The Boys – Season 3 Episode 8
“The Instant White-Hot Wild”
The Boys concludes its third season with an all-out confrontation and an exploration of the complexities of family.
One thing The Boys can be guilty of is starting to explore given themes seemingly at random. In a way, this season has built naturally to the point where family connections is valid to explore but it hasn’t been as prominent as the focus in the finale would suggest. Mother’s Milk’s relationship with his daughter has been threaded throughout the season and the previous episode featured Kimiko’s declaration that Frenchie is her family and she would do everything she could to protect him, including sacrifice her own freedom. The previous episode also ended with the reveal that Soldier Boy is Homelander’s father which forces the theme to the forefront.
A lot of this season has been a study in psychosis where Homelander is concerned. He is a damaged person who is unravelling and has become a very unpredictable danger to everyone around him because of how powerful and unhinged he is. Learning that Soldier Boy is his father has made him suddenly decide that family is important to him. This is consistent with his earlier behaviour as obsession often follows awareness with him and the result is that his focus shifts to whatever was most recently presented to him
The first thing he does is goes to Ryan and appears to want to make a genuine connection with him. In his own twisted way he wants to make up for not having a father in his life by forcing a connection between him and Ryan. It’s far from healthy but Antony Starr fully sells the desperation radiating from Homelander as he looks to not be alone. Ryan is a product of him and the only genuine legacy he has so he wants to make sure he’s recognised as a part of his life beyond the biological connection. It’s definitely a toxic starting point but he genuinely cares about Ryan in his own way. It could be argued that he had no interest in him prior to becoming obsessed with creating a legacy. It’s almost as if Soldier Boy revealing the truth got him thinking about the biological legacy that already existed.
Early in the episode Homelander promises to be there for Ryan and by the end of the episode it turns out to be true when he throws all of himself into protecting him. He puts Ryan in danger by introducing him to Soldier Boy from the perspective of a son looking to make his father proud. It comes from Homelander’s desire for a meaningful lasting connection and the hope that his biological father would be the one to finally provide it. That hope is shattered when Soldier Boy declares that he sees Homelander as weak and a disappointment. In one moment Homelander’s chance to have a meaningful parental connection after being raised as product is shattered because his father wants nothing to do with him. Soldier Boy being his father doubles down on Homelander being nothing but product as he was created from product to be nothing more than a continuation of that. He was aware of this before but it’s absolute confirmation that his life was nothing more than an extended marketing exercise. He wants something real and will never get it from someone who is as manufactured as he is.
Soldier Boy’s view that Homelander is weak and unworthy of the affection he could give to a son also extends to how he views Ryan. This comes from Soldier Boy’s treatment from his own father. A link is drawn between him and Homelander through their shared desire to have a parental figure accept and be proud of them. Soldier Boy mentions putting himself forward for the program that turned him into Soldier Boy out of a desire for validation. If he could prove that he’s powerful and commands respect then his father might respect him but it wasn’t enough and was deemed to be a shortcut.
This contempt fuels Soldier Boy’s own disappointment in Homelander being someone constantly seeking validation without deserving it. He doesn’t realise the influence his need to please his father had on his own mentality and that it’s being passed down the generations nor does he care. He’s arrogant enough to assume that his opinion is the only one that matters and has come to believe in his own hype. In his mind, what he feels he has achieved has proven his own father wrong and that Homelander could never hope to measure up to him. He mentions wanting to be a father but not to a disappointment like Homelander which throws his need for validation back in his face.
It’s far from a groundbreaking motivation for Soldier Boy but it makes sense in context and creates an interesting generational toxicity between fathers and sons. Looking to gain validation from parents is a very relatable concept and less-than-ideal father figures are a common hallmark in fiction. The episode doesn’t overload itself with this idea as the reasoning is self-evident. The aim is to use it to set up whether Ryan can be the sign of a different approach and possible hope for the future of this highly questionable family unit.
Ryan is different in that he has a choice. He has a father figure in Butcher who looks out for him to honour Becca. There was a sense earlier in the season that he felt duty-bound to raise Ryan and protect him without necessarily having a strong emotional connection to him. To Butcher, Ryan is a contradiction as he’s a product of Homelander and his wife so he represents something he hates and something he loves at the same time. There is affection there and the work done to establish that he is capable of caring for others supports that it’s possible for him to have genuine affection for Ryan.
Homelander has selfish reasons for desiring a relationship with Ryan but it becomes evident that he does genuinely care about him so he is being authentic in one aspect. His display of affection is enough for Ryan to choose him over Butcher which may end up being the wrong choice for him but it’s an understandable one because Ryan is seeking a genuine connection just as Homelander is. Butcher keeping him at an emotional distance robs him of that but Homelander is inarguably offering that which ultimately influences his decision. They both end up getting what they want to an extent and the question becomes what will happen now that they have it. Will Ryan be corrupted by Homelander or will he end up being a positive influence on him? Redeeming Homelander is impossible but the fact that he cares about Ryan is noteworthy and something to work with.
The fixation on family doesn’t divert from Homelander’s continued unravelling. His lack of self-awareness comes across clearly in his tirade calling everyone around him out on how fake they are. Whether by choice or through genuine confusion he’s completely ignorant of the part he plays in the fakeness he seems to decry though his perspective is an understandable one as his entire life has been a manufactured fiction. His outburst highlights how tired he is of not having anything real in his life and holds everyone except himself responsible for it. In many ways, taking control of Vought and being the one who decides the narrative the public is supposed to swallow makes him part of the corrupt and broken system that created him. Things will never change because he won’t allow them to and blaming everyone else is yet another sign of his narcissism.
Homelander killing Black Noir isn’t a surprise. It’s motivated by Homelander feeling that Black Noir has betrayed him and the only retribution he understands is violence. His death is moving in its execution but also anticlimactic considering the recent portrayal of his backstory and building his character in a unique way. The decision to remove him from the show may be driven by how difficult sustaining the creative method of detailing his thoughts and feelings would be without it becoming stale. It’s unfortunate that his character is removed from the show right after fleshing him out in compelling ways but allowing him to bow out when the concept is of such high quality is perhaps the best decision.
The family theme also proves relevant to Butcher. He unexpectedly bonds with Soldier Boy over their relationships with their fathers. It creates a natural kinship between them that allows them to see eye to eye. Soldier Boy is a blunt instrument as far as Butcher is concerned but the connection is meaningful in that they validate each other’s bitterness and act as an enabler for their unhealthy behaviour. There is a clear difference in mindset as Soldier Boy is only interested in punishing everyone else because his upbringing was far less than ideal whereas Butcher has positive influences that have an impact. He actively tries to push down his better nature but when tested he does a version of the right thing. One such example is taking the Temp V and preventing Hughie from doing so. It’s a powerful example of self-sacrifice that shows without words how much he cares about Hughie’s well-being and that he regards it as more important than his own. Establishing that he sees his brother in Hughie highlights that he sees his relationship with Hughie as an opportunity to make up for his past mistakes and that sacrificing himself acts as penance for those.
It’s something of an epiphany for him that comes with a shift in perspective at a crucial moment. Homelander’s treatment of Ryan and the genuine -if twisted- affection radiating from him allows Butcher to see Homelander in a new light and identify that Soldier Boy is the true threat because of how frighteningly unreasonable he is. Turning on Soldier Boy is Butcher taking responsibility for another mistake as he had a part to play in unleashing Soldier Boy on the world. He wrongly believed that Soldier Boy could be pointed at a problem then it would be possible to clean up the mess left behind but empirical evidence changes his mind and he recognises that Homelander has lines he won’t cross for now which makes him a less urgent threat.
There is tragedy associated with how Butcher ends up in this episode in more ways than one. Tying into the family theme is Ryan’s decision to go with Homelander instead of him. Losing Ryan means that he loses his chance to be a positive father figure and also that he failed to give Ryan the attention he needed to know that he was loved. In the absence of that, Ryan turns to someone who offers that and Butcher is left to bask in his failure. It’s something that is deserved because Butcher kept Ryan at a distance but it’s a tragic loss for him.
Adding to that tragedy is his terminal diagnosis. He seems to accept it as an appropriate consequence of his actions and is content with the knowledge that his sacrifice was a meaningful one that was done for the right reasons. It’s his way of showing that he cares and now he has 12 to 18 months to ensure that those he cares about know that he cares. The lingering question is that of redemption and whether Butcher can be saved. Opinion seems to be stacked against him as even Annie thinks that he’s beyond saving so now he has a limited time to be the best version of himself before his life ends. In theory, one important measure of that will be Annie’s acceptance since she is the moral centre of the show.
Annie’s conclusion is very much the culmination of everything she has been through since the show began. She started off by wanting to be one of the Seven because she believed in what they were perceived to stand for. Her worldview was shattered when she learned the truth behind them and wanted to tear them apart from the inside. Part of her arc this season has been realising that pretending to play the game leaves her tainted and one of the major steps forward she takes is refusing to be part of something too corrupt to be beaten by trying to infect it with goodness and decency. She takes a further definitive step forward by casting off the Starlight identity and getting rid of the suit. She comes to realise that all she accomplished was because of who she is and the following that Annie January gained. Awareness is gained of her ability to inspire people because of who she is rather than what she can do and that comes with an understanding of what true power is in a media-controlled world. She can influence change by inspiring people to think and be better so that’s what her focus will be. This fully cements her as one of the Boys in terms of ideology and commitment but still with a view on doing things her own way without compromising herself.
Her relationship with Hughie is repaired to some extent. It comes after he learns a lesson when tempted by Temp V because he wants to save Annie even though it could be lethal for him to give himself powers again. The lesson he learns is that Annie doesn’t need to be saved and he demonstrates that understanding by making her more powerful rather than taking on power himself. It shows respect and recognition even if it comes late. The moment itself is immensely satisfying and having it lead to Annie saying “I told you so” to Hughie when they reflect on what he has learned works well. If this is the start of them finding a new baseline for their relationship then it’s a good beginning but it’s unclear if there are simply back to where they were or if there is still work to be done.
Hughie does come to other important realisations. All the talk of family and fatherly relationships helps him see his relationship with his own father in a new light. Previously he saw his father as inadequate and handling what happened with his mother poorly but he now sees that his father was there for him and was strong in his own way. Even though they never talked about what happened and sat distanced from each other on the couch, the point is that his father was on the couch and a constant presence in his life. He gains an understanding of the different forms strength can take and sees his father as a shining example of it because he stayed. Hughie comes to realise the similarities between them and gains a newfound respect for his father after years of misjudging him. It also helps him contextualise his own self-loathing because he was operating on a false assumption about how families should be, possibly brought on by the false media-controlled culture that surrounds him.
Parenthood is further explored through Mother’s Milk who struggles with the fear that he has compromised himself by behaving in a certain way in front of his daughter. He never wanted her to see him behave so violently as he joined the Boys to protect her from the compulsion he had. His most significant development comes from his decision to stop shielding his daughter from reality and prepare her for the world that actually exists rather than the world he would prefer to exist. It’s a bittersweet lesson for a parent to recognise they can’t give their child a better world but also important as the parental role is guiding their children through life until they’re ready to live it by themselves. He does his daughter no favours by protecting her so resigning himself in his inability to fundamentally change everything before she is old enough to live by herself is the best thing for her.
His fixation on gaining revenge on Soldier Boy risks being all-consuming but Annie encourages him to bide his time because there will be no benefit to him losing his life over this. One of the best things this episode does is find a way for everyone to achieve catharsis in their own way and Mother’s Milk gets revenge on Soldier Boy without compromising himself so it’s a true victory for him. His morality remains mostly intact and he gets to gain closure on that lifelong obsession.
The Kimiko/Frenchie relationship continues to be unquestionably the heart of the show. Kimiko has gone back and forth over her perception of her own goodness and how that connects to her powers. The previous episode detailed her deciding to restore her powers out of an altruistic desire to help those she cares about. This episode details Frenchie doubting his own ethical standing and Kimiko offering him an alternative point of view. She points out that people don’t need to be defined by their past and she’s living proof of the ability to rise above it to become something better. Kimiko sees something strong and good in him and sees him as her heart. The musical fight scene is a perfect representation of Kimiko owning her powers and turning them into something positive. It’s incredibly violent but she’s being violent of her own volition and doing it for what she considers to be the right reasons so she can live with it and be happy. Kimiko’s arc this season has been about defining herself, owning what was forced upon her and finding her voice in her own way. It’s a beautiful story about self-acceptance and growth.
Season 3 ends on a somewhat hopeful note but the ending isn’t totally positive. There are victories on both sides and a shared acknowledgement that a lot of work still needs to be done with battle lines clearly drawn. Some of the personal victories are uniquely hopeful such as Maeve sacrificing herself and end up powerless. This allows her to live a normal life and be happy; something that has always eluded her. It’s a major loss to those fighting against Vought but it’s everything she ever wanted so counts as a victory.
There are losses for the Supes/Vought. One of the most notable is that the Deep is disgraced again after his wife goes public about the sort of person he is. Added to the support Annie has gained from her honesty it’s likely Vought’s public reputation is significantly dented. Countering that is Homelander still having a devoted following cheering him as he lands and introduces Ryan as his son. Homelander being his true self is still appealing to the masses who appreciate his honesty and share his contemptible views. On the other side, the Boys suffer a loss through Victoria being put in the position of Vice President. This means that a powerful Supe aware of who they are is in a position of authority. Annie championing the same cause the Boys fight for in her own way offers some potential protection against that and Butcher feeling like he has nothing to lose because his life is a ticking clock likely means he will approach taking on Vought with no fear and no finesse. Both sides are strengthened and damaged and the uniting message going into next season is that there’s work to be done.
A strong finale that neatly threads the theme of family through most of the characters, delivers a satisfying conclusion to some of the ongoing plots and naturally sets up the progression of others. The continuation of Homelander’s desire for validation is furthered through his attempt to create a tangible connection with Ryan and gain acceptance from his newly revealed father, Soldier Boy. In his own way, he cares about Ryan and demonstrates that but comes to realise he will never receive validation from Soldier Boy who himself could never be worthy of validation from his own father. The generational toxicity is interesting to see play out and setting up whether Ryan can be the sign of a different approach and possible hope for the future of this family unit works well. Ryan has a choice and chooses Homelander because he is the one offering genuine affection whereas Butcher has always kept him at an emotional distance. Homelander killing Black Noir isn’t a surprise. His death is moving in its execution but also anticlimactic considering the recent portrayal of his backstory and the unique development of his character. The family theme also proves relevant to Butcher. He unexpectedly bonds with Soldier Boy over their relationships with their fathers. It’s a meaningful connection in that they validate each other’s bitterness and act as an enabler for their unhealthy behaviour. There is a clear difference in mindset as Soldier Boy is only interested in punishing others whereas Butcher has positive influences that have an impact. He actively tries to push down his better nature but does a version of the right thing when tested. Establishing that he sees his brother in Hughie highlights that he sees their relationship as an opportunity to make up for his past mistakes and that sacrificing himself acts as penance for those. It’s something of an epiphany for him that comes with a shift in perspective at a crucial moment. Homelander’s treatment of Ryan and the genuine -if twisted- affection radiating from him allows Butcher to see Homelander in a new light and identify that Soldier Boy is the true threat. The conclusion to his contribution is twofold tragedies. Losing Ryan means he loses his chance to be a positive father figure and the terminal diagnosis is accepted by him as an appropriate consequence. He’s content that his sacrifice was meaningful and done for the right reasons.
Annie’s conclusion is the culmination of everything she has been through. Part of her arc this season has been realising that pretending to play the game leaves her tainted one of the major steps forward she takes is refusing to be part of something too corrupt to be beaten by trying to infect it with goodness and decency. Casting off the Starlight identity is a further definitive step forward. She comes to realise that all she accomplished was because of who she is and the following that Annie January gained. Annie gains an understanding of what true power is in a media-controlled world and realises that she can influence change by inspiring people to think and be better. This fully cements her as one of the Boys in terms of ideology and commitment but still with a view on doing things her own way without compromising herself. Her relationship with Hughie is repaired to some extent and is marked by a significant lesson from Hughie who finally understands that she doesn’t need to be saved. He makes her more powerful rather than taking on power himself, therefore, showing respect and recognition. Annie saying “I told you so” works well as a conclusion and the start of a reconciliation. Hughie comes to other important realisations, specifically around his perspective on his own father. He comes to understand that his father being there for him throughout his life was a sign of strength in his own way. Things weren’t discussed but his father was there and Hughie starts to see the similarities between them which leads him to greater respect. It also helps him contextualise his own self-loathing because he was operating on a false assumption about how families should be. Parenthood is further explored through Mother’s Milk who transitions from feeling that he has compromised himself to deciding that he has to stop shielding his daughter from reality. He also gets revenge on Soldier Boy without compromising himself as a true victory for him. The Kimiko/Frenchie relationship continues to be unquestionably the heart of the show. Kimiko helps Frenchie analyse his own self-image and relates what she has learned to him. Kimiko now owns her powers and has confidence in her ethical standing. The musical fight scene is an excellent encapsulation of that as it’s a violent altercation but one that she chose because of what she is fighting for. Kimiko’s arc this season has been about defining herself, owning what was forced upon her and finding her voice in her own way. It’s a beautiful story about self-acceptance and growth. Season 3 ends on a somewhat hopeful note with victories and defeats on both sides. Both sides are strengthened and damaged and the uniting message going into next season is that there’s work to be done.
- neatly threading the theme of family through most of the characters
- Homelander’s continued desire for a real connection informing his interactions with Ryan
- evidence that Homelander genuinely cares about Ryan in his own twisted way
- the portrayal of generational toxicity passing down between fathers and sons
- Butcher and Soldier Boy bonding and enabling their unhealthy behaviour
- Butcher seeing Homelander in a new light and recognising Soldier Boy as a greater threat
- Ryan choosing Homelander over Butcher for reasons that make sense
- Butcher losing the chance to be a positive father figure following Ryan’s choice
- his view that his terminal diagnosis is an appropriate punishment
- evidence that Butcher cares about Hughie and sees him like his brother
- Annie’s conclusion being the culmination of everything she has been through
- casting off the Starlight identity and realising the power she has
- the beginnings of reconciliation between her and Hughie
- Hughie understanding that she doesn’t want to be protected and demonstrating that by making her more powerful
- Hughie seeing his father in a new light by gaining an understanding of different examples of strength
- the realisation allowing him to contextualise his own self-loathing
- Mother’s Milk changing his approach to being a father by understanding he can’t protect his daughter from the real world
- getting revenge on Soldier Boy without compromising himself
- Kimiko owning her choice to restore her powers and being confident in her own goodness
- using her new understanding to help Frenchie overcome his self-doubt
- the excellent musical battle
- Maeve getting a happy ending
- the victories and setbacks on both sides
- Black Noir’s death being anticlimactic
- the family theme coming in at random
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