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The ending of The Boys explained

The first season of The Boys didn't disappoint. Released on Amazon Prime's streaming service at the end of July 2019, The Boys' premiere season features babies shooting lasers from their eyes, a love story between a French criminal and a traumatized super-powered girl, and an invisible man killed with a bomb delivered in a place sometimes used to take temperatures. But while Amazon's new series is bloody like the comic book series by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson upon which it's based, we see more sides of its heroes and villains than the source material usually allowed. As a result The Boys delivers a darkly humorous, powerful, and suspenseful experience. 

So where are we left in the first season's finale, "You Found Me"? Well, it depends on who you're talking about. We're left with a few tantalizing questions. Will A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) survive his heart attack and, if so, what happens to Starlight (Erin Moriarty)? How will the death of Madelyn Stillwell (Elisabeth Shue) impact Vought? Or, for that matter, the world? And of course, there's the really big question: how is Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) going to react now that he knows Becca is still alive and, horrifyingly, his worst enemy's son? 

Let's look at everything, and see if we can get the ending of The Boys' first season explained.

Hughie is a new man

The last we see of Hughie (Jack Quaid), he's helped his teammates escape.  He leaves Starlight behind at the warehouse where they were being held, so she can try to resuscitate A-Train. We don't know where Hughie's allies run to, but so far they seem pretty adept at finding hideouts when they need to. 

Hughie has grown in leaps and bounds. In spite of Butcher calling him "pathetic" in the season finale because Hughie refuses to help him kidnap Madelyn, the truth is Hughie is as strong as any character in The Boys and more than most. He's grown from a young man still living with his dad — too afraid to ask for a raise at work — to an outlaw who murders a member of the world's most prestigious superhero team, infiltrates that same team's headquarters in a plot to bug their conference room, and purposely gets himself captured in the season finale so he can rescue his new friends from what promises to be torture and death. 

Yes, he yells "I'm sorry!" over and over as he fires an assault rifle at the men guarding Kimiko, but hey. A few episodes ago he was too meek to tell his dad (Simon Pegg) he didn't like pizza rolls. Give the guy a break. Baby steps.

Kimiko is a new woman

Initially known simply as "The Female," the powerful but silent Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) enjoys her own evolution in this first season. When she's introduced in the fourth episode, "The Female of the Species," she's too wild and savage for anyone to leave unbound. When Frenchie frees Kimiko, we see how physically powerful she is and the violence of which she's capable. One of her guards is so horrified when she's freed, he shoots himself in the head rather than let her get her hands on him. We eventually learn Kimiko was kidnapped by terrorists and used as a lab rat.

At first, Kimiko won't even let Frenchie get near her. But by "You Found Me," she's changed. She still isn't talking much, but the Boys manage to win her trust, particularly Frenchie. Before the Black Ops team assaults The Boys' motel room, the last we see of Kimiko she's cleaned herself up and put on makeup, clearly affected by the young woman she sees in the mirror. 

We'll have to see if those changes have stuck in season 2. Being recaptured may have thrown her back into wild mode. Remember — when we meet Kimiko she's a prisoner, and in the space of five episodes she's captured two more times (once by the Boys and once by the black ops), and nearly cut to pieces by Black Noir (Nathan Mitchell). Repeatedly being captured and sliced open probably doesn't promote emotional openness.

Mother's Milk and Frenchie have made peace

Neither Mother's Milk (Laz Alonso) nor Frenchie (Tomar Capon) want to be back working with Butcher when The Boys begins. We haven't heard all the specifics yet, but it's clear Butcher and the others once worked with Mallory (Laila Robins) toward similar goals, and the results weren't good. At the very least, Mallory's grandchildren were incinerated by a supe known as Lamplighter. 

But more than that, neither of them want to work with one another. Mother's Milk and Frenchie seem to have gallons of bad blood between them, and no small part of it seems to be due to Frenchie's attitude toward Mother's Milk's wife. When Butcher recruits Mother's Milk he straight-up lies about Frenchie's involvement and predictably he has to pull the two apart when they see each other. 

By the time they're imprisoned together in the season finale, the warring outlaws have made peace with one another. Perhaps it's because with MM's wife in hiding and telling him she never wants to see him again, neither of them have anything left to lose. 

Butcher has a rude awakening

By the time he confronts Homelander (Anthony Starr), Butcher is completely on his own. Hughie leaves him, and Butcher abandons the rest of the team to their fate when he learns they've been captured. Hearing about Homelander's twisted relationship with Madelyn, Butcher goes to the executive's house and covers her with explosives while his finger rests on the dead man's switch. When things go sideways and Homelander kills Madelyn himself, Butcher — resigned to his fate — lets go of the switch. 

He wakes up in daylight on a green lawn, and soon learns he's somewhere he could've never imagined existed. He believes his wife Becca (Shantel VanSenten) was sexually assaulted and murdered by Homelander. When Homelander confronts Jonah Vogelbaum (John Doman), the scientist reveals Homelander unexpectedly impregnated Becca even though it was believed supes were sterile, and he tells Homelander that Becca died during childbirth and the baby died shortly afterward. In the season finale we learn — at the same time Butcher does — Becca is alive and living with an 8-year-old boy (Parker Corno) with blond hair and eyes that glow red when Homelander tells him who he is.

How Butcher could possibly react to this is anyone's guess. Will he be grateful his wife is alive? Will that make him more or less committed to taking down Homelander and Vought? Not to mention, how's he going to survive his confrontation with the leader of the Seven?

Madelyn is gone

Elisabeth Shue is wonderful as the manipulative and powerful Madelyn Stillwell, who somehow not only pushes Vought to new levels of profit but seems to be the only person who can exert any control over Homelander. Unfortunately, Madelyn makes a fatal mistake. When referring to what supposedly happened to Becca, she calls Homelander's child's death a "miscarriage," alerting Homelander that his lover and Jonah Vogelbaum didn't get their stories straight. Just before he hollows out her skull with his eyebeams, Homelander tells Madelyn he "managed to squeeze" the truth out of Vogelbaum — that both mother and child survived.

Save for Homelander himself, no character's death could have more potential impact on future seasons than Madelyn's. She may not have had superpowers, but throughout the first season we learned just how important Stillwell was. Not only was she the only person who could rein in Homelander, she was so good at manipulating the government officials who stood in her way she'd make Michael Corleone blush. Shortly before her death, Vought big cheese Dr. Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito) makes it clear he sees her as his potential successor. With Madelyn gone, everything's up in the air. Not to mention that both Vought and Homelander will find themselves in a bind if they can't explain exactly how she died. 

Homelander is more dangerous than ever

In the beginning of The Boys, we get the notion that Homelander is a powerful weapon but the one pulling the trigger is Madelyn Stillwell. By the season finale, we've learned that isn't quite true. When Homelander blasts the Baltimore mayor's private plane out of the sky at the end of the series premiere — after the mayor blackmails Madelyn — it eventually comes to light Homelander was working all on his own. When a supe terrorist shows up in the season's penultimate episode, it destroys the Boys' plans. Even though Butcher's brought a sample of the infamous Compound-V to the CIA, the government isn't willing to go after Vought because they need the corporation's supes to fight these new super-powered enemies. While you could hardly be blamed for assuming powering up terrorists was a company-wide Vought conspiracy, we learn it was all Homelander's plan to force the government to let superheroes work for the military.

Now, Madelyn is dead, Vought's supes are greenlit for active service, and there is no one left to keep Homelander in check. He was already the most physically powerful man in the world. Now, Homelander is getting close to becoming powerful in other ways. The last person Homelander let tell him "No" is dead, and at his hands. What happens if this twisted Superman stops taking orders from Vought? From the military? From anyone?

The future of Vought

We meet Dr. Stan Edgar for the first time in the first season finale of The Boys. He gives Madelyn a bonus for helping getting the military contracts approved, and he makes it clear he's interested in her becoming his successor. But Madelyn doesn't survive the season finale, and it makes us wonder exactly how Vought will recover from losing one of their most effective executives. 

Without Stillwell, Vought's most powerful and influential heroes will need a replacement handler, and that handler will have the challenge of trying to control the physically most powerful people in the world with fewer cards in their hands than ever. Homelander has learned that he can not only manipulate just as well as his dead lover, but he can even kill Vought executives with impunity. When a man can lift mountains, burn off body parts by looking at them, and can — as he tells a Vought technician earlier in the series — "do whatever the f***" he wants, what Vought executive will be able to rein him in? And if no such person can be found, what happens to Vought? As Homelander pushes the envelope further he's going to see Vought and the rest of the Seven as less and less important. By killing Madelyn, Homelander may have set a time bomb within his own mind, and within Vought itself. 

Starlight's future is uncertain

When we leave Starlight, she's acting more like an actual superhero than any other member of the Seven. A-Train probably would kill Hughie but his heart gives out from his continued use of Compound-V. Even though his survival could mean her losing her spot on the team, imprisonment, or even death, Starlight is performing CPR on A-Train the last time we see her. A-Train knows Starlight helped Hughie escape, and if he survives and tells Homelander, things won't go well for Starlight. 

There are other possibilities. A convenient — if a bit predictable — outcome would be that A-Train survives but is unconscious for a long time, can't remember what happened right before his heart attack, or both. There's another potential outcome, and it depends on exactly who Starlight has become. 

Earlier in the episode, Starlight has a conversation with Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), who tells Starlight she was just as idealistic when she first joined the Seven, but kept giving away pieces of herself until there was nothing left. It's this conversation that convinces Starlight to come to Hughie's aid, and it's a conversation that may save A-Train's life. 

When Hughie leaves the warehouse, Starlight is giving A-Train chest compressions. Once Hughie's left she could… just stop. Considering what's in store for her should A-Train survive, the thought must be a tempting one. If she gives in to that temptation, she may get closer to the position Maeve has been in for years. 

Queen Maeve's loyalty may be crumbling

The Wonder-Woman-esque Queen Maeve is one of the most conflicted characters we meet in The Boys. She tells herself she gave up trying to be a real hero long ago, but throughout the first season we see glimpses of her desire to change. She tries and fails to get Homelander to save at least some of the passengers of the doomed Flight 37 in episode 4. Guilt-ridden over the event, she visits her ex-girlfriend Elena (Nicola Correia-Damude) but later rebukes her. When Homelander finds out about Hughie and erroneously thinks Starlight helped him infiltrate Vought on purpose, it's Maeve who steps in and defends her.

In the season finale, when Maeve finds a drunk Starlight getting sick in the ladies' room, for the first time she shows genuine sympathy for her teammate. Maeve opens up to the younger hero and tells her that she really did care when she first joined the Seven, but years of compromise and giving away pieces of herself turned her into something else. She urges Starlight to be herself, because at least one of them should be. 

Whatever's coming in future seasons of The Boys, Maeve may be the key element in any struggles against Homelander. Maeve clearly isn't ready for open revolt against the more powerful Homelander. But she may very well be getting close. 

The Deep may be retiring to his namesake

By the season finale, the Deep (Chace Crawford) has no allies left. Homelander hates him for informing Madelyn he's responsible for killing the Baltimore mayor. He's exiled to the relatively crime-free Sandusky, Ohio after his disastrous attempt to spring a dolphin from a water park. All of this pales in comparison to the fact that he forces himself on Starlight in the premiere episode. 

In Sandusky, the Deep is even more useless than ever and things go so badly he eventually suffers a sexual assault of his own. When word comes in that the government has greenlit supes for military action, he assumes his time for redemption has come, but his Sandusky handler assures him Vought wants the fish man to stay exactly where he is. 

When we last see the Deep, he's freeing himself. From hair. First he shaves all the hair off his chest, and next he hesitantly buzzes all the hair from his head — all as we listen to R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts."

So what the hell is the Deep doing?  Well, what's one of the biggest differences between a man and a fish? Hair. Perhaps this low-rent Aquaman no longer sees any options for himself on the surface world. Maybe the Deep is planning to run away to the place he's named after. He seems to have pretty stimulating conversations with doomed dolphins and grocery store lobsters, so who knows? Maybe he'll be happy. 

A New World Order is coming

In the beginning of The Boys, Butcher and Hughie are looking for vengeance. But by the end of first season, it's clear their quest may eventually have an entirely different — and much more important — goal.

We now know that not only were the terrorist supes exposed to Compound-V in the hopes they would become villains that only Vought's supes could fight, but that Homelander was behind it all. The unhinged, murderous "hero" has achieved his goal of getting supes officially involved in U.S. military conflicts. He's murdered his handler Madelyn, and perhaps most horrifying, he's found his son, who may very well share his powers. 

In other words, by the end of The Boys' first season, the stakes have gone far beyond the profit margin of Vought or violent emotional catharsis of Butcher and Hughie. Homelander is now a threat on a global level — not only because of his sheer physical might, but now the world is likely to erupt in battles between Vought-sponsored supes and the terrorist supes Homelander made. 

By the time season 2 of The Boys comes around, the ragtag team of revenge-seekers, mercenaries, and traumatized lab rats may be the only thing standing in the way of global annihilation.