NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Boys”, including multiple major character deaths, are present in this review
The Boys is well on its way to a fantastic climax for Season Two, and that momentum was maintained exceptionally during the season’s penultimate episode this week! “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker” delivers an extra high dose of pitch black humour and over-the-top violence, along with some more superb character material for Butcher and Hughie in particular. A grand battle of politics and influence is about to unfold between Vought and the people rallied under Congresswoman Neuman, and with Lamplighter set to serve as a decisive witness in the hearings against Vought, the Boys may finally be taking the first steps to bringing down the sinister mega-corporation for good!
As anyone can predict however, once the plan is decided, executing it is anything but simple. A series of complications both amusing and horrifying begin to emerge between all of the show’s main factions, beginning with Donna becoming an unwitting accessory to Annie being captured and imprisoned by Vought, before Homelander and Stormfront publicly pin the murder of Translucent, among other attacks against Vought’s assets, on her. This motivates Hughie, who is humourously stuck babysitting a porn-addicted Lamplighter, to try and beg the former Seven member to rescue Annie with him, an effort he’s eventually successful in.
Astonishingly though, breaking into Seven Tower turns out to be the easy part. In fact, if there’s one small gripe to make about this episode, it’s the fact that Lamplighter’s resurrection doesn’t end up serving much purpose in the end. After Lamplighter discovers that he can still get into every secure wing of Seven Tower, since he’s inexplicably still in their system (somehow??), Lamplighter goes on to lead Hughie into the Seven’s conference room, where he sees that his statue has been replaced by Starlight’s. After declaring that he just wanted to make his father proud, Lamplighter then goes on to commit suicide by violently immolating himself in the middle of the conference room! Yikes! This makes Lamplighter being spared by Mallory disappointingly short-lived in the end, though Lamplighter’s horrible death ironically helps Hughie achieve his objective anyway, after Seven Tower’s emergency fire protection systems provide Annie with enough juice to escape her anti-Supe confinement chamber.
The theme of family relationships touched upon by Lamplighter continues to run very deep in this episode from here, particularly in regards to father-and-son relationships. This is illustrated through both Butcher and Homelander especially, both of whom see their own inspired subplots in this episode. Butcher most notably is tricked into confronting his abusive, cancer-stricken father, Sam Butcher by his well-meaning mother, Connie Butcher, with Sam amusingly being played by fellow Lord of the Rings veteran, John Noble. Butcher’s mother sees this seemingly final interaction between Butcher and his father as a way for Butcher to finally reconcile and let go of his former pain, especially when it comes out that Butcher’s brother, Lenny committed suicide after Butcher abandoned his family in the past. This is yet another deviation from the source comics, where Lenny instead died from a freak bus accident, but it’s another change that actually works incredibly well for this TV adaptation of The Boys, especially when it further cements Butcher’s own inability to escape his pain and grief, even when he fights as hard as he can to achieve some sort of tainted justice for himself.
Homelander, meanwhile, headlines an impeccably dramatic subplot with Stormfront, wherein he takes Stormfront to meet his son, Ryan. This very nicely blurs the line between a civil family gathering, and yet another self-serving act of destruction by Homelander, namely when he shows Ryan that Becca has lied to him about his life, and where he’s being kept. This turns Ryan’s rage and betrayal on his mother this time, and eventually culminates with Homelander and Stormfront stealing Ryan away, against Becca’s will! This is one of the best setups for next week’s season finale, since it threatens to sever Ryan completely from his own shot at real humanity, and instead place him on the path to becoming another super-powered sociopath, even while Homelander honestly believes that he’s doing his Supe son a favour by forcibly removing him from Becca’s care.
The father-and-son theme even makes its way to the climactic first hearing being held between Vought and Congresswoman Neuman, which actually defies the initial disadvantage of the Boys losing Lamplighter as their star witness. Instead, Butcher successfully strong-arms Dr. Vogelbaum into testifying against Vought, which seems like a pretty decisive blow against the corporation at first, perhaps even more devastating than Lamplighter could have even committed! Once again though, this sharp tactic is thwarted before it could begin. The hearing ends up being interrupted by more exploding heads, similar to how Susan Raynor was killed at the start of this season, with an unknwon party (Stormfront?) seemingly murdering people indiscriminately, just so the hearings can’t proceed! A swath of key casualties unfold among the unknown civilians too, with Dr. Vogelbaum (naturally), Ashley’s assistant, Deanna, and even A-Train’s rival, Shockwave all having their skulls blown apart in a bloody mess! Fortunately, Congresswoman Neuman is successfully led away by Mallory during the carnage though, so they both avoid the same grisly fate, for now.
Frustratingly, despite Homelander and Stormfront continuing to headline some especially riveting character arcs in this episode, the rest of the Seven still feel too detached from the rest of this episode’s connective tissue! There’s still a chance that their separate plots could come together to help sustain a hopefully fantastic season finale next week, but at this point, most of the Seven continue to not do much beyond benchwarmer storylines and/or trying and failing to kill those loyal to the Boys. A semi-interesting turn is taken with the Church of the Collective, namely when it’s revealed that The Deep was successful in talking A-Train into joining the organization, only for the two to be immediately ordered by Alistair to cut off all contact with Eagle the Archer, who himself refused to sever connections with his mother, leading to the Church releasing blackmail material on him. The Church of the Collective is still an intriguing allegory for real-world celebrity cults like the Church of Scientology, but it nonetheless feels like it’s warming the bench until next season. Queen Maeve meanwhile ends up losing a terrified Elena to the horror from the Flight 37 footage as well, though Maeve does nonetheless briefly make herself useful during Annie’s escape, after she neutralizes Black Noir by force-feeding him an Almond Joy, which contains tree nuts that Black Noir is allergic to. I have to admit, that’s a pretty hilarious and creative payoff to Black Noir’s apparent disdain for Almond Joy bars!
The Boys is back to fully ramping up the fun and the violence to impressive degrees this week, leaving the show in a very strong position to lead into next week’s promising season finale. “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker” delivers an awesome selection of core storylines that build themselves around the strained bonds between failed fathers and unfortunate sons, even if Simon Pegg unfortunately couldn’t be worked in to drive that point home with Hughie. Annie also played into this theme a bit with her mother, particularly after Donna ends up becoming the unwitting means by which Annie is very publicly humiliated and neutralized, at least before Hughie gets to her. Once again though, it’s Butcher and Homelander that encompass the most twisted and memorable story arcs this week, and that’s saying a lot when the first hearing against Vought ultimately ends in the bloody carnage of exploding heads! Hopefully the separate affairs of the Seven’s lesser members can come together to round off Season Two as well as everything else hopefully does next week, but for now, The Boys remains as darkly delightful as ever in the season’s penultimate episode, even after Lamplighter’s surprising survival went up in smoke a lot quicker than it probably should have.
- Butcher confronting his terminally ill father
- Homelander disillusioning and stealing Ryan
- Shocking, violent conclusion to the first Vought hearing
- Church of the Collective material is still too disconnected
- Lamplighter's dramatic suicide feels a bit premature