The final episode of this season of The Boys is a continuous splintering of ideals, a general sense of divisiveness. The episode begins with two simultaneous protests in front of Vought Towers. The first, the conservative faction that breathlessly supports Homelander and his “all-American” ideals (“Guns, God, and Homelander” one protest sign reads), the other, the more left-leaning group who demand the freeing of Queen Maeve, many of them wearing bright yellow shirts with “Believe Starlight” emblazoned across them.
These separations and cracks in value systems are becoming apparent even in groups that are supposedly on the same side. A small handful of those who chose to side with Homelander and Vought are desperately clinging to the sinking ship with varying levels of commitment. A-Train hesitantly sticks to Vought’s shady story about Blue Hawk’s disappearance to the disappointment of his brother. The Deep, with nowhere to go after his highly specific and relatively unskilled PR clean-up, kills politicians who stand in the way of Homelander’s (and likely his private ally, Victoria Neumann’s) vendetta with minimal complaints. Ashley, who has given up too much to turn back (including, in an atrocious wig reveal, her entire head of hair), is willing to back up whatever Homelander needs.
Meanwhile, there’s a split in ideals among the vigilantes. Some — Starlight, Hughie, Kimiko, Frenchie, and Mother’s Milk — are holding onto the original tenets of The Boys, demanding a minimization of collateral damage, and making sure that their attacks are centered solely on supes. Others — Queen Maeve, Butcher, Soldier Boy (in other words, those with personal vendettas and superpowers) — are suddenly more invested in big picture movements, deciding that the deaths of civilians in Vought Tower are worth killing Homelander with one of Soldier Boy’s massive explosions.
All differences aside, most everyone ends up at Vought Towers by the end of the episode, with The Boys and their various skillsets at their best and sometimes most ridiculous. Frenchie whips up a concoction in the lab while Kimiko buys him time by kicking ass to “Maniac”, Hughie handles surveillance and a mass intercom announcement over in the security section, while the supes (both pseudo and permanent) — Queen Maeve, Butcher, Soldier Boy, and Starlight — handle the big blowout fight of the season in one of Vought’s media sections.
Soldier Boy, Homelander, and Ryan Butcher — three generations of weird, fucked-up superhero men — meet during the fight, which Soldier Boy uses as an opportunity to go after Homelander’s genuine weakest point: his loveless, parentless childhood, and his fear that he is not loved. More specifically, Soldier Boy announces that he finds Homelander to be a “weak, sniveling pussy starved for attention”.
Queen Maeve feels, at least to me, like the star and centerpiece of the entire episode. In one of the more brutal violences of the season, Homelander gouges Maeve’s eye out — a permanent injury that smoothly visualizes the internal trauma he has inflicted upon her for seasons, but she gets cathartic revenge literally and figuratively — jamming a pipe deep into Homelander’s ear, and then, in a delightful turn of events, freeing herself from him and the system permanently.
Unlike many of the men Queen Maeve has worked with (willingly and otherwise), who often get distracted by their own personal vendettas, egos, or the thrill of their powers, Queen Maeve puts her money where her mouth is, and jumps out the window with Soldier Boy and presumably to her death, to save the rest of the group. She fortunately survives, and in one of the few happier moments of this series seems to be on the precipice of a new and quiet life with her partner, Elena (Nicola Correia-Damude) — a life totally outside of superpowers and corporate overlords, and most thrillingly, far from the cruel, manipulative, vengeful grasp of Homelander.
Just like we began the season, The Seven is once again reduced to a much smaller number at season’s end — Black Noir has died surrounded by his beloved cartoon animal friends after having his guts ripped out by an irritated Homelander, Queen Maeve and Starlight have officially quit and seem close to enjoying deserved autonomy.
But for all that are freed from Vought’s clutches, there are as many being welcomed into or churned through its cruel system. Butcher is informed he only has about a year to live after his regular Temp V use, the stressed-out Ashley, after briefly and finally doing the right thing and helping to cover up Maeve’s tracks, still seems trapped within the corporation, and most concerningly, it appears that the once sweet and gentle Ryan is not above being radicalized by his cruel, bordering-on-fascist father.
In the final moments of the season, among a celebratory rally of Homelander’s uber-conservative supporters, Homelander zaps a counter-protester who throws something at Ryan. Over the protestor’s bloody exploded brains, the crowd cheers. Homelander has given in, no longer resisting his most violent and irrational responses, and immediately basking in the support. Ryan seems to see the appeal of his immense superabled privilege, and thus the superhero generational trauma continues, opens up a whole new avenue for this special brand of superhero insanity. Fortunately, a fourth season sits on the horizon, so I can look forward to whatever fucked up moves are next for our beloved Boys.