What do you know. Homelander can do whatever the f*** he wants.
“The Only Man in the Sky” is a truly fitting title. From my understanding, it’s a call back to a line from the comics. Here, it’s a true reflection of the God complex simmering within Homelander, the one being held back by Stan Edgar and Victoria Neuman, as well as the disastrous public opinion polls because of his relationship with the Nazi Stormfront. It was bound to break loose sometime and break loose it did.
So what did we learn from this second installment of the season? Going against your own nature is a slippery slope, even if it’s a dark one. It was an episode of self reflection for many of the characters and coming to terms with who they are. The result wasn’t very pretty.
All it takes is one trigger to send an unstable mind spiraling, and with Homelander it was the suicide of Stormfront. He was never going to be what she wanted him to be, but she also encouraged him to be himself, and that’s why he kept her around. Well that and the hand jobs. She gave him the love he needed, even if her motives weren’t pure and she was in a lot of pain. Losing that connection triggered his pain and insecurity and it was time to let that side of him loose. He wasn’t there to save potential suicide victims from the top of the roof. He’s better than that. He’s better than everyone. Now he gets to say it, explicative and all.
If there’s a Homelander saga on one side, then there will be a Billy Butcher saga on the other. Trying to stay clean when every core internal instinct wants to do the opposite isn’t going to last long. Taking on Gunpowder (played brilliantly by Sean Patrick Flanery) without the V24 that Maeve gave him was a huge act of internal control, one that almost got him killed. Yet he was already to give up until Hughie gave him the news about Neuman. It took just one little spark to unravel everything, the justification to give into his darker side. With the V24 he could confront Gunpowder to giving him the info he needs, but in true Butcher fashion he doesn’t stop there. Using laser beam eyes to slice Gunpowder’s head off was brutal, empowering, and unnecessary, but I’m sure the VFX guys had a blast with that scene!
Mother’s Milk too is fighting internal forces, but his comes from a previously undisclosed childhood trauma. It also explains a ton about why he’s part of this fight, putting everyone he knows and loves in danger for a quest that has been deep rooted since he was a young boy. Butcher visits and tells him they are going to pursue the weapon that killed Soldier Boy. Suddenly any calm and control he’s had goes out the window. The obsessive thoughts about an incident long ago, shown by him poring through the well organized newspaper clippings on the floor while is daughter is in the other room, brings his quirky OCD to a whole new light. It triggers long hidden angst inside and he becomes agitated, angry, and loses it in front on his daughter by attacking an innocent smoke detector trying to do its job. He comes clean with his ex-wife that everything he’s trying to maintain calm isn’t working anymore. She tells him what he needs to hear, it’s time to go back with Butcher. The maturity of this moment is refreshing, showing that not all in this fight are flying off the handle nut jobs.
Kimiko has her own epiphany and it’s truly bittersweet. She’s enamored with the Voughtland amusement park, trying to capture the childhood she never had. Watching her smile and tell Frenchie they should go on the roller coaster is cute, but it’s a short moment since they were there for a specific purpose, to shake down Crimson Countess. It all goes very wrong when Crimson Countess fights back with whatever fireball she throws, exploding graphically a Homelander costumed extra all over the kids and families in the area. Poor Kimiko sees the terror on a couple of young siblings covered in blood and body parts and suddenly that’s a flashback to her and her brother. Her acceptance that she has ruined the innocence of those two children and brought to them the pain that she and her brother faced sends her back to the reality that she can’t capture what she lost all those years ago.
Hughie continues for his relentless pursuit of the truth and his adventure has a big reveal about the Red River facility that he heard about in the previous episode before Neuman exploded her friend. It’s an orphanage for supe children. Not only was Neuman a resident there when she was young, it happened because she exploded the heads of her parents. Furthermore, she was adopted by Stan Edgar, CEO of Vought! This pushes Hughie further into disillusionment, and suddenly our optimistic and moral ground Hughie is playing right into Butcher’s hands. He’s prescribing to the notion that all supes are bad, even though he’s living with one. It’s a sad step backward for Hughie, who refuses to take Annie’s lead that supes can do great things. It’s probably because being controlled by supes triggers that powerlessness that has plagued him the first two seasons. He liked the illusion of being in control the last year because it made him feel safe. Without that control, he has nothing.
Annie/Starlight is the one trying to hold everything together even though it’s all starting to unravel. Out of everyone, she is the most sure of herself. It’s challenging though because she has to spend the day with Homelander getting ready for his televised birthday party rather than help Hughie with his mission. She has the backing of Stan, but it’s only a matter of time before Homelander blows. She knows he’s dangerous and falling apart, but she has to keep up appearances for everyone’s safety. She has her status as co-captain and high approval ratings to keep her afloat, but she senses the danger pending. Even being spared of doing the sexy “Happy Birthday” for Homelander isn’t enough for her to keep control of the situation. The fact that Hughie is flying off the rails and went to Red River without her wasn’t helping.
Self discovery was on the forefront of the subplots too. I’m not sure where they are going with the A-Train thing, but he’s as clueless as The Deep is about his own path. Trying to show his African-American roots without confronting racism? It’s desperation for relevance, but that’s a common theme among these supes. Crimson Countess has been reduced to singing about Soldier Boy and doing personal meet and greets? How sad. Ditto for Gunpowder, who’s doing little more than spouting right wing rhetoric at gun shows. That isn’t the first time they’ve shown the harsh downfall of no longer relevant supes. We saw it with Lamplighter last season. Instead of using their powers for good, they just wallow in misery while hitting new lows to remain relevant. It is a rather jaded statement about the price of fame and celebrity.
I did laugh though at The Deep’s “Not Without My Dolphin.” Welcome to the show Billy Zane.
There was one encouraging piece of foreshadowing. That’s when Crimson Clover obliterated that extra dressed as Homelander, splattering his guts over the crowd everywhere. That extra close up of his half blown off head seems like a foretelling of what might happen in the future. At least I hope so! There has to be a reason why it was a Homelander extra and not someone else.
I did catch that one of the kids at Red River was Madelyn Stillwell’s now 3 year old teleporting son Teddy, meaning she had him injected with Compound V as an infant. What a horrible woman. That ties up a plot thread from the season one finale, it was his teleporting ability that saved him from the explosion rather than Homelander.
Overall grade, a B. Things are starting to spiral and they’re about the get much worse.
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Catch up on all of Alice's Reviews on The Boys and Supernatural, listed on her Writer's Page.