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This Is Homelander's Biggest Downfall On The Boys

Amazon's adaptation of Garth Ennis' comic book series The Boys is not really a show about superheroes so much as it is a show about how superheroes should absolutely not exist. It's not that the superhero team that features most heavily in The Boys, The Seven, never does anything good. Rather, it's that the inherent flaw to humans having superpowers is that all humans are terrible at least part of the time.

Think of the 100th worst thing you've ever done in your life and then imagine how much worse that bad thing would've been if you had the powers of a god — that's what The Boys is dealing with in most of its episodes. And while there are a host of super-powered people who turn their problems into everyone else's, arguably the most notorious example of such is Superman stand-in Homelander (Antony Starr).

Homelander has done a lot of terrible things in the two seasons we've seen him in so far. For example, he murdered an entire plane full of people. In order to harm Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), he played a part in making Billy think his wife Becca (Shantel VanSanten) was dead so that she could father his son. And, of course, let's not forget that time Homelander dated a literal Nazi.

But here's the thing: none of that has worked out for him. Anyone Homelander has ever felt a bond with is either dead or alienated from him. The last time we saw him, he was alone self-pleasuring in rage at the top of a building like a gross Batman. And there's one reason for all of it — he refuses to cope with his own history of abuse.

What happens when you torture a child their whole young life?

The reason that superpowered people exist in The Boys is that Vought International created a drug that, when injected into babies, grants them powers. "Grants" is perhaps not the right word for these powers — for many of them, the powers are not a gift but a curse. And while it might seem cool to be super-strong, be able to fly, and shoot laser beams out of your eyes, the cost Homelander has to pay for those powers is far greater than his physical strength.

Homelander wasn't raised with a family; he was raised by scientists. He is so powerful that it was deemed necessary to place him in a lab where he could not only be studied but also programmed to hold dear certain jingoistic ideals. So while the average child has family, friends, and community, Homelander had a group of scientists who poked and prodded and brainwashed him with a diet of American flags, baseball, and apple pie.

There is one scientist who he sees as a mother figure, but he accidentally kills her by hugging her too hard. And because there's no one there to help counsel him through that tragedy and his impossible grief, the isolation makes Homelander bitter and violent.

Homelander's resentment about his abusive upbringing has destroyed every life around him. He kills Madelyn Stillwell (Elisabeth Shue), who he sees as both a lover and a mother figure. He alienated himself from Jonah Vogelbaum (John Doman) — who is the closest he had to a father — just in time for Vogelbaum to die. And none of that even touches on the closest he ever gets to redemption.

The consequences of Homelander continuing the cycle of abuse

In season 2 of The Boys, there are two relationships Homelander has that he could learn from, but doesn't quite — his romantic relationship with Stormfront (Aya Cash) and his paternal relationship with his son Ryan (Cameron Crovetti).

Stormfront is a Nazi, but Homelander doesn't know that at first. And while you can see how Homelander might like Stormfront because she feeds his ego by viewing him as a perfect example of a would-be master race, his fondness for her runs much deeper. There's a sex scene between Homelander and Stormfront where she instructs him to blast her with his eyebeams. And while that attack is painful, Stormfront not only survives it but also finds it erotic. This is a huge reversal for Homelander — he's finally found someone who he can hug as hard as he can but won't die from it. In fact, not only will Stormfront not die, but she'll kind of like the pain.

Even Homelander has standards, though, and he's not really into Nazis — also, Stormfront is ripped apart by Ryan's eye lasers. And that brings us to the strongest example of Homelander's biggest downfall — he takes all his childhood trauma and piles it onto his only son. Ryan is a sweet kid who doesn't want powers. But Homelander sees Ryan as someone who will finally understand him, someone who will make it so he won't be alone anymore. But instead of protecting Ryan, he teaches the boy to filter those superpowers through hate and grief. And Ryan doesn't just kill Stormfront, he kills his own mother, too. That act pushes Ryan and Homelander away from one another.

Homelander has suffered immeasurably, but while we can all understand his pain, that cannot justify how he uses that inner turmoil to punish everyone around him and continue that cycle of abuse anew. And if he could just see that, if he could just go to therapy instead of killing people, so much suffering would've been avoided. And that is why his inability to end his own cycle of abuse is his biggest downfall.

The Boys is streaming on Amazon Prime.