Here we are, one episode from the season finale, and Kripke’s dropped the mother of all bombs on the battlefield. But before we even get to that we’ve got shifting alliances, backstory, and relationship drama. Let’s get it on!
First off, Annie’s still alive. I think we’re all a little surprised, including Annie herself, but 190 million social media followers add up to a lot of witnesses. While Ashley and Cameron Coleman focus on damage control between pegging sessions, The Legend gives Hughie the unsanitized version of Soldier Boy’s history, beginning with the fact he didn’t storm the beach at Normandy until two weeks after D-Day. His service involved abusing unarmed civil rights protestors and maybe shooting JFK. It confirms what Butcher’s been telling Hughie all along; there’s no such thing as heroes. Not that he has room to talk, as we learn when he, Hughie, and S.B. go after Mindstorm, one of the few remaining members of Payback. Hughie’s nervous about going on a mission with the old Supe seeing as how he suffers from PTSD and is self-medicating himself into a fog, but they can’t take down Mindstorm alone. If you make eye contact he can trap you in an endless nightmare of your own memories. Butcher quickly falls victim, and we’re given a firsthand glimpse into the traumatic childhood that made Butcher … Butcher.
We finally learn what happened to Maeve; she’s trapped in the same impregnable cell they kept young Homelander back in the days of medical tests and torture. It turns out he’s keeping her alive for two reasons. He wants to pump her for information on Butcher and S.B. because he got his ass handed to him and he’s scared shitless. And he wants to harvest her eggs, so together they can breed the perfect genetic monster to inherit the earth.
Kimiko comes to Annie with a request that seems impossible to believe; she wants more V. She can’t protect Frenchie without them and so, no matter the risks to herself or the fact that she’ll lose the ability to feel his arms as more than wet noodles, she wants them back. It’s the closest thing to a suicide mission Annie could go on at the moment; heading back into the Seven’s tower to steal the world’s most powerful drug. But she does it, and in the process get audio evidence of Homelander threatening her and Hughie’s lives. Time for more damage control, Ashley! It’s nearly all she and Vickie Neuman can do to keep Homelander from spinning out of control entirely, and it’s easy to see their leash has nearly frayed through. During a rally for Presidential hopeful Bobby Singer, Homelander rants to an audience that includes MM’s daughter and her stepfather, before threatening to pop Neuman’s head before she can do the same to his.
And then there’s Noir. He’s a mess. Through all but the most recent flashbacks Noir has been a mute, inscrutable character, faceless in his mask and body armor. Now we learn why, thanks to his two-dimensional friends. S.B. spent years abusing Gunpowder, Black Noir, and the rest of the team. It seems Noir got the worst of it, perhaps due to his race, perhaps simply because S.B. didn’t like the competition. Either way, when Stan Edgar offered Noir the opportunity to take him out in Central America, Noir didn’t hesitate. It nearly cost him and the rest of the team their lives, as Soldier Boy literally beat the brains from Noir’s head. But he gave Mindstorm and Crimson Countess time to work, and a one-two punch of mental attack plus nerve gas brought the lunatic down. Frenchie and MM are thrilled to figure this out, right before Marvin realizes his daughter was at the rally, gets his parental decision-making questioned by stepdad Todd, and knocks out said stepfather with a wicked right hook that was both deserved and poorly thought out.
As for the rest of the Seven, I regret to inform you that A-Train lives, and not as a zombie. Ashley, continuing her awesomely evil streak of no f*cks given, lets him know that he’s no longer dying of heart disease! Turns out Blue Hawk’s heart worked fine, even after A-Train dragged him down the road to his death in a magnificent parody of so many tragic Black deaths. Now A-Train’s got his heart and Ashley’s already got his next movie lined up, the most tasteless take on white saviors since The Blind Side. Oh, and the Deep tries to get his wife Cassie, aka Lady Macbeth, to f*ck an octopus. But for a religious nut, she’s no dummy and leaves the Deep to flounder (ha) on his own. I’ll be both surprised and disappointed if Homelander doesn’t murder him out of sheer annoyance. It’d be an appropriate end for a character a few credulous writers have taken to calling “sympathetic,” despite the Deep’s utter inability to feel bad for his crimes, do penance, or show any moral growth. It’s like thinking Louis CK’s suffered enough, which… No.
Hughie and Soldier Boy are at cross purposes. Hughie wants Mindstorm to fix Butcher. S.B. just wants him dead. Hughie’s sincere promise to try and save Mindstorm convinces the Supe to free Butcher, but not before we see the full tragic tale of Billy’s childhood abuse suffered at the hands of his old man. He tried to protect his younger brother, Lenny, from the worst of it, but all he accomplished was a slow metamorphosis into his father’s image. Unable to take any more he escaped into the service, leaving Lenny to face the abuse on his own. Butcher bears the weight for Lenny’s death, even knowing he was a child himself at the time. It’s why he tries, in his way, to take care of Hughie. He’s granted the opportunity to do so when he’s freed from his hypnosis, right before S.B. beats his old friend Dan to death. He’s given another opportunity when Starlight, desperate to warn Hughie, tells Butcher that 3-5 doses of Temp V are all it takes to turn the human brain into Swiss cheese. Butcher, already at least 4 doses in and knowing full well he’s signing Hughie’s death warrant, fails to share that information. Instead, he chooses to take another step towards his personal Hell. He may get there sooner than he thinks, because here comes the twist: Soldier Boy found out he’s Homelander’s daddy. And Butcher’s alliance suddenly looks very, very shaky.
I’ve done a lot of dumb things over the years. Most of them involve fire or kitchen knives. But none made me feel as stupid as when Soldier Boy relayed the magical tale of masturbating into a cup. Of course Soldier Boy is the father. It’s impossible to say if Homelander would have turned out any better with his misogynistic, belligerent father around, though it’s difficult to see how he could’ve turned out worse. As it is, the lies he’s spun have worked his followers and the Stormchasers into a lather. At this point I half expect the video to freeze and Eric Kripke to come out and harangue the Q-Anon audience members on the dangers of populist propaganda. Not that it would help.
With just one episode left a great many factions are converging at once, and who is aligned with whom has never been more in question. With only six living members, the Seven still contains at least four separate interests, and we can’t say for sure that Hughie and Butcher are even on the same side as the rest of the Boys at this point. They’re both dying, though only Butcher knows it. I’m betting that the cure for Temp V is a dose of the real thing, and next season Hughie and Butcher (and maybe others) will be forced to deal with the corrupting effect of superpowers. That’s what it will take to stop a Homelander/Soldier Boy team-up, and even that might not be enough. Whether the father-son duo is stable enough to work together remains to be seen. But one thing’s for sure; it looks weird when superheroes use a landline.