The Seven have never been further apart. Friends have become foes and cracks have turned into chasms. This week, Supes are taking sides and becoming strange bedfellows (quite literally in one instance). This shift in dynamic makes for an intriguing match of mind games that not only shakes things up but also provides a welcome, more low-key breather after the high intensity of the past few episodes.
Homelander (who else?) takes centre stage once again this week, having to defend himself from war crimes after travelling to a foreign country to murder a criminal. This leads to widespread protests led by Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit), an apparent fictional surrogate for the real-world Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in yet another example of The Boys’ ability to put its finger on the pulse of a generation deflated by those in power not taking responsibility for their actions.
Last week it was memes, this week it’s mass protests that eerily reflect a year characterised by a public outpouring of grief and anger. Unless Nostradamus is on the writing staff, they should be applauded for their prescience. No show is currently getting to the heart of what compels and consumes America – all while masquerading as a superhero show.
The decision for Homelander to cross borders, meanwhile, shows how unhinged the leader of the Seven has become. It also necessitates him joining forces with an unlikely Supe – and that union is The Boys at its gross, grandstanding best.
However, this development is marred by a fake-out scene that sees Homelander murder hundreds of innocent people. It is, of course, a figment of his imagination – but feels decidedly out of step in a series that has so far decided not to resort to such cheap narrative tricks. Having a scene exist for the sole purpose of giving the audience a quick shock or, more cynically, a great piece of marketing, is at odds with the show’s otherwise fantastic writing.
In slightly more comforting news, Antony Starr is still the best thing on TV right now. But he’s not the only main player here. The episode, titled “We Gotta Go Now”, also dedicates a fair amount of time to building Butcher back up as a credible threat to oppose Homelander.
Karl Urban’s character – now reunited with his dog, Terror – has some of his family life peeled back as he visits his aunt and is ultimately tracked down by Black Noir. The stories of his brother and mum ultimately humanise Butcher, who was in danger of turning into a badass, if blunt, caricature with his “He’s a Supe freak” line last week.
That, when coupled with his in-person disarming of both Black Noir and composed video call confrontation with Stan Edgar (compare and contrast how Butcher and Homelander each deal with the CEO – each scene tells you everything you need to know about them) means that The Boys, for once, have one-upped Vought.
It’s about time, too. The Supes are still the leading lights of the show, but season 2 has finally allowed Butcher, Mother’s Milk, and Hughie to edge back into the game. It’s smart storytelling, and speaks to the show’s long-term vision that – almost like a video game – Butcher has to deal with Black Noir before reaching the final boss, Homelander
Something that isn’t so effective is the episode’s tendency to accentuate how much some of the attention-starved Supes have dropped back, both in importance and in stature. The main misstep this season has been The Deep’s funny but largely fruitless Church of the Collective rebrand. Unlike Stormfront, who was completely absent before this season and is now one of the show’s most interesting characters, it’s hard to care about what happens to The Deep if he’s tucked away interviewing for trophy wives in Ohio.
Everyone knows his life is a sham and his desperate plot to be accepted back into the Seven hasn’t really gone anywhere outside of weird, if hilarious, duets with his own gills. In fact, you can almost hear the gears turning when Maeve shows up out of the blue to recruit Kevin to her cause against Homelander.
If an anti-Homelander taskforce is being assembled, it’ll be Maeve leading the charge. After her surprise on-screen outing, Vought does what Vought does best and weaponises her sexuality through film scenes and marketing campaigns.
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Elena, her lover, drops out of the equation and Maeve is left with nowhere else to turn but to The Deep for support. She sees through his façade – again, making much of his reinvention pointless – but Maeve’s fractured relationship with Elena and impending confrontation with Homelander now drags two of the more sidelined members of the Seven to the forefront of the show. Like The Deep has been in the second season, Maeve felt reduced to quips and being little more than a Supe prop. Now, things are primed for a change.
“We Gotta Go Now” is largely a transitional episode – and that’s OK. After the large steps forward taken recently in terms of plot and character development, it’s to be expected, almost required lest the pacing become too overwhelming. Thankfully, the quality still remains and was spread out more evenly: Maeve got some much-needed attention, Butcher got a chance to shine as a viable threat to the Seven, and there’s even a shocking new power couple in town.
The middle of the season was always going to be the toughest stretch for the series – it’s now passed with flying colours and has set itself up for a tantalisingly poised final act.