Movie Reviews

Homelander's Past In The Boys Explained: Was He Always Evil?

The following contains spoilers for The Boys Season 4 Episode 4, “Wisdom of the Ages,” now streaming on Prime Video


Summary

  • Homelander was created by Vought to be the perfect hero, but his brutal upbringing turned him into a villain.
  • Homelander’s childhood in Vought’s labs involved traumatic tests and mental abuse, shaping him into a potential monster.
  • While Homelander may not have been fated to be evil, his upbringing solidified him into someone willing to commit horrific acts.


The Boys has been steadily revealing more about the secret history of Homelander, exploring the possibility whether the villain was destined to be evil all along. Played by Anthony Starr, Homelander is the leader of the Seven and the most powerful Supe within the world of The Boys. He’s also a narcissistic, cruel, and petty powerhouse who has proven very willing to kill those he deems annoyances, let alone threats. Across four seasons of the series (as well as his appearances in spin-offs like Gen V and The Boys: Diabolical), Homelander has proven to be The Boys‘ most terrifying character.


However, there’s a solid question whether or not he was always fated to that kind of role. The Boys has explored several themes, including questions about the corrupting influence of power and the importance of nurture over nature. Given his isolated and abused origins, The Boys has been quietly exploring whether Homelander could have ever been anything different than the monster he’s become. Season 4’s “Wisdom of the Ages” casts a new light on the abuse during Homelander’s origins with Vought, which led directly to the monster he’s become. This raises a huge question about whether Homelander was always evil.

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Homelander Was Created By Vought To Be The Perfect Hero

Vought’s Attempts To Replace Soldier Boy Created Homelander

Homelander and Soldier-Boy


The origins of Homelander have been steadily revealed across the course of The Boys, highlighting Vought’s attempts to create the perfect hero and the unforeseen consequences of their actions. The company behind Compound V has been creating Supes for decades, with one of the first being Soldier Boy. Although Soldier Boy was a success for the company and publicly celebrated as a hero, Vought eventually decided to create a more malleable successor. After convincing Soldier Boy to donate a sperm sample, Vought worked with his resentful Payback teammates to remove him from the equation, allowing Soviet agents to capture him.


Soldier Boy’s sperm sample was used to artificially impregnate an unknown woman, who gave birth to the future Homelander. Named John, the baby was already believed to be potentially stronger than his father, having ripped his way out of his mother as a newborn. Vought’s efforts to create a perfect hero highlights their willingness to cross huge moral lines for the sake of profit, and their apparent decision to raise John differently than Soldier Boy sought to mold him into Vought’s ultimate marketing tool. However, their efforts only ended up creating a far worse Supe than Soldier Boy ever was.

Homelander’s Brutal Upbringing & Childhood Explained

Young Homelander in The Boys


Homelander’s upbringing in Vought’s labs has been steadily revealed to have been traumatic for John. Although he was apparently a sweet child at first, the company’s desire to turn him into the strongest Supe ever resulted in severel cruel and brutal tests, forcing him to fight other Supes to train his combat skills. Homelander goes back to the lab in season 4, with “Wisdom of the Ages,” revealing how scientists would put him in an incinerator to test his endurance. His “training” went beyond physical anguish, however, as he also suffered plenty of mental trauma over the years as well.

John was conditioned to be the ultimate American hero, spending hours in front of projections of “patriotic” imagery that warped his perception of the world and himself. “Wisdom of the Ages” reveals lab technicians mocked him and ignored his pleas for help, turning their fear of the powerful boy into abuse. This transformed the sweet child into a potential monster. Jonah Vogelbaum apologized to Homelander in season 1’s “The Self-Preservation Society,” saying that John deserved to be raised by a loving family instead of growing up in a horrifying lab. However, it was too late and the damage was done.


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When “John” First Became “The Homelander”

The Boys: Diabolical Revealed The Exact Moment John Truly Embraced Being Homelander

The Boys DIABOLICAL S1 trailer Homelander origin

Although John began to think of himself as Homelander sometime while still in the Vought labs (as evidenced by his scratching out of the name John on a wall), it seems that on some level, there was still some hope for the young man. However, the events of “One Plus One Equals Two” from The Boys: Diabolical confirmed how Homelander truly became the monster he is today. Confirmed by The Boys Executive Producer Eric Kripke to be canon within the universe of The Boys, the episode focuses on Homelander’s first mission as a superhero and public debut with the Seven.


Despite the lingering trauma of his upbringing and being forced to lie to the public, Homelander seemed to genuinely believe he could be a hero. However, his first mission to peacefully disarm a group of eco-terrorists quickly went sideways, with Homelander failing to restrain himself properly. The result was several deaths and the destruction of the lab, which Black Noir helped to cover up and brushed aside. This helped cement Homelander’s world-view, dismissing humanity as playthings that ultimately didn’t matter. While he may have already been on the path towards villainy, Homelander’s first mission completed his transformation into a monster.

Was Homelander Always Evil In The Boys? It’s Complicated

Nature Vs. Nurture Is At The Heart Of The Boys


One of the big thematic questions of The Boys is about the nature of evil and how it comes to be. Characters like Ryan have struggled with their potential for both good and evil, with the deciding factor seemingly the way he’s raised and the influences that impact him. Soldier Boy was emotionally abused by a dismissive father, setting him on the path to become a “hero” to prove him wrong. Likewise, the lack of love and the litany of abuses forced on John as he grew up curdled within the boy and helped transform him into the murderous Homelander.

Maybe there’s a chance Homelander didn’t have to be evil in the long-run. With the right care, he may have genuinely been able to be a hero. However, none of that excuses what Homelander’s become and what he’s done since. John may not have always been fated to be evil, but his upbringing helped solidify him into someone who’d happily murder a mother in front of her child or leave hundreds of innocent civilians to die. It plays into The Boys overarching exploration of nature versus nurture, and highlights how evil is something we can create in others and ourselves.


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