[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for “The Boys,” Season 2, Episode 4, “Nothing Like It In the World.”]
“The Boys” continues its rollercoaster of a second season with Episode 4, which dropped yesterday on Amazon Prime, and brought some significant revelations. We not only got fascinating information about various characters’ backstories, but we also got a lot of what makes me love this show as a psychologist – some insight about what’s going on inside these characters’ heads. And oh, are these characters’ subconscious minds ever a feast!
On the Boys’ side, Frenchie and Kimiko are both in a dark place after the disastrous events of the last episode. Kimiko, whose entire story line is about trauma, is now more traumatized than ever after seeing her long-lost brother brutally murdered by Stormfront. Frenchie tries to bury his own emotions with cocaine, and with the impaired judgment that often brings, tries to kiss Kimiko in a misguided effort to comfort her. It’s pointed out to him that he thinks by saving Kimiko, he can make amends for the past — but she’s a human being, not a kitten up a tree.
“Leave her alone. Let her grieve,” isn’t necessarily bad advice, but it’s also not something Frenchie can do. When Kimiko sets out to take revenge on Stormfront at a rally (which would almost certainly have gotten her killed), Frenchie stops her. She tosses him off angrily, but he manages to thwart her at least temporarily. I still don’t have as much of a handle on Frenchie and Kimiko as some of the other characters, but I’m intrigued.
One of the things I teach my students is to get really good at reading nonverbal – they give us so much information about what people are really thinking and feeling. Karen Fukuhara does a wonderful job of conveying everything Kimiko is feeling through only nonverbal – and sometimes a sign language that no one else can understand, which is both a source of great frustration for her and a constant reminder that she’s lost the only other person would could.
Meanwhile, the colonel feels guilty and tells Butcher where he can find Becca. I loved how that happened, after she had a dream about being in an auditorium with everyone who had lost someone to Vought staring at her, waiting for her to do something. What a perfectly plausible guilt dream – the kind we all tend to have when we’re feeling like we’re not living up to our own sense of responsibility.
Butcher does indeed reunite with Becca, with frantic face clutching and kisses and eventually sex in the back seat of her car hidden under a bridge. There are hints from the start, though, that while they clearly still love each other, they are not on the same page when it comes to Ryan. Becca is devoted to her son; Butcher sees him as Homelander’s child and a supe, one of things he loathes. There’s no way this could work, and I found myself wondering throughout the episode when Becca would realize that.
Inevitably, she does.
Becca: You don’t really want Ryan to come with us – you’ll find a way to get rid of him.
Butcher tries to deny it, then tries to convince her to leave Ryan behind, as emotions start to boil over and hard truths come out.
Becca: I have a son!
Butcher: He’s a fucking Supe freak!
It’s a hard scene to watch, but it rang very true. It also gives us more information about Butcher’s troubled past. When he says that she saved him, she disagrees.
Becca: I couldn’t save you. You were always one day away from pounding someone to death in a parking lot.
So, I guess these anger issues didn’t just appear when Butcher lost his wife. Hmm.
I’m still rooting for Hughie and Annie. Homelander attacks her on an elevator, trapping her and threatening to kill her, accusing her of being with Hughie. She insists that he broke her heart and they’re not together, and eventually he believes her (maybe?), but I reiterate – Homelander is terrifying! It’s hard to believe that Antony Starr is such a nice guy, because he invests his character with so much barely restrained violence.
Annie and Hughie meet up in the park and he realizes she’s the one at the end of her rope this time, so he invites her on a road trip with him and Mother’s Milk to see if they can find a 70s superhero called Liberty. That whole trip was my favorite part of the episode – we even got a brief moment of lightheartedness as they sang along to ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’ in the car, with MM shaking his head – and eventually shutting it down. They stop at a diner and we get some backstory from both Annie and MM – her wistful memories of being with her dad and eating donuts, something her mother wouldn’t allow.
Annie: Weight gain in our household was a capital crime.
MM reciprocates with an equally touching story about his dad, who insisted on tasting all the flavors at Baskin Robbins as free samples.
MM: I’d give anything to see him one last time.
Annie: To fathers and sugar.
Annie’s childhood and her relationship with her mother are fascinating to me and I hope we find out more. We soon learn more about MM’s father and how he figures into MM’s motivation to bring down Vought. MM remembers his dad’s fight against Vought, written out every night as he pounded the keys of his typewriter.
MM: But Vought was not about to let this one black man put his foot on their neck.
They found him one morning dead at 55, hunched over his typewriter.
MM: His fight got passed down to me.
That makes so much sense, how committed MM is to this fight, and how he simultaneously values family above everything. They are one in the same; hence the dollhouse that he works on constantly. The symbolism in this show isn’t always subtle, but it always rings true. That line about putting a foot on a neck gave me chills.
Annie also points out MM’s OCD tendencies, which Hughie hasn’t noticed. I want to know if Kripke has a DSM on set at this point. (The manual used to diagnose psychological issues which has been a huge bestseller the past four years!)
Hughie and Annie have a late night rendezvous at the motel vending machine, banter about candy bars, and then tumble into bed together. Their relationship is as much friendship and banter as it is anything, but it also seems very genuine, so that made me smile. I’m sure that won’t last long!
[It didn’t. By the episode’s end, Annie tells Hughie that can’t happen again – that they can’t afford to feel good or safe or to let their guard down.]
It’s just not that kind of a show, is it?
Things are happening with the Supes too, and we’re getting a little more insight into them as well. A Train gets kicked out of the Seven, with Homelander assuring him “We’ll always be friends….etcetera…” with as much warmth as an ice cube. The Deep interviews possible wives from The Collective, attempts to choose the one who’s coming on to him the most, and finds out it’s not really his choice after all – if he wants their help in getting him back into The Seven, the creepy Collective guru is going to pick his wife for him.
It’s clearer and clearer that being in The Seven is what it’s all about for the Supes. They are all addicted to the power and celebrity, and fighting amongst themselves to hang onto it. Homelander confronts Stormfront after her social media savvy makes her message more effective than his thanks to “five guys manufacturing memes”.
Homelander protests that “they all love me” and Stormfront dismisses that.
Stormfront: This constant need to be loved by everyone is kinda pathetic.
I got chills again when she continued, saying that he didn’t need everyone to love him – he just needed five million people fucking pissed. That he has fans, but she has soldiers.
Does this strategy sound familiar to anyone? Sometimes “The Boys” gets a little too real.
When Homelander looks about to lose it, she backs down a little, telling him she’s only trying to help, but he says he doesn’t need or want it.
That’s the theme of two of the most memorable sequences in this episode, and the most disturbing. Early in the episode, Homelander visits a cabin in the woods – and there is Madelyn Stillwell! I was fascinated by that character and wanted more, so I had a brief moment of oh, she’s still….yeah, no, probably not.
She seduces him with a very messed up combination of mothering him with a glass of milk that he sucks off her finger and kissing him and feeling him up while murmuring “my good boy” and it’s all very confusing and Oedipal. Especially when it turns out to be Doppelganger — because of course it is. That this is the specific fantasy that Homelander has concocted for himself makes us as audience feel like we’ve landed in his Id and can’t get out. Squirm!
Oh, and that’s not all. Doppelganger, sensing that the Stillwell fantasy isn’t working anymore, later tries appealing to Homelander’s narcissism more….directly. By morphing into his own doppelganger, and then offering to suck his (own?) dick. Squirm!
To be fair, Homelander did insist “I don’t need anyone but myself”.
Doppelganger Homelander to Actual Homelander: And it’s not even gay if it’s with yourself, right?
For a minute, we think Homelander is definitely going to be seduced by himself, but then he grabs Doppelganger by the throat.
Homelander: You’re pathetic. I don’t need anyone, I don’t need you.
Snap goes his neck, and poor Doppelganger is no longer available for make-your-fantasy-come-true sessions.
There’s alot of squirming in this episode, in fact (on my behalf) – Homelander also outs Queen Maeve in the middle of a live television interview, after bristling from a reporter’s question about lack of diversity in The Seven, Hashtag #HeroesSoWhite. He insists he’s happy for her and that is somehow even more terrifying than him being angry.
Homelander is now completely isolated, and that makes him so much more dangerous.
We also get one more revelation about the Supes. Hughie, MM and Annie think they’re trying to track down a second tier Superhero from the 70s named Liberty. They find a woman who witnessed her innocent brother dragged from his car and killed by Liberty many years ago and heard him ask in shock, “Why are you doing this to me, lady, aren’t you supposed to be a hero?”
Liberty: I am a hero – for killing a black piece of shit like you!
The little girl (now a grown woman) never went to the police, accepting $2,000 from Vought to cover it up because, as she points out: A little black girl accusing a white superhero of murder??
Hughie, MM and Annie say they’re glad Liberty disappeared, and the woman’s eyes go wide. She points to a photo in the newspaper, saying “No, there she is, right there.”
And once again, this show is just a little too relevant.
Episode 4 is the halfway mark of “The Boys” second season, and things are getting very very interesting.
All that squirming isn’t always comfortable, but it’s always intriguing. I can’t help but wonder what revelations the next four episodes will bring – and then it’s on to Season 3.
A new episode of “The Boys” happens every Friday on Amazon Prime Video, so catch up if you need to and watch along! Just be prepared to squirm.