Warning: this review contains major spoilers for The Boys season 3, episode 7. If you haven’t watched the new episode on Prime Video, turn around now!
How do you follow up something like Herogasm? Admittedly, The Boys isn’t quite sure itself, serving up a scattershot penultimate episode that dives deep into the personal trauma of two of its key players – but doesn’t know where its best interests lie.
The bulk of the episode deals with Butcher and Black Noir. As characters, they are polar opposites – one talkative, one very much less so – but, as we discover, they are united by their past traumas.
Fresh off Homelander’s escape, Soldier Boy, Hughie, and Butcher head off in search of the last surviving member of Payback: Mindstorm, a Medusa-like Supe who can cause anyone he looks at to slip into a coma and relive painful memories. Butcher’s the beneficiary of an unfortunate trip down memory lane and he spends much of the episode reliving his childhood, butting heads with his abusive father as well as his younger brother Lenny.
In truth, it’s a little too much time spent with Butcher. While we didn’t know exactly how the relationship with his father and brother crumbled, it’s always been written across Butcher’s violent outbursts and cold treatment of Hughie. Seeing Lenny’s suicide from Butcher’s point-of-view is a gut-punch, but one washed away as Billy only sees the light for a fleeting moment. After embracing Hughie, he’s back to his old c-word dropping ways and it all amounts to wasted potential.
Black Noir’s storytime, thankfully, is much more successful. It’s a delicious curveball, too, as the masked, mute Supe heads to Chuck E. Cheese stand-in Buster Beaver. There, he’s met by a Snow White-esque cast of animated characters who act out his run-ins with Soldier Boy, including the Nicaraguan incident that caused his brain injury. Black Noir’s secrets (and identity) were always going to be hard to tease out, so the darkly comic take on Disney is a wonderfully warped way of doing it – and shows The Boys writing staff at their creative best.
Black Noir aside, though, it’s frustrating just where this episode chooses to draw its attention. Homelander, surprisingly, doesn’t get much to do, despite being at his lowest. He has a literal bruise to go along with his damaged ego. The chance to spend time with the fractured leader of the Seven is almost too good to pass up, but his appearances are few. Maeve, too, is given short shrift – continuing the trend of her being underused this season – as Homelander threatens to harvest her eggs so she can ‘live’ long after she’s killed at the hands of Vought.
The Deep and A-Train are also giving mere minutes to tie up some of their big story arcs. After his aquatic sexual proclivities go too far, Deep’s string-pulling girlfriend departs. A-Train is also made whole again, ironically, thanks to Blue Hawk’s heart. These are significant and entertaining moments, yet they are not given ample enough time to breathe. Throw in MM knocking Todd out cold, Kimiko going back on Compound V, and Starlight broadcasting Homelander’s threats to the world on Instagram Live and this is the first real sign of the show needing to thin the herd a little – it can’t juggle every plotline every single week and do them all justice.
However, when ‘Here Comes a Candle to Light You to Bed’ does soar, boy does it do it. Once Starlight discovers that Temp V is a death sentence, the noose starts to tighten around the episode’s throat. Neuman – forever the show’s go-to wildcard – forms a temporary alliance with Homelander that is sure to explode in everyone’s faces come next week’s finale. Butcher and Hughie, too, have Homelander in their sights but, unbeknownst to them, Homelander has his own family issues to attend to.
The episode, then, is saved by an all-timer of a twist: Homelander is Soldier Boy’s son. It’s not quite on par with Darth Vader’s iconic family reveal, but it serves a similar purpose. With the finale in sight, suddenly everything now becomes a little more unknowable. Where it all seemed to be heading to one final showdown, there are now several pawns that could be knocked off the board by the two kings – Soldier Boy and Homelander – uniting. While Stranger Things may very well dominate the pop culture conversation this week, don’t be surprised if you hear more people than expected freaking out about The Boys’ latest rug-pull. It really is that good.
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