Here we are in the aftermath of Soldier Boy’s escape from the Russian lab. Kimiko, thankfully, is stable after he swiped her powers, but she’s still not conscious. Hughie vomits up the remnants of V24 while M.M. and Butcher fight about their continued use of the drug.
Meanwhile, things are only getting worse and weirder on Mr. Vought’s Wild Ride: Ashley has been appointed as the new CEO in Stan Edgar’s absence, but it’s obvious that Homelander has taken the opportunity to seize full control of the Board and the company—a power he immediately uses to install The Deep as the new head of Crime Analytics, with Deep’s wife still scripting everything he says. Ashley, as a reward for A-Train’s loyalty to Homelander (in selling Alex out, resulting in his murder), sets up a meeting between him and Blue Hawk (Nick Wechsler), the racist street-patrolling supe A-Train’s brother previously warned him about. Blue Hawk espouses all the notions one would expect: “It’s actually racist to call someone racist.”
A-Train brings Blue Hawk to Nate’s local community center to apologize, whereupon Blue Hawk speeds through some deflecting note cards, claiming that he has Black friends (like A-Train) and didn’t really do anything wrong. When the crowd starts heckling him, he instigates a violent confrontation that ends not only in him screaming that “All Lives Matter” and “Supe Lives Matter” (stopping just short of saying “Blue (Hawk) Lives Matter”) but in his critical injury of several people—including Nate, who doctors tell A-Train will probably never walk again. Maybe this will be the thing that finally sends A-Train reaching toward real justice.
Alex’s death is being sold in the media as a drug overdose. When Annie arrives at Hughie’s apartment to tell him the truth, Hughie first tries to douse her in care—Charleston Chew, a lavender bath balm—before telling her his truth: that 1) Soldier Boy is alive and out there, and 2) Hughie used V24. Obviously, Annie is upset about both, but it seems like the V24 is the thing that really troubles her—rightfully so, since Hughie’s taste for it seems to stem from a deeply insecure place that quietly resents Annie for being strong and powerful, for always saving him when he wants to be the one to save and care for her.
Maeve comes to get a progress report from Butcher about the Russian field trip and, distraught by the reality of the situation they find themselves in, they break their sobriety together. When Butcher espouses his regular genocidal notions about supes—that they all have to go, not just Homelander—Maeve, self-destructive as ever, kisses him, and they hook up in a weirdly hot scene. Wouldn’t have predicted it, but good for them, I guess.
Since they’re back in the States, they’ve finally put Kimiko in a real hospital room—and when Frenchie comes to visit her, he finds Little Nina waiting for him. As punishment for the Russia trip going awry, she assigns him to kill a father and young child; he refuses, but she won’t take no for an answer. His spirits are lifted when Kimiko wakes up, delighted to have lost her powers. Given how miserable she’s been, this loss might actually be a big personal win.
Also back in the States, Soldier Boy takes Manhattan. He finds himself troubled and confused by contemporary mores—particularly heinous and hilarious is the face he makes upon seeing a gay couple showing affection in public, accompanied by a shot of yet another Brave Maeve mural on the street. (He doesn’t use his words, but I think I’m justified in bumping the Soldier Boy Homophobic Slur Counter up to 2.) He’s triggered almost immediately afterwards by a song that reminds him of his time held captive in Russia—it’s not quite a sleeper agent situation, but it’s definitely designed to remind viewers that Soldier Boy is somewhere between Captain America proxy and Winter Soldier. He blows up nuclear reactor-style yet again, killing a lot of people and destroying a building in the process.
M.M. sees the footage of the explosion at his ex’s house, where her new boyfriend Todd has bought M.M.’s daughter Janine a bunch of Homelander merch and is letting her watch Homelander’s televised breakdown, saying it’s good for her. (Todd is obviously one of the “white males” that Ashley reported being newly obsessed with Homelander.) Already upset by the possibility of Homelander influencing his kid, M.M. has yet another traumatic flashback upon seeing the explosion footage and skips out on a promised field trip with his daughter. M.M. is really stuck between a rock and a hard place—he can’t commit himself fully to the cause or to his family, and both parts of his life are suffering for it.
He meets up at the crime scene with Butcher and Hughie, who is walking around doing government business with a suspiciously healed arm like an idiot and immediately gets scoped out by a coworker who’s definitely going to report him to Neuman. The Boys contact Annie to get Crime Analytics on the footage, only for her to discover that The Deep has gutted the department, ostensibly because most of the employees had Homelander-critical tweets. Not only that, but Homelander himself has no interest in handling the situation directly, preferring to go on TV, claim there’s no threat, and get his ego stroked. Whether it’s because he genuinely thinks he’s being tested by Edgar, because he recognizes Soldier Boy and fears him, or because he recognizes Soldier Boy and wants him free remains to be seen.
Desperate for information on Soldier Boy, M.M. takes Butcher and Hughie to visit the Legend, a sleazy Hollywood agent type (and vague parody of Stan Lee) played impeccably by Paul Reiser. He’s a decadent free love enjoyer stuck in the seventies—upon revealing that he once had sex with Marlon Brando, he snorts, “What, that’s gay now?”—and also happens to have been the VP of Hero Management before Stillwell (remember her?).
The Legend’s attitude plays with the racist, sexist nostalgia espoused by characters like Homelander (who claims to miss when America was America) and Soldier Boy (who claims to miss when men were men): He misses “when heroes were heroes.” He wants them less corporate, less sanitized—though M.M. reminds him he was also instrumental in the cover-up of whatever happened to M.M.’s family, which means he owes M.M. The Boys do learn a few crucial pieces of info from the Legend: One, Soldier Boy—like Stormfront—doesn’t age. Two, Soldier Boy did indeed stop by the Legend’s place to pick up his costume and find the Crimson Countess’s new address.
At Vought headquarters, a confrontation erupts between Maeve and Homelander, who knows she’s in cahoots with Butcher and wants to manipulate her back to his side. When she refuses, telling him she always hated him, she gets jumped on by Black Noir—who seemingly helps to disappear her. When Annie later demands Ashley tell her where Maeve is, Ashley claims she’s at a wellness retreat. Colby Minifie continues to kill it in her relatively minimal screentime; Ashley wavers between bravado and fear, spinelessness and potential for good. When she whispers “I don’t have powers” to Annie, it’s obvious that she’s been calculating exactly what she has to do to get enough social and professional power to make up for it.
Kimiko, on the other hand, is enjoying her newfound powerlessness by watching musicals with Frenchie in the hospital bed. As they watch Judy Garland’s rendition of Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm,” Kimiko starts to croak out a few words, to Frenchie’s shock—and then she breaks into song. It’s a musical fantasy number! The turn makes sense for Kimiko, who loves music and has already been shown to imagine speaking through song sometimes—but this number takes it to the next level with full La La Land-style choreography. All things considered, the scene’s manically upbeat mood fits surprisingly well into the episode, the season, and the show as a whole. I’d love to see more formal experimentation from The Boys in the future; that kind of play suits the show’s comic, irreverent heart. (I’ll note that the use of Judy Garland here also makes a certain kind of sense—Garland’s “powers,” her talents, also encouraged those around her to abuse and destroy her and ultimately led to her downfall, just as Kimiko fears for herself. The subtle juxtaposition calls to mind the use of Britney Spears as a parallel for Starlight a few episodes ago.)
Outside the fantasy, Kimiko isn’t speaking after all—but she does have something to say, and she kisses Frenchie to say it. I’ve been wondering for the show’s entire run whether Frenchie and Kimiko would go down the romantic path, and I think it speaks to the strength of the writing of their relationship that it could work either way. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, Frenchie and Kimiko together are sweet but never cloying, always genuinely emotionally affective. The show has struck gold with a relationship that feels natural and necessary whether it’s platonic or romantic.
Frenchie seems to have a similar ambivalence about the nature of their relationship—he needs a second to process, so he runs off to grab some coffee. Kimiko doesn’t seem too bothered by his panic; she smiles when he leaves, and he smiles at the coffee machine, indicating that he’s ready to tell her he feels the same. But—tragedy of tragedies—he’s kidnapped by Little Nina’s minions, leaving Kimiko to think she’s been stood up. Alas, nothing good can last.
Meanwhile, Crimson Countess is innocently camming in her house—go girl, get that supplemental income—for a regular customer (hi Seth Rogen). Butcher interrupts the session and ties her up, telling her that Soldier Boy is alive and coming to find her. Turns out she knew the Russians had him all along, and she’s absolutely certain he’s going to kill her when he finds her. She pleads to be let go, but Butcher informs her that she’s their bait.
Butcher and Hughie are all V’d up, whereas M.M. has refused on principle. (During this scene, we also get the classic Kripke trunk shot, lest we forget that he’s the Supernatural guy. Work to do indeed.) Not only does M.M. want nothing to do with the V, but he has also called Annie and told her they need backup, effectively tattling on Hughie (deservedly) for taking V again even though he promised he wouldn’t do it again. In their ensuing argument, Hughie finally says what he’s been hinting around this whole time: “I can finally save you for once.” It’s always been about power for him, whether or not he realizes it. As long as Annie has superpowers and he doesn’t, he’ll never feel like they’re on an equal emotional playing field.
While Hughie and Annie are off having a lovers’ spat, the Geiger counter begins to tick just as M.M. realizes he doesn’t feel so good—he’s been drugged by Butcher, who wants him out of the way for this next part. The master plan, it turns out, is to team up with Soldier Boy; he promises that Soldier Boy can have Crimson Countess as long as he’ll help Butcher kill Homelander. Hughie also knew this was the plan, shocking Annie, who begs him not to follow Butcher’s lead. He does anyway. Poor Annie. She’s been having a real rough go of it. Let’s hope something goes her way soon.
Inside the Countess’s house, she greets Soldier Boy by his first name (Ben, apparently), and their conversation takes a swift turn into territory that very clearly parallels the earlier conversation between Maeve and Homelander: She reveals that she hated him the whole time. In retaliation, he blasts the whole house apart.
To be perfectly honest, I still can’t quite get a read on Ackles’s portrayal of Soldier Boy. Some of his lines indicate that Soldier Boy could have been kind of funny—sardonic, sarcastic, ruthlessly charming—but instead, he’s very serious in a vaguely Shakespearean manner. It’s obvious—and makes perfect sense—that Soldier Boy takes himself very seriously, but fingers crossed that that self-seriousness leads to some sort of folly, some kind of comic payoff. When your funniest delivery so far is a homophobic facial expression, there may be some room for growth. Thankfully, there’s half a season left for that growth to take place.