This post discusses plot points of The Boys episode “Proper Preparation and Planning.”
What does it mean to be a father? For as long as we’ve known Homelander (Antony Starr), we’ve seen him pretend to be a hero while really acting as a villain. He knows the performance people want, and he gives it to them: The broad-shouldered blonde with the American flag cape, wide smile, and promises of American exceptionalism. He is superior enough to take out a safe house of terrorists all by himself, and maniacal enough to think he’s a god. It’s no surprise, then, that his fathering style is one of toxic masculinity, bullying, and passive aggression—the same stuff that has worked to keep the Seven in line, and to retain Homelander’s position as their leader. The praise kink relationship he had going with Madelyn Stillwell (Elisabeth Shue) before he murdered her is totally out the window.
We see that new, but not really surprising, side of Homelander as he spends more time with his son Ryan (Cameron Crovetti; the Big Little Lies kids grew up so fast!), who has been raised in seclusion and secrecy by Becca (Shantel VanSanten), Butcher’s missing wife. I have so many questions about the circumstances of Becca and Ryan’s lives! I’m assuming that they are being held by Vought? Perhaps blackmailed in some way? Who is Dr. Park? He has to be connected to Vought, right, if Homelander knows who he is? And if Homelander knows who Dr. Park is, what does he already know about Ryan? He’s convinced that his son has powers: Remember how he says to Ryan: “You and me, we’re gods. We can do anything we want, and no one can stop us.” Is that confidence because Homelander knows for a fact he was able to genetically pass on his powers? Or is that because Vought is, perhaps, experimenting with Compound V on Ryan—and maybe Homelander knows?
That whole subplot holds an array of potential questions about what other nefarious shit Vought is up to (remember, they’re a pharmaceutical company!), and certainly makes Dr. Park seem like a real jerk, given that he acknowledges the domestic abuse nature of Becca’s situation and ignores it. (Although, was Dr. Park’s “Just keep him calm” comment to Becca about Homelander … or about Ryan?) And of course, Becca being alive totally changes what Butcher (Karl Urban) has thought for years. We know he’s still committed to finding Becca again—how he scrawls, in crayon on a Tony Cicero’s paper place mat, what he can remember about her house makes that clear—and that he’ll even make a deal with Grace Mallory (Laila Robins) from the CIA, with whom he had previously parted ways, to do so. Once again, he dangles before Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso), Frenchie (Tomer Capon), and Hughie (Jack Quaid) clean slates to help him, but after Kimiko learns that the super terrorist they’re hunting for the CIA is her long-lost brother, can Butcher’s plan really hold?
Kimiko’s brother Kenji (Abraham Lin), who remained with the Shining Light Liberation Army after Kimiko was taken for Compound V experimentation, has a point that Homelander, and the Seven, are bad! As further extensions of American imperialism around the world, they crush dissent and rebellion and just walk away, ignoring the repercussions. How often is their murder of rebels just creating more rebels? (A question that HBO’s adaptation of Watchmen also considered.) I guess it tracks, though, that Butcher would have no issues capturing Kenji and bringing him to the CIA. Everything Butcher has done has been in service of finding Becca again, even if that means burning his own team, and it’s not like he has a real connection with Kimiko anyway. But Kimiko’s clear distress and pain at seeing what her brother has become, and realizing how Compound V has altered both their lives, is one of the best moments of character development we’ve gotten for her so far. Karen Fukuhara sold that anguish well.
Meanwhile, what is the Church of the Collective up to with the Deep (Chace Crawford), and what is Stormfront (Aya Cash) up to with her active undermining of the Seven while being its newest member? Let’s tackle the Deep first. I remain surprised by how much time we spend with the character, and the backstory that his self-loathing is what caused his sexual harassment and exploitation of women … ehhh. That has not worked so well for me, although Patton Oswalt voicing his gills after the Deep tripped out on mushrooms was an amusing casting choice. (That “Don’t fuck with me!” moment was definitely a Good Will Hunting homage, right?) Is the Church of the Collective trying to amp up the Deep again, so they essentially turn him toward their own interests? And if so, what are those interests? I can’t figure it out.
I’m similarly skeptical of Stormfront, who leans into her disaffected millennial branding this week. How much of this is her own personality, and how much of this might be what the Vought executive suite told her to do to rankle Homelander? Her disdain toward the “Girls get it done!” promo work seems legitimate, as do her complaints about the lack of pockets in women’s clothing (cosign, honestly) and the superficiality of forced professional networking (… also cosign). She also seems very much like the kind of alternative girl who would, understandably, dismiss Annie/Starlight (Erin Moriarty) immediately; that rang sincere, too. But does Stormfront protest too much when she calls Annie “some fucking Vought spy Barbie”? And does her comment about sexual assault hint that she might know more about Annie than she’s letting on? “If someone sticks a dick in your mouth, bite it off … Pippi Longstocking would bite a D, that’s for sure” (delivered by Cash very much in the style of Artemis Pebdani from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) was dripping with innuendo.
Obscure writing seems to be the pattern this week, between whatever is going on with Homelander/Becca/Dr. Park, the Deep/the Church of the Collective, Butcher/the Boys, and finally Stormfront/the Seven. All that opacity makes for a slightly disconnected episode. But things take an undeniable step forward when Annie secures her stolen sample of Compound V and uses it to blackmail A-Train (Jessie T. Usher), now out of his coma and back in the Seven. A-Train didn’t forget that Hughie and Annie were together before his heart attack at the end of season one finale “You Found Me,” but he did forget that he confessed to them about murdering his girlfriend—and Annie uses that to her advantage to secure his secrecy. Remember in Watchmen when Rorschach sent his journal off to the news media to blow up Ozymandius’s spot? Seems like Annie is following right in those footsteps by letting everyone in on how superheroes are not born, but made, with Compound V—but is she willing to pay the same price that Rorschach did for that truth?
- Even just hearing the awful press-junket question “Tell us how fun it is to have all this girl power!” took years off my life.
- How rich are the Seven, really? A-Train can just casually buy Prince’s guitar from Purple Rain? I demand to see tax returns!
- I really hope Elena (Nicola Correia-Damude) did not get reintroduced into Maeve’s (Dominique McElligott) life just to be put in danger! But I am worried!
- Of course Homelander would be pissed that Ryan can’t throw a fastball. Of course.
- Butcher and Homelander mostly aren’t similar at all, but Butcher describing his team as having a “raging case of vagina” when they want to protect Kimiko—that’s very Homelander-like!
- Tony Cicero’s looks like their lasagna portions are immense, and I WANT THEM.
- I am consistently amazed by the many different ways Starr communicates to us how sexually aroused Homelander is by milk. Are we sure he is not a McPoyle?
- “I love you, son. … Now say it back.” Yikes.
- Butcher’s rhetorical loophole (“I promised not to come to your house again”) for tracking down Grace was very him.
- This week’s Billy Joel bop: “You’re Only Human (Second Wind).”
- This week’s pricey licensing flex: Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.”
- This week’s product placement: Burger King! Jiffy Pop!
- The Shining Light Liberation Army that had captured Kimiko and Kenji, and which Kenji grew to agree with ideologically, is obviously modeled after the Peruvian Maoist group Shining Path, who had been featured in the music video of Rage Against The Machine’s “Bombtrack.” The video is now pretty difficult to find, but “Bombtrack” still slaps.
- That quote from Stormfront, “Fuck this world for confusing nice with good”? That seems illuminating, doesn’t it?