Ever want to see Jensen Ackles rap? No? Well, now you can! This episode opens with a recording of Soldier Boy’s appearance on eighties standard variety show Solid Gold, rapping Blondie’s “Rapture” with suitable blandness to the gyrations of sparkly backup dancers. “Rapture,” in addition to having some of the most bizarre lyrics ever written (who doesn’t love hearing Debbie Harry musically recount the harrowing tale of an alien who eats everything he comes into contact with, including cars?), it also happens to be the song usually credited with introducing rap to mainstream white audiences—the first number-one single to feature rapping in the U.S.
It’s a surprisingly perfect song choice, demonstrating not just the campy aesthetics of Soldier Boy’s most recent heyday and the narrative of a superhuman man who consumes his surroundings to the point of total destruction, but the ways in which power can make the unfamiliar palatable to the masses. Fun to receive so much subtle cultural criticism from Ackles’ modest white boy rapping.
Zoom out, and we discover M.M. watching the tape; he’s having a traumatic flashback to some crucial moments from childhood, including, seemingly, a car accident. If we’ve gotten that information in previous seasons, I don’t remember it, so it seems like we’re slowly inching closer to uncovering M.M.’s whole tragic backstory re: Soldier Boy.
Homelander, meanwhile, is enjoying his reinstated popularity by going on TV and espousing extremely QAnon-adjacent ideas about secret threads of power within Vought. Edgar tasks Neuman with speaking out publicly against Homelander, just to remind him who’s boss—she’s hesitant (“We never go after Homelander—it’s practically federal policy”), but he promises he’ll look out for her and her daughter, just like he always does.
Homelander’s also taking full advantage of the Homelight situation, using it to acquire a key to Annie’s apartment and harassing Hughie with impunity. Before dragging Annie to a Rolling Stone shoot (they’ve been voted “Hottest Ship”), he signs Hughie’s cast “Best, Homelander”—equal parts thoughtlessly faux-professional, condescending, and braggadocious. Perfectly Homelander. Annie, having had enough, threatens Homelander if he so much as touches a hair on the head of any of Hughie’s loved ones—but Hughie was just about to try to stand up for himself for once, and he obviously feels emasculated by constantly having to play the damsel in distress.
Butcher and Frenchie pay a visit to Little Nina, who gladly takes a large sum for the exchange of information about and travel to Russia, but still demands Cherie’s head as the final piece of the bargain. Frenchie vehemently resists, but Butcher sends him out of the room. Nina and Butcher spend most of the conversation kicking Frenchie around between them like a sad puppy neither of them particularly wants, and Frenchie’s frustration, like Hughie’s, is palpable. He obviously doesn’t trust Butcher not to trade Cherie’s life for the so-called greater good, nor should he. (His irritation while climbing into a private jet leads to one of the best lines of the episode: “Entourage is but for the stupid and the damned.” So true, Frenchie.)
It’s later revealed that Butcher didn’t indeed trade Cherie to Little Nina—but he did promise her that Kimiko would kill a guy for her while they’re in the old country. Frenchie’s not too happy about this outcome either, and neither is Kimiko, who tells Butcher she’s not his gun. He clarifies: Yes, you are. Conversation over. It’s not the worst decision he’s ever made by far, but his callous disregard for the feelings and safety of others is obviously about to hit boiling point. M.M. agrees and gives Butcher a talking to; Butcher replies by reminiscing about why he chose to work with M.M. in the first place, claiming it’s because he knew M.M. would hold the team together. It’s a fairly sweet moment tempered by the knowledge that Butcher is just as likely manipulating him as much as he is being honest.
Frenchie drives Kimiko to her hit like a nervous dad taking his daughter to the first day of kindergarten. She looks gorgeous—which is troubling not only because she’s obviously uncomfortable in her new sparkly clothes, but because she’s been tasked with knocking out a man throwing an obviously unethical and coercive orgy with a number of dead-eyed young women. When she arrives, he shows her his collection of Seven-themed dildos and she swiftly uses the Black Noir dildo to stab him through the face. A dildo-based fight scene ensues, during which I have to admit I wondered a lot about the relative stab-capability of any dildo, even a really large one launched with a great deal of force. I suppose in order to get the best of your dildo-based fight choreography you really have to suspend your sense of logic and physics, but maybe I just don’t know how to use them.
When the mark and all his guards are dead, one of the girls shoots Kimiko through the head—it’s a little jarring to see her use her healing powers for the first time this season—and they’re all obviously horrified when she heals and wakes up, cowering and begging for mercy. She realizes that, to them, she’s as bad as their abusers, maybe worse, and that she has a lot in common with them, but she has no way to communicate that she’s not going to harm them. They just see a killer, and it seems like that’s what Kimiko’s starting to see too. She wants out of the killing game entirely, and when she returns home, she tells Frenchie she’s serious about leaving. Finally, he agrees, saying they can go wherever she wants together after they wrap up this mission, for Hughie and M.M.’s sake. Given Kimiko’s immortality, this doesn’t bode well for Frenchie’s chances of making it out alive. (We’ll come back to this.)
Back at Vought headquarters, Annie visits Maeve (finally resurrected from a severe lack of screen time this season) and asks her to join their mission, only to discover Maeve was the one who set it all in motion by giving Butcher the necessary information. Annie’s surprised to see that Maeve is training, having heard that she was unwell and taking a break; Maeve reveals that she’s been intentionally spreading misinformation about herself for the sake of privacy. She seems to be treating the whole situation like a suicide mission, which—given her large absence this season—worries me.
Also of concern is Alex, who Annie ropes into the Homelander destruction mission fairly easily. When she asks why he agreed, he gives an overblown love confession—then, when she panics, reveals that he was only joking and that he mostly just wants to do the right thing. Thank god, because a facile, earnest Alex-Annie-Hughie love triangle was not on the table as a genuinely compelling potential element of the season. The bad news is that this means he’s either not long for this world or he’s secretly really super evil. (We’ll come back to this too.) In the meantime, though, he’s taken the dirty work to heart, recruiting A-Train to the mission after witnessing a pathetic fight between him and The Deep, broken up by an insulting-as-always Homelander. Looks like A-Train’s Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial parody energy drink can’t heal all discord after all.
Ashley (who’s engaged in her own weird sex-based subplot, as per usual) finds out that Neuman has called a press conference about Homelander and gets supremely yelled at when she informs him. He takes matters into his own hands, paying Neuman a visit and promising her something big if she takes the heat off him and betrays Edgar instead. She does, claiming publicly that Edgar is under investigation, which she claims is mostly for the sake of her daughter’s safety. After processing the situation, Edgar seems characteristically calm: He tells Homelander he’s actually kind of proud of his daughter for doing what’s best for her—and what may not actually be best for Homelander after all. With Edgar on temporary leave, there may be no one to keep Homelander in check, but there’s also no one to cover for him.
Homelander pays a visit to Neuman’s house and hands over the goods, which turn out to be a sample of Compound V that Neuman uses to transform her daughter, Zoe (Olivia Morandin), into a supe, telling her it will make her “strong and safe.” Given that the serum is highly volatile, especially when administered to anyone older than infants, this attempt at protection may backfire. I understand Neuman’s maternal desperation to do whatever it takes to keep her daughter safe, but this transformation is likely to have unexpected outcomes beyond just the excruciating pain it causes Zoe in the moment.
Speaking of transformations, Butcher is officially addicted to V24, taking his second dose before hitting up the lab. Hughie catches him in the act and, instead of admonishing him, begs to take some too. Butcher turns him down, telling him the effect is “not power, it’s punishment,” a kind of self-flagellation—which I’m sure is partially true, but not the whole truth. Hughie, feeling powerless in more ways than one, sneaks a dose anyway. Good idea, buddy. I’m sure nothing could go wrong.
In the lab, they meet a superpowered hamster named Jamie who Frenchie becomes adorably obsessed with, and, of course, they’re caught. To everyone’s surprise and dismay, Butcher ravages the lab guards with his powers—and to everyone’s further surprise and dismay, Hughie teleports out of his clothes and punches through a guy’s torso while exclaiming how sorry he is. Everyone’s too busy yelling at Butcher for doing something thoughtless, irresponsible, and selfish to monitor Hughie, who, after a very brief adjustment period, is enjoying his newfound power a little too much.
Still sour with each other, they ransack the lab and uncover a giant machine. Finally, here he is: Soldier Boy, in the flesh. (Extremely in the flesh. A lot of ass in this episode. Two is a lot.) Despite Ackles’s flashback appearances in previous episodes, it’s a little surreal to see him interact directly with these characters. Dean Winchester has escaped Supernatural and grown a very bad mountain man beard.
Disoriented, Soldier Boy blasts Kimiko into a wall and escapes; they try to follow, but are distracted by the fact that Kimiko suddenly isn’t healing—in fact, she’s rapidly bleeding out. (So maybe it’s not Frenchie who’s in danger of not making it to Marseilles.) Butcher thinks the Russians must have been experimenting on Soldier Boy all this time; I wonder if one of his new experimental powers is some sort of power-leaching that can make Homelander weak enough to then be killed by someone else.
Annie’s being a good girlfriend and a good fake girlfriend, letting Homelander carry her while they fly away from a public event—he says he has a view to show her. That view turns out to be the mutilated corpse of Alex. RIP. Homelander tells Annie that A-Train tattled on their scheme (certainly possible, but I have suspicions there’s more to it) and that, if she doesn’t shape up and give up on her mission, he’ll kill Hughie the same way. Distraught but obviously newly motivated, she agrees.
The corpse is definitely Alex’s size and shape, and is definitely wearing Supersonic’s uniform, but also his face has been blown off—which, according to TV rules, means there’s a remote chance that he’s somehow alive, even that Homelander staged the scene as psychological torture for Annie and Alex will show up just fine to work tomorrow. It’s unlikely, but anything is possible. Regardless, I imagine Hughie’s burgeoning V24 addiction will send him barreling into a head-to-head with Homelander any day now.