Homelander has been a terrifying and unstoppable force in the world of The boys. A messy version of Superman raised in a lab, he’s emotionally stunted, fragile, and cruel. He had no noticeable physical weakness that could be exploited, so Vought CEO Stan Edgar, for most of Homelander’s life, kept him under control through careful manipulation.
Season 1 of the series followed Billy Butcher on his war path to destroy Homelander, despite the apparent impossibility of the task. While many characters in the show are frozen in action for fear of what the supe might do to them, Butcher believed that Homelander’s handler, Madelyn Stillwell, was the linchpin that held the fractured pieces of Homelander in place. Homelander has a bizarre Oedipal complex that Stillwell starred in, but that didn’t stop him from piercing his face with his heat vision in order to call Butcher’s bluff. But Homelander’s true weakness both physically and emotionally was ultimately revealed to the public and to Butcher in the Season 2 finale: his son, Ryan.
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Season 1 ended with the revelation that Becca, Billy’s presumed deceased wife, was alive and well. She was living in a secret Vought rearing Ryan complex, which had been conceived when Homelander raped her. Becca’s goal was to lovingly raise Ryan, which Homelander never received, in the hope that Ryan would grow into a benevolent superhero as an adult. As Butcher spent Season 2 trying to find the compound where Becca was being held, Homelander became obsessed with bonding with Ryan after being absent for his son’s entire life.
Ryan was suspicious and put off by his father almost immediately. Becca did all she could to convince Homelander that he shouldn’t interfere with the way she was raising their son, but she was powerless to stop him. Homelander felt it was wrong that Ryan wasn’t trained to use his powers and took drastic measures to entice them, like pushing him off the roof of his house in hopes the boy would steal.
With Stormfront’s help, he was briefly able to turn Ryan against his mother and pull him away from her. But Ryan was soon completely overwhelmed. Homelander genuinely tried to hook up with his son, claiming that he too was initially intimidated by all the attention paid to being a sup. His own stunted development manifested as he struggled to speak to Ryan in a heartwarming and fatherly way. Homelander saw himself in Ryan more than he should have and became obsessed with raising Ryan as a way to undo his own damaging childhood.
He was so determined to try and bond with Ryan that he couldn’t see how terrified the boy was of him. Homelander projected his own feelings onto Ryan, which left him vulnerable to eventual rejection from Ryan. Not once did Homelander think of what Ryan wanted, he just assumed he was doing what was best for the boy.
At the same time, Vought’s interest in Ryan became quite clear to Butcher: Society needed Ryan to keep the Spiraling Homelander in check. Raising him with Becca was an attempt to create a Homelander with a more balanced psyche and a moral compass. If Ryan developed powers like his father, then he would be the only real threat to him.
Vought’s investment in Ryan paid off, but not to his advantage. When a half-mad, beaten-up Stormfront began choking Becca to death, Ryan’s powers finally began. Her single Shard of Heat Vision was enough to completely cripple Stormfront and accidentally kill her mother too. Meanwhile, when Homelander learned of Vought’s plans to rob the boy from another facility where he could not locate him, Homelander lost him. He murdered an entire squad of Vought mercenaries and went looking for his son.
He found Ryan and Butcher standing over the bodies of Stormfront and Becca. Covered in blood, he tried to reason with Ryan, but his son eventually saw him for the monster he was and ran alongside Butcher. Blackmailed by Queen Maeve, Homelander was powerless to stop Butcher from taking Ryan to the CIA for his safety.
Seeing his son choose Butcher for him was enough to break Homelander, and he flew off, almost hysterical. Although Butcher failed to save Becca, he was ultimately able to crack Homelander as he had planned in Season 1, leaving the superhero mentally in such a precarious place that a public merger is almost inevitable.
Now that Ryan is safe and has clearly shown the powers his father possesses, he has become one of the most important people in the world. If Ryan grows in his powers and maintains his humanity in the process, he will be the most effective weapon against Homelander – something from the world of The boys really needs.
The boys from Amazon Studios play Karl Urban as Billy Butcher, Jack Quaid as Hughie, Laz Alonso as Mother’s Milk, Tomer Kapon as Frenchie, Karen Fukuhara as Kimiko, Erin Moriarty as Annie January, Chace Crawford as Deep, Antony Starr as Homelander and Aya Cash as Stormfront. Seasons 1 and 2 are currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
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