I don’t want to say anything too controversial, but Homelander (Antony Starr) is a pretty good villain. Any other show that kept a villain like this around for so long would’ve crumbled under its own weight, but "The Boys" has centered around Homelander for nearly three full seasons without showing signs of running out of steam, despite my earlier concerns. The revelation at the end of this week’s episode serves as further proof that the show has been playing the long game with his character.
At the end of "Here Comes a Candle to Light You to Bed," Homelander gets a call from Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles), who reveals he is Homelander’s father. That’s right: Homelander, the man who’s long been tortured by how he never got to have parents, now has a dad. Although season 3 so far seems to have been setting the character up to spiral into world-threatening insanity, this latest twist threatens to pull him back from the brink, if only for a little bit. But what does that mean as we go into the season’s final episode?
Exploring Homelander’s daddy issues
When wondering how he and Soldier Boy’s relationship will change going into the finale now that he has a father, it’s worth taking a look at his mommy issues first. Season 1 spent a lot of time developing his relationship with Madelyn Stillwell (Elisabeth Shue), in which the two would often engage in a strange kind of mother/son sexual role-play. Homelander shows signs of jealousy over Stillwell’s infant son, and even after he murders her, he still gets a thrill over drinking her leftover breast milk.
There’s a lot to unpack with those scenes, but I think we’ve got the gist: The fact that Homelander never got to have a mom growing up has now led to him longing for motherly affection, which has materialized into a fetish Stillwell attempts to use as a way to keep him loyal. But as the season 1 finale showed, just because Homelander had this relationship with Stillwell didn’t mean he’d hesitate to kill her the moment he felt she betrayed him. He may long for motherly affection, but motherly affection is not enough to win his loyalty.
In the latest episode’s final scene, Homelander seems pretty excited to finally have a father in his life, but we know the excitement can die down pretty quickly. If Soldier Boy wants to make up for lost time and try to be a good dad to him, things might actually work out for a while. But if Soldier Boy’s not interested? If he rejects Homelander outright? Things can get very bad very quickly.
What’s Ryan been up to?
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Ryan (Cameron Crovetti), Homelander’s young just-as-powerful son. The last time he was on screen, Butcher (Karl Urban) snapped at him and said he resented the kid for accidentally lasering Becca to death in the season 2 finale. This was a pretty big moment we haven’t yet seen the full repercussions of. Butcher made a promise to his late wife that he would take care of Ryan and make sure the kid didn’t grow up to be as bad as his father, and here Butcher failed to live up to his promise.
Butcher’s arc this season has been a continuation of his development throughout the show: He’s struggling not to lose himself entirely in his quest for vengeance. He almost seemed to be living up to this promise in the beginning of the season, but then he was introduced to Temp V, and also Hughie called him up at the worst possible moment to tell him Neuman (Claudia Doumit) was a Supe and Butcher was right about everything. Since then, Butcher’s been spiraling into the worst version of himself, hitting his new low point with his decision to not tell Hughie (Jack Quaid) about Temp V’s deadly side effects.
With all that in mind, it seems likely that Ryan is going to be reintroduced somehow. With the reminder that Homelander’s evil is partly a result of him never having a father growing up, maybe Butcher will remember just how important it is for him to be there for Ryan. Also important to remember: Soldier Boy has a grandson now. And unlike Homelander, this grandson isn’t wearing a cape, so Soldier Boy’s got nothing to hold against the kid. Lord knows how this’ll affect Soldier Boy’s motives.
How exactly does passing down Supe genes work, anyway?
Earlier in the season, Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit) negotiated a deal with Homelander in which she’d receive some Compound V to turn her daughter into a Supe. It’s an interesting development in part because it shows that superhero abilities typically don’t pass down from parent to kid. Even though Neuman was a Supe at the time her daughter was conceived, the daughter was still a normal human.
So in that case, why did Ryan turn out to be a Supe? Why did season 2 Homelander seem to take it for granted from Day 1 that Ryan would be just like him? With the Soldier Boy reveal, we’ve gotten one more piece to solve the puzzle: It looks like there’s something unique about Soldier Boy’s (and Homelander’s) genetics that allow them to pass their Supe powers on, even when the child’s not conceived in a top-secret facility (as in Homelander and Becca’s case).
The Soldier Boy reveal also gives more context to the episode’s other reveal, that Homelander’s keeping Maeve (Dominique McElligott) alive so he could harvest her eggs and create more Supe babies. But Homelander’s already the most powerful person in the world and he was already able to create Ryan with a non-Supe woman, so why would he need Maeve’s eggs? Is this a sign that Homelander didn’t fully understand his genetics (which the Soldier Boy reveal would shed more light on), or a sign that there’s more to his explanation for keeping Maeve alive than he’s let on?
What does this mean for Vought?
Soldier Boy’s storyline this season has so far centered around him hunting down and killing all the people in his old Supe team as revenge for their betrayal. With this in mind, that final phone call of this week’s episode raises an interesting question: How’s Homelander going to respond to the betrayal of Vought never telling him he had a father? He murdered Stillwell in season 1 for lying to him; who’s he going to kill in retaliation for this secret?
The immediate answer that comes to mind is Ashley (Colby Minifie), because she’s the one who tends to bear the brunt of Homelander’s frustrations. But then again, Ashley was likely unaware of this information, and she wasn’t the one in charge when the decision to keep it secret was first made. No, the blame is likely to fall on Stan Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito). Edgar has made a strong impression in his relatively small amount of screen time on the show, because he’s one of the only characters to never show fear in Homelander’s presence. When he insulted Homelander a few episodes earlier, I’m sure a lot of us were wondering if Homelander would murder him right then and there. But Edgar doesn’t seem to consider it a possibility, which means he likely knows something we don’t.
In the comics, Edgar’s secret backup plan to keep Homelander in line was Black Noir, a Homelander clone. We now know for certain that the show won’t head in this direction, which raises the question of whether show Edgar has a different secret weapon in mind. If Homelander’s rage turns in his direction, it’s not clear who’ll win.
Basically, we don’t know
"The Boys" has always been an unpredictable show, even for those who’ve read the comics. (Comic Soldier Boy is also completely different from TV Soldier Boy, so there are no hints there.) Honestly, at this point it’s not even clear if Homelander himself will survive the season. He’s become increasingly isolated from his peers, to the point where his only close allies are basically Noir, The Deep, A-Train, and Ashley. Edgar’s earlier prediction that Homelander would lose the public’s goodwill without Edgar cleaning up his messes seems to be coming true, and it’s not clear if this Soldier Boy revelation is going to accelerate or slow down that seemingly inevitable spiral.
If the last two season finales were any indication, the only thing we know for sure is there’s going to be a lot to look forward to as we head into the final episode, "The Instant White-Hot Wild." Season 3 has arguably been the best season of "The Boys" yet, so hopefully they can stick the landing.