The first three episodes of The Boys have taken their time introducing new characters and teasing out backstories, making it feel like a show that’s still in its prologue when the time has come to hit the meat of the story. The end of “Get Some” really hammers home what the show is about overall when Butcher mentions that the only weakness for superheroes in this world is their reputation, but the best moment in the episode is a classic antihero vs. villain shot when Butcher and Homelander lock eyes. The meta commentary and universe-building have been fun, but let’s get to the action of the piece.
And let’s do so with a bit more flair. This is a show that still feels like it lacks the gritty voice of the source material and hasn’t figured out what to replace it with. Most of all, it needs some more exciting visual compositions. Right now, the majority of the memorable images involve Antony Starr’s Homelander, whether it’s his red eyes after downing a plane at the end of episode one or the terrifying way he looks at Stillwell’s baby in this one. He’s kind of stealing the show three episodes in, although Erin Moriarty’s work as Starlight is also an acting MVP near the halfway point of the first season.
Speaking of Starlight, the way the writers handle her arc this episode feels a bit disingenuous. They present us with a young lady who doesn’t want to be a sex object, and then they turn the narrative to another female hero who uses her body to kill someone — a body the show lingers on several times, including a large photo of her half-naked. The scene in which Starlight argues over whether or not to wear the skimpy costume that Vought has designed for her is the most thematically rich of the episode, playing with ideas of empowerment vs. exploitation, but then the rest of the hour doesn’t do much with it (and the scene at a signing with the stunned little girl who hears someone catcall Starlight is a groaner) and arguably sabotages it with the handling of Popclaw (Brittany Allen). Overall, the episode highlights the biggest problem with The Boys, a show with a ton of great ideas and interesting characters that feels like it doesn’t yet know how to bring them all together tonally or thematically.
Part of the reason for that is we’re still meeting characters! We haven’t even seen all of the Boys! This episode brings in Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso), imagined here as a calming presence when compared to Butcher and Frenchie, whom he hates. He’s persuaded by Butcher to join the special operation when his old pal tells him that they killed Translucent. (That’s all it takes?) Before we know it, MM, Frenchie, Butcher, and Hughie are working together to hack into the apartment of A-Train’s girlfriend Popclaw. Hughie pretends to be installing a new router and gives the gang access to all of the cameras in her apartment, which they then use to watch A-Train and Popclaw do an exposition dump right on time. (How lucky!) It turns out that A-Train was on something called Compound-V when he ran right through Robin, and that he’s nervous enough about his upcoming race against Shockwave that he wants more.
It’s time to talk about Compound-V. As in the comic book, it’s a substance that makes people superheroes, with Ennis and Robertson going so far as to suggest that all of those origin stories are garbage. Heroes are made in a lab. In the show, it’s presented more as steroids, something to amp up A-Train for his race or, later, to get Popclaw a buzz. She even references its addictive qualities, presenting it more like a drug. And it’s going to be how Butcher and the gang bring down the Seven, especially after they film Popclaw using it and murdering her landlord by sitting on his face too hard. This is one of those series’ beats that feel like they’re trying to be memorably edgy but just come off gross, especially given how much time the episode devotes to empowering Starlight.
The lethal face-sitting at the end of the episode may not work, but there’s material earlier that does, mostly the stuff at the race and anything at this point involving Homelander. Whereas it feels like the stuff with Butcher can’t find the right tone and tries to be edgy just for the sake of being edgy, Homelander is being developed as a true sociopath. Imagine if Superman was a corrupt cop. Imagine if Captain America was a jealous lunatic. The scene in which he looks at Stillwell’s baby like it’s something in his way — like he’s jealous of the attention the baby gets — is chill-inducing. As is the way he puts his hand on Queen Maeve and basically suggests that she was meant to be with him. Reimagining Captain America as a version of extreme toxic masculinity is the most interesting undercurrent of these first three episodes.
A close second would be the developing chemistry between Jack Quaid and Erin Moriarty as Hughie and Annie. As thinly written as that selfie scene is, the episode pops back to life when the two most likable characters on the show (maybe the only likable characters?) encounter each other for the first time since the park bench, and Hughie figures out his new friend is one of the Seven. While the actors make a good pair, let’s hope the show doesn’t become a series of moments in which the nice guy comforts the superheroine. They need to be more than that together.
In the end, a hopped-up A-Train wins his race, Butcher confronts Popclaw right after she’s committed drug-induced manslaughter, and Homelander and the Deep find what remains of Translucent in a trunk in the bay (well, a porpoise does, if we’re being literal). Butcher has declared war on the Seven. Now let’s get to it!
• I’m totally interested in how a world of superheroes would change sports. What would boxing be like? Football? Would they even exist? The buzz around the Race of the Century almost implies that only superhero sports could exist. Otherwise, how could things remain competitive?
• On that note, is anyone else surprised that The Boys actually uses ESPN’s logo? ESPN is owned by Disney, which owns Marvel, which one would presume doesn’t want to get anywhere near this show. If ESPN exists in this world, does Marvel?
• Mother’s Milk has a mug that just says “Bad Ass.” Clever way to instantly define a character. Also, I want one.
• The show needs more Queen Maeve. She’s way more interesting than the Deep or Frenchie so far. And her scenes with Homelander are some of the best of this episode.
• There are more Boys to introduce, but then the writers really need to hunker down and bounce these characters off each other instead of just adding new ones. They have so many ideas and personalities to play with. Now get playing.