feels more of the same, now referencing toxic people and cutting people out of their lives, which is called in the real world a “suppressive person”. It feels like the most unsubtle part of this extremely unsubtle show, and it’s hard to really care about either A-Train or The Deep due to their unsavory pasts. And the comedy doesn’t really work either this episode with them, so it felt like “okay I get it, can we move on now?”
On the Maeve front, her storyline has been rushed all season, and so we get a lightning quick breakup, a breakdown where she hooks up with two dudes, and comes back at the end of the episode to save Starlight from Black Noir (and maybe kills him? It’s unclear). But she doesn’t go with the other supe, because she can’t, for reasons not fully explained, even if much can be inferred. I feel like Maeve is a character with a lot of potential, but not the potential we’ve seen enough of.
It sort of depends on the finale, but for now these two storylines have left me a bit disappointed. On the better side, I did like Hughie’s adventure to save Starlight, even though it was pretty straightforward, and I also did not really care about Lamplighter immolating himself. We barely got anything from him, good or bad, just a mild amount of grey, so it’s hard to care that he’s dead, any more than Hughie or Butcher seemed to.
Butcher though has far more of an interesting episode, confronting his terminally ill father (a perfectly cast bastard of John Noble) and we get more insight into his troubled past. That’s the sort of context I like to see, and that connects easily into Billy threatening Dr. Vogelbaum’s family in a way that we believe him completely.
That storyline is connected back through the radicalization done by Stormfront, who is now leading Homelander down the same path. The opening montage, of a man driven by fear to kill an innocent immigrant, feels quite relevant, as does the dog whistling and pretense of caring about innocent victims by Stormfront and Homelander.
Where it gets truly terrifying is the way they manage to subvert his son, by revealing the safe lie by his mother -- another parenting mishap. Homelander even reveals what feels like truth to Becca, that when he found the real world, it was overwhelming and panic inducing. We get even more terror from Vogelbaum himself (classic character actor John Doman) who reveals to Billy that he 100% mistreated and alienated Homelander as a child.
But that doesn’t mean it’s satisfying to see him die in the final moments of chaos of the episode, where we seem to be just as confused as everyone else. Was it Stormfront? The exploding head lady from the Vought secret asylum? If it is her, why did she do it? And was Billy involved? These are the sorts of questions that are good to set up the finale, which I certainly feel invested in -- honestly I expected things to go wrong at the hearing, I just wasn’t sure how.
The Boys really tries to shock and surprise, and although as someone who read the pretty exploitative source material I’m kinda desensitized to it, I do appreciate when the show delves into real world issues when they get it right. And of course Aya Cash deserves accolades for this, as she did for You’re the Worst, so get on it next year’s Emmys!