It’s been a year, and man have things changed.
I finally got a chance after a busy weekend to watch the season three premiere of The Boys, titled “Payback,” and it wasn’t what I expected. That’s actually good. There were some real fascinating character stories underneath a couple of shocking scenes of intense gore. Over the top gore is par for the course on this show and always has been, but I learned back in season one to look past all that “window dressing” and get engaged in the heart of the story. After two seasons, I’ve learned to care for a lot of these characters, despite the grotesque world that they live in. Season three got off to a good start in strengthening their dilemmas and presenting another aspect that I’d never thought we’d ever see.
I’ll issue the warnings now, I give away some spoilers. If you haven’t seen the episode, stop here!
Let’s gets this out of the way now, I’ll address the first ten minutes. Just gross. Was it more shocking than last season’s the whale? Maybe. It wasn’t the thrilling action sequence though that the whale scene gave us. It was just depraved and gross. So, fail. But, I’m looking past it, because it was all good after that.
A lot of time was spent covering what’s been going on with everyone in the last year now that the boys and the supes all live together in a convenient detente. There might be a sense of normalcy on the surface, but deep underneath things are still strange for everyone. Hughie and Annie/Starlight are a power couple, which is boosting her ratings, but Hughie hanging on the red carpet with the other supes is as unsettling as it sounds. They’re all smiles for the sake of keeping appearances, but the bad memories of their past adversarial encounters are still running deep. The big kicker was Hughie having to pose in a photo op with A-Train, the supe that started all this in the pilot by obliterating Hughie’s fiancee right in front of him because he ran right through her.
Despite the awkwardness, I love this glimpse of a year of down time to enjoy their normal lives, even if it constantly felt like we were seeing the calm before the storm. Hughie is Victoria Neumann’s right hand man at the Federal Bureau of Superhuman Affairs, wearing suits and calling the shots. He has gone a long time since being bathed in people’s guts. He’s living with Annie, keeps in contact with his Dad again (welcome back Simon Pegg!) and is finally experiencing that domestic bliss that has long eluded him. I thought it was adorable that Annie is wearing a Billy Joel t-shirt now.
Kimiko is flirting with the idea of a fairy tale life, imagining herself signing “Dream a Little Dream of Me” (Karen Fukuhara has an amazing singing voice!) and flirts with learning how to play it on the keyboard. She and Frenchie are doing their jobs, hunting down rogue supes for the government and enjoying life in between. Mother’s Milk is understandably separated from his wife but still a figure in his daughter’s life, keeping out of the game for her sakes, even if his ex-wife’s new boyfriend is making him cringe with his supe obsession (the Homelander outfit was a bit much).
Butcher’s turn is the most shocking, for he has stabilized his life to help stabilize Ryan. He follows Hughie’s orders, he hasn’t killed anyone, and he’s spending a lot of time with Ryan, who seems okay, but those regular nightmares of Homelander killing him are certainly a concern. Butcher promised Becca he would care for Ryan and keep him safe and it’s admirable that it’s lasted this long, even though we know he’s falling apart on the inside. He so wanted to kill the perverted Termite, but stopped himself.
If Butcher seems unsettled, Homelander is just plain worse. This past year has done him no favors, and everyone is walking on eggshells behind him except Stan Edgar, who seems to be preparing for a future without the likes of Homelander and his God complex. Homelander is in damage control mode, having to apologize for his relationship with Stormfront and give everyone the same line repeatedly, he fell for the wrong person...deep inside he’s human like everyone else. Except he’s not! He’s a freaking psycho that’s keeping a barely alive and completely disfigured Stormfront in a hospital bed at his place, who has at least one good hand left to jerk him off. Stan Edgar delivered the biggest blow of all, he has to be co-captain of The Seven with Starlight, because she’s polling at a 96%, an all time high. She’s been given the opportunity to fill the additional two slots of The Seven, something that Homelander last season tried to do and was shut down by Stan. You think his blood is boiling a bit? Given his total shakedown of A-Train, another supe he tried unsuccessfully to get rid of, he’s not taking this well. The fact he was also given second billing on Vought TV to The Deep, who’s promoting his new memoir, that fragile ego is quickly imploding.
Queen Maeve is alarmed by the Homelander warning signs and has been carrying on an alliance with Butcher. I love that these two working together. Considering Butcher was in his apartment watching the video footage she acquired last season of the plane crash, he knows what leverage she has over Homelander and the dangerous position she’s in. She brings him a file on Soldier Boy, the original supe who was supposedly killed by a weapon in 1984, not the nuclear meltdown story that Vought had sold. If Butcher can find any of the members of Payback, the original team before The Seven, they might know about that weapon and they can use it on Homelander. She even stole him a few vials the new drug, V24, that Vought is developing that makes people a supe temporarily for 24 hours because he’ll need it when going against Payback. Stan Edgar is trying to sell it to the military and helping Robert Singer (welcome back Jim Beaver!) in his presidential bid with hopes of getting that military contract.
The more events unravel, the more it’s obvious that the entire peace time thing is a facade, and not much has changed behind the scenes. It’s all cleverly exposed when Homelander comes to visit Butcher in the highlight of the episode. Homelander lays it all out, they both are being played by the game of politics and corporate greed and tired of it. They are in calm agreement that they should go back to the way things were, both of them fighting to a bloody end where only one emerges as the winner. They are fueled by their hatred of each other. Considering both of them want to fight against the same systems that they despise, it again accents how much more alike they are than different.
Hughie ultimately becomes the recipient of this episode’s burst bubble award. First he has a little spat with Annie over her hanging out with her old boyfriend on the series to find the latest member of The Seven, “American Hero.” It’s very Bachelor-esque but Starlight is the one sending the candidates home. But his world comes crashing down when he learns the truth about his boss after following her after work. She has a secret past and is a supe herself, the one that has been exploding heads. He even gets sprayed with guts after watching her blow up her old friend like a water balloon, because no episode of The Boys is complete without Hughie covered in guts. She calls in a team to clean it all up, implying this isn’t an isolated incident. He heard the secret phrase though, “Red River,” so he has something to track down now.
What’s this going to do to poor Hughie? I’m glad they didn’t keep the audience hanging for the reveal, but this has to be a real blow to his reality. He especially hates the idea that Annie has been made a co-captain of The Seven, which makes things worse. While she sees this as an opportunity to inspire girls everywhere since she is the first female captain of The Seven, he sees it as her playing into the hands of the enemy they have been trying to take down. Ah well, he had a year of bliss. That’s something, right?
So far, as it has the first two seasons, nothing out there is as it seems. There’s still a lot of sick s*** going on, but people want to buy into the superhero fantasy. The truth hurts. This time though the characters are playing the diciest game of their lives, keeping up the appearance of peace and order knowing that behind the scenes everything is falling apart.
I did get a few burning questions answered. I did wonder how they were going to handle the issue in the Dawn of the Seven of Stormfront being a Nazi, not to mention A-Train being allowed back into The Seven, and it’s quite inspired. Some reshoots were required. Charlize Theron as Stormfront! There’s a giant confrontation in the end where the remaining five members of The Seven, including A-Train coming back to help his friends against this enemy, and the world is saved, sort of. Do you think the scorched earth of the city in the movie, Vought tower burning and everything, is a bit of foreshadowing? I do wonder.
So nice to see Phil Sgriccia in the credits as the director of this episode. I missed you man!
You go Ashley, nailing the film’s producer in the men’s room. It’s about time she got in on the action.
It looks like Mother’s Milk has been tracking Payback as well judging by all the wall clippings in his closet. Perhaps his father’s work? He’s clearly itching to get back into the game.
Was Stan Edgar serious? Does he really want to get out of the superhero business? Is he finally getting tired of dealing with egos, or is it really because of Homelander? What does he have to gain by leveling the playing field? I do love how much he’s putting Homelander in his place.
I actually enjoyed The Deep’s story this episode. He’s still married, although she is the one pushing his career. He’s got a new tell all book about The Church of the Collective and his own downfall and is getting a lot of attention for it. Furthermore, he's out of Ohio! I did see in the beginning of the next episode that his book was made into a movie! He might not need The Seven after all.
All in all a great start. Total grade is a B+. Onto episode 3.2!
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