Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for The Boys Season 3, Episode 4A recurrent thought on the mind of this season of The Boys has been about whether change can be made by working within the system. It all began with everyone aspiring to reform the unchecked power of the superhero in the “right way.” Erin Moriarty‘s idealistic Annie, also known as Starlight, in particular has been clinging to the hope that she could “bring good people into The Seven” in order to push it in a better direction as the new co-captain. She had been optimistic that such incremental transformation was indeed possible and that she could turn this otherwise corrupt, unaccountable group into something more altruistic to counter the growing evil force that is the menacing Homelander. Central to this was Miles Gaston Villanueva as Supersonic, a loyal friend of Starlight’s who was one of the few people she could trust. However, as we saw at the end of this episode, his attempts to help have resulted in his brutal death. This is revealed in a horrifying scene where Homelander takes Starlight to a roof where he shows her Supersonic’s mangled body. All the attempts at reforming this cruel system could not stop him from dying horribly and completely alone. It is a further escalation of violence that undercuts any possibility that Homelander could be stopped in the way we and Starlight had all hoped he would be. Reality has brought that crashing down once more.
The implications of his death are as vast as they are depressing. It not only shows once again what Homelander is capable of, something we always know is looming in the background of every scene, but also marks a turning point for Starlight. Just as many of the show’s characters have become disillusioned with the idea of holding Homelander accountable through internal means, the death of someone she cared deeply for brings that all close to home. It shatters the already fragile illusion she had of changing things from within. In a scene from the same episode, “Glorious Five Year Plan,” she tried to speak up in support of A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) who was raising concerns about another superhero named Blue Hawk (Nick Wechsler) who is ruthlessly over-patrolling Black neighborhoods and brutalizing the people that live there. In theory, this was the moment where her increased influence and growing support from those on The Seven could be used for good. The suggestion is raised that they could take Blue Hawk off the street to protect people from his racist violence. This would be the right thing to do and it was being done in the right way. Of course, being a reflection of our equally depraved world where life is far from sunshine and rainbows, that isn’t what happens.
Instead, The Deep (Chace Crawford) manages to convince Homelander to ignore the ongoing brutality as he and Blue Hawk share a base of supporters who would not take kindly to the move. Selfishness and the status quo prevail, leaving countless people to face down everyday violence without any chance of escape. How does this connect to Supersonic’s impending death? Well, he is the person who tries to talk to A-Train and share with him another way they can stop Homelander. Supersonic believes he can bring him into the fold if he just talks to him. Of course, this all backfires when A-Train betrays him and tells Homelander about their discussion. Even the one character who had tried to challenge Homelander and stop violence from happening will toe the line for their own self-interest, regardless of whether it gets another person killed. The system is so broken in the world of The Boys, as well as our own, and the people within that system have themselves become corrupted by it. Even the check Claudia Doumit‘s bureaucratic Victoria Neuman was supposedly offering on Homelander proves to be nothing but a hollow lie, falling apart when needed most as she instead helps the sociopathic supe consolidate more power. There is nothing and no one to rein him in.
This all culminates in the death of Supersonic, an inevitability that is still no less tragic. Starlight had been starkly aware of this potential outcome, even trying to initially warn him away from joining the group to protect him. When she sees her friend, one of the few people she could count on, now dead in front of her it makes clear how dangerous of a position she is in. This is especially true since, in the prior episode, Hughie (Jack Quaid) essentially abandoned Starlight to her own devices in the lion’s den with Homelander. Those devices are exposed as being woefully inadequate in the face of his steel grip on power. How do you reform a system where someone has so much control that they are basically untouchable? All of Starlight’s attempts to do so up until now felt like trying to bail water from a sinking ship with a single bucket. No matter what she does, people are going to end up drowning. In this case, it was Supersonic. Next time, it could be her, Hughie, or anyone that she cares about in the world. No one is safe in this status quo where those like Homelander get to exert their will on the rest of us without consequence. This is the reality of the world as we know it.
As Starlight has become more a part of this power apparatus, she still has not been able to stop any of the violence and corruption. She just now gets a front-row seat to the ongoing carnage. She is quickly learning that a seat at the table of a corrupt system will not stop the unrelenting mechanisms of violence from continuing. Despite all her best efforts, it won’t even slow it as it just increasingly sweeps up more and more innocent people that it grinds into a bloody pulp. Supersonic is just the most recent casualty of this, though he will by no means be the last. This all represents an inflection point for Starlight as well as the show. Whereas most of the prior two seasons had been about characters fighting a losing battle from the outside, she is now on the inside and yet still seems to be losing. It is all incredibly grim, though this bleak realization Starlight is facing down is one we all have to face. It is a radicalizing moment that cuts deep, revealing the immense challenges that are ahead. Whether we accept it or not, sociopaths with their hands on the levers of power will not give up control easily. Death is an inevitability as those with a monopoly on violence will crush dissent however they please.