This post discusses major plot points of The Boys episode “The Bloody Doors Off.”
So, Stormfront is a Nazi. No coyness here, no semantics. She is an OG member of the Third Reich who left Germany and came to the United States after World War II as part of a wave of Nazi scientists who took their skills to other international powers. (The history of Operation Paperclip is pretty well-documented, if you feel like getting pissed off today.) She is, if I am understanding this correctly, the world’s oldest “superhero” (please read that as me doing sarcastic air quotes), having been her husband Frederick Vought’s first test subject for Compound-V. And she is a true believer, determined to convince Homelander that he is the superman for whom she’s been waiting. “He made me, and his genius made you,” she coos to Homelander. “We are in a war for the culture … You will be the man who will lead us. You’re everything that we dreamed of. Neither of us has to be alone ever again.”
That convincing doesn’t take very long, does it? More than anything else, Homelander wants to be loved, and here Stormfront is, promising just that. Yes, Homelander is a fascist and a murderer and a xenophobe and, most unrelentingly, an asshole. But that need to be loved fuels it all: His desire to please Madelyn and his help creating supe terrorists to secure her adoration. His frustration with how utterly unimpressed Stan Edgar is by him and his desire to secure the Seven under his control as a personal dig against the boss. His obsession with swaying Ryan away from Becca. I mentioned in a previous recap that Stormfront is saying the quiet part out loud, to cheers and applause and viral memes. Homelander wants in on that, and stepping closer toward Nazi ideology to get it? Yeah, I buy his narcissism fueling that.
What I’m more curious about, though, is again—how much does Stan Edgar know about all of this? Some commenters have voiced their confusion as to why a Black man would align himself with Nazi ideology, but I think The Boys has always been very clear about this: money over everything. Money. Over. Everything. The threat of supe terrorists, as we already saw with Kenji, makes Compound-V a necessary evil, which makes Vought a necessary evil, which keeps men like Stan Edgar rich. Remember that Annie says she saw tons of emails from Stan Edgar to Stormfront in her email inbox—he definitely knows what was going on at Sage Grove, and I hazard to say he doesn’t much care. Stan Edgar is a bad person, but he’s a good capitalist, and he knows what it takes to stay that way. Fear is a powerful tool.
“The Bloody Doors Off” examines how fear works as a motivating factor for practically every character featured on The Boys: Homelander’s fear of going unloved, Annie and Butcher’s fear of losing Hughie, Frenchie’s fear of repeating past mistakes. This makes for an episode with some impactful reveals, confirms what we guessed about Stormfront, and builds out Frenchie’s character arc most significantly, but I must admit that I struggled a bit with the scope of what happened this episode. Vought is the most powerful corporation in the U.S., if not the world; how is Sage Grove the only place where they’re doing experiments with Compound-V? Edgar knows Stormfront enough to trust her with this, and we know Stormfront is decades old; what else was she up to in those years after she was Liberty, and before she re-emerged? Her big speech to Homelander at the end of the episode is about how much she searched for him, and how now she’s finally found him. But if Stormfront stayed involved with Vought, since it was her husband’s company, wouldn’t she know Dr. Jonah Vogelbaum well enough to be involved with the creation of Homelander? I think it’s fair to take everything Stormfront says with a bit of side eye, but there are some continuity things in “The Bloody Doors Off” that didn’t quite add up for me.
But, back to that whole “fear is the mind-killer” thing: We see that in Sage Grove, where Stormfront is overseeing the experiments on teens and adults who are receiving Compound-V injections in order to further stabilize the compound. These are society’s forgotten people—runaways, former addicts, psychiatric patients—and Vought has essentially bought them, disappeared them, and repurposed them as unwilling test subjects. Cindy, with her Eleven-style shaved head and telekinetic powers (which include the ability to explode heads from afar; is this a clue to the identity of who killed Susan Raynor?). That guy with the acid vomit; the other guy with the super-long penis. I guess those are powers, too? But mostly what is going on at Sage Grove seems like abuse, and in a surprise reunion for Frenchie, MM, and Butcher, the person helping oversee the experiments and inmates is former Seven member Lamplighter.
The show has alluded to Frenchie’s trauma and self-hatred, and we here get the full story: Eight years ago, when Frenchie was doing a lot of drugs and robbing a lot of banks with Cherie and their friend Jay (Michael Ayres), he got picked up by Grace Mallory for weaponizing drugs that can kill supes. After working for her and alongside Butcher and MM for three years, Frenchie is tasked with following Lamplighter, who the Boys are blackmailing. But one night, instead of sticking to Lamplighter, Frenchie bails to be by Jay’s side after an overdose—and that same night, Lamplighter killed Mallory’s grandchildren. Frenchie has lived with the guilt ever since, while Lamplighter got shuffled off the Seven (opening up the spot that would go to Annie/Starlight) and is now doing cleanup work for Vought, including burning all the evidence at Sage Grove.
Can Lamplighter be trusted? He claims that he was supposed to kill Mallory, not her grandkids, but that’s not the moral high ground that he thinks it is, and I like that MM calls him on it: “So what, are we supposed to feel bad for you now? Fuck you!” He has been helping Stormfront deceive and kill the people at Sage Grove, which is, you know, also bad. And I’m not sure Lamplighter had any choice other than to go with the Boys once Sage Grove was destroyed—did anyone really think Mallory would order the Boys to kill him? He’s seen what Vought is doing, and Mallory is still sort of trying to play within the rules; I don’t think she would just order an assassination when she thinks she can use Lamplighter in a legal way to bring Vought down. Aside from that, Frenchie confronting Lamplighter five years of self-destruction later helps him realize that it might be time to retire at least a little bit of his self-hatred and guilt (encapsulated in “What makes you think I want to be let off the hook?”), which could help repair his relationship with Kimiko, too. “You never asked to be saved,” he admits, and that is personal growth! Let Kimiko make her own choices, with her BOSSY brass knuckles! Their friendship can survive this!
Speaking of survival, a life-threatening injury suffered by Hughie leads to a long-delayed heart to heart between Butcher and Annie, who (briefly, but successfully) put aside their hatred of each other to protect their favorite guy with the L’Oreal Kids Strawberry Smoothie shampoo and AXE body spray. Annie isn’t wrong when she compares Butcher’s bullying tendencies to Homelander’s, but like Lamplighter trying to absolve himself of killing Mallory’s grandchildren, Annie isn’t exactly innocent anymore, either. “Maybe once I would have cried over him, but now he’s just another person in our way,” she says of the man she accidentally kills when trying to rush the impaled Hughie to a hospital. In that moment, Annie, who asks Frenchie to dig Vought’s tracker out of her earlier in the episode, is exhausted: She’s tired of these powers, tired of being part of the Seven, tired of always watching her back. How long until Annie is like Maeve, keeping quiet on something astonishingly terrible because to be honest about it would put herself in danger? (Elena has to leave Maeve, right, even if Maeve plans to use this cellphone footage to blackmail Homelander into leaving them alone? I don’t know how a very normal person dates a member of the Seven, let alone continues dating them after watching a video showing how they were involved in letting an entire plane full of people crash and die.) Or—given everything that goes down at Sage Grove, and afterward—is Annie already more like Maeve than she would like to admit?
- I love the Boys’ fashion of five years ago: MM in skinny jeans, Butcher with that slicked-back hair, and Frenchie beginning to toy with his “I fell asleep at a rave and woke up like this” aesthetic.
- Shawn Ashmore, who played the heroic Iceman in the X-Men film franchise, showing up here as the absolute scumbag Lamplighter is casting I appreciate.
- The acid-spit power is unbelievably inconvenient. What if you have acid reflux? Would you just be burning yourself all the time? That seems terrible!
- Homelander and Stormfront having sex next to the guy whose head they busted open while flirting about “the deterioration of God-fearing American values” was very in line with their characterizations as astonishingly debased people, and the dopily pleasant “Happy Together” was a pretty perfect soundtrack to that moment.
- Related: Kimiko and Butcher don’t interact very often, but I laughed very much at their immediate and shared “They’re fucking” assessment re: Homelander and Stormfront.
- I would watch an animated show where the Deep just hangs out with his underwater friends, like halibut, those “rowdy motherfuckers.” Also, of course the Church of the Collective was going to use the Deep to try and recruit more supes like A-Train, another Scientology-like move (and one playing out in the HBO docuseries The Vow about the NXIVM MLM cult, too).
- Ashley saying “Isn’t it lit?” while listening to that cringe-worthy A-Train-inspired rap was incredibly embarrassing but also totally in line with how faux-hip she tries to act, and Colby Minifie is low-key a season MVP.
- “That’s how Vin Diesel must smell”—OK, have at it in the comments. What do you REALLY think is the fragrance of our favorite family man Dominic Toretto?
- Homelander’s inability to connect with anyone on a truly emotional level comes out in that note he writes for Stormfront to accompany his heart-shaped bouquet of roses: “Thanks for a great day! XO, Homelander.” That is not romantic in any way! And yet I truly buy that Homelander believed that it was. He put in that much effort for this surprise, and Stormfront didn’t even want to see it? He had to burn down his trailer in a moment of petty rage! Obviously!
- Keep Malala’s name out of your mouth, Deep!
- “The Church knows all kinds of things” feels very much like foreshadowing, does it not?