The season 2 finale of “The Boys,” ‘What I Know’, did not disappoint – like the roller coaster every episode of this show turns out to be, it twisted and turned, roared up to a great height that left me breathless, then crashed down, leaving me holding on for dear life. By the time the credits rolled, I’d had such an adrenaline burst that I was shaky all over. And I’m still shaking my head exclaiming OMG.
Several of the main story lines come together for the finale, including Stormfront’s season long campaign to scare the shit out of the public so they’ll be on board with using Compound V to make more Supes. In a season of real life constant political ads (bad time to live in a ‘battleground state’), the Vought propaganda film that begins this episode looks alarmingly familiar, Homelander telling school children a supervillain attack is imminent and urging them to “arm yourself with whatever you can.” The most frightening thing about The Boys is how close to home its fictional world sometimes comes to reflecting the real one.
Table of contents
- “Supernatural” Call Backs
- Bonus “Supernatural” shout out:
- A Train overhears, so now he knows too. Uh oh.
- Annie and Hughie
- I kinda love Hughie.
- Childhood Impact
- Butcher and Becca
- Homelander Conflicts
- Twists and Turns
- Uh oh.
- Epic Fight Scene
- Ryan’s Power
- The Show Must Go On
- OMG WTF!
- Ready For Season 3
“Supernatural” Call Backs
Since this was the last show of the season, I was on the lookout for some “Supernatural” call backs (Eric Kripke’s other show that’s still airing). He had mentioned to me in an interview kicking off the season that we’d see the Winchester brothers’ beloved Impala, aka Baby, make a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance this season, so I was on the lookout for that.
I was also excited to see “Supernatural’s” own Jim Beaver back, sympathizing with Mallory and Victoria Neuman’s protests but insisting he can’t stop the president from declaring a national emergency so they can bypass the FDA and give emergency authorization to use Compound V. It’s about to be given to law enforcement and first responders, and who’s next? ICE.
Sometimes this show seems so real I just want to close my eyes. But it’s too compelling!
The massacre of exploding heads in last week’s episode is, of course, the justification – even though, as Neuman points out, it had to be Vought who did it – never mind some of Vought’s people died too, that was just to cover their tracks, she says.
Bob: Folks are scared. If Vought took a shit in the middle of Fifth avenue, they’d throw a parade.
Hmm. Where have I heard something like that before?
Bob’s not scared of being blackmailed, anymore than his namesake Bobby Singer would be, so Neuman and Mallory don’t have much that would convince him – unless they can get someone to turn.
Bonus “Supernatural” shout out:
His assistant is named Jody, a call back to Bobby Singer’s relationship with Sheriff Jody Mills. I love the little shout outs so much, it never fails to put a huge grin on my face. And those moments are very necessary in a show that can be brutally unflinching with its moments of violence and social commentary.
From one exploration of power (in the political realm) to another (in the financial realm, but is there really any difference?), we revisit the posh trappings of the Church of the Collective. As we all probably should have suspected, because the powerful corrupt dudes always are willing to play ball with each other if it benefits them, Edgar and Alastair have a fancy lunch and argue about The Seven taking back the Collectively-rehabilitated A Train and The Deep. For which, of course, the church will get a commission. Edgar is willing to consider The Deep, but balks at A Train.
Edgar: Taking one has-been back is redemption. Two is weakness.
Also, he says, A Train is a harder sell. Alastair feigns not understanding, and Edgar reminds him that he’s known about Stormfront’s overt racism for quite some time, from when she was one of the first followers of the Church. So he knows exactly what her problem with A Train is.
A Train overhears, so now he knows too. Uh oh.
In addition to looking at power and how it corrupts, this episode continues the show’s exploration of mothers and fathers and their impact on all of us that fascinated me last episode. Annie sends her mom on the road to try to keep her safe. Her mother gives Annie another gold cross necklace to replace the one she wore as a child, even though Annie doesn’t believe in its protective power anymore.
The two exchange “I love you’s” though, their recent trauma bonding them back together at least partially. While the revelation that her mother lied to her and manipulated her shook their relationship, Annie was loved by her mother, even if her deal with Vought twisted that love somewhat. Still, the foundation was there, and that makes a difference. That Annie’s mom is able to admit that she did things that weren’t right and ask for forgiveness makes a difference too.
Hughie and Annie disagree with the rest of The Boys about how to try to take down the Supes. The Boys just want to kill them all, consumed with the need for revenge, although Hughie rightly notes that they can’t kill everyone – if they kill these Supes, they’ll just make more. He’s right, but revenge can blind you to logic, something Supernatural explored continuously.
Annie and Hughie
Annie and Hughie want to try another way, so they strike out alone. The two grow closer again as they try to convince Queen Maeve to turn against the Supes and Vought. Billy Joel’s ‘Only the Good Die Young’ plays in the car as they drive to her place, and Annie asks why it’s always Billy Joel and he isn’t even a 65 year old man! Hughie deflects, saying it was the music in his house growing up. Annie confesses that she doesn’t really believe they have much chance, which leads Hughie to wonder why she’s helping him at all.
Annie: Why didn’t you give up on me?
Hughie: I just… I would never.
Annie: That’s why I’m helping you.
They ask Maeve to testify, but she dismisses them, hopeless and demoralized.
Maeve: Haven’t I done enough for you? It doesn’t matter what we do, nothing changes. Nothing ever changes or gets better. And I’m tired.
She takes a drag of her cigarette and I’m struck by how rarely we see characters smoking on television anymore. It looks odd to me, but it fits with The Boys’ universe, which is often ugly and imperfect, with only moments of hope and optimism in the midst of it all.
On the way back from Maeve’s, Hughie and Annie bond over their mother problems – and we find out some important things about Hughie’s early life trauma. His mom apparently left when he was six.
Hughie: One day she just left, and never called again, not even a card. It was like some silent alarm went off and she was like fuck that, time to go.
Unlike Annie and her mom, Hughie never got that confession or that apology. But humans don’t let go of their bonds with their parents easily; Hughie hangs on the only way he can, by listening to Billy Joel.
I kinda love Hughie.
Since this is “The Boys,” It wouldn’t surprise me if some sort of silent ‘alarm’ really did go off for his mother all those years ago. What’s the real story behind Hughie’s mother’s abandonment? People rarely are good mums for six years, having dance parties to Billy Joel music, and then leave and never call or send a card ever again.
Hughie: I guess that’s why I always hang in there no matter how bad it gets. I don’t wanna be like her.
I seriously love the show’s subtle exploration of the impact of our childhoods and our relationships with the people who raised us on who we become and how we form relationships ourselves. It makes my psychologist self happy.
Their heart to heart is interrupted by A Train, who pops into their car and hands over a dossier on Stormfront to Annie.
A Train: We’re even now, bitch. I want back in, so I need her gone. Fuck that Nazi bitch.
Annie and Hughie take the dossier back to the hideout. Becca, who’s escaped from her fake-suburban-really-a-prison-life, comes to find Billy there, tearfully telling him that they took Ryan. He swears he’ll find her son. What’s amusing about their reunion is the Boys’ response to seeing the gruff and outwardly uncaring Butcher become softer with his wife. They stare unabashedly, fascinated at this unfamiliar side of their fearless leader.
Butcher and Becca
Butcher promises Becca he’ll find her son. That means he heads to Mr. Edgar, and is let in. Maybe that should be surprising, but once again, two powerful men are willing to play ball if each gets something they want. Butcher is often straddling the morality line in an uncomfortable way, perhaps in this episode most of all.
Edgar and Butcher are a fascinating pair, both wanting the upper hand and willing to do a whole lot to get it. Butcher accuses them of turning a ‘racist piece of shite into America’s sweetheart’ which is uncomfortably familiar. The power of social media indeed. Edgar is unfazed (Edgar is always unfazed).
Edgar: Stormfront is good at making people angry. Angry people want Compound V. That raises our stock price.
It all comes down to that, which is so real life relevant it hurts.
Edgar: I can’t lash out like some raving entitled maniac — that’s a white man’s luxury.
Equally relevant, and equally painful.
Butcher insists he can get Ryan away from Homelander so Edgar and Vought will have some leverage, and cuts a deal with Edgar to come ‘scoop him up’ and hide him better this time. But not, he says, Becca.
Butcher: Find him a new fucking mum. I’m taking my wife back. That’s the deal.
Edgar: And you call me a ruthless bastard.
He’s so right. Their handshake is chilling.
The most compelling story of the finale episode is Ryan’s, which pulls in Homelander and Stormfront as one set of parental figures, and Becca and Butcher as another.
As much as Homelander and Stormfront are an item, I get the feeling they don’t really see eye to eye on a lot of things – he’s just willing to go along with her out of his constant desperation to be loved. Homelander is the more emotional one, despondent because of The Seven’s losses.
Homelander: Noir is a vegetable, Lamplighter is a charcoal briquette, Starlight’s in the breeze…
He thinks it’s Edgar who’s exploding people, but Stormfront’s not so sure.
Stormfront: Maybe. He is pretty smart, especially for his kind.
She’s happy with the way things are going, eager to get rid of having to please the fans and be ‘dancing monkeys’ but Homelander worries what will happen if the ‘wrong people’ get Compound V.
I am constantly terrified by Homelander but I also, confusingly, sometimes feel bad for him. He clearly does want to protect his son, and wants Ryan to love him, but in typical narcissist fashion, missteps again and again as he misjudges what his son actually needs. They take a ‘field trip’ to eat at a fancy Planet Vought restaurant, but the largely isolated Ryan is quickly overwhelmed by mobs of fans and, predictably, just wants the mother who has raised him and kept him safe. Homelander belatedly realizes and swoops him out of there, but has no clue how to actually console another person, having never been consoled himself.
Stormfront, who did experience love of some form and had a family (never mind her twisted views about humanity) urges him to go talk to Ryan, and he does.
In an oddly touching scene, Homelander confides to Ryan that the first time he was in a crowd, people egging him on to use his powers, he too was terrified.
Homelander: They found me 80 miles away, crying my eyes out.
Ryan (incredulous): You cry?
Homelander says yes, but since he’s a grown man, not in a while.
(Get ready, Homelander, that’s about to change…)
Homelander: I didn’t have anyone to teach me. The doctors – uh, the people who raised me – were scared of me. They kept their distance. So I had to figure it all out by myself. You don’t have to go through any of that. I’ll teach you. I love you…
Ryan leans his head on his father’s shoulder, while Stormfront nods approvingly.
Homelander is often a monster who does monstrous things, but I get the feeling he was sincere in what he said to his son in that scene. Hence my confusion sometimes.
Twists and Turns
The last third of the episode is devoted to some fast paced and full of tension action sequences that were extremely well done, with twists and turns as well as a few things that you mostly knew were coming.
Becca makes Butcher promise that he’ll save Ryan no matter what and get him back to her, making him swear on his brother’s soul. Butcher does, and we know he doesn’t mean it, and that made me a little nauseous. I’m just as confused about my reactions to Butcher as I am about my reactions to Homelander, to be honest. Luckily I enjoy shades of grey, because this show does a bang up job of portraying them!
Kimiko worries that she’ll freeze again when she sees Stormfront, too overwhelmed by her hatred thanks to witnessing Stormfront killing her brother, but Frenchie reassures her.
Frenchie: When the time comes, you’ll know what to do.
He signs to her, “let’s go” and the Boys are off to find Ryan, who’s with Homelander and Stormfront in the cabin. Even before things go very very south for Homelander’s new little family constellation, it’s clear that he and Stormfront aren’t exactly on the same page when it comes to Ryan.
Stormfront begins indoctrinating the boy, telling him that “The bad guys want to wipe us from the earth just because of the color of our skin. It’s called white genocide, and we need you to protect us.”
Homelander’s look was not nearly as incredulous as mine, but it wasn’t entirely jumping on the bandwagon either.
Unfortunately for Stormfront, social media is about to backfire on her, as A Train’s leaked information hits the internet, her Nazi ties exposed. She takes off, stared at by everyone at Vought tower, watching viral memes of her as a Nazi – taken down by none other than the Winchesters’ Impala! Go Baby! I instantly went back to be sure and yep, that was the Supernatural Easter egg I was waiting for. I think I might have cheered out loud.
The Boys attack as soon as Stormfront is gone, with one of the few things that get to the Supes, sonic noise that deafens both Homelander and Ryan. He goes out to investigate, and Ryan is reunited with his mother.
Homelander comes back to find the confused Vought troops there to collect Ryan as planned – but no Ryan in sight.
Homelander (looking very very scary): Where’s my son?
Nearby, Butcher changes his mind and tells Becca and Ryan to get to Mallory and hopefully to safety, confessing to her that he cut a deal with Edgar to sell her out, but didn’t do it. Still, he realizes he’s not going to be good for Ryan.
Butcher: You can’t have me around that kid, I’ll fuck him up. You raised him right. You gotta let me do this one fucking thing.
She finally agrees, they share a kiss, and he lets her go. The car doesn’t get far though, an enraged Stormfront tossing it like it’s a Hot Wheels toy. Butcher runs to the car, and Stormfront is cocky as she confronts the rest of them, trying to shrug off the public outcry by pointing out that “people love what I have to say, they just don’t like the word Nazi.”
I’d love to say she’s entirely wrong, but I don’t think she is – not in reality either.
Epic Fight Scene
An epic fight scene ensues, with Kimiko and Annie taking on Stormfront first. Stormfront snaps Kimiko’s neck like she did her brother’s, to my horror, and just when it looks like Stormfront is going to win, Queen Maeve appears. That was a bit predictable, but it turns the tide. Kimiko comes back to life again, and all the women beat down Stormfront while the men look on open-mouthed.
As sometimes happens with this show, the violence goes over the top for me so I had to look away eventually, and it bothered me a little that a bunch of women kept yelling a gendered slur at another woman, but there’s no doubt about who was the ‘bad guy’ here. Stormfront eventually breaks away and takes off, catching up to Becca and Ryan trying to escape through the woods. Becca stabs her in the eye (so quickly I didn’t get to look away, argh) and starts choking her, intent on killing her, murmuring her psychopathic “I like to see the light go out” again.
Nobody counted on Ryan’s power being greater than the rest of them though; he explodes and lashes out to save his mother, leaving Stormfront half-destroyed, both legs blown off, mumbling incoherently in German.
Butcher finds them and runs to Becca, who has collapsed against the tree; her throat has been gashed in the explosion and she’s bleeding out.
Ryan watches, distraught, saying “I’m sorry I’m sorry mom, I’m sorry” over and over.
Becca grabs Butcher, her last words about her son.
Becca: Make sure he knows it’s not his fault. He’s good. You promised me you’d keep him safe.
Butcher leans over her lifeless body, kissing her forehead tenderly, then stands and picks up a crowbar, looking like he’s going to attack Ryan; looking completely unhinged.
A bloodied Homelander (covered in the blood of all the Vought men he just killed) joins them, looking just as unhinged and more dangerous than ever as he sees what’s happened. He leans over Stormfront, distraught and tearful, mirroring Butcher’s stance with Becca, the two men paralleled again.
Homelander: Ryan, did you do this?
Ryan cries that he didn’t mean to, but when Homelander tells Ryan to come to him, he goes to stand behind Butcher instead.
It looks like Homelander is not going to take no for an answer, but Queen Maeve arrives in the nick of time again (this time I didn’t anticipate it) and tells him he’s going to let them go, stop hunting Starlight, and leave her and Elena alone. If not, she’ll release the tape of Homelander sacrificing the airplane, even if that means everything and everyone will be destroyed too.
Maeve: As long as no one ever loves you again and sees what a fucking monster you are.
There are tears in Homelander’s eyes and once again I have a second of feeling bad for the wrong person because damn it Antony Starr. Butcher picks up Ryan and carries him away.
The Show Must Go On
Despite Homelander’s narcissistic version of caring about Stormfront, the show must go on. The Seven, Starlight once again included thanks to her being “wrongfully accused”, hold a press conference, scapegoating Stormfront as the “sole perpetrator” and putting the release of Compound V on hold indefinitely. The Deep and A Train watch from the Church of the Collective, and Alastair gives A Train the good news. They only had one slot, echoing Edgar’s reasoning word for word, so A Train is in. The Deep is not amused.
Deep: I signed over my bank account to you! I married someone who gives awful blow jobs! Fuck Fresca!
I also have a soft spot for The Deep, I confess. He invariably gets the short end of the stick, though at least half the time it’s due to his own selfishness.
The closing scenes slow down, after the frenetic pace of the action-packed fight scenes. Annie, wearing the cross her mother gave her, chats with Hughie on a park bench, bringing them back full circle to the day they met.
Annie: If Butcher can do the right thing, there’s gotta be some kind of higher power. If you jump ship and let the assholes steer, you’re part of the problem. And someone talked about hanging in there…
They kiss, but then Hughie says it’s time he stands on his own two feet and not be so clingy for once.
Annie backs off, misunderstanding, but Hughie explains – I’m still gonna cling onto you, I’m not fucking crazy!
In a nice parallel to Annie’s necklace and a callback to “Supernatural” that gave me a lot of emotions, Butcher gives Ryan the St. Christopher’s medal that used to belong to Becca, telling him that it will keep him safe.
“Remember what I told ya,” he says as Mallory puts Ryan in the car.
“Don’t be a cunt,” Ryan dutifully replies.
Mallory: You think he’ll turn into his father?
Butcher: Becca didn’t think so.
Of course, he doesn’t have Becca anymore, and he’s just been through an unfathomable trauma…
Mallory informs them that all charges are dropped. Mother’s Milk goes back home to his family, his daughter greeting him happily, ‘God Only Knows What I’d Be Without You’ playing in the background. Frenchie and Kimiko go out dancing. The White House makes Victoria Neuman the new Czar of Supe Affairs, to keep tabs on the supes. It seems like it’s “over” but of course we know there’s no happy ending in store.
Kripke Gets His JO Scene
On top of a skyscraper, silhouetted in the moonlight, an unhinged Homelander gives vent to his narcissism, jerking off and muttering “I can do whatever I want, I can do whatever I want”. The ultimate aphrodisiac to a narcissist, I guess. I admit to being appreciative of the pantsless back view, and then chuckling because damned if Kripke didn’t get the masturbation scene he wanted in Season 1 into this season after all! I know he’s giggling.
Neuman takes a phone call from Alastair, thanking him for the dirt that took Stormfront down. Alastair replies that they have enough dirt to ruin a dozen supes, even Edgar himself. They hang up, and he opens a Fresca. And his head explodes.
I literally yelled OMG WTF at my screen because I did NOT see that one coming. Neuman. It was Neuman! Holy shit.
Actual footage of me in that moment:
The last scene is ominous and chilling and a kickass way to end a season and leave us dying for the next one. Hughie goes to the new office overseeing Supe Affairs, and Neuman asks how they can repay him.
Hughie: Can you get me a job? I still wanna fight Vought, I just wanna do it the right way. I never totally fit in with the guys. It’s time I stand on my own two feet.
Neuman: When can you start?
Oh no, Hughie. Such good intentions. This does not bode well. But it’s a great way to end a season!
Billy Joel of course closes the season out, with ‘Only The Good Die Young.’
Ready For Season 3
Have I mentioned I cannot wait for Season 3? Yesterday the cast of the “The Boys” did a promo that concluded with the newest Supe joining in – Jensen Ackles as Soldier Boy. To say that the reverberations across two fandoms were deafening wouldn’t be an exaggeration.
For a while on Thursday, as the Kripke-created “Supernatural” returned to the air for its final seven episodes and the Kripke-helmed “The Boys” season two finale dropped at midnight, twitter trends looked like this:
Pretty sure this is what they mean by winning the internet. Right, Eric Kripke? Here’s to Season 3 with “The Boys!”