The Boys Season 4 Episode 2 Review – “Life Among the Septics”

The Boys Life Among the Septics

Since the days of those infamous men sitting in caves and looking at shadows, humans have been driven by belief and purpose. Religious, political, socioeconomical, personal… down to a molecular level, the universe is often defined by momentum or a transfer of properties. “Life Among the Septics”, one of the most thematically consistent episodes of The Boys to date, takes this idea and uses its characters, new and old alike, to examine where the roots of purpose come from – and perhaps most importantly, what a powerful, double-edged sword it can be.

For some in “Life Among the Septics”, finding that purpose is easy: as The Boys see in their visit to Truthcon (which is really just Homelander NaziCon), people like Firecracker’s self-cloning, obsessive assistant are driven simply by the purpose of servitude – while others, like Butcher, find their purpose in their impending mortality. What unifies “Life Among the Septics” are not their purposes, or the individual outcomes of each plotline; it’s a subtle refocus of the series itself, closer to the completed plotlines of Stormfront and Queen Maeve in seasons prior, than to the stories of vengeance and power played out between the petulant gods and petty men of The Boys over three entire seasons.

The Boys Life Among the Septics

As it often does, The Boys draws its ideas out of subtext whenever it brings Homelander and Butcher into the same room. Over the seasons, their dynamic has been an interesting litmus test for the series and its priorities; in “Life Among the Septics”, The Boys connects the two through the simple passage of time; Homelander and Butcher are both looking in the mirror wondering where all the time’s gone, realizing that there’s no CGI or apology in the world strong enough to reverse the wrinkles on their temples.

Of course, they aren’t the only members of the Seven dealing with the weight of their own existence; after A-Train gets reamed to shit by Reggie for deigning to pretend he was an actual hero, he shares footage with Starlight and Hughie to absolve the Starlighters of committing the murders of the “Homeland Three” – and in the process, helps Starlight over the hump of actually using her own powers for good. Though one’s mileage may vary on A-Train’s second (third?) attempt at personal redemption, there’s a certain power to seeing Starlight incredulously tell Hughie “I’m going to let a shitbag like A-Train step up, but I won’t?” that helps energize her plot a bit, as something other than just the ideological opposition to the growing Homelander unit.

Unfortunately, Hughie’s plot is one still trying to find its feet in “Life Among the Septics”; while the other characters struggle with the existential questions of life, Hughie’s yelling at his absentee mother and giving the audience some emotional context for his Billy Joel obsession. As it often does, Hughie’s proximity to Starlight is his lone saving grace – otherwise, he’s just a sad sack randomly spurting out catty responses he wishes he had used when he saw his mother. There’s clearly somewhere this story is going – but as it stands, The Boys clearly has other priorities, and its vague approach to whatever Hughie’s mother is around for remains a weak point.

The Boys Life Among the Septics

Another weak point, unfortunately, is Frenchie and Kimiko; though “Life Among the Septics” certainly feels a bit more focused on these characters than in season three, their arc together is nonetheless nonsensical – and with Kimiko, threatens to fall into the increasingly cliche “character in therapy” plot line. At least with Frenchie, there’s a coherent plot point – it’s a fucking silly one, revealing he once killed the family of Colin, the guy he’s currently fucking, but it’s something with a bit of a spark, more than I can say for the continued dichotomy between Kimiko’s journeys of personal and physical self-(re)discovery.

These are all stories existing on the periphery of “Life Among the Septics”; the real meat of the episode comes at TruthCon, where Mother’s Milk and Firecracker learn the limits of their influence, and the exact moment where rubber meats the road for their respective realities. The Mother’s Milk material is easy lifting for The Boys; it finally feels like the series is finding its rhythm with Laz Alonso’s performance, as he tries to take the helm of a more legit (though most definitely clandestine and illegal) version of The Boys, one not driven by Butcher’s amoralistic approach to supe (and self) destruction.

A lot of this boils down to machismo bullshit in this episode, between Mother’s Milk punching the shit out of Butcher, an Butcher’s self-righteous rescue of the team later – but they’re both in pursuit of two men desperately trying to find redemption for their losses, and their ongoing conflict is one that continues to help ground The Boys (especially in a season without the convenience of temporary V).

The Boys Life Among the Septics

The Firecracker material is an interesting idea that still needs a bit of marinating; Valorie Curry is clearly terrific in the role of shit-spewing, Alex Jones-with-boobs-and-super-strength Firecracker, who draws the interest of Sister Sage when she sees the dedicated following she’s been able to gather, and goes to check her out at TruthCon. She’s not impressed, of course, and leaves her to fight her way out against The Boys – which, turns out to be a pretty even match, given her assistant is an obsessed brain-rotted supe with a Firecracker obsession – who, in what is a very obvious visual metaphor, can quickly replicate himself over and over (that is, until the source itself is killed, via a crowbar shoved through the top of his brain by Butcher).

There’s certainly some intriguing directions this story could go; hopefully, it doesn’t devolve into a lesser version of the Stormfront arc (there are certainly some very parallels to be drawn, though more convenient than repetitive at this point), or devolve its satire into hand-wringing about a specific, vocal part of the show’s (possibly now former?) fan base and their feelings about Homelander. There’s a lot of directions this story could go; hopefully, it’s something beyond just clowning on a fascist mouthpiece, as that feels like low-hanging fruit, even for The Boys.

The Boys Life Among the Septics

Finally, we get to witness a real fake “save” in progress, as Ryan gets his first opportunity to stop a bank heist – and in the process, kills the stunt coordinator in particularly gruesome fashion. There’s a lot of screen time dedicated to Ryan’s consternated eyebrows and Homelander’s indignant refusal to even consider not being the absolute center of attention at all times; and though it seems The Boys is really just gearing up for another Homelander/Butcher fight for the soul of Ryan, there is a glimmer of hope The Boys is taking Ryan’s story somewhere (maybe even potentially to season two of Gen V?). Regardless, there’s an interesting angle into the next generation of supes in The Boys – and if Ryan is allowed to be a character instead of a plot device for Homelander, there’s so much rich text for this series to pull from our own world, and how difficult it is for Gen Z to find themselves in our broken world.

It remains to be seen whether The Boys will be able to consistently deliver episodes like “Life Among the Septics” across the season, given the sheer number of plots season four is trying to balance. However, with Butcher’s ticking clock as a constant undercurrent, there’s an undeniable momentum to all of its stories – and as those developments become more consequential, The Boys has an opportunity to really begin building its lasting legacy as a series, as something more than just a semi-sharp, creatively violent superhero satire.

Grade: B+

Other thoughts/observations:

  • Kudos to The Boys for keeping a Will Farrell cameo under wraps! There’s a bit of indulgence to him and A-Train discussing their scene with Vought’s in-house director, but alongside Tilda Swinton’s vocal cameo, The Boys is proving itself full of fun little surprises in season four.
  • The script of “Life Among the Septics” is credited to Jessica Chou, whose last wrote “Herogasm”.
  • Ashley: “I swear… stupid people that think they’re smart, make me want to eat my own shit.”
  • They are really leaning hard into The Deep being the most pathetic version of himself; while I enjoy him dropping a “fucking muff taco” filming a theoretically PG scene (though Ryan fucks that up), I could do without him drooling his way through misunderstanding capybara and cappucino.
  • “So you’re just fucking land animals now?”
  • A drunk Kimiko tells Frenchie to stop being a pussy with Colin… I’m sorry, I just don’t understand why we went from the musical sequence of “The Last Time to Look on This World of Lies” to this.
  • Firecracker’s clones are found in the sauna, eating each other’s asses in a human centipedes for the streaming ages. It also gives them all pink eye, an important advantage in the episode’s climactic fight.
  • the fuck is a ‘clovergender’?
  • Butcher’s idea to grab Sage and beat her is… terrible and effective in a way only Butcher can be.
  • “Queen Maeve’s All-Gender Bathroom”
  • The Deep and Noir filming scenes amongst Amazon boxes is hilarious.
  • Homelander: “Who wants a creamy, delicious milkshake?”
  • Frenchie calls Cherie, because… people remember season one, I guess?
  • There’s a suggestion Shining Light has returned – hopefully they can return without us having to sit through therapy-induced flashbacks all season.
  • “Too fucking little, Butcher. Too fucking late.” – this season purports to have more Mother’s Milk, and I’m on board for it.

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