Homelander doesn’t just want public adulation. He also craves a real human connection with another person. It would be great for the world if he had that, because it might tether him to humanity. But the problem isn’t that he hasn’t found it yet. The problem is he’s a sociopath who lacks empathy; he’ll never find the personal connection he needs because he doesn’t know how to love anyone back. Now something even worse than him not finding love has happened. The desperate infant with the powers of a god learned he has a father who is nearly his equal in every way. That includes how his dad is also a sociopath. It’s why the shocking revelation of Homelander’s father is The Boys‘ single most dangerous twist yet. Soldier Boy will never be what Homelander wants and needs any more than Homelander will be the son Soldier Boy always wanted.
And the only thing scarier than the damage they can do together is what will follow when they ultimately disappoint each other. Because when that happens the only question will be whether or not they destroy everyone else before they destroy each other.
Soldier Boy and his dead-eyed son’s phone call capped off an episode that was all about family. Kamiko and Starlight both decided to risk their own safety to protect their family, even though their loved ones didn’t want them to. Meanwhile, Hughie double-crossed a mass murderer to save Butcher from a slow death stuck inside his own painful childhood memories. Those past experiences showed Butcher how much his father’s anger and hatred infected him. And MM once again failed to walk the fine line between keeping his daughter safe and keeping his emotions in check. Just like Compound V is neither inherently good or bad, family can drive us to greatness just as easily as it can drive us down a dark path. Family brings out who we really are, for good and for bad.
Homelander and Soldier Boy represent the very worst of what “family” can mean. Both men are narcissistic monsters who only think of themselves. As showrunner Eric Kripke told us earlier this season, each superhero is “so blinded by their ego that they feel like any love they put out in the world should be reciprocated.” But what they think of as love, which is all about giving yourself over to someone, is “inherently selfish, not at all stopping to pay attention, to see how the other person might feel about it.”
That is the story of Homelander’s life and why no one will ever really love him. Raised in a lab without human connection, physical or emotional, he doesn’t know what loving someone entails. He thought he had that type of connection with Maeve once, but she always hated him. Then Madelyn Stillwell became the object of Homelander’s desires. Only she never loved him, either, she feared him. The last mommy figure to satiate his creepy Oedipal issues was Stormfront, who loved what Homelander represented rather than who he was. And that lack of real affection went both ways. When she chewed off her own tongue Homelander didn’t mourn her. He viewed her death as being something terrible that she did to him.
Soldier Boy was no different. He claimed to love Crimson Countess, but he couldn’t see the truth about their relationship – she hated his guts. The whole Payback team did. They willingly served him up to the Russians so they could be free of his abuse. He was a well-curated hero to the American people, but they knew him for the false, empty, uncaring idol he really was. Soldier Boy didn’t raise his son, but the apple didn’t fly far from the rotten tree.
What made this earth-shattering revelation even more terrifying is that Soldier Boy previously told Hughie he wanted kids. He wanted sons he could raise up to be “men,” but instead ended up with “nothing.” Or at least he had nothing. Suddenly he has the thing he claimed he wanted, and that thing is a laser-eyed, invulnerable killer who’s just like him and wants a father to love him.
It doesn’t matter that Soldier Boy didn’t raise Homelander any more than it matters whether he’d truly give up the spotlight to his kid. (Which we very much doubt.) Soldier Boy never could have loved his child even if he raised him. We know exactly what he would have been like as a father, because we just witnessed how a similar type of man raised his kids. Billy Butcher’s dad was Soldier Boy without the super powers. And that violent animal without an ounce of love in his heart drove one son to the grave and another to a life of rage and pain.
Soldier Boy and Homelander seem likely to unite. At least initially. But both are incapable of recognizing how others really feel about them just as they’re incapable of caring about someone else. And a relationship without love is doomed to fail. When both men realize the other can’t give them what they want, what they have will blow up.
In the case of Soldier Boy that might literally happen. In fact, it might be the best thing that can happen. Because if it does Soldier Boy could do what no one else has – stop Homelander yet. Soldier Boy has the ability to drain his son of his powers. Meanwhile, Frenchie has figured out how to neutralize Soldier Boy just as the Russians did. A doomed relationship between the two might destroy both men.
So long as they don’t destroy the world before they destroy each other.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.