About this episode
– Episode 8 (of 8), ‘What I Know’
– Written by Rebecca Sonnenshine
– Directed by Alex Graves
As a Homelander-fronted public information film about surviving a supervillain attack plays on TV, Mallory and Congresswoman Victoria Neuman meet with Secretary of Defense Singer. In the wake of the exploding heads incident, the US president is declaring a national emergency, legalizing the use of Compound V by law enforcement and first responders. Neuman says the whole thing is a Vought-led coup – when Singer says Vought people died too, Neuman says that was just to cover their tracks. Singer says that he actually agrees with Mallory and Neuman, but they have no proof.
Becca Butcher hides in a forest, on the run from a search party.
As Mrs January heads out of the city, the Boys work on bespoke weapons to take down each of the Seven. When Hughie points out that they can’t just kill everyone, Frenchie counters that Wile E Coyote had all sorts of elaborate plans to catch Roadrunner, but he’d have had more success if he’d just used a big gun. Starlight suggests that she testifies, but Mother’s Milk points out that escaped convicts don’t have a ton of credibility. Starlight has another idea, however, and asks Hughie to come with her.
At the Vought Tower, Stormfront tells Homelander that Black Noir is still unresponsive after Maeve’s tree nut assault – “They don’t think there’s brain damage but apparently it’s hard to tell.” Homelander comes to the conclusion that Stan Edgar must be responsible for the attack on Congress, and is feeling down about the current state of affairs. Stormfront says it’s actually good news, however, because the heightened terror alert will make it easier to pursue their agenda – and they won’t have to do any of the celebrity nonsense any more.
Driving with Hughie, Starlight says that Butcher’s plan to hit Vought hard is the right one. They arrive at Maeve’s house – she’s in costume but her room is full of cigarettes, drink and drugs. Starlight asks her to testify, saying she’s their last chance, but Maeve refuses because she’s “tired”. Maeve tells them to leave.
Becca finds the pawn shop and tells Billy that Homelander and Stormfront have Ryan.
Stan Edgar meets Alastair Adana at the Church of Collective. Adana tries to persuade him to bring the Deep back into the Seven – Edgar says it’ll be difficult to get around the fact he’s been convicted of a sex offence. Adana asks the same question about A-Train, saying that they need a speedster after Shockwave’s head exploded. Edgar says that, “Stormfront has problems with him and at the moment I have to indulge her.” Adana clearly knows about Stormfront’s Nazi past – she was against the Church when it formed – and A-Train overhears the conversation.
The Boys enjoy the chance to finally meet Becca. Billy vows to find Ryan, and calls Stan Edgar.
Ashley is babysitting Ryan and literally pulling her hair out. Ryan is writing the American states in order, and asks if he can call his mum. Stormfront suggests they take a field trip to stop him feeling lonely.
Stormfront, Homelander and Ryan arrive at the Planet Vought restaurant. As soon as they sit down, they’re surrounded by fans asking for autographs and selfies. Ryan is totally overwhelmed and, in a surprisingly paternal moment, Homelander carries him out of the restaurant and flies away.
Starlight is moaning about her mother, but stops herself for being insensitive in front of Hughie, seeing as his mum’s dead. Hughie says his mother isn’t dead, but actually left when he was six. That’s where his love of Billy Joel came from – they used to have dance parties – but the fun stopped when she left and never called again. A-Train suddenly appears in the back of the car. He gives them a file full of intel on Stormfront, telling them they need to say he got the information on their own, because he wants to get back into the Seven.
Butcher meets Edgar, who has plenty of guns aimed towards his rival. Butcher explains that Ryan is the only possible contingency against Homelander, but Edgar says he wouldn’t betray Homelander, who’s a friend. When Butcher argues that Edgar’s “turned a racist piece of shite into America’s sweetheart”, Edgar says that Stormfront is good at making people angry, angry people want Compound V and Compound V makes Vought money.
“Maybe you should look in the mirror, mate, because that bitch should bother you,” counters Butcher. Edgar says that it’s not about him, that he can’t lash out because that’s “a white man’s luxury”. Butcher says he can get Ryan away from Homelander, then he’ll call Vought who can take the boy somewhere Homelander can’t find him – and also away from Becca, reasoning that she “will do anything to protect her son”.
Homelander talks to Ryan, explaining he was terrified the first time he was in a crowd, and took off and ran away in tears. Homelander says he didn’t just wake up one day knowing how to be a superhero, and tells Ryan he loves him.
Butcher tells the other Boys that saving Ryan isn’t their fight and they can leave. They say that he’s told them to do loads of questionable stuff before – they’re not going to leave when he asks them to do something that’s actually worthwhile. Starlight and Hughie leak the Stormfront files online, and Becca tells Butcher she’s going with them. She asks Butcher to promise on his brother Lenny’s soul that, whatever happens, he’ll save the boy and get him back to her. Kimiko worries that she’ll freeze when she sees Stormfront, but Frenchie assures her she’ll be fine.
At a remote cabin, Homelander tries to train Ryan to use his superpowers, by melting an action figure. Homelander says you need to imagine someone you hate – something Ryan struggles with. Stormfront hears that the files about her history – revealing that she’s 100 years old and was married to Frederick Vought – are out in the open and flies away.
The Boys activate a device that unleashes a sound that hurts supes. When Homelander leaves to find the source, Becca moves in to collect Ryan, putting protective headphones on him, and introducing him to Butcher. Homelander neutralizes the device.
Vought soldiers arrive at the cabin. A call arrives on Butcher’s phone, left behind in the cabin, and Homelander hears the caller saying the name “Butcher”. Homelander asks what’s going on, and cuts one of the soldiers in half.
Butcher admits he cut a deal with Stan Edgar but couldn’t go through with it. Becca says she’s not leaving without him, forgiving him because he did the right thing in the end. Butcher insists that she and the kid get away from him, so Milk drives Becca and Ryan away.
Stormfront lands and attacks the car, sending it flying – Milk, Becca and Ryan are okay. Starlight and Kimiko attack Stormfront, and the three fight. Stomfront eventually gets the upper hand, until Queen Maeve unexpectedly arrives on the scene. Starlight, Kimiko and Maeve overpower Stormfront who – realizing she’s beaten – flies away.
Homelander emerges from the cabin covered in blood, licking his lips.
Stormfront finds Butcher, Becca and Ryan in the woods. She asks the boy to come to her. Butcher steps forward, saying “Not on your life!”, so Stormfront hits him with a lightning blast, knocking him to the ground. She advances on Becca and Ryan, but Becca stabs her in the eye with a knife. Stormfront strangles Becca against a tree – Butcher unloads his gun into her back and attacks her with a crowbar, but they have no effect. As Ryan screams for Stormfront to release his mother, his eyes glow red…
Butcher is lying on the floor, surrounded by smoke. Stormfront is lying on the floor, badly burned, and missing an arm and two legs, while Becca is fatally wounded. Ryan is sobbing, apologizing for what happened, but Becca says it’s not his fault, that he’s a good kid, and asks Butcher to promise to keep him safe.
Homelander arrives and sees Stormfront on the floor, deliriously talking German. He asks if Ryan was responsible for what happened, and holds out his hand for the boy to go with him. The kid opts to go with Butcher.
As Homelander moves in to attack, Maeve shouts for him to stop. She tells him to let them go because if he doesn’t – and if he doesn’t leave she and Elena alone – the video of the plane crash will go live. Butcher picks up Ryan and leaves.
Edgar fronts a Vought press conference, saying that they believe Stormfront was the sole perpetrator of the attack on Washington – she’s now been neutralized and is being held at a secure location – and that the Compound V release has been put on indefinite hold. Starlight has been reinstated to the Seven (she’s back in her original costume) – Homelander lies that Maeve and Starlight are two of the best friends he could ever have…
Adana tells Deep and A-Train that there was an incident at the archives, with someone stealing Stormfront’s records. Deep says it wasn’t him, but Adana says it showed initiative – A-Train is back in the Seven. Deep is not reinstated, however – there was only one slot, and letting two fallen heroes back would be a sign of “weakness”. An angry Deep says he did everything the Church asked, so Adana tells him he should leave because he’s acting like a “toxic personality”.
Starlight tells Hughie that if Butcher can do the right thing, there has to be a higher power. She says that she’s staying in the Seven because she has to try and push Vought in the right direction. Hughie says it’s time for him to go off on his own, stand on his two feet. Starlight thinks he means he just wants to be friends, but he says he’s not crazy enough to let her go – he obviously means the Boys.
Butcher and Ryan have a heart-to-heart. Ryan says he’s scared, so Butcher gives him a St Christopher that belonged to Becca to keep him safe. Mallory arrives to take the boy to a safe location. She asks if Butcher thinks the kid will turn into his father – Butcher says that Becca was sure he wouldn’t. Mallory tells Butcher that all the charges against the Boys have been dropped – even for the ones they did commit. She also reveals that the White House is opening a new office of superhero affairs, to be run by Victoria Neuman. She’s offering some off-the-books funding for a taskforce, and asks if Butcher wants in. He walks away.
Milk finally gets home to see his daughter, while Frenchie takes Kimiko dancing.
Homelander repeatedly chants, “I can do whatever I want”… As he masturbates… Standing on the edge of a skyscraper… Silhouetted by the moon.
Adana speaks with Neuman on the phone, congratulating her on her appointment. He says he has enough dirt to take down a dozen supes – if the congresswoman is open to expediting the Church’s tax-exempt status. She says that would be a small price to pay – just before Adana’s head explodes. Neuman is standing outside the Church, her eyes returning to normal from a cloudy state – turns out she’s the one who’s been exploding all the heads.
She returns to her campaign office, where Hughie her as her two o’clock meeting. He asks her to give him a job. “When can you start?” she replies.
After episode seven’s (literally) explosive cliffhanger, we were expecting this season finale to be a significantly bigger, more action-packed affair than it proves to be. That it’s a surprisingly emotional and thoughtful instalment (by The Boys’ standards, at least) is a welcome change of gear – and cements the show’s status as the best superhero series on TV.
‘What I Know’ still has its moments of shock and comedy, of course – Homelander’s final act of rooftop self-pleasure surely ranks among The Boys’ most WTF? Moments – but it manages to find humanity in the most unlikely places.
Queen Maeve belatedly joins forces with the good guys, while Butcher finally does the right thing by promising to protect Ryan – Becca’s death was probably inevitable from a dramatic point of view, but it’s still touchingly played. Even Homelander has moments where he seems to genuinely care about Ryan – even if he’s back in scumbag mode by the end.
There’s also the sense that the episode is wrapping up the first act of The Boys, with Stormfront (effectively) gone, the Boys themselves pardoned and going their separate ways, and Starlight and A-Train back in the Seven. Keeping the exploder of heads under wraps until the very end is a bold move, but it’s worth it for the big reveal. Turns out Congresswoman Victoria Neuman has been keeping her super-status hidden all along – can’t wait to see how the story continues when The Boys season 3 lands.
- At one point Frenchie calls Butcher Monsieur Charcutier – which is the French translation of his name.
- This episode’s Billy Joel soundtrack offering is ‘Only the Good Die Young’.
- The sure-to-become-infamous final shot of Homelander was originally meant to feature in season one. Showrunner Eric Kripke says Amazon decided it “wasn’t necessary”.
Episodes 1-8 of The Boys season 2 are available to stream on Amazon Prime Video now. New episodes appear every Friday.