In the aftermath of Annie’s big exit from Vought and the Seven, she’s still streaming regularly to her millions of subscribers. Ashley is covering by claiming on faux FOX that Starlight is not just lying, but attempting to change the subject from her association with “known terrorist” Kimiko—putting the national spotlight on Kimiko and upping the stakes against her.
Hughie and Butcher have taken Soldier Boy to the Legend’s house, where he’s having orgies with older women (he says they need more Astroglide, a particularly funny Ackles-oriented product placement given that Astroglide is the most pro-Destiel of all lube brands—not that anyone else was vying for the title) and smoking a ton of weed.
The Legend wants him out; he says he’s not actually friends with Soldier Boy because “talent is all the same.” In his irritation, he spills to Hughie that Soldier Boy was never actually at D-Day, but he was at Kent State and Birmingham—you can guess when, and on what side. “To be American,” says the Legend, “means knowing you’re the hero.” Which means when all evidence suggests you’re actually not, you make up myths like Soldier Boy to fill in the difference.
The next item on Soldier Boy’s hitlist is Mindstorm, who Butcher is having trouble tracking because he’s got so many properties under his name. Soldier Boy says it figures, since Mindstorm is crazy and paranoid, and the Legend corrects him: he’s bipolar and on appropriate medication. In a rare moment of situationally convenient brilliance, Hughie suggests tracking the guy by his lithium prescription in relation to cabin locations.
Meanwhile, Homelander pays a visit to Maeve, who’s alive after all—figured—but in captivity. She seems to be doing relatively well, all things considered. After a little light arguing and taunting each other, Homelander claims he used to dream of having kids with Maeve, which she interprets as a rape threat—nope, says Homelander, he’s just gonna harvest her eggs nonconsensually, which is the whole reason he’s been keeping her alive. He wants kids with two super-parents, unlike Ryan, no matter the cost.
Here, another trunk shot. (Don’t worry, Eric—I didn’t forget.) On their nice walk through the woods to Mindstorm’s cabin, Soldier Boy keeps hearing things Butcher and Hughie can’t. Butcher armchair diagnoses him with PTSD; he’s giving him tons of weed to keep him sedate. Then Mindstorm shows up and there’s a bit of an explosion. I will say that giving Butcher and Hughie powers does up the stakes in an interesting and probably narratively necessary way—they can finally survive the same things the other characters can. It allows for a lot more explosive action, so if that’s what you come to the show for, it pays off.
Mindstorm hits Butcher with his mind powers and traps him in a traumatic memory cycle of his childhood, wherein, as a kid (Luca Villacis as teen Butcher/Josh Zaharia as younger Butcher), he tries repeatedly to save his little brother, Lenny (Bruno Rudolf at his youngest; Jack Fulton as a teen), from their father’s abuse, becoming more and more like his violent, jaded, domineering father (Brendan Murray; John Noble in flashbacks to previous episodes featuring an elderly Sam Butcher) in the process. It’s yet another familiar storyline from Eric Kripke. I’m not saying he shouldn’t do it. I’m just saying he seems to have a type. Of story, that is. Anyway, Soldier Boy says Butcher is a goner, and that the only way to bring him out of his tortured reverie is to get Mindstorm to reverse it, which is a no-go, given how precipitously Soldier Boy plans to off him.
Soldier Boy has a lot of fun lines with slight homophobic and/or homoerotic flavor in this episode. To Hughie, on being second-guessed: “And you might wanna gargle my ballsack.” To Hughie, on Butcher: “His mouth must feel like a Hoover deluxe.” In Black Noir’s cartoon memory: “Shut your cock-hole.” None of these is a slur exactly, but since there are so many of them, I’m gonna add a point to the Soldier Boy Homophobic Slur Counter anyway (3).
Black Noir update: He’s hiding out an old Buster Beaver’s (seemingly a Chuck E Cheese with a Disney edge). As he wanders the abandoned building, he’s surrounded by… cartoon characters? Yep. He’s hallucinating: The characters all encourage him, recalling some fond (and not-so-fond) memories. This seems to be a common occurrence; the characters really are his “best pals.” Equal parts sweet, sad, and unsettling. I’m really glad the show is doing more formal experimentation a la the recent musical number. Can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
Frenchie and Kimiko arrive, totally beat up, at M.M.’s apartment where he and Annie await. Annie escorts Kimiko to bed. While M.M. chastises Frenchie for smoking ketamine in one room, Annie tends to Kimiko in the other. They drink whiskey together—it’s Kimiko’s first time drinking, apparently. Kimiko has one favor to ask of Annie: She wants some Compound V, the real deal, so she can have her powers back. She realized, while fighting Nina’s goons, that she had been blaming her powers for her behavior, when in fact the things she feared were inside her all along. But she wants her powers back now because it’s her choice—and because, if she’s going to be attacked anyway, she might as well be able to fight back for her loved ones.
Deep’s wife Cassandra (Katy Breier), off-brand Anna Kendrick, arrives at home to find he’s set up a romantic scene—only to find out he wants to introduce a new partner: an octopus named Ambrosius. Cassandra wants no part of it, and they get into a big fight about the Deep’s creaturely infidelity and her role in his career. She tells him, essentially, that he can try making public appearances without her feeding him lines and see how far he gets. I’m on her side for this one.
Black Noir is still watching his personal show, now a cartoon memory of his decision to betray Soldier Boy. Soldier Boy lost him a role in Beverly Hills Cop, taunted him, and beat him up in front of the rest of Payback. Then, in Vietnam, Stan Edgar approached Noir with the offer to turn against Soldier Boy—with Vought’s full permission, because they have a child replacement in the works (guess who). Turns out Soldier Boy was the one who melted Noir’s face in the fight to off him, in which every member of Payback but Gunpowder colluded. Noir has been prepared for Soldier Boy to come back the whole time.
Homelander gives a big anti-Starlight speech at a Singer rally on a farm, much to Singer and Neuman’s confusion and the crowd’s excitement. He rambles angrily and hallucinates Soldier Boy coming at him—lots of hallucinations in this episode. Disoriented and upset, he wanders into the barn and finds a cow, which he milks sexually. (RIP Madelyn Stillwell.) Neuman interrupts his sensual milk-drinking to ask him a favor. In exchange, she hands him a piece of paper with an address on it—presumably Ryan’s, since we know he’s been searching.
Good and bad news for A-Train: He’s alive! I still think going out after finally trying to do something right would have been a narratively satisfying end for him, but metatextually it’s probably best that he didn’t die as implicit karmic retribution for killing a supecop. As soon as he wakes up, Ashley feeds him the party line: Soldier Boy injured him and killed Blue Hawk. Worse news for A-Train: They’ve given him Blue Hawk’s superpowered heart, which means he can (and will be forced to) run again, all with his least favorite person’s heart beating inside him. Unfortunate. But at least he finally seems to be truly cognizant of Vought’s absolute evil. One could say he’s had a change of heart.
Frenchie, combing through the Russian footage of Soldier Boy with M.M., finally identifies the substance that can knock Soldier Boy out: not halothane, as M.M. thought, but a vaporized nerve gas. M.M., distracted by a photo from the Homelander/Singer rally, runs off. Kimiko wanders in, wanting to dance to “Dream a Little Dream of Me” (her favorite song, and also, if anybody else is watching Stranger Things this season—which I assume most of you are—a heavy hitter there too). Kimiko reveals that she’s sent Annie to get the V, and Frenchie panics: Doesn’t she hate her powers? Doesn’t she still want to run off to Marseilles together? She lets him read the note she wrote Annie, which convinces him she’s making the right decision for herself.
Also, somewhat strangely, the question of their relationship status is (non-)resolved in this conversation: They agree it was weird to kiss, which Kimiko insists is because they’re “more than that”—that, I guess, being romantic love. They’re family, she says. It’s an interesting route for the show to take, not least because the “our love is bigger than regular people could imagine, so of course we can’t have sex” route is usually relegated to queer couples. Representation? It also belies Kripke’s narrative habit of prioritizing family above all else.
M.M. has run off to his ex-wife’s house to confront Todd, who took little Janine to the Homelander rally. Todd says it’s fine; M.M. obviously disagrees, and so does his ex, whom Todd doesn’t seem to have informed of his whereabouts. M.M. and Todd get into an argument during which Todd reveals increasingly more QAnon-like beliefs about Annie (including that she’s sex trafficking children through her charity), and M.M. knocks Todd out. Well-deserved, in my opinion. Not sure, at this point, what the former Mrs. Milk sees in Todd, but he’s a convenient narrative foil for M.M.
Annie sneaks off to Vought Labs to grab the V. (Not sure how she got in, given her dramatic exit, but we’re past that now.) On the way out, she sees a list of symptoms for temp V, and they’re not good: significant cognitive and physical degeneration, resulting in death after 3-5 doses. Butcher and Hughie’s numbers are definitely up there. On her way out, Homelander catches her and lays into her, threatening Hughie once again, to which she shrugs: Oh well. To add insult to injury, she reveals as she’s stepping into the elevator to exit the building that she’s been live-streaming the whole conversation. Homelander scrambles to recover, but too little too late.
Back at the ranch (or rather, cabin), Hughie and Soldier Boy sneak up on Mindstorm—and Hughie betrays Soldier Boy by zapping Mindstorm back out to the forest to heal Butcher. He manages to convince Mindstorm that he’s no threat, promising to teleport him anywhere in the world and never tell a soul where he is, as long as he brings Butcher back. Mindstorm tentatively agrees and uses his powers to wake Butcher up.
Butcher arises from the worst part of his time loop nightmare, and in fact a scene he can’t have seen in real life: his little brother’s suicide. Dream-Lenny speaks directly to Butcher, telling him he’s a danger to everyone he cares about: Lenny, Becca, and now Hughie. It’s quite sweet to receive incontrovertible evidence of how much Butcher cares about Hughie when he tries very hard not to show it on the day-to-day; whether he’s able to follow through on that care is another thing. It’s also sad that, among the millions of horrible things Butcher has done, his biggest regret is the one thing that isn’t actually his fault.
Butcher wakes up in Hughie’s arms, disoriented, and Hughie prepares to zap Mindstorm away—but, of course, Soldier Boy arrives right on time and beats Mindstorm nearly to death, leaving him enough wherewithal to tell him why Noir betrayed him. Whatever it is, we can’t hear it, but it must be big because it causes Soldier Boy to bash Mindstorm’s brains in with his shield, U.S. Agent style.
Butcher and Soldier Boy—the Boys indeed—decompress, both miserable, while Hughie goes out to grab dinner. Butcher’s phone rings; it’s Annie, who’s been trying to get a hold of Hughie for hours to no avail. (As Butcher points out, it’s hard to keep track of a phone when you can’t keep track of your pants.) She lets him know that the V is going to kill him and Hughie if they keep using it. (No shit; they literally have brain matter oozing out their ears.) He promises to tell Hughie immediately, but when Hughie gets back, he chickens out. Especially after seeing inside his psyche, it’s so disappointing (but expected) that he still can’t manage to do the right thing.
Speaking of V, Annie delivers Kimiko her dose of the real deal, which Frenchie administers. She seems to experience a little pain, but begins healing almost immediately. Kimiko’s back in business.
One last thing: Homelander gets a call from Soldier Boy. Turns out the thing that Mindstorm said, the thing that made Soldier Boy so angry, is that Homelander is Soldier Boy’s son. In retrospect, it seems kind of obvious, but it’s a big drop nevertheless. This certainly complicates the plan: Will Soldier Boy still be willing to kill Homelander? Will they team up against Butcher? It also answers the question of why Soldier Boy and Homelander can’t have sex. Touché, Mr. Kripke.
This news does beg the question of Homelander’s maternity—given Homelander’s severe mommy issues, I’m very worried about possible contenders. She has to be a Supe, or otherwise he wouldn’t be so powerful. Worst (worst worst worst) case scenario? Stormfront. But I doubt the show would go there. Fingers extremely crossed, anyway, that they wouldn’t.