Time is almost up in ‘Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker’ (The Boys season 2 episode 7), as more people get ready to stand against the nefarious superhero-creation firm Vought – and Vought seduces more regular folks with promises of unchecked power for law and order. The Boys feels more current than ever, as the penultimate episode of the season moves the show’s many pieces around the board, setting up next week’s finale. But this doesn’t feel like a time-killing episode filled with set-up and connective tissue. In fact, a lot happens, so let’s sort through all of it…
— The Boys (@TheBoysTV) September 28, 2020
Gnarliest violence: Lamplighter gives Hughie a hand
The team splits up again at the start of the episode: Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso) accompanies Grace Mallory (Laila Robbins) on a trip to convince former Vought big shot Jonah Volgebaum (John Doman) to join Lamplighter (Shawn Ashmore) in testifying against the conglomerate, while Butcher goes to see his mum (more on that in a moment). This means that Hughie (Jack Quaid), still healing from his previous-episode injury, is tasked with babysitting Lamplighter – which for a while means sitting on the couch while Lamplighter watches an assortment of supe-themed pornography. They wind up sharing their respective feelings of inadequacy, even if Hughie has to express it through a porn-related metaphor, and when Hughie realises that Starlight (Erin Moriarty) has been forcibly detained by Vought, he decides he has to do something about it, open wound across his chest or not, and enlists Lamplighter, who has inside knowledge of Vought HQ, to come with him.
Their mission may only have a skeleton crew of a disgraced supe and a non-powered civilian, but it has all the hallmarks of a classic Boys mess-around: the plan is hastily and thinly conceived, and it ends in shocking violence when it turns out Lamplighter sets himself ablaze inside the Vought building. The alarm lights that flash all over the building give Starlight, imprisoned in a room without reachable lights, something to absorb. So what does Hughie actually do? Well, before he knows that Starlight can free herself, he realises he’ll need Lamplighter’s (inexplicably) still-active handprint-identification to open some doors, so he messily saws the hand off of Lamplighter’s crispy corpse. It’s not the biggest-scale violence of the episode – that comes at the end – but it’s certainly the most committed.
Name that tune: ‘What a Wonderful World’ for radicalisation
One of the show’s better openings follows a regular-looking fellow going about his day, inundated at every turn with right-wing propaganda, often led by Stormfront (Aya Cash) and Homelander (Antony Starr). The message will sound familiar: super-terrorists are everywhere, streaming in from across our nation’s borders, the supes need to stop them by whatever means necessary, and only “snowflakes” and “SJWs” will protest. The sequence spans multiple days, showing talk radio, ubiquitous cable news screens, and podcasts surrounding this guy until, in a fit of righteous paranoia, he shoots a local bodega worker dead on suspicion of supervillainy (he is not, of course, actually bulletproof). It’s a chilling distillation of Homelander and Stormfront’s endgame, with a concise feel for how the rhythms of hate speech get incorporated into someone’s normal life. Music isn’t really the focus of this arresting beginning, but of course, the show can’t resist ironically soundtracking this crescendo with Jon Batiste’s cover of ‘What A Wonderful World’.
Hero Watch: an ever-growing B-Team
At this point, actual, active members of The Seven are far outnumbered by various supes waiting in the wings, hoping to either get back into Vought’s good books, or take the whole operation down. While Stormfront and Homelander make a two-supe Seven with their publicity offensive, A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) and The Deep (Chace Crawford) wait in the wings of their Scientology-like cult, hoping to be called back into the majors now that Starlight has been exposed. And in perhaps the best moment of the episode, the frightening, silent, slasher-like Black Noir is soundly defeated… by an Almond Joy candy bar, wielded by Queen Maeve. She doesn’t fully commit to the anti-Vought cause, but she knows Black Noir (who is about to kill Hughie during his Starlight rescue) has a terrible tree-nut allergy.
The week’s biggest question: who blew up the heads?
When Butcher’s mum calls in The Boys season 2 episode 7, she announces that she’s just landed in New York, and that his father is dead. This is only half-true: she is in New York, but Butcher’s abusive father (John Noble) is very much alive, if only just barely; he’ll soon be dead from cancer. Still, he’s well enough to open old wounds with his son, claiming credit for Butcher’s toughness and enraging him with memories of Butcher’s brother, who committed suicide. Maybe he’s not entirely wrong; Butcher later uses that fearsome exterior when he circles back to Jonah Vogelbaum, who earlier refused to join the congressional hearings against Vought. Soon enough, Vogelbaum is making a dramatic entrance to the hearings. But before he can say anything, his head explodes. As do dozens more, creating nationally televised pandemonium as the reunited Boys (plus Starlight and her mum!) watch from their hideout in horror and disbelief.
So who, exactly, is blowing up these heads? Presumably, it’s the same force that exploded the noggin of the Boys’ CIA contact Susan Raynor (Jennifer Esposito) back in the first episode of this season. The unnamed supe the gang encountered last week seemed to have those kinds of powers, but she was still shut away back when Susan was murdered. And in the congressional massacre, why was representative Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit) spared, given her aggressive anti-Vought crusading? Are Homelander and Stormfront in on this, or are they just hateful pawns of Vought? Even with The Boys in retreat, there’s still plenty of ground left to cover in next week’s finale.