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The Boys now is less a satire than an extended horror movie, but does it realize that?
by Jeremy Fogelman
The latest episode of The Boys is called “Glorious Five Year Plan” which is a reference to a classic USSR economic plan and also a team in the comics of Russian superheroes, continuing the tactic of loosely connecting the story in the comics to the highly divergent TV show. Here we don’t meet any such team, nor even any Russian supes for that matter, but we do get a few intriguing and harrowing scenes in Russia.
The episode does contain laughs, like always, like the terrible Soldier Boy commercial or the might-as-well-be-real parody of the tone deaf Pepsi BLM commercial starring Kendall Jenner. Considering the commercial actually happened in real life, it’s not really much a satire at all, and SNL already had a hilarious sketch about it back in 2017. So not exactly covering new ground here.
I think the funniest little continuing gag was the Russian state media videos emasculating Hughie about Starlight, but I don’t know if that’s based on reality -- just felt more organically funny instead of super in your face “satire” like Ashley saying that her Instagram feed is nothing but black squares. It feels like a legitimate parody in some ways of Hollywood corporate culture, but the problem is that The Boys also spends most of its time dedicated to showing the parallels of power between Homelander and Butcher in a more realistic, painful way.
And honestly that’s where the show really shines, not so much the half-baked parody pieces, as much as I often find them funny. They just aren’t really integrated well anymore, as the show has proceeded too far into a dark territory (which isn’t a criticism inherently, just the direction it’s gone).
Here we see Supersonic foolishly trusting A-Train with their mysterious plan to take out Homelander -- with good intentions, but poorly thought out. If he had asked Starlight if they could trust him, I doubt she’d have agreed. Maeve is shown practicing her sword fighting while planting fake news stories about going to seed, which does present an interesting direction for her character with the plan that she really started to kill Homelander.
We also get a “fall” of Stan Edgar as Victoria actually turns on her father figure to keep with Homelander and her fellow supes (if only Homelander actually knows about it). The meeting with him and Stan is an interestingly tense one, connecting to a few scenes in the comics, although Stan calling him “bad product” is an interesting choice, as it was a particularly emotional moment in the often emotionless comics that’s here used as a needle drop.
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But as for our team of heroes, the episode is concerned with setting up the failure of Butcher from the start. He convinces MM that he needs him to be there as a stabilizing element, is not careful with keeping his backup Compound V dose from Hughie, and flat out tells Kimiko she’s his gun. The action scene with her killing people with vibrators and dildos was pretty gratuitous, but that’s The Boys for you, the concept isn’t inherently funny to me -- and besides, Everything Everywhere All At Once did it better.
When they actually break into the lab, Butcher breaks open a mysterious container without (again) being careful about it, letting out a long-haired Soldier Boy, a direct allusion to the Winter Soldier character from Marvel. Somewhat oddly out of character, they all just stand around in shock, letting the dude blast at Hughie (although he seemed to be aiming just at the wall?) and Kimiko takes the energy blow instead -- and for some reason she’s not healing her wounds.
Obviously there’s a potential twist there that could impact their plan to hurt Homelander, but who knows how they might go? The episode ends with MM and Frenchie desperately trying to keep Kimiko alive while Butcher keeps his mind on the Soldier Boy mystery and Hughie, worryingly, is smiling happily about his new temporary powers. If there’s anything The Boys likes to tell us, it’s that giving a weak person powers is destined for trouble.
Overall, I did like the episode, even if my general feeling about the show is still that it doesn’t entirely know what it wants to be. I suppose part of it will have to be a “wait and see” about the season’s potential payoffs.