The Season 3 premiere of The Boys concluded with a series of explosive new plotlines underway:
- Homelander is dangerously close to completely losing it.
- Starlight has been made co-captain of The Seven, which is a big part of Homelander’s homicidal grumpy mood these days.
- Maeve came to Butcher with information about a weapon that might be able to kill Homelander. To find out if the weapon even exists, Butcher will need to make contact with two associates of a super named Soldier Boy, who was allegedly killed by it.
- Maeve also provided Butcher with some vials of V-24, a drug that gives the user superpowers for 24 hours. The side effects are still unknown, but likely to be very bad.
- Hughie discovered that his boss at the Federal Burea of Superhuman Affairs, Congresswoman Victoria Neuman, is actually a super who was involved with something called Red River. He also saw her blow up her former best friend’s head, which isn’t the sort of thing you can report to HR.
- Mother’s Milk looks like he’s about to get back in the super hunting game.
- Kimiko needs piano lessons.
In this episode, both Homelander and Butcher are pushed toward actions that neither of them ever thought they’d be able to do.
As always, the recap portion of this review will contain plenty of spoilers. The sequence of events has also been streamlined a bit for the sake of clarity.
Soft Breaking Point
Following that bit of hilarity, another commercial plays featuring Homelander promoting his annual birthday celebration. We then switch to the real world, where Butcher agonizes over the decision to inject himself with V-24. While filling a needle with the serum, he has a hallucination of Homelander taunting him, which only strengthens his resolve.
The hallucination turns into someone else (maybe Butcher as a young boy) asking him to consider what Becca would think if he did this. Butcher responds that Becca won’t care because she’s dead. He then injects the serum into his veins, causing him to scream as his eyes glow bright yellow.
Turns out this whole sequence was a nightmare, which Butcher wakes up from when he gets a Skype call from Ryan. Their conversation starts off well enough, but he ends up snapping at the boy when he keeps asking about a video he sent him. Butcher collects himself and makes the boy feel better, promising that he’ll always be there to watch out for him.
Meanwhile, Hughie and Annie go over what he learned the night before about Neuman. Annie is also able to pull some records that list Red River as a group home owned by a Vought subsidiary.
Hughie chastizes himself for not realizing that Neuman was the one exploding everyone’s head last season, but Annie assures him there’s no way he could have known. She’s not thrilled about him still going into work, but Hughie insists on keeping up appearances while they figure out their next move. Their only other option is telling Butcher, which will likely result in him kicking Hughie’s ass for unwittingly working with a supe for a year.
Before leaving to do a soundcheck for Homelander’s birthday special, Annie makes Hughie promises he’ll wait for her before doing anything.
Over at Vought Tower, Homelander visits Stormfront in the hopes that she’ll wish him a happy birthday. When it appears she’s unable to, he leaves in an entitled huff. After Homelander is gone, we see that Stormfront was actually aware of his presence the entire time…and she might be starting to realize just what an uncaring sociopath he actually is.
Homelander then goes downstairs to the sound stage, where Annie is dropping some major hints to Supersonic that he’s in good shape to be one of the winners of American Hero.
Homelander interrupts the conversation and introduces himself. Supersonic is initially starstruck but becomes disgusted when Homelander makes lude comments about his and Starlight’s sexual history when they were younger. Homelander then announces that he’s made some revisions to Starlight’s prearranged set. Before she can protest, he menacingly tells her how much he’s going to enjoy being co-captains of The Seven together.
Running from the Past
Butcher shows up uninvited at MM’s home and tells him about the weapon that may have killed Soldier Boy. Their conversation hints at MM having a history with Soldier Boy, but it’s still not enough to get him to rejoin the team. He does, however, give Butcher his detailed file on Soldier Boy’s sidekick (Gunpowder).
After Butcher leaves, MM pulls his own file on Soldier Boy, which appears to hint at him being responsible for the accident that his father died fighting Vought in court over. As he pulls more and more articles from the file, we learn that Soldier Boy had an extensive history of collateral damage and brutality against innocent people.
Later, MM accidentally leaves something on the stove too long, causing the smoke detector to go off. He runs in and takes out his anger on the device, smashing it repeatedly on the floor. This initially scares his daughter, but she still hugs her father to comfort him when he begins to cry.
When MM takes Janine back to her mother’s, he tells Monique about his struggle to stay away from the supe hunting game. He’d been doing well for a while, but the case involving Soldier Boy has caused him all types of issues — including a severe exacerbation of his O.C.D. symptoms.
Surprisingly, Monique responds to this by suggesting that MM rejoin Butcher’s team. She never wanted to turn him into something he’s not, especially now that it’s taking a physical toll on him. She may not be able to be with him romantically anymore, but she can still support him in facing down the darkest part of his past.
Monique also promises not to tell Janine anything, but also reminds MM to stay safe for their daughter’s sake.
Meanwhile, Frenchie and Kimiko visit Voughtland (a massive theme park based on Vought properties) in search of Soldier Boy’s ex-girlfriend, Crimson Countess. The loud excess disgusts Frenchie, but Kimiko is thrilled by all the new sights and sounds. When she asks if they can ride one of the rollercoasters, he reluctantly agrees as long as they get the job done first.
The pair first go into a theater that’s showing a propaganda film about Soldier Boy. According to the official record, he was a World War II hero who later “served” the country by revealing the names of suspected communists to Congress. Soldier Boy continued working as a supe for the U.S. government until the mid-1980s, when he sacrificed himself to contain a nuclear power plant explosion.
The film concludes with Crimson Countess coming on stage and singing a terribly cheesy song praising her deceased lover. Frenchie can’t believe the awfulness happening before his very eyes, but Kimiko absolutely loves it.
After the show, Frenchie and Kimiko use backstage passes to visit Crimson Countess, who hastily snorts up a bit of cocaine before greeting them. She appears genuinely sympathetic to Kimiko’s struggle with speaking and shows her a preview of an upcoming music video, which is about having more empathy for chimps (seriously).
Using sign language, Kimiko expresses her belief to Frenchie that their target actually seems like a nice person. Frenchie, who’s standing next to a shelf filled with plush monkeys, counters that she’s crazy before saying they need to get going with what they came here to do. Kimiko obliges, then grabs Crimson Countess’ arms and spreads them apart while slamming her into a wall. This not only restrains her, but keeps the supe from her using her powers, which can only happen when her hands touch.
While Kimiko makes sure things stay that way, Frenchie demands to know how Soldier Boy really died. Crimson Countess insists that what they saw in the show was the truth.
When another family walks in for a backstage meet-and-greet, Crimson Countess uses the distraction to push off the wall and break free of Kimiko’s grip. She then bolts outside with Frenchie and Kimiko in pursuit. After running for a bit, she turns around, powers up, and blasts a park worker in a Homelander plush, exploding their guts everywhere. As park-goers scream in fear/disgust, she uses the resulting chaos to escape.
As Kimiko and Frenchie retreat, Kimiko sees a traumatized brother and sister, which reminds her of Kenji (who Stormfront killed last season). Later, Kimiko laments to Frenchie about what happened. Although they didn’t directly hurt any innocents, they were involved in something that robbed two children of ever getting to be normal kids again.
Rooted in Insecurity
Hughie (who apparently hasn’t left for work yet) looks at a picture of him and Neuman on the refrigerator and fumes. His sense of powerlessness is exacerbated when he can’t open a jar of mustard, causing him to slam it on the counter. The jar shatters and slices open his hand.
Now at his breaking point, Hughie repeatedly attempts to call Annie only for Supersonic to answer on the third try. He says she’s not available due to being in a rehearsal with Homelander, but this still causes a fresh spike of insecurity in Hughie, who grabs the Red River file and departs.
Back at Vought, Homelander’s changes to his birthday celebration are revealed to include Starlight singing him “Happy Birthday” Marylin Monroe style with a bunch of scantily clad backup dancers. Starlight pushes back, but Homelander refuses to budge.
Just when it appears things are going to get really nasty, Stan Edgar pipes in from the control booth to say that Starlight doesn’t have to sing if she doesn’t want to — especially since most viewers will be tuning in to see her, anyway. Homelander threatens to walk out, but Edgar says he can’t afford to do so after all the bad PR he’s had this year. In fact, he’s lucky they’re doing a celebration for him at all.
Once again, Homelander struggles to keep himself from going completely over the edge.
With A-Train not able to run as fast as he used to, the former speedster suggests that a racial rebranding might boost his image. His first idea is a docuseries entitled A-Train to Africa, which will explore his family’s historical roots. Just when you think it can’t get any more awkward, A-Train unveils his next idea: A video game about the slave trade featuring him as the protagonist. He also reveals that he has a new costume ready to go for Homelander’s birthday celebration featuring a Pan-African color scheme.
Ashley fake smiles her way through the presentation to the point that her face looks like it’s about to crack. After she cheerfully dismisses them (and politely delays the new costume’s unveiling), Seth informs A-Train that all of her empty compliments were coded ways of saying that she hated everything. He then calls out A-Train for pretending to care about his African heritage when it’s 100% obvious he doesn’t.
A-Train responds by pointing out that Seth doesn’t have a penis (which he lost in a gruesome superhero sex accident) and walks away.
Hughie goes to visit the Red River group home, which turns out to be specifically catered to kids with powers — some of whom accidentally killed their parents. After an image of him and Starlight pops up on one of the televisions, Hughie claims he’s there because he and Annie have decided to adopt a child (due to him being sterile)
The director is thrilled to hear this and takes him to one of the computers. While pretending to look at potential adoption candidates, Hughie covertly downloads all the institute’s files. After going back to his car, he opens up the files connected to Nadia/Neuman. The first two are images of her parents with their heads exploded. The third is a video of a teenage Nadia being interviewed by two people from Vought. One of them is Stan Edgar, who says he can’t adopt her, but will be taking care of her from now on.
While Hughie’s head is metaphorically exploding over this revelation, the scene switches to Victoria Neuman’s home, where Edgar is reading Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day to her daughter (Zoe). It’s clear that the young girl and her Uncle Stan have a very close bond with each other.
After Zoe leaves, Edgar assures Neuman that Vought has taken care of the situation with Tony. The site was sterilized within minutes and any potential witnesses will be lethally dealt with. Neuman lays her head on Edgar’s shoulder as he puts his arm around her, reminding the Congresswoman that he’s always taken care of her.
*Side Note: This scene is an unsettling mix of sweet and creepy (but mostly creepy).
Later, Neuman sees Hughie arriving to work at the FBSA and asks him about the man who came in yesterday looking for someone named Nadia. When Hughie attempts to play dumb, Neuman asks why he didn’t tell her about the incident. She also inquires about why he missed work that morning and his bandaged hand, implying that he might be keeping something from here.
*Side Note: Unless Neuman lives close enough to go home for lunch, she technically missed work that morning, too. Micromanagers are the worst.
Before Neuman can sniff anything out, however, Annie shows up out of nowhere to explain Hughie’s absence being due to a really bad fight the couple had. Ironically, this leads to them having a real (and very passive-aggressive) spat over Hughie’s belief that he can take care of himself. The awkwardness is enough to convince Neuman to drop the situation, but not before telling Hughie to cut his superpowered girlfriend some slack for being a little overprotective.
The couple then retreats to Hughie’s car, where he shows Annie the information he got from Red River about Neuman. After apologizing for going rogue instead of working together like they agreed, he expresses his anger and betrayal at finding out that Neuman isn’t who he thought she was.
The whole situation makes him feel like he’s a failure, but Annie assures him he’s not.
The Quiet Part Out Loud
Butcher goes to a gun show where Gunpowder is giving a speech on how to fight back against liberals who want to abolish the Second Amendment.
*Side Note: Gunpowder’s speech is supposed to sound unhinged. Sadly, it would likely receive an unironic standing ovation in many places.
After the presentation, Butcher follows Gunpowder into the bathroom. He initially pretends to be a fan of the former Payback member before crudely implying he was a victim of sexual abuse by Soldier Boy. Gunpowder gruffly dismisses the claim, but Butcher counters with a file (thanks to MM) showing that he once filed a request to be removed from Payback due to Soldier Boy’s “habitual abuse.” Butcher threatens to release this information (and all the implications that come with it) unless Gunpowder tells him how Soldier Boy actually died. Gunpowder once again denies his claims and storms off.
Later, Butcher is ambushed in the parking garage by Gunpowder, who’s an expert marksman. He manages to escape, but is badly wounded.
Meanwhile, Homelander makes a disinterested effort to talk a suicidal woman (Chelsea) from a ledge for his annual “Birthday Save.” After explaining how futile it would be to jump (he could simply fly down and save her with ease), a news report on a digital billboard announces that Stormfront has killed herself.
*Side Note: She did this by biting off her own tongue and choking on it.
The news sends Homelander reeling. After expressing disbelief that Stormfront would do such a thing on his birthday, he compares himself to Jesus Christ before deciding that the woman on the ledge should go ahead and jump. Chelsea decides she no longer wants to die, but Homelander forces her to leap from the building anyway.
That evening, Butcher bandages his wounds before finally watching the video Ryan sent him. It turns out to be one of his stop-motion Lego movies, this time featuring a voicemail from his mom as the dialogue.
Hearing Becca’s voice again makes Butcher finally realize that it’s time to stop fighting. He has a chance to be there for Ryan, which would do far more to honor his wife’s legacy/wishes than more bloodshed and violence.
Butcher calls Hughie to tell him he was right. Hughie responds by telling him about Neuman being the supe who was exploding people’s heads and that she’s Edgar’s surrogate daughter. Turns out doing things by the book doesn’t work since the entire system is rigged — far worse than any of them ever realized.
If they’re going to take Vought down, they have to do it his way.
Hughie’s words light a dark fire in Butcher, who seeks out Gunpowder for another confrontation. Gunpowder once again denies being abused by Soldier Boy before firing three bullets into Butcher’s chest. To the supe’s surprise, Butcher gets up and snaps his gun in half before proceeding to beat the absolute hell out of him.
Turns out Butcher decided to inject one of the V-24 doses and even the odds.
After nearly getting his brains bashed in, Gunpowder admits that Soldier Boy used to abuse him, just never sexually. He also reveals/confirms that the story about Soldier Boy perishing in a nuclear meltdown was fake. He actually died during a mission in Nicaragua in 1984, but he didn’t see how it happened. When Butcher insists he must know more, Gunpowder tells him to ask the other former members of Payback or the CIA, who they were working with at the time.
When Butcher asks who their case officer was, Gunpowder responds with a very familiar name: Grace Mallory.
Having extracted all the information Gunpowder could share, Butcher resumes beating him despite his pleas for mercy. As his anger and aggression grow, Butcher’s eyes burn yellow before shooting out a pair of lasers that slice through Gunpowder’s car and cranium.
Meanwhile, at Homelander’s birthday celebration, Ashley freaks out when A-Train appears wearing his new Pan-African costume that she rejected. He then introduces The Seven’s co-captains, who walk on stage to raucous applause.
After introducing her “dear friend and mentor,” Starlight does a quick plug for Starlight House, a new charity she’s started to help homeless and at-risk youth. Her presentation is interrupted when someone in the crowd heckles Homelander over Stormfront’s death, who the man refers to as “your Nazi.”
After the heckler is removed, Starlight awkwardly appeals to the crowd for sympathy/understanding, explaining that Homelander is “just like us” and that we all make mistakes. She follows that by announcing that her “friend and mentor” has agreed to donate $10 million of his own money to Starlight House.
At this point, Homelander forcefully denies making the donation before crowding Starlight away from the mic and putting himself in front of it. He launches into a fiery speech about he’s not like everyone else because he’s actually better than them. He’s also tired of being controlled by rich people and persecuted for this strength — especially when everyone needs him to solve all their problems. He then proclaims that if society’s rich and powerful can control someone like him, then they already control everyone else, too.
Ashley tells the control booth to go to commercial, but Homelander commands they stay on him and his self-aggrandizing tirade. His toxic message reaches millions of rapt and admiring viewers at home, including Monique’s partner, Todd. Homelander finishes his speech by telling the audience that they aren’t the real heroes.
Even after the awful things we’ve seen him do, I’m not sure Homelander has ever been more terrifying than when the dam broke on his filter. His narcissism is now on full display, free of concern about his image and backed by powers that make him virtually untouchable. Also, if Todd’s reaction is any indication, he’s tapped into a terrifying zeitgeist with far more reach/appeal than even Stormfront had.
Meanwhile, other characters find their resolve strained to the point that it’s breaking their core principles.
- In order to hunt and kill supes, Butcher turns himself into one (albeit temporarily).
- After a year of working to keep Butcher in check, Hughie decides that his brutal methods are the only way to get things done. In the process, his decision is made just as Butcher finally made peace with leaving that part of himself behind.
- In an effort to improve his mental well-being, MM returns to the supe hunting game via the case that put him on that destructive path in the first place (and with the full blessing/support of his ex-wife).
Meanwhile, Kimiko begins to seriously question if their mission to take down Vought and the supe power structure is actually doing more harm than good.
Along with the usual escalation, this points to compromising principals (and the resulting fallout) being a major theme in The Boys‘ third season. It’s also worth noting that those principals don’t necessarily have to be good. In Homelander’s case, his public image has always been the most important thing to him. After being pushed to his breaking point, however, he decided to fight back by potentially burning it all to the ground.
A couple of these moments were a bit contrived, like Hughie pulling Butcher back into the darkness moments after he resolved to put it behind him. But for the overwhelming majority of its runtime, “The Only Man in the Sky” brilliantly edges its characters toward new and chilling dynamics.
Also, how weird was it seeing Stan Edgar be paternal? His manner was still born from a place of evil (via helping Neuman), but he was genuinely sweet with Zoe. It’ll be interesting to see if this side of him continues to be explored throughout the season — especially since it appears that he genuinely cares for Neuman and her daughter. Whatever the case, anything that gives more screen time to Giancarlo Esposito is a good thing.
Now we head into the final episode of The Boys‘ season 3 premiere, which takes everything we’ve seen and ratchets it up to a level that’s shocking even for this series.
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