The Boys E03 Super Heroes are Commodities

The Boys e03 pushes Hughie’s quest for vengeance against A-Train forward, while doing some admirable world building. If the first episode was about Supes not acting heroically, and episode two was about how terrifying a world with Supes would be, The Boys e03 examines how they fit into the public eye.

One of the most powerful scenes in this episode is when Hughie returns home to get some fresh clothes. Posters of The Seven, and other heroes line his walls. While Hughie may not seem to notice the posters as he packs, I did. Seeing the superhero propaganda on his walls gave me an “Oh shit” moment. Because how awful would that be if you had posters and toys of the person that killed your girlfriend. The social implications are vast, and it is a wonder more people in the world don’t hate Supes.

When he does soak in the fact that he had an A-Train funko pop he tears the posters from the walls, and breaks whatever else he can. Hughie is in shock from the events of last episode. Destroying the merchandise offers Hughie a chance for catharsis. For me, this is the series at its best, and is definitely more what I expected from the start.

Starlight Makes a Choice in The Boys E03

The parallels between Starlight and Hughie also continue to develop, albeit in disparate fashion. Previously, Starlight got in trouble for performing a heroic act without permission from her corporate overlords at Vought who call her in for a meeting, possibly to fire her. However, they decide not to fire her. Instead, they bring in the marketing department to develop and sell an origin story. They also provide her with a new costume that she resists. The new costume is skimpy, with a plunging cleavage line. In short, it’s a woman’s superhero costume.

The image shows Starlight's new costume, which she wears in The Boys e03 despite it conflicting with her morals

Starlight tells Madeline Stillwell that she has a right to present her body however she wants. Madeline agrees, but says the only way Starlight gets to do that with The Seven is to wear the new costume.

The pain of the choice is clear on Emily Moriarty’s face as it runs a spectrum of nuanced facial expressions. The actress has really shined in the roll, portraying perfectly slide from idealism to cynicism. She looks sideways at the uniform, head tilted back, shoulders up. Her body language expresses resistance to the idea. However, as she considers the offer more thoroughly, her shoulders relax in resignation, and her head slumps. She exchanges exploitation for membership, and takes another step further from her moral center. Her quote to Hughie at the big race says it all, “I don’t know if they really want you to be a hero. I think they just want you to look like one.”

The Boys E03 Revenge is the Name of the Game

For his apart, Hughie is drunk on the power he felt when he pressed the button on the bomb. He tells Mr. Milk–a new addition to the team–about it, and MM nods. Then, he warns Hughie about taking it too far. But for Hughie. there is no such thing as taking it too far. A-Train killed his woman and disrupted his life. Nothing short of total vengeance will suffice.

To this effect, Frenchie, Butcher, Hughie, and Mr. Milk pay a visit to Popclaw. Popclaw is A-Train’s girlfriend. MM and Hughie bug her apartment, and as they leave they bump into A-Train. Hughie stares at the Supes who killed his girlfriend, waiting for acknowledgement. There is a moment of silence which A-Train asks if Hughie wants an autograph. Instead of keeping quiet and just moving on, Hughie says he thinks they’ve met before. A stupid thing to do.

I understand that Hughie is pissed A-Train can’t even pay him the courtesy of remembering him. Plus, he is still riding the adrenaline wave. But, this was stupid and could have gotten both Hughie and MM killed. Revenge is their purpose, but they need to be smart about it. Hughie forgot that for a moment.

Homelander and Queen Maeve

This episode also brings us our first glimpse of Queen Maeve in action, and she kicks ass. Then she has a team-up with Homelander, and things go less well. The series has been hinting that Homelander is a violent psychopath with amazing powers. The Boys E03 makes that clear. Homelander is the kind of guy who will punch through a man’s chest, and then get mad at the dead guy for getting blood on his gloves. Homelander is the kind of guy who will threaten an ex-girlfriend with death if she ever moves on. Murderous Superman is not necessarily a new concept, especially not in comics, but it is something we haven’t seen a lot of in movies and TV.

Power Corrupts and So Does Compound V

By establishing Homelander as the biggest prick of them all because he’s the most powerful, the show subverts Superman. And in so doing, it provides a fresh take on the superhero genre in the medium of the screen. If the biggest hero can be a villain, then there are no heroes. Everyone is already a villain, or one in waiting. Even Starlight has slipped. She wants to be part of The Seven so badly that she’s willing to compromise her values. No one is safe from the corrupting influence of Supes.

How far Starlight will go to maintain her position in The Seven is a question worth asking. On one hand, similar to Hughie, it seems that she will do anything to be a member. On the other hand, when she gets leered at and told to show her tits, there is a flash of indecision. I expect the show will delve deeper into this aspect of the plot and her character, but I don’t expect her to abandon The Seven.

Finally, and returning to the idea of superhero marketing and image, A-Train has a big race. If he loses, he is out of The Seven. Here is yet another instance of people doing whatever it takes to be part of the biggest superhero club around. Only in the case of A-Train that action is to take superhero steroids, also known as Compound V. The drug greatly enhances super abilities, but the user loses some control. A-Train was on V when he ran through Robin.

This episode is the best one so far. Have you seen it? What are your thoghts? Let me know in the comments.

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The Boys E02 Superheroes are Terrifying

Now this is more like it. The Boys E02 provides what I felt the first episode lacked, enough satire to fully subvert genre expectations. By focusing on aspects other than over the top violence, this episode manages to highlight the social problems caused by Supes. Granted, the first episode did this to a degree. After all, Robin’s death is the driving force behind Hughie’s quest for vengeance against A-Train.

Additionally, this episode builds on the social impact Supes. First, we see A-Train visiting a child with terminal cancer. A-Train arrives, all smiles and arrogance. Then, the kids says he wanted Translucent because Translucent is his hero. A-Train tells the kid he’ll teach him how to run when he gets better. The child does not take these words well. The whole scene is awkward and hilarious in a terrible way.

The picture shows Homelander from the Boys S02

The Boys E02 focuses mostly on Homelander as well as the fallout from episode one. Again, I am going to be as spoiler-free as possible in this review. Still, there might be some spoilery things in here. If you care, there’s your warning.

The choice to develop Homelander is a wise one. As the Superman analogue, he sets up a myriad of expectations for the audience. Such expectations should already be shifting after his actions in E01, but we still don’t know much about him. Here, we learn that he wants to be more than just a pretty face, and also that there is some darkness in him, and is the darkness that makes him scary. From when we learn of Homelander’s darkness until the end of the episode, his presence looms large. He shifts from the typical Superman archetype, to something reminiscent of JMS’s version of Hyperion in Supreme Power.

The Boys E02 There Are No Heroes Only Supes

Meanwhile, Hughie and Butcher are still trying to resolve their situation. The trouble is, they don’t have any good options. This story line pushes Hughie closer to the edge as the time to make a choice draws near. We learn that the Butcher is a mercenary who specializes in subduing Supes. Admittedly, I found the beats in this plot line a little too predictable. I understand the need for these scenes, and they do a lot of good work portraying Hugie’s struggle. Yet, the outcome never really seemed in doubt.

We also learn more about how fighting crime for the Vought corporation works. And, I would say, it works about the way you’d expect. Vought uses the most advanced technology to predict where crimes will occur, and then they send their heroes there. It’s all very efficient, but doesn’t lend itself to feeling heroic.

I appreciate this look at how the sponsorship works. On one hand, it s not surprising. If superheroes did exist and they had corporate sponsors, thing would most likely operate in this fashion.

Character Studies

The subversion of the Superman type in the form of Homelander, along with the corporate control aspect play into the theme of The Boys E02: the loss of innocence. In fact, that seems to be the overall series theme. We see this in the general portrayal of Supes in this episode, as well as the characters of Hughie and Starlight.

Each character’s story contains darkness and difficult choices. They both death with pain and loss of innocence, though in very different ways. Hughie has access to a support group. It’s dysfunctional and horrible and is going to get him in trouble, if not killed. He is grieving for Robin, and trying reconcile his need for vengeance with his need to maintain his innocence.

In contrast, Starlight processes her loss of innocence by asserting herself, and unleashing her anger against a couple of deserving assholes. She is alone and has no support structure. She can’t tell her mom for fear of disappointing her, and she has no friends. Starlight regaining some confidence is important for the character and the story. Plus, it gives us a chance to see a Supe actually doing something super heroic. Of course, she faces punishment for performing an unsanctioned Super activity, further driving home the point that there is no place for heroics in the superhero business. Plus Erin Moriarty kills it as the determined and near-desperate Starlight, infusing her performance with a contrast of nuanced emotion and bright-eyed optimism.

All in all, this episode was stronger than the first one, and I have hope that I will enjoy the show if they continue in this vein.

Have you seen The Boys E02? What did you think. Drop a line in the comments if you feel inclined.

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