In the blink of an eye (perhaps a very specific eye—we’ll come back to this), the season 3 finale of The Boys has arrived. This season seemed to go by very quickly, which is both a slight disappointment, given how much more time could have been alloted to a number of major plot threads, and a testament to its narrative success, because a lot has happened—much of it in this episode. Let’s dig in.
With the help of the address he received from Neuman last episode, Homelander pays a visit to his son Ryan. When Ryan says that “Aunt Grace” Mallory has been nice to him, Homelander scoffs; Grace isn’t family. Blood is what really matters. Ryan seems to have assumed Homelander hasn’t visited because he’s mad that Ryan lost control of his powers and killed Stormfront, but Homelander—with eerily genuine tenderness—reassures him that isn’t the case. When you’re as powerful as they are, he says, “accidents happen, things break.” Sometimes those things are people, even people you care about. C’est la vie.
At Vought Tower, there’s a glut of protesters: pro-Starlight ones calling for a search for Maeve, since Homelander admitted to kidnapping Maeve on Annie’s Instagram Live, and counter-protesters calling for Annie’s arrest for all the imaginary child trafficking. The Attorney General is on her way to the Tower with a search warrant, so Ashley makes an executive decision and gasses Maeve to sleep in her cell so they can sneak her out. She wakes up in an armored truck and escapes barefoot onto the streets of New York.
Frenchie has acquired a Novichok agent, the only substance known to knock Soldier Boy out, funneled it into a Starlight-branded perfume bottle (hello again Britney parallels), and brought it to M.M., who’s distracted by the fact that he knocked out stepdad Todd in front of his daughter. Frenchie reassures him in a distinctly Frenchie way: Sure, he’s fucked up, but his daughter deserves to know the whole M.M., anger and all, rather than a sanitized version who keeps his bad feelings bottled up.
Noir returns to Vought Tower, cartoon buddies in tow, with a mission in mind and in hand: “SOLDIR BOY WILL COME WE KILL” [sic, if you couldn’t guess]. Homelander appears puzzled by Noir’s absence but greets him with open arms—in fact, the little cartoon hearts that pop up when they hug indicate that Noir really does care about Homelander, and their relationship hasn’t just been about covering Noir’s ass in case of a Soldier Boy-related emergency.
Meanwhile, Butcher, Hughie, and Soldier Boy are on the road back to New York to complete their mission. Soldier Boy has kept them abreast of his paternal news, so they’re a little worried he won’t want to follow through. At a rest stop, after telling Hughie he’s the spitting image of his little brother, Butcher knocks him out and locks him in the bathroom—which indelicately but effectively keeps Hughie from taking more V24 or being in the blast zone when the big fight occurs. When Soldier Boy asks where Hughie is (“Where’s the cum guzzler?” leaves the official Soldier Boy Homophobic Slur Counter at 4 for the season), Butcher tells him Hughie ran.
A-Train stops by his brother’s house to apologize for indirectly causing his paralyzing injury: “I’ll spend the rest of my life making it up to you.” Nate doesn’t accept the apology—he knows A-Train killed Blue Hawk, which he never wanted in the first place, and tells A-Train he can never make it up to him because “every time you try, you make it worse.” When A-Train pushes through on his apology, insisting that everything is fine and that Nate can still be his trainer, Nate demands that he get out of the house and not come back. “I don’t want a murderer in the same house with my kids,” he says—which is fair, but also begs the question of what he thought A-Train was up to in Vought Tower in the first place. Was he willing to turn the other way as long as it didn’t affect him directly, or has Vought really covered up the other A-Train-related deaths so effectively?
Annie mercifully picks Hughie up from the gas station despite their current differences. When she asks if Butcher told Hughie the news, he has no idea what she’s talking about, so she tells him: V24 is fatal, and he’s lucky he didn’t take even one more dose. Hughie realizes that Butcher saved his life in his own special way, diverging into a monologue about pizza rolls that ends with him recognizing a core wound—that he thought his father should have fought for his mother to come back when she left, only to now realize that his father was fighting every day to keep them afloat among the worst days of his life—and offers Annie a sincere apology for the insane toxic masculine mindset that caused him to feel weak because of her strength.
Annie cordially accepts the apology, then gets a call—Maeve wound up at M.M.’s place. She immediately greets Hughie by telling him he looks like he wears a neon sign that says “raw dog me, I’m a bottom.” (Maeve Homophobic Slur Counter: She’s Gay So It’s Fine.) She thanks Annie for putting pressure on Vought—every “LGB-teen” in New York has been up Vought’s ass about her disappearance. In The Boys as in real life, the coalitional power of gay teens on the internet is indescribable.
Chaos continues at the home base: In the bathroom, Kimiko slaps Frenchie for relapsing on his drug addiction and giving up entirely; Annie is trying and failing to get Vought Tower evacuated in anticipation of a Soldier Boy blast; nobody wants to bother trying to save Butcher’s life but Hughie. But they’ve got to get it together soon or god-knows-what will happen.
At the other home base, Soldier Boy tells Butcher that, as always, the mythos surrounding his life was a lie: He wasn’t born with his powers (or even given them at birth, like most Supes), and he didn’t grow up poor on the streets of Philly. In fact, his father was a wealthy steel mill owner who constantly reminded Ben what a disappointment he was, which drove Ben to participate in the first Compound V trials. But he still couldn’t get the approval of his father, who considered superpowers “cheating.” Soldier Boy says he always wanted kids—he wanted the opportunity to do fatherhood better than his own father. All this father talk puts Butcher on edge; it seems like Soldier Boy may be about to back out of the deal.
At Vought Tower (the other other home base, I guess), it seems Homelander is also having serious second thoughts. He questions Noir about Soldier Boy: What was he like? “BAD,” Noir writes, underlining it twice when Homelander asks for more information. Homelander reveals the truth—that Soldier Boy is his father—but Noir persists: “MUST KILL HIM.” Homelander makes an emotional appeal: Not only does Noir know him better than anyone else does; Homelander knows Noir better than anyone else, not least because he can literally see under his mask with X-ray vision. He can tell, he says, when Noir is lying. So he asks the big question: Did Noir know? Noir nods. Why didn’t Noir tell Homelander, when he knew how alone he felt? But he barely waits for an answer this time: In one of the season’s most shocking moments, he brutally and unambiguously kills Noir by ripping his guts out. “You should have told me,” he says as he leaves Noir to bleed out, surrounded by all his cartoon friends, who reassure him that he’ll soon rest in the arms of Christ the Lord. So in addition to everything else, Noir was a devout believer? RIP to the show’s most enigmatic and perhaps most interesting character. We hardly knew ye.
M.M.’s faction shows up at Butcher’s headquarters, where they insist the plan be called off because it puts too many civilians in danger. When Butcher refuses, Frenchie reminds him that Becca was once a civilian working in Vought Tower; casualties matter. In the midst of this argument, Maeve reveals her true allegiances: She wants Homelander dead, no matter the cost. I can see where she’s coming from: She’s seen Homelander kill so many people that a few more to get rid of him seems like nothing. She’s extremely traumatized. Maeve and Butcher put everyone but Soldier Boy in the vault and turn the power off so Annie can’t use her powers to escape.
Ashley, Deep, and A-Train discover that Annie has been calling for the Tower to evacuate, but Homelander arrives and puts his foot down: No evacuation. It would make them look weak and scared. Deep suggests they could use Noir as bait, but Homelander puts Noir’s helmet on the table. In fact, with his closest ally and friend now dead to him (both literally and figuratively), he feels compelled to humiliate and scorn these three remaining team members, even making Ashley remove her wig to reveal that her stress-induced hair-pulling has had dramatic consequences. He asks Deep to do something treasonous, which turns out to be the murder of the projected Vice Presidential nominee for “Dakota” Bob Singer, the leading presidential candidate.
Annie manages to use her super-strength to knock down the vault door and let everyone out. They’ve lost their only sample of the neurotoxin, but Frenchie knows one very convenient place he could probably make some more—guess. It’s a risk, but since they’re already headed to the Tower, they all figure it’s worth a try. The team cleans out Butcher’s weapons and Hughie snatches one last vial of V24, though he doesn’t take it yet. Don’t do it, bud. You’re so close to smart decision-making.
Homelander is watching old Soldier Boy footage as Butcher, Maeve, and Soldier Boy arrive. Homelander makes an appeal: He knows what it’s like to be betrayed by your team. Then he makes another appeal: Ryan, Soldier Boy’s grandson, is here. We get a brief shot of the world’s most powerful family—perhaps, absent of another last name, best referred to as the Homeboy family—before Soldier Boy tells Homelander he wishes he could have raised him, because maybe then he wouldn’t have turned out to be a “weak, sniveling pussy, starved for attention.” Ouch. Homelander is confused: “I’m you.” Soldier Boy says, “I know. You’re a fucking disappointment.” Turns out self-loathing runs in the family, and cycles of abuse don’t end that easily. Who could have guessed?
Ryan blasts Soldier Boy—go baby boy!—and gets blasted in return, knocking him back into a wall and injuring him. Homelander basically drops everything to go see if he’s okay. It’s honestly strange and off-putting to see how much Homelander genuinely cares about Ryan; under the right circumstances—that is, if everything about his life was totally different—maybe he could have been a good dad. Unfortunately, this is not that life, so even if he is a good dad, it’s trumped by his everything else. Maeve takes the opportunity to take a swing, and Homelander essentially waves her off, telling her they have more pressing matters to worry about. But she persists, so he fights back—and in the process stabs her eye out with his thumb. Woof. Still, she immediately delivers a staggering super-dick-punch, showing even supes have their delicate spots.
The rest of the Boys arrive and attend their stations: Hughie announces a terrorist threat and evacuation notice via intercom, while Frenchie and Kimiko head to the lab. While Frenchie works on the neurotoxin, Kimiko handles the security guards: She plugs in her headphones and choreographs herself a fun little dance-fight set to “Maniac” by Michael Sembello. A girl after my own heart—and she finally gets to star in her own gory musical! In the scuffle, Frenchie gets shot once in the leg, but he’s already done with the neurotoxin, so he hands it off to Kimiko so she can run it to the battle zone.
Through the security cameras, Hughie watches Annie and Soldier Boy stand off. He considers taking the V24, but thinks better of it; instead, he turns all the lights all the way up to maximize Annie’s powers, allowing her to levitate (hell yeah) and knock Soldier Boy off his feet (don’t worry, Eric, I didn’t forget about your magnum opus) so the rest of the team can restrain and expose him to the neurotoxin. He fights back and manages to get out of their grasp before he’s knocked out, already on his way to a full nuclear explosion.
Maeve, in the midst of her fight with Homelander, distracts him by sticking a piece of shrapnel in his ear, then surveys the scene and realizes what she has to do to save the lives of everyone else in the room. She jumps out the window, taking Soldier Boy with her just as he’s about to blow—which, on the way down, he does. Is that fall really enough to kill Soldier Boy? Seems unlikely.
Inside, Butcher desperately tries to attend to Ryan—but Ryan doesn’t pay him any attention, instead telling Homelander that he wants to go home. So Ryan is officially on team Homelander. Bad news for basically everyone, aside from the fact he’s probably stopped Homelander from killing everyone remaining. The Homeboy family is, unfortunately, not so easily wrenched apart.
Butcher, distraught about being passed up for father figure yet again, realizes that he’s also oozing brain matter again—and down he goes. When we next see him, he’s awake in the hospital, a Maeve memorial playing on the TV while the doctor informs him that he has a year and a half to live at most. We’ll see how this plays out. Maybe the next season will be the last; maybe Karl Urban will move on to greener pastures; maybe a miraculous cure (perhaps involving a more permanent Compound V) awaits in Butcher’s future.
M.M. is having the opposite parenting experience: He finally tells Janine everything—well, not everything, probably, but at least the kid-friendly version. He tells her that sometimes superheroes are bad, and that a lot of their family was killed by superheroes, which is why it’s his job to go out and fight them. It’s a touching moment; I’ve really enjoyed M.M.’s emotional arc this season, and I’m glad this is where he’s ended up.
Big reveal: Maeve is alive! She faked her death so she and her ex (now re)-girlfriend Elena (Nicola Correia-Damude) can move out to the middle of nowhere and live civilian lives. She’s now powerless too, thanks to Soldier Boy’s nuclear blast, which is what she’s wanted for a long time. Like Kimiko, it seems like her suicidal, self-destructive urges were mostly urges to destroy the thing in herself that she hated. Now, she’s free. And off she goes. Maeve and Elena lesbian farm-life spinoff right now.
A few more wrap-ups: The Ashleys have footage of Frenchie and Kimiko rescuing Maeve from the wreckage, which they promptly delete. Under the supervision of Grace, who now has one less superpowered child to care for, Soldier Boy goes back under, and Deep’s ex-wife Cassandra is on a book tour for an exposé called In 2 Deep (great title, to be honest).
Back at the (recentralized) Boys’ headquarters, Annie throws away her Starlight costume and joins the team for good (Could’ve sold that for much-needed cash flow though). She and Hughie even seem to be back together—which, since Hughie seems to have gotten his shit moderately in order, I support. Frenchie declares the Boys a democracy just as Butcher arrives—and just in time for everyone to watch on television as, since his first pick drowned, Victoria Neuman is announced as Bob Singer’s running mate. Yikes. Looks like they’ll be engaging in a little light political assassination next season.
Finally, we see a protest—seems to be pro-Homelander, anti-Soldier Boy, since Soldier Boy is now being billed as “Russian-radicalized.” It’ll be interesting to see how things change now that Soldier Boy isn’t being hero-worshipped or remembered fondly by basically anybody. In fact, the protestors topple a statue of him. The new regime has arrived in the form of Homelander flying down to greet them—and to introduce them to Ryan, who will now be in the public eye as his son. When a single counter-protester throws a bottle that hits Ryan, Homelander blasts and kills him in full daylight—to the delayed raucous cheers of Todd and the other protestors. Great news that he can just straight up kill people in public now with no consequences. Even if the plane video were released at this point, absolutely no one would care. (Ah, prescient political commentary.)
And, of course, as everyone cheers, we see Ryan smile. I imagine the nature versus nurture question will be a big one for him going forward.
Thus ends a fast-paced, compelling, grotesque, frightening, and exciting season of television. The stakes remain high. Despite fake-outs—A-Train, Maeve, Soldier Boy—we only really lost one primary character (RIP Black Noir; go now to Jesus). I’ll be interested to see how open the door remains for Maeve (and Soldier Boy) to return, and whether Black Noir gets any postmortem fleshing-out. And, of course, Homelander is alive and kicking—but given that he’s the show’s primary antagonist, they were never gonna kill him off anyway, so that’s no big surprise.
Thanks for bearing with me through the season, folks. What did you think? Let us know in the comments and on our socials.