I suppose that after the furious events of "Herogasm", it was time to take a small breather. Not to say that “Here Comes a Candle to Light You to Bed” was a light episode. A crap ton happened. It was just lighter than the freaking intense “Herogasm.” It’s still one of the more intense episodes of the season. More time was given for key character exploration, and it happened in a most unexpected way. The storytelling is never boring with this show but they really went out there this time. Of course, this being the second to the last episode of the season, they need to be pushing the story forward and can tout mission accomplished.
Back in episode 3.05, the man behind the Black Noir mask was finally revealed. His name was Earving, he was a black man and even though he was part of the team, he was forced to conceal his identity because a black hero wasn’t marketable. He was demanding more of a voice and a presence after being pushed in the background constantly. Now that Soldier Boy is back, Noir is hiding in his safe place, an abandoned Buster Beaver’s Pizza Restaurant, where colorful cartoon characters interact with him, a la Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Judging by the shots of him sitting alone woven in between the cartoon sequences, the message is clear, these characters are in his head.
I’ve got to say, I’m really thrown back by the dark one’s POV of the world. He’s clearly had a dark, traumatic life and to process all that through internal dialogue via imaginary and very upbeat cartoon characters is bat s*** crazy yet intriguing to watch. It sounds like they’ve been helping him through everything since he was a child. Even though these cartoon characters are innocent and sweet in their demeanor, they don’t hold back on the reality of the graphic violence either! Processing hard truths is part of their support system, and man does it get a point across.
Black Noir’s backstory reveal is the most wildly creative and arguably the best part of the episode. Was it all played out in sepia or grey colored flashbacks like in episode 3.05? No! It was all re-enacted in cartoon form by Buster Beaver and his pals on their very own pizza restaurant stage. Soldier Boy was the eagle, Black Noir was the black sheep. The first scene played out what life was like on Payback for Noir. He had dreams of starring in movies like Soldier Boy, and was up for the part of Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop (I can’t imagine that film without Eddie Murphy!). Soldier Boy sadly was a tormentor, not a mentor, and beat Noir bloody for confronting him about the movie. SB said some horrible things about Noir to the producer, killing his chance at the role. I suspect it’s because young Earving was black, but it could have also been jealously and the unwillingness to share the spotlight with his team members. Nah, it’s because he was black. Soldier Boy definitely had racist vibes coming from him.
The best character though was the Meerkat, a spitting image of Stan Edgar, blank facial expression and all. Noir made a deal with Stan to take out Solider Boy and had gotten all of Payback, minus Gunpowder, to follow through with the plan. Another leader was set to take over, this one could even fly, but he was still a boy (Homelander!). This gave Black Noir his chance to lead until the heir was old enough, and as we know he ended up being Homelander’s protector. This flashback perfectly showed the lack of respect Noir received at the time when Edgar was eating a package of nuts and wouldn’t put them away even though Noir told him he was allergic to nuts.
Noir’s actions came at a steep price, and the cartoon characters didn’t shy away from the graphic nature of the event. The mutiny against Soldier Boy all plays out, each team member playing their part to disable him, but not before Solider Boy grabbed Noir and tossed him hard against a hot vehicle, burning his face badly and causing brain damage, likely causing his inability to speak. Watching this happen in bright, brilliant cartoon form was actually more painful and visually effective than seeing it in real form. It’s a stunning metaphor of innocence lost in the brutal reality of being a supe for Vought. When it all closed and Black Noir sat in the dark, being comforted and encouraged by his 2D friends to face his fears, my heart was breaking. They assured they would be with him and have his back. Oh wow, what a sad, messed up reality this guy lives in. This is not the mind behind the stone cold killer any of us could have imagined. Kripke, you magnificent bastard.
(Courtesy of @TheBoys on Twitter)
On the flip side, Billy Butcher went through a more typical dream sequence, but it was every bit as tragic as you’d imagine. He, Hughie and Soldier Boy went after Mindstorm, and even though Butcher was warned that looking into Mindstorm’s eyes would lock him in a nightmare forever, he got a quick demonstration anyway! Butcher’s backstory, which has dropped far more hints over the last couple of seasons, is one of two boys caught in a harsh cycle of domestic violence. Even though Butcher would protect his little brother from his father’s temper, like taking the beatings on behalf of his sibling, that didn’t prevent him from embracing violent acts himself. The flashback of him beating up the school principal after getting in trouble is a good example. None of what we saw in Butcher’s backstory was particularly surprising, but the sequences did do a great job of revealing the path of how Butcher got to where he is now.
While watching through the flashbacks of his younger self, Butcher tried very hard to tell himself not to do what he did. The pain and regret of seeing himself destroy one of his most pivotal relationships explains a lot about who he is. The agony while helplessly watching his sibling grab the gun in the kitchen to end his life is proof that Butcher still aches and cares deep inside, even if his destructive gruff exterior won’t show it. It also showed the intense guilt he carries. Lenny, before pulling that trigger, tells him flat out, “Anyone who’s ever loved you, you end up getting them killed, don’t ya?” It’s all too little too late, and the look inside all that pain, anger, and grief that dominates every core of his being reinforces that Butcher is the weapon of his own destruction.
After those two intense character stories, you’d think they’d be done with the deep examination, but no, there’s more! What’s great about The Boys is how well they’ve integrated some real kick ass women into the story. Both Kimiko and Annie really got to shine in this episode while the men around them fell apart. Kimiko realizes that she needs her powers back. She asks Annie to go back to Vought and get more, which puts Annie at huge risk since she just came out exposing Vought as a fraud! She gives Annie a note explaining why. For someone who so hated her powers, choosing to get them back so easily seemed drastic and sudden, but once she explained herself to Frenchie, damn, her choice had to be one of the sweetest things we’ve seen on this show yet.
Kimiko breaks the news to Frenchie by asking him to dance with her, because with her powers his arms felt like bendy straws. She feels them for real this time, the last time. She gives him the letter she gave Annie earlier explaining her decision. She gets to choose to have her powers this time, not like the last time. “The V isn’t good or bad. It just depends on the person using it. I want to use my powers to do good. To fight for the ones I love. I almost lost Frenchie because I couldn’t fight. I can’t risk that again.” She said the kiss was weird, but not because it was bad. It’s because they are more than that. He is her family now and she wants to protect her family. Aww man, how they manage to tell such a sweet love story in the middle of all this carnage is beyond me, but it works!
Annie/Starlight, after her big reveal at the end of “Herogasm,” carried on her plight against Homelander and Vought and it worked rather well! She is still getting lots of support from her followers despite the fact that Vought has chosen to smear her reputation. She is still calling out for Vought to reveal what happened to Maeve and seeks justice for the victims of Soldier Boy. She does score two big wins while walking into Vought to “clear out her desk.” First, she gets that Compound V for Kimiko and finds the lab studies about V-24 sitting nearby. It’s fatal! It causes brain lesions and a person using it will die after 3-5 tries. Uh oh, Hughie is right at that 3 mark and Butcher is past 5. Not good.
You know what’s going to happen next! Homelander gets the word that Annie is in the building and confronts her by the elevator. He goes right into his intimidation routine, pulling out all the trademark moves. He commands her to recant everything and apologize. Annie has a better idea, how about she stop Solider Boy before he murders more people and she finds Maeve. She isn’t afraid of him anymore. Right on! She says how small he is, like the night he killed Supersonic. Homelander reminds her that he will do the same thing to Hughie. If she walks, that’s what happens next. Then Annie whips out of her phone and reveals she just live-streamed that entire conversation to her 190 million Instagram followers! Busted! Yeah, there will probably be a cover up, but that was sweet payback. These are the type of mistakes Stan Edgar was talking about.
On top of all those character moments, there was movement in the Soldier Boy plot as well. As expected, Solider Boy is not the hero we think he is. The Legend reveals some dirty little secrets about Solider Boy and the “American Hero” myth. It was all a PR setup. He stormed Normandy, two weeks after D-Day, for the photo op. He sprayed a hose in Birmingham, had some target practice at Kent State, it was all a lie. “To be American is knowing you’re the hero. So what do we do? We sweep all our filthy s*** under the rug and we tell ourselves a myth like Solider Boy. And I get stinking rich selling it.” This is all happening of course while Soldier Boy is downstairs getting it on with two older ladies and complains he’s out of lube (they’re like fine wine, the older they get the more delicious, but the drier). He’s also smoking weed like crazy to take the edge off of his PTSD and very happy the stuff is legal now. So he’s not exactly selling the American Hero thing.
While Soldier Boy is living it up, he’s relying on Hughie and Butcher to find Mindstorm. Luckily Hughie knows how to trace prescriptions for Lithium for bipolar nut jobs out in the middle of nowhere. Hughie and Solider Boy spend the most time on the hunt for Mindstorm since Butcher was quickly incapacitated. Soldier Boy knows that Butcher will remain in an endless nightmare until he dies of dehydration. Hughie wants to find Mindstorm to save Butcher, but Soldier Boy would rather kill Mindstorm instead. Soldier Boy refuses to entertain the idea of saving Butcher and doesn’t think it’s worth the risk. Hughie tries to convince him otherwise, but Soldier Boy derails each request with some rather crude talk and then brings up his old hero days. He’s not a pussy. So Hughie tells him he didn’t do any of that! The whole Marlboro Man act is a bunch of crap. So Soldier Boy punches him hard. Wow, he is deeply engrained in the whole toxic masculinity culture. What an ass.
Eventually Hughie and Soldier Boy find Mindstorm, but Hughie is hopped up on V-24 and quickly decides to teleport Mindstorm out of there before Soldier Boy can get hold of him. They both arrive where Butcher is, completely naked. He calms down a hysterical Mindstorm with a set of clothes and asks him to fix Butcher. Mindstorm doesn’t understand, Butcher is a piece of s***. Why save him? Suddenly Hughie is delivering the same line as Kimiko. He wants to save his family. Butcher is family. Wow, after all the s*** Butcher has done, and Hughie is still loyal? He is Lenny!
Hughie gets Mindstorm to wake Butcher by promising he’ll teleport him anywhere away from Solider Boy. Mindstorm does, but before they can leave Soldier Boy shows up and takes out Mindstorm in the most brutal way. He interrogates Mindstorm first though, and something is revealed that obviously upsets Soldier Boy very much. So he bashes Mindstorm’s head in with his shield. Yeah, real American Hero there.
This episode is a little light on the Homelander stuff, but there’s still enough Homelander histrionics to keep us going. He is still denying Soldier Boy is alive and accuses Starlight of telling stories after he jilted her. Thank God that fake relationship thing is over. He’s also accusing Starlight of human trafficking because of her relationship with Kimiko, who was trafficked herself BTW. That’s not the story he’s telling! He is truly alone right now at the top of the tower and it’s eating away at him. He loses it in an incoherent rant about Starlight at a Bob Singer rally, doing nothing to endorse the presidential candidate he’s there to help, and there are one of those heavy handed modern day parallels again! It’s quite dead on.
In classic Homelander fashion, not as gross as him chugging bottles of breast milk, he finds a nearby cow and oh boy, it’s time to decompress! He gets a bucket, grabs the teets of that cow and squeezes himself some fresh from the udder milk in a sensual way. Once there is a satisfactory amount in the bucket, he stands up and drinks it slowly, like it’s the best damn milk he’s had in his life. Yes, this show can even turn milking cows dirty. He’s interrupted by Neuman, who has a proposal. She knows how to push his buttons despite his intimidation, and this looks like an offer he can’t refuse. What it is, we’ll find out next episode.
Homelander’s freakouts leads to one great reveal though, Maeve is alive and being held in a cell at Vought tower. He tries to bully her into giving away Butcher and Solider Boy’s location, stressing how dangerous SB is. SB is frying to Compound V out of supes’ blood. She isn’t cooperating, because she doesn’t need to be a supe anymore. She asks why she’s being kept alive. Homelander wants to harvest her eggs and make children. Gee man, that worked so well for you. Maeve got something else from this talk though. Homelander’s bruised face and fear in his eyes. “This is still a top-three day in my life. Because today is the day I saw you scared.” The females are kicking it in this episode!
I know it probably isn’t appropriate for a child’s father to deck her stepfather in front of her, but in the case of Mother’s Milk and Todd, the latter so had it coming! It’s obvious that Todd is a megaphone for the dangers of the MAGA crowd and how easily they can be brainwashed, but his behavior has been inappropriate. I’m stunned that MM’s ex-wife hasn’t seen it. Not too long ago Todd was watching footage of Homelander’s birthday party meltdown uncensored in front of Janine and aside from MM voicing objections, nothing was done. I mean, come on, Monique knew about the dangers of supes and MM’s family mission to hold them accountable. Why would she subject her child to all this pro supe talk? Because she thought it was harmless? I’m just not sure what she saw in this creep except he was the polar opposite of MM. The punch was sweet and satisfying for all of us who would like to do the same to a MAGA asshat.
Since this is the big episode before the season finale, there’s some setup that needs to happen and somehow that was slipped into the end of this very busy installment. First is Annie, who can’t get hold of Hughie. He’s not answering his phone. So she gets hold of Butcher and tells him V-24 is fatal. She begs him to tell Hughie for her. Of course Butcher lies and said they only took it a couple of times (wrong!). Then, instead of telling Hughie, he tells him they need to get more. This is right after he was in near tears over his memories of Lenny. Oh Butcher, did you learn nothing from your nightmare? He’s setting Hughie up for the same fall as his baby brother.
The next big is a real stunner, yet so logical, especially from what we learned with the Black Noir flashbacks. Homelander gets a call in his lair at Vought tower, and his defiant tone is quickly silenced by the person on the other end, Soldier Boy. It looks like SB is using one of those giant 1980’s brick phones to call! That’s awesome. He tells a story about how in 1980 he was called into Vogelbaum’s lab for an experiment. If you remember, Vogelbaum is the guy who made Homelander and raised him in a lab. Sure enough, Vogelbaum made a kid, born in 1981. We see where this is going. Soldier Boy’s final lines not only stun Homelander, but all of us as well.
You know what the bitch of it is? If they'd have just kept me around, I'd have let you take the spotlight. What father wouldn't want that for his son?
Wow. Soldier Boy has mentioned a few times he wanted kids, and now he has one? Now he’s playing proud daddy? Homelander finally has that real parent he’s wanted? One can only guess how this will turn out, but given all the Daddy issues everyone has on this show, it’s going to go bad. Just about everyone is a s****y parent. Let’s just noodle this a bit more, though. This can only go a couple of ways. Either SB accepts Homelander as his and they have a great father-son relationship as two very powerful psychos, or, the likely scenario, SB rejects him as a freak or vice versa. I’m betting the latter because I know what show I’m watching, but it would be interesting to see the former. It’s probably also too much for this short season format.
Loved seeing The Legend again. The guy does not have a filter and he’s hilarious. The crew and Jensen must have had a blast making these retro music videos. This is the strangest one yet, and remember we saw Solider Boy wrapping to Blondie on Solid Gold! Soldier Boy tries to sell a Caribbean accent while singing his rendition of "From a Logical Point of View." I guess it's a spoof of something Robert Mitchum did back in 1957? Whatever it is, it's freaking nuts! Who thinks of this stuff?
The Legend of course watches the video in disgust, claiming he actually produced that piece of s***. “Soldier Boy did to singing what pantyhose did to finger-f***ing.” Best line of the episode! Certainly a top one of the season too.
I also love the scene between Kimiko and Annie over bonding over a bottle of whiskey. Annie can really chug the stuff! It’s shocking that was a first time for Kimiko and her reaction was great too. It’s some pretty hard stuff. Take that toxic masculinity!
Mother’s Milk and Frenchie are working a little side project while laying low, and this is relevant for the season closer. They are trying to figure out what gas knocked out Soldier Boy but killed others in the lab video they saw in Russia . Frenchie figures out it is a nerve agent, Novichok. How do they get some? TBD.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the resolution of the A-Train cliffhanger, even if it was only given a couple minutes of attention. Basically he had to have a heart transplant. So they gave him Blue Hawk’s heart! Ashley naturally blamed it all on Soldier Boy, which they both knew was a lie, but that was the official story. So now A-Train has to live with the idea that Blue Hawk saved his life, even though he killed him.
I’ll give even less mention to The Deep, who derailed his marriage by trying to get his wife to have a three way with his octopus girlfriend. Yes, it’s as strange as it sounds.
Overall grade, a A-. Up next, the big showdown. It…doesn’t go as expected.
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Catch up on all of Alice's Reviews on The Boys and Supernatural, listed on her Writer's Page.