Everyone gets a consequential arc this episode. Well, every one of the Boys. Chance Crawford’s dopey Aquaman is relegated to an in-world TV commercial for a Lifetime movie (equivalent) as setup for Antony Starr’s arc for the episode. It’s Starr’s birthday, which means the media empire aligns to promote him; only this year, everyone remembers he was dating a Nazi last year, and no one cares much about celebrating.
Starr gets an arc, with Erin Moriarty bouncing between that one and Jack Quaid’s. Then Jessie T. Usher’s arc about embracing his African roots is basically a comedy subplot. Or the closest thing to a comedy subplot in the episode, which starts with Karl Urban getting irritated by little super-kid Cameron Crovetti being a kid and therefore irritating; Urban’s then got a character development arc as well as a superhero investigation arc.
Urban and Quaid are both investigating separately—Urban tracking down a former sidekick (an unrecognizable Sean Patrick Flannery) who works the gun show circuit and Quaid trying to uncover boss Claudia Doumit’s secret superpowered past. Moriarty’s supposed to be helping Quaid, but Starr’s being an asshole during his birthday show rehearsals to annoy her.
Tomer Capone and Karen Fukuhara are also on assignment, going to an amusement park where Flannery’s former teammate, Laurie Holden, does stage shows. It’s a great arc for Fukuhara, who’s trying to recapture a lost childhood; Capone is along but not enjoying any of the commercialized pleasantries.
Then Laz Alonso spends the day with daughter Liyou Abere, only getting more and more obsessed with what he knows about Urban’s investigation.
It’s an exceedingly well-balanced episode, script credit to David Reed, especially as a side event has major repercussions for everyone’s day (and the series going forward).
There’s the usual acting spotlight for Starr, whose psychotic Superman analog gets a couple amazing scenes. Urban’s also got a great arc as he weighs juicing up on superhero serum, even temporarily. Quaid gets some excellent comic timing material, even if the results aren’t laughs. He and Moriarty are a fantastic team when they get to Nick and Nora together.
What makes “The Boys” so special isn’t its gory, black comedy but the humanity it brings to its characters and how carefully the show emphasizes that humanity. Real good direction from Philip Sgriccia again. Especially on Starr and Urban’s big acting scenes. Then that cliffhanger. It’s a petrifying humdinger but also an entirely soft cliffhanger. There are no heads ready to roll, just a terrifying future with connotations across the cast.
The episode also waits until near the end for the significant gore scene. There are a few big splats and smooshes throughout, but the biggest ick comes late.
“The Boys” is, as usual, superb.