Warning: spoilers for The Boys season 3 episode 5 follow. Click away now if you have not seen the latest episode of Amazon’s superhero show.
Finally, Soldier Boy has arrived to save The Boys – and not a minute too soon. Vought’s first supe has been teased a lot this season: from flashbacks to his time in Payback to his explosive entrance in the Russian lab – and not to forget his country music performance – he’s been on the periphery of almost every episode. 'The Last Time to Look on This World of Lies' brings him to the forefront.
Soldier Boy is Vought’s answer to Captain America, created in the Second World War before being cryogenically frozen in a Russian lab for the last 30 years. As Eric Kripke told us before the season aired, "He’s exactly as racist and misogynist as you would expect someone from the mid-1940s to be." That becomes explicitly true as he wanders through the streets of New York City appalled by men holding hands.
His past is further explored as Mother’s Milk examines some harrowing footage of the experimentation he underwent at the hands of sadistic scientists. Although, all this seems to have done is enhance his powers given he later levels an entire building.
The definitive introduction to Soldier Boy comes during his confrontation with Crimson Countess. His ex-girlfriend reveals she’s the one who sold him out to the Russians because she "always hated him" – and it breaks his heart. It’s painful. I expected guts and gore to accompany the supe’s entrance, and while that’s all there, Ackles brings the vulnerability. You feel sorry for him, which is at complete odds with the revulsion felt at his blatant homophobia.
The Boys is always at its best when it plays in the gray area of morality: testing our loyalties by showing characters’ humanity in one scene balanced by sheer evil in the next. Ackles plays this perfectly – he's a great addition to the show and, if there’s already this amount of depth to his character, I can’t wait to see more of him.
And it looks like we will as Billy Butcher plans a “team-up” with the supe to take down Homelander. This probably means we can expect more V-24 sequences from Butcher and Hughie, whose enhanced abilities hilariously come with naked teleportation. But there’s a big issue: Butcher’s team is falling apart at the seams.
MM is grappling with what moral lines he’s willing to cross, and given Butcher’s and Hughie’s betrayal at the end of the episode, it’s unlikely he’ll be back anytime soon. On the supe side, Starlight’s involvement is hanging tenuously as she grapples with wanting to keep her boyfriend safe after what happened to Supersonic. Then there’s Frenchie and Kimiko. At the start, Kimiko’s life is in the balance (although, there was little doubt she wasn’t going to be okay). She survives – but with a caveat, no powers.
Despite the doom and gloom, Kimiko and Frenchie also bring some levity with a charming musical number. It’s odd, and really doesn’t add much to the story, but it is adorable. Karen Fukuhara and Tomer Capone’s natural chemistry keeps the dynamic between the pair inherently watchable so it’s easy to get on board with whatever they do.
It’s harder to forgive the other underexplored subplots bubbling away. Case in point is Frenchie’s issue with Little Nina. We’ve been told to be very scared of the mafia boss who is back again causing Frenchie problems, but with barely any time given to explore what she’s capable of, it’s hard to buy into. In a world full of homicidal supes, it feels like we need a bit more context to view someone as a threat.
In general, The Boys seems to still be struggling with the pacing of less central storylines. Anything parallel to the main plot tends to feel truncated and slow, setting up future interactions but with little pay-off in the moment. A-Train’s ongoing struggle against the systemic racism in Vought and the supe community is really interesting, but with just bread crumbs through each episode, it’s hard to keep up any momentum.
Similarly, I expected more from Homelander taking over as the head of Vought. There’s so much promise in the idea, but all we’ve had so far are some boring board meetings. Season 3 has been retreading a lot of old ground so far with Homelander’s lingering threat. The absence of a new villain to match him like we had with Stormfront in season 2 has left a lack of focus. Hopefully, Ackles’ nuclear super will change this up as a suitable foe for the leader of the Seven.
The final moments are some of the most somber of the season so far. Starlight begs Hughie to reconsider what he’s doing with Butcher and Soldier Boy, asking him not to leave. He doesn’t listen, following Butcher as she’s left looking lost, wondering just what this sacrifice will cost him.
It’s a different ending than we’re used to for The Boys, but it’s a powerful one. It doesn’t need to be just explosions and gunfire, I really care about these characters – and just like Starlight, it’s a wrench to think about what might happen to them next.
The Boys season 3 is airing weekly on Prime Video – check out our guide to the release schedule here to make sure you don’t miss a moment. If you’re looking for more on the show, check out our exclusive interviews with Kripke and the cast about Easter eggs and what they really think about those crazy storylines.