On this, the approximate first anniversary of last summer’s J2 fallout debacle—during which Jensen Ackles announced the Supernatural prequel, only for Jared Padalecki to throw a huge fit on Twitter about not having been informed about said prequel—we finally have the long-awaited “Herogasm.” Busy day for Ackles. Happy Pride Month, I guess.
Fans of The Boys have been looking forward to this episode basically since the series began as it’s a holdover from the original comics which promised sex, drugs, and violence (which, to be fair, are never in short supply on The Boys anyway). One especially anticipated element has been the prospect of a sex scene between Soldier Boy and Homelander, as appears in the comics—but Eric Kripke has been clear since the beginning (read: since the casting of Jensen Ackles) that Homelander and Soldier Boy wouldn’t be hooking up any time soon, despite protestations that he would “love” to see them fucking.
The absence makes sense in-universe though: The show’s Soldier Boy, a time-warped butch Marlboro man with a great many chips on his shoulder, is very, very different from the comics’ Soldier Boy- an oversensitive lackey who screws Homelander in the hopes of securing a spot on the Seven. Regardless of who’s zooming who, Kripke has been promising debauchery for months. The episode’s opening disclaimer sets up a rollercoaster of a time. Did the team deliver? Let’s find out.
We start out with a parody of the early-quarantine celebrity “Imagine” vlog music video organized by the Deep and amusingly featuring real stars like Patton Oswalt (the former voice of the Deep’s gills!), Josh Gad, and even Mila Kunis & Ashton Kutcher hamming it up.
In the real world, Homelander has the Deep run footage from the Crimson Countess explosion—and is genuinely surprised to see that Soldier Boy is the culprit, meaning that his resistance to solving the “terrorist” issue last episode was simply about exerting power over Vought and the public. Checks out. He asks Black Noir, who used to work with Soldier Boy on the Supe team Payback, for help, then attempts to have a tender(? always hard to tell with Homelander) moment with him and takes his enigmatic silence as a confirmation that they’re on the same side.
When Homelander walks away, Black Noir gets into an elevator with a Vought employee, cuts open his own arm, and removes his tracking chip, handing it to the horrified woman (who, by the way, deserves an Emmy) before he steps off. Looks like he’s not excited about Soldier Boy’s return.
Ackles is finally shining as Soldier Boy, eating takeout and snorting amphetamines, confused about contemporary U.S.–Afghanistan relations, despondently watching his old Vought movies while stuck in a hotel room with Hughie and occasionally Butcher. Look at the barely repressed rage in those doe eyes; Mr. Microexpressions is back, baby. His dated references (Emmanuel Lewis, anyone?) are expected but still pretty funny—and occasionally alarming, as when he not only rails on about how Bill Cosby is America’s dad but says, “Holy shit did he make some strong drinks.” In Hughie’s words: “Lots to unpack there.” The implication isn’t just that Soldier Boy was around when Cosby was doing the roofying but was himself getting roofied.
With that in mind, I’m still very… let’s say… curious about Soldier Boy’s constant, hovering, yet still implicit proximity to queerness—not to mention the multiple implications that he has sexually abused and been sexually abused by other men. Not sure where it’s going, if anywhere. Of course, it’s not like Jensen Ackles has ever before played an implicitly or at least proximally queer character implied to have been sexually assaulted or anything. (See, among other examples, Supernatural 9×13: “How do you know what roofies look like?” “How do you not know?”)
Anyway, in his screed on the way things have changed and how his country has forgotten him after he fought for it, he sounds about 87 years old—which I suppose he is. When Hughie asks, he says he blacked out when he blew up in Midtown and didn’t mean to hurt those people, but he can’t promise it won’t happen again. At least he’s finally in on the plot to kill Homelander, which he promises to do as long as they let him take down every former member of Payback along the way.
Kimiko, in the hospital, is still waiting for Frenchie, who she thinks stood her up after she kissed him. She almost sends him a series of heartbreaking texts, most wrenchingly of all one where she asks if he’s mad at her “because [kiss emoji]?” Of course, the mystery ends when she’s kidnapped almost immediately. At least now she knows Frenchie didn’t abandon her. Silver linings.
Annie and M.M., meanwhile, are spending some quality time together since everybody else is occupied and/or fucked up. M.M. is deeply angry at Butcher and Hughie (reasonably so), while Annie has a more measured view on the situation: All they have is each other, including the rest of the (mentally or physically) AWOL Boys, so they’d better not do anything to each other that they’ll regret.
Speaking of a sense of community, A-Train—newly invigorated toward the cause by way of his brother’s paralyzing injury at the hands of Blue Hawk—barges into Ashley’s office to demand that Blue Hawk get more than 12 weeks of so-called sensitivity training. It’s a reasonable demand—but Ashley, too, is reasonable when (after, of course, a bit of cowardly hemming and hawing through corporate social justice platitudes) she lays into A-Train for being a hypocrite. How hard has she worked, she reminds him, to cover up all his murders? This reminder seems to shake him to his core, which is probably a good sign.
Homelander sends the Deep off on a seeming fool’s errand to warn some former Payback members (a Wonder Twins pastiche TNT, Jack Doolan as Tommy, and Kristin Booth as Tessa) that Soldier Boy may come for them. He’s too distracted by Black Noir’s apparent betrayal or cowardice to care much what the Deep does—so distracted and distraught, in fact, that he apparently experiences literal delusions, talking to an alternate version of himself embodying all his worst and most evil parts in the mirror, while the real world Homelander takes on the vibe of a pathetic little boy.
This may be a sort of storytelling device, a metaphorical tool to demonstrate how torn and troubled Homelander is feeling while trying to stuff down all the soft, emotional, human parts of himself in favor of power and control—or it may be an indication that Homelander genuinely has something going on, whether it’s related to his powers or just a symptom of severe mental illness. I’m a bit concerned by the possibility that the story could take a turn into split personality territory, which isn’t just ableist but generally lazy storytelling—that trajectory, in my opinion, would erase everything interesting and complex about Homelander’s character: how deeply he feels, how much he resents himself for it, and how those feelings and that resentment rot into hatred and facism.
We’ll see. Crossing my fingers that this is just a visual representation of an internal conversation rather than an actual indication that Homelander has “split personalities.” Then again—spoilers for the comics—Black Noir was eventually revealed to be an evil clone of Homelander, an outcome which has already been basically jossed for the show. So maybe it truly is somehow another version of himself that Homelander is talking to. These images of duality, then, may have more significant implications yet to come.
After his meltdown, Homelander and Annie (still fake dating), have a TV spot lined up to talk about what the country suspects to be targeted supervillain attacks. Before the interview begins, Homelander holds Annie’s hand, reaching out for a moment of genuine connection in a manner that could seem sweet, but instead seems pathetic and unhinged, totally removed from reality. And one more surprise: Neuman shows up to join them. (Annie’s wide-eyed greeting: “Hey… lady!” Good save. Girlboss Annie strikes again.)
Upon being asked a few too many questions for his taste about Vought’s plan to handle the attacks, Homelander blows up at the anchor and storms off. Free for some girl chat, Neuman corners Annie and asks to talk—and, back in Annie’s apartment, she reveals that she knows what Hughie knows: she’s the head popper. Instead of popping Annie, she offers to help in exchange for Annie’s use of her social media platform to support Neuman. Annie tells her in no uncertain terms to fuck off—good job—upon which Neuman threatens her with television’s most ominous nose bleed before leaving. (Side note after this conversation: Still no word on what actually happened to Maeve, but she can’t actually be dead, right? No body, no nothing.)
Kimiko wakes up handcuffed in a warehouse next to Cherie, with Frenchie stripped naked, beaten, and essentially leashed like the dog that both Nina and Butcher treat him as. After some villain monologuing from Nina and a demand that Frenchie pick either Kimiko or Cherie to get shot in the head, Kimiko uses a popsicle stick to escape her bonds. (The joke on the popsicle stick—“Why did the photo go to jail?”—is set up in the hospital room, while the punchline—“Because he was framed.”—is visible in this scene. Nice touch.) Even without her powers, she manages to brutalize both of Nina’s henchmen while Nina escapes—which makes her terrified that it’s not the powers that made her bad, but a darkness that exists inherently within her.
The Deep, on his little mission, shows up at TNT’s house, where it turns out that the twins are throwing the annual Supe orgy, Herogasm. (No incest, thank god.) M.M. and Annie, wise to Soldier Boy’s goals, also head over to TNT’s place, and on the car ride over they have a heart-to-heart about M.M.’s OCD where he reveals that it stems from the trauma of his childhood encounter with Soldier Boy, which he finally explains in-depth: Soldier Boy threw a car through M.M.’s childhood home, killing his grandfather instantly, and M.M. has always felt responsible because he woke his grandfather up in excitement to come to see Soldier Boy outside the window. Now, he’s possessed with compulsions with the aim of preventing Soldier Boy from coming back and killing the rest of his family. Of course, now Soldier Boy is back—the Bad Thing finally happened, which can either be a huge relief for sufferers of OCD or a major setback. M.M. seems convinced not only that he needs revenge, but that if he can finally kill Soldier Boy himself, his symptoms will go away for good because he won’t have anything to fear. Maybe not.
When Annie and M.M. make it to the house, they’re greeted by the long-bepenised fellow seen in the Vought medical facility last season (Derek Johns; previously played by Andrew Jackson), who M.M. accidentally christens as “Love Sausage.” Love Sausage recognizes Starlight and allows them in despite their lack of invitations, as Herogasm is ostensibly invitation- and Supe-only, but is also accustomed to mainly C-list attendees and honored by the appearance of an active member of the Seven. Annie vouches for M.M. to come in too: “He just GOBBLES that vagina right up.” Really killing it with the saves this episode, Annie.
Almost immediately upon entering the house, M.M. gets extremely doused in a number of bodily fluids, which is also not great for the OCD. He runs off to find some clothes to change into, leaving Annie to attempt to evacuate the house herself. Desperate for help, she attempts to recruit Blue Hawk, who condescends to and rebuffs her. Wandering the house, she eventually comes upon the Deep, who’s fucking an octopus (at least, given that they can communicate, it appears to be a consensual encounter). After a little light blackmail, Annie learns from the Deep that Homelander is on his way—which makes her evacuation efforts even more urgent.
Outside, Soldier Boy and suped-up Hughie and Butcher plot to kill TNT. (Poor Frenchie, we learn from both Butcher and M.M., has apparently always wanted to attend a Herogasm; I’m sad he had to miss it. Also, Soldier Boy claims he invented Herogasm back in the fifties. Fascinating.) Soldier Boy wants to go in guns blazing, but Hughie volunteers to teleport in and scope the scene first to minimize collateral damage. For once, his teleportation-induced nudity is remarkably appropriate.
Once inside, Hughie enjoys a delightfully awkward orgy stroll before running into A-Train, who has seemingly come to confront Blue Hawk. Emboldened by his powers, Hughie finally confronts A-Train about killing Robin (Hughie’s dead girlfriend from the pilot—remember her?). To his surprise, A-Train apologizes and means it. He’s obviously been shaken up enough by his brother’s injury, his recognition of the actual harm done to his community, and Ashley’s call on his hypocrisy to start understanding what real justice is about. It’s a big moment for him.
It’s a different big moment for Hughie, who—confused by the sincerity of his apology and rattled by trauma and V—punches him. Just as A-Train realizes that Hughie shouldn’t be so strong, Annie tries to break up the fight, but Hughie teleports them both out of the house. (Hughie has a great deal to learn about using your powers on others without their consent, especially when your powers make them naked.) Hughie breaks down yet again about not liking that Annie is more powerful than him—really not the time for this fight, buddy.
With Annie distracted by Hughie’s insane priorities, M.M. finds Soldier Boy inside the house. He throws a halothane grenade—only for it to do absolutely nothing but give Soldier Boy some smoke to blow out like a vape cloud. M.M. tries for a confrontation, telling Soldier Boy that he killed his family, to which Soldier Boy coolly replies, “Which one?” The realization of his own powerlessness hits M.M. just as Butcher arrives and calls off Soldier Boy. M.M. then starts taking his anger out on Butcher, punching him and beating him with a baseball bat. It seems more like a cathartic act than anything; he’s likely only doing it because he knows Butcher can take it in his superpowered state. M.M. is a genuinely good guy; he just has a lot to work through.
Soldier Boy, unfazed, wanders through the orgy and finds TNT bickering in the living room. When he asks whether they sold him out, they claim it was Black Noir—which tracks, frankly, given Noir’s swift escape after learning that Soldier Boy was alive. Soldier Boy, suddenly triggered by more Russian music (thanks a lot, Love Sausage), blows up again, killing and injuring a lot more people despite Hughie’s half-assed efforts to ensure he wouldn’t.
In the aftermath of the explosion, A-Train finds and confronts Blue Hawk, who he barely gives a chance to speak before he grabs him and starts running, dragging Blue Hawk behind, giving him the world’s worst road burn and killing him almost instantly (but probably not instantly enough for it not to hurt very, very badly). Lest we forget, though, A-Train isn’t supposed to run anymore—the doctors have told him it’s bad for his heart, so bad it could kill him. And… it does? Seemingly. He lies down in the middle of the road and we hear his heart stop beating. There’s a chance he could still make it—we don’t see anyone find his body or confirm that he’s dead—but honestly, this might be the most satisfying end possible for A-Train, carrying out the narrative stakes of his arc (if you run, you will die) while also serving as the closest possible thing to redemption I could imagine. Though we still don’t know exactly how he snitched on Alex.
Inside (or what’s left of it), Homelander shows up and we finally get a big showdown between all the contingents. He knocks out Butcher and tries to have something of a heart-to-heart with Soldier Boy before taking him out as the resident terrorist, whereupon Soldier Boy attempts to carry out his side of the Butcher deal. Butcher eventually gets up and shows his hand (or rather, his laser eyes), which takes Homelander aback enough for them to gang up on him. (We get some excellent Karl Urban Crazy Eyes here.) Eventually, Hughie, Butcher, and Soldier Boy pin Homelander down, and Soldier Boy attempts to blast off (putting Butcher and Hughie’s lives at stake with their go-ahead), but fails at the last minute, having already blown his load. Homelander flies off to lick his wounds.
Annie shows up mid-fight and gets M.M. to come along with her by telling him he needs to help her tend to the wounded. His compassion, as per usual, wins out over his desperation for revenge. While they nurse the survivors back to health, Annie and Hughie share a tense, longing look across the wreckage; they’re extremely broken up. I doubt this will last, though; Hughie just needs some time to get his shit together.
Annie, fed up with being pulled from all directions, sets up an Instagram Live and has M.M. film her in front of the scene. Vought is lying to everyone, she says, and she quits. It remains to be seen what impacts this will have not just on Annie directly—who will probably have to go into some sort of witness protection to avoid being killed by Homelander—but her millions and millions of fans, who may no longer trust Vought implicitly.
All in all, “Herogasm” is another exceptional episode of The Boys, maybe the best of the season so far. It’s definitely not as shocking as it was billed to be; it was probably crazier to film than it is to watch, which is fine by me. The dick explosion in the season opener was more upsetting than anything in this episode, which honestly seemed very par for the course in a narratively satisfying way. Everything’s on track to ramp up the tension in believable ways. It may not have been the Eric Kripke Psychological Torture Hour we wanted, but it’s the good, solid storytelling we deserve.