Friday, 9 October 2020

The Boys - "What I Know"

This episode did not disappoint. With a movie like running time, the finale unexpectedly wrapped up a lot more than I expected as shows like this tend to have more questions than answers in their finales, so this episode was also a breath of fresh air in that regard.

After the congress hearing blew up in flames, Compound V is in high demand. The Boys don't stew in their loss for too long, planning to simply kill all members of the 7 as best they can, regardless of any consequences. Hughie and Annie decide to go in a different less destructive route and attempt to convince Maeve to testify, but she predictably refuses. Her passive behavior is still dominant in Elena's absence. Her outlook on the world is bleak, feeling that nothing will ever change, so there is no point in getting involved. Leaving her at her home, Hughie and Annie discuss their mothers, and we learn that Hughie's mother isn't dead, but left the family when he was 6. For fear of losing people, he attaches himself to them like glue, hence his attachment to both Butcher and Annie this season. Their sweet moment is interrupted by A-Train, who appears in the back of the car.

Stan Edgar has a meeting with Adana, and with Shockwave's death last episode, a spot on the 7 is vacant. Adana attempts to put both A-Train and The Deep, but Edgar is only willing to take one due to optics. Not taking this lying down, A-Train takes action and breaks into the church's files. He finds details surrounding  Stormfront's origins. Taking the enemy of my enemy is my friend's approach, he gives the file to Hughie and Annie to not only get back into the 7 but to call it even with Hughie after last season. It's nice that even though A-Train has selfish reasons for doing this, he agrees that the nazi has got to go.

While this is happening, Becca has escaped from the compound, and finds Butcher, asking for his help in saving Ryan. With Becca in their hideout, The Boys see a softer side to Butcher, and with them smiling when the two kiss, it is a testament to the cast chemistry that makes the moment as funny as it is. To find the boy, Butcher asks for help from an unexpected source: Stan Edgar. Edgar being a black man and working with Stormfront has been a lingering question, and it is answered. While he admits to having problems with her, complaining about it is a white man's luxury. Beyond that, his motivations are for Vought to thrive. However, he is willing to deal with Butcher to get Ryan back, as the boy is their back up plan to deal with Homelander if he gets out of control. Butcher's condition is that he gets Becca to himself. This behavior tracks and I was sitting them wondering what could go wrong with his plan.

Ryan finds himself growing close to Homelander, finally seeing him as his father in an emotional moment in the cabin where we see a genuinely heartwarming moment with Homelander where we see a "what if" scenario. What if he was the image the world sees him as and he received love in his youth? Just a shame. This follows with a training moment while Homelander tries to teach him to use his laser vision. To help him get there, Stormfront uses the opportunity to begin spreading her poison in him, saying that white people are being attacked because of what they look like. The moment is terrifying as adults have proven to have a huge impact on kids, both in real life and especially on this show. Even Homelander looks concerned. She luckily doesn't get too far, as she rushes to Vought quickly. The news that she is a nazi has been leaked by The Boys, and the reaction is swift. The Boys, having arrived use the opportunity to lure away Homelander with a piercing noise and secure Ryan. 

In an unexpected moment, Butcher changes his plan and tells Becca the truth of his deal with Edgar. Butcher willing to let Becca go to secure Ryan's future is an emotional moment between the couple. Even The Boys are surprised. Mother's Milk drives away with Becca and Ryan, but Stormfront returns at the wrong moment and ruins the plan. Butcher leads the two of them away while the rest of the team face Stormfront. The team struggles to fight her as she has proven to be a formidable threat. The tides change when Maeve appears. Having seen the news that she is a nazi, it is the spark needed to get Maeve to have her heroic moment, and it is epic. There is something so cathartic in seeing Stormfront get beaten up. The "Girls get it done" moment is earned and satisfying. The Boys just look on in awe.

Stormfront unfortunately escapes and catches up to Butcher, Becca, and Ryan. After knocking down Butcher, Becca manages to stab Stormfront in the eye, mirroring what happened to Stormfront in the comics. She then proceeds to choke Becca, and the moment of emotional distress unlocks Ryan's laser vision. Afterward, Stormfront is severely messed up, even by the show's standards. Her hair is brunt off, and she is missing her arms and legs. Is she dead? Who knows with this show. She was still conscious, speaking in German. The Vought press conference near the end of the episode has Homelander saying she is in an undisclosed location, and I can't see a reason why Vought would want to lie about her being dead or not. Killing a nazi would definitely be good press for them. I can't see people in a rush to want her back as Aya Cash only had a one-season contract, but she was so compelling as the main villain. I hate her but enjoyed watching her.

Unfortunately, it isn't a clean win. Ryan accidentally also hit his mother, and Becca dies. In her final moments, she forgives Ryan and begs Butcher not to let her death change Ryan, and to make sure that it isn't his fault. Karl Urban is so good in the moments quickly after Becca's death. With everything we know about him, with his look of pure anger, the audience isn't quite sure what will happen in that moment once he picks up his crowbar, but his love for his wife shines through. He is finally able to look at Ryan as Becca's son rather than Homelander's evil spawn. Butcher's story arc this season has been for the battle of his soul. With Becca alive at the start of the season, some of his savage behavior became subdued after she didn't run with him in episode 4. His motivation for the series going forward has changed, and it is exciting to see what happens going forward as his newly completed arc has ben top tier.

Homelander arrives and is devastated that Stormfront has been roughed up. He demands that Ryan return to him, but Maeve shuts it down, threatening to release the video of the failed plane rescue if he touches Butcher and Ryan, continues to chase Starlight, or interferes with her relationship with Elena. In a tense moment with no dialogue, he agrees. Homelander's psyche is in question after everything because he lost, probably for the first time ever. We last see him masturbating over the city like a madman. Eric Kripke had that moment from the first season cut, but it is back for this episode. I have to say that it is much more effective here. Ryan is sent off with protection so Vought never finds him, and Butcher is approached by Mallory to continue to team with government funding.

For the dark stories this show tells in a cynical view on life, it ends on a slighter more hopeful tone. Starlight and A-Train are back in the seven, Kimiko and Frenchie celebrate their victory by going dancing, Mother's Milk reunites with his family, and Hughie and Annie get back together. That said, with the main story arcs wrapped up, the episode doesn't end there. I believed initially that the church of the collective would have a larger role to play in the 3rd season, but it looks like I may be wrong, seeing as the head of the church is dead, and they have cast out the deep. During a phone call with Congresswoman Newman, Adana tells her he has a lot more dirt on supes and is willing to give them to her for a price. She seemingly agrees to it. He is about to drink a Fresca in victory when his head blows up. It is revealed that Newman is a supe, and she is the one responsible for blowing up heads. It is a twist that I certainly did not see coming. Why she has killed the people she has is a remaining question, and what's going to happen to Hughie who goes to work for her is another.

I applaud the writing staff for paying tribute to the original comics but going their own way. If you happen to read them, curious about what could happen for season 3, I don't think it will help you. Butcher is different enough from his comic counterpart that the show will not end the same way the comics did, and it is really exciting. Personally, I think that the show has eclipsed past the original comics.

"What I Know" concludes the second season of The Boys on a satisfying note, wrapping up a majority of the storylines successful with well written and performed emotion heft while establishing interesting story threads for season 3 with a shocking twist.

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