The penultimate episode of “The Boys” Season 3, ominously titled ‘Here Comes A Candle To Light You To Bed,’ releases this Friday on Prime Video, and the little teasers already have everyone bouncing in anticipation (per usual). This is my non-spoilery teaser review of my own reaction to episode 3.7 – and as a “Supernatural” fan, this one is especially for everyone who was already a Jensen Ackles admirer or has joined the party recently and jumped on board in appreciation of Soldier Boy.
The last few episodes of Season 3 are going to be a rollercoaster for Ackles fans the likes of which we have never ridden. My advice is you’d better hold on tight, because this one is like that rollercoaster in the dark at Disney World where it’s extra scary because you never know when there’s gonna be a sudden twist or how violent the turn is gonna be. That also makes it extra exhilarating – for a long time that was my favorite ride there. But when I say my heart was pounding out of my chest and I had to jump up and sort of run around my kitchen a few times to calm down, to the accompaniment of colorful exclamations, I am not exaggerating.
From the perspective of someone who has been a “Supernatural” fan for 17 years, there are all kinds of things that fandom has imagined a character Ackles plays doing – things that a show on the CW could not include, even if it might have made more sense for hardened traumatized hunter Dean Winchester than his PG vocabulary ever did. Most of those things have played out in fanfiction over the years, for sure, but somehow seeing and hearing a character onscreen who is not limited to the CW standards and practices was more shocking than I expected.
No, I am very much not complaining. Seeing Jensen be able to sink his teeth into a role like this, into a character who is raw and fucked up and in many ways the worst of a swatch of humanity in real life – it was awesome. For someone who’s a long-time fan, it was also a mind fuck, in that I could not help but love the character just a little even when I hated him.
We learn about some of the horrible things he’s done in this episode, right alongside more of the things that have been done to him – and right alongside the moments when he lets his guard down a little and says something real and shows some genuine emotion. That is one of the things this show has excelled at from the beginning and why I’ve loved it since Season 1 – it’s always shades of gray, even the worst characters having moments of humanity when I feel for them.
But having one of my favorite actors embody that kind of complexity made it so much more difficult for me to negotiate. I kept wanting to sympathize with him – especially when the traumas of his past are laid out – but each time there’s a punch to the gut that reminds me that I can’t get too pulled in. Talk about a mindfuck!
Luckily, I have enjoyed Eric Kripke and his fictional worlds making me care way too much for nearly two decades, and apparently, I am still enjoying it every bit as much as I did in 2005.
Soldier Boy’s story plays out – and plays into – the theme of the penultimate episode and the season, and frankly the entire show, as we explore how the past keeps impacting the present. By the end of this season, we know a lot more about who each of the show’s characters are – and how they got that way.
Some of it is hard to watch, especially when it mirrors some themes on “Supernatural” that are carved into my heart forever. ‘The Boys’ is fairly Freudian in that it recognizes the importance that our early years and especially our parents play in shaping who we are and how we react to other people. Neither Freud nor the show insist there’s no way to change that, but for some of the characters, that influence is pervasive.
Who can fight hard enough to not repeat the traumas of the past and become someone different is a constant question, and we never quite know who will be successful or whether that success is temporary. I love that – it’s real. It’s why Soldier Boy and practically everyone else on this show makes me dizzy.
Of course, we’ve established that’s a dizziness I like. Another ride on the coaster in the dark, please.
The twists and turns here are of the plot – with alliances that shift almost faster than I can keep up with. Who can you trust – or can you trust anyone? Is everyone just out to achieve their own individual goal, and just using everyone else to get there? Every time you think someone has “seen the light”, the lure of power (or fame, a version of power) pulls them back in – too often they end up on the dark side as a result. An ancient story played out in a no-holds-barred way that makes it hit even harder.
Homelander continues his descent into being isolated and even more dangerous, with this episode including the highly anticipated (dreaded?) cow milking scene that Antony Starr teased in pre series interviews, and we saw in previews. And okay, I did not know a whole lot about cow milking – but Starr sells Homelander’s nearly orgasmic appreciation of the entire process and the frothy finished product. The use of music in this and so many other scenes is the icing on the cake. I was gleeful when I recognized it!
The character of Todd, MM’s daughter Janine’s stepfather, has become an interesting addition. We don’t know much about him, but he’s presented as the kind of well-meaning everyman who gets pulled into the propaganda that is so damaging. He buys into Homelander and Vought’s PR wholeheartedly, swallowing whole the fear that they are peddling.
The parallel is a little heavy handed at times, but it’s still validating to see it reflected on my screen as ‘real life’ descends farther and farther into a place darker than I ever imagined it could. Give me my fictional media so I know I’m not the only one seeing and feeling (and fearing) it.
The story line twists and turns in unexpected ways for Frenchie and Kimiko, Annie and Hughie, The Deep and Cassandra, and for Black Noir too. Those twists are told in the typical atypical fashion that ‘The Boys’ excels at, some of them definitely not PG rated and some of them just the opposite, at least at first glance. Just hang on tight!
There are multiple “Supernatural” call backs in this episode too, which only served to make me even more emotionally raw as I was watching. I might have said “Damn you, Kripke!” out loud more than once. Even Bobby Singer isn’t sacred anymore. (I am thrilled to have Jim Beaver on “The Boys,” playing a character much darker than his Supernatural father figure ever was – and killing it!)
Both Soldier Boy and Butcher end up even more fucked up than they began in this episode, and both Urban and Ackles show their characters’ reluctant vulnerability. There’s a poignant scene between them where both actors made me feel way too much, knowing that all that emotion was inevitably going to fuel things that would turn my stomach. It’s what “The Boys” does! And did I see the gigantic and agonizing twist coming? Maybe I should have, but no. I was too off-balance with all those turns.
So. More roller coaster rides, or have you had enough?
Apparently not. There’s one more episode to Season 3 with The Instant White-Hot Wild.
And thank Kripke there’s a season 4! Stay tuned for my deep dive recap and review once everyone has had a chance to watch this episode – and remember to hang on!