The Boys Recap: Bad Product

The Boys

Glorious Five Year Plan
Season 3 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

The Boys

Glorious Five Year Plan
Season 3 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: Amazon Studios

It’s the Russia episode we were promised last week! After a few installments gradually reuniting the Boys and developing their goals, both individually and as a group, “Glorious Five Year Plans” gives us our first real Boys mission of the season. Secrets come out, a dangerous supe is unleashed after disappearing almost 40 years ago, and one of our hero’s fates hangs in the balance. (Sort of. I assume Kimiko will be fine.) It’s one of two rushed but thrilling central stories during these 60 minutes of television.

Everything with the Boys seems to go down fast in this episode. Butcher and Frenchie meet with Little Nina and pay off Cherie’s debt (along with an extra $100,000, courtesy of the CIA), and before we know it, they’re off to Russia on a private plane, fake passports in hand. It’s only minutes later that Nina has leveraged her Kremlin connections to find the lab they’re looking for, and all of a sudden the elusive Soldier Boy–killing weapon seems shockingly attainable.

Of course, it’s more complicated than that. Frenchie is right to be concerned about Nina’s motivations for helping them; it turns out Butcher promised Kimiko’s services in carrying out a hit on some rich Russian crime lord. Kimiko tells Butcher, “I’m not your fucking gun,” but reluctantly goes through with it, leading to a fun scene of Kimiko going undercover as a sex worker named Irina. But it’s not very long before she sticks a supe dildo through the back of the mark’s head and eliminates his men using his arsenal of sex toys. Even more disturbing than the dead bodies, to Kimiko, are the looks of pure fear on all the other women’s faces — especially after one shoots her in the head and watches her heal in real time.

It’s yet another sign that Kimiko needs to quit the team soon. In fact, Frenchie agrees to leave with her and go to Marseille after this one last job. The other main reason for the change of heart, though, is Butcher: He’s been acting much more cold hearted than usual, between snapping cruelly at Ryan last episode and being so callous to Kimiko this time. When Mother’s Milk points this out to him, Butcher tells him about why he and Grace Mallory first picked him for the team: They’d heard from other men in basic training that he was a natural-born leader. It’s a handy bit of strategic sentimentality on Butcher’s part, but there’s a deeper implication: Butcher plays the hard-ass authoritarian role when shit needs to get done, while Mother’s Milk is the real glue, a moral compass who can hold the group together like he did with his platoon.

The other big focus here is on Butcher’s V24 secret and Hughie’s desire to try some too. Knowing his girlfriend is in a fake relationship with Homelander is tough to begin with, but it becomes unbearable when Homelander stops by early in the episode to toy with Hughie, signing his cast and asking him if Starlight is a good fuck. Starlight steps in and threatens to quit if Homelander hurts Hughie or anyone he cares about, but that only makes Hughie feel more inadequate.

All of these stories come together nicely at the climax, when the Boys break into the lab and security inevitably arrives for a big shootout. Butcher shocks everyone when he exposes his enhanced V24 abilities, lasering a few guys and breaking a neck. But it is even more distressing to the group that the typically by-the-books Hughie took the temp V, too — it comes out when he nakedly teleports a few yards forward, punching a hole through a man’s torso.

So much is happening, but there’s little time to dwell on the emotional significance of these revelations. Because it turns out there’s no Homelander-killing gun in the lab; sealed up in some sort of cryogenic chamber is Soldier Boy himself, and Butcher has just let him loose. Everything turns to chaos when the resurrected supe lets out a long, powerful blast of energy, directly hitting Kimiko. Soldier Boy escapes for now, but something’s different with Kimiko: she isn’t healing. And despite the urgency of this moment, the fact that one of their own could be dying, for real, half the team is distracted: Hughie is still lost in wonder and euphoria at the power coursing through his veins, and all Butcher can think about is Soldier Boy (and, by proxy, Homelander). Maybe Butcher was right when he said Compound V was punishment, not power.

All this stuff is good. But sometimes, I’d trade plot momentum for a little breathing room — time to get to know Nina as someone more than a plot device, to really have fun with Kimiko’s undercover mission and explore her instinctual connection with the sex workers she ends up frightening. What is here, character-wise, is starting to repeat itself: Laz Alonso continues to do great work showing Marvin’s mix of fear and rage toward the legendary “hero” who killed his family, and Jack Quaid makes Hughie’s feelings of weakness and emasculation at the hands of his own girlfriend believable, if irritating. But both of those character stories are hitting the same beats over and over, which distracts more in a time-strapped episode like this one. Hopefully giving Hughie (and maybe others?) V24 will be the shot in the arm (pun intended) these stories need in the second half of the season.

What unites this story and the other main story of the episode is the shared focus on team dynamics. And the non-Russia half, centered on the state of the Seven, is in a similar boat to the Russia half: It’s wildly entertaining but slightly frustrating when you think about it a little longer. At Vought, we witness the completion of Homelander’s rise to total domination only a couple of episodes after he seemed lower than he ever had. When the episode starts, Tucker Carlson stand-in Cameron Coleman is fawning over Homelander’s eyebrow-raising rants about “the ones pulling the strings”; by the end, Homelander has squashed the first real attempt at a Seven mutiny before it even begins.

As with the Boys, the larger Seven story of this episode is fueled by the intersection of individual character arcs. Plans for a potential mutiny begin with Starlight and Maeve, though Maeve has mostly been a lone wolf in recent months, hating herself for her past with Homelander. Starlight immediately recruits Supersonic, whom the episode continues to develop as an alternate love interest (for a while). Before long, A-Train seems like a viable new ally too; he’s pissed and hurt that Homelander is siding against him with the Deep, of all people. Both A-Train and Deep have been slightly underused this season, but their stories merge nicely here when A-Train’s request to bench the racist Blue Hawk gets undercut by Deep’s suggestion that it would make Homelander look soft on crime.

That funny but cutting fight leads A-Train to align with Supersonic. And yet, in the final scene of the episode, we get the bombshell reveal: Supersonic is dead already, murdered by Homelander to teach Starlight not to fuck with him ever again. A-Train seemingly spilled the beans as soon as Homelander took total control of Vought.

I call the reveal a bombshell because it is shocking — this season has slowly set Alex up as a potential love interest, even in this episode, but his life (and story arc) got cut short. While I enjoy the subversion of a cliché love triangle, part of me can’t help but feel like Alex’s death happened a bit too soon for the story; it’s exciting but slightly anticlimactic because it represents a reversion to the norm, as gory and dramatic as it may be presented.

There’s another unexpected exit in this episode. If Stan Edgar is gone from this series, or even gone for more than an episode or two, it’ll feel a bit abrupt, as with Supersonic; I wish we’d gotten more time with him and Neuman so that his “daughter’s” betrayal landed harder. Early in the episode, Edgar directs her to make a public statement reprimanding Homelander, just to keep him in line. Instead, she works out a deal with Homelander to “set things straight,” flipping on her father figure. At the press conference, she announces that Homelander has provided evidence of Edgar’s crimes, including blackmail, perjury, and obstruction of justice. Homelander is made the new CEO because “Vought belongs to us, not them.” In return, Neuman gets a dose of Compound V to endow her daughter with powers. Not a great deal for Neuman, I have to say, but I suppose the threat of Homelander lasering her and her whole family was a significant factor.

Edgar’s last scene is a satisfying fuck-you to Homelander, assuring him that he’ll regret making himself the leader. Now there’s nobody left to cover for him, and the world will see him as what he is: “bad product.”

The idea of Homelander as the head of Vought is intriguing to me; the more power he has, the more he has to lose, which should make his fall all the more delicious. But Homelander has already been in power the vast majority of the time in The Boys. Giving him this new position may offer rich opportunities for dramatic storytelling, but it’s a bit disappointing to raise the idea of a full-blown Seven Civil War and then see it extinguished so quickly. That’s the thing with this show: The big shocks are exhilarating, but sometimes you crave a little more time in one place.

Extra Frames

• Soldier Boy once appeared on Solid Gold, singing Blondie’s “Rapture.”

• Another classic: Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison,” which plays when Kimiko walks up to the mansion in high heels, then stops when she trips — only to restart as she regains her confidence.

• I’d somehow managed to avoid ever actually seeing the controversial Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial that this episode references, but I was finally forced to watch it this week. In an ad for his energy drink Turbo Rush, A-Train joins a protest and stands between a protester and a cop in riot gear, handing the cop a drink and insisting that “We gotta listen to each other.”

• It still made me laugh, but I’m less enamored with the low-hanging fruit of Ashley claiming, “Black Lives Matter is my favorite hashtag. My Insta: nothing but black squares.”

• It’s interesting to see Ashley alternate between being terrified of Homelander and weirdly admiring him. When she’s talking down to Coleman, she chillingly echoes Homelander’s earlier line to her: “Is your idiot brain getting fucked by stupid? It’s not rhetorical; answer me.” Then she whips out a Homelander dildo to “punish” him. (It’s still not the most memorable use of a dildo in the episode.)

• There’s also a killer supe hamster in the lab named Jamie who, when set off, zips fast through the air and smashes into everything it sees. This leads to a particularly graphic death when Jamie burrows into a man’s skull through his eye. It says something about The Boys that I found the hamster stuff kind of predictable, but it’s still an amusingly gross touch.

• According to Coleman, the New York Times attacked Homelander for the telecast, saying, “It’s scary to see a man that strong that riled up.” Of course, in reality, a more likely New York Times story would be something like, “In this Ohio diner, Homelander isn’t known as a eugenicist. He’s the greatest example of true American values.”

The Boys Recap: Bad Product