The Head Popper Revealed
Season 2 introduced a recurring subplot involving a mysterious assassin with the power to make their victims’ heads explode. The finale finally revealed the identity of that assassin, and it’s probably the last character anyone would have guessed – crusading politician Victoria Neuman. That reveal comes at the very end of the episode, as Neuman cuts a deal with the slick, slimy cult leader Alastair Adana, only to appear outside his mansion with a literally mind-blowing parting gift.
It’s certainly a shocking reveal, particularly because Victoria had been depicted as one of the few genuinely good and well-meaning characters on the show. The Boys’ version of the character is reminiscent of actual Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, though clearly that resemblance only runs surface deep.
That said, Season 2 has been leaving clues as to the killer’s identity. As showrunner Eric Kripke told IGN, the premiere episode basically spelled it out for us, even if that clue is only obvious in hindsight.
“Look at the first time she’s introduced,” said Kripke. “We tell the audience as she’s being introduced that she’s the head popper. Right after [Susan] Rayner’s head explodes, [Marvin’s line to Frenchie] is, ‘Who do you know who can do this!’ And we cut to Victoria. And it’s the first time you see her. So the very first introduction was us hinting who she really was. We definitely tracked through and made sure we were correct with all of our motivations. Especially knowing where she’s going, and made sure it all lined up.”
The Boys: Season 2 Gallery
That initial head-popping scene set a precedent for the rest of the season. Whenever the assassin strikes, Neuman is somewhere in the vicinity. Though Kripke says Neuman can “pretty much pop any head that she wants, which gives her an incredible amount of power,” it seems her one limitation is the need to have her victims in her line of sight. That’s why Episode 7’s bloodbath unfolds with Victoria right in the middle of a packed courtroom. She’s picking her targets and assassinating them, even as she feigns horror. Episode 6 was also designed to throw viewers off the scent, as the asylum breakout featured another character with similar head-popping abilities.
Despite the fact that the writers were teasing this reveal from the beginning, actress Claudia Doumit wasn’t in on the secret until the tail-end of production.
“I had no idea,” she told IGN. “I thought I was coming into the show as this congresswoman, and that was it. I had no idea I had any powers, so I’m just as surprised as the audience. I didn’t find out until Episode 7.”
Keeping Doumit in the dark seems to have had the desired effect in terms of making her character’s expressions of shock and innocence seem genuine. However, with Episode 7’s gruesome courtroom scene, Kripke and his team specifically filmed multiple versions of Doumit’s material, with the goal being to have one version where Neuman is visibly horrified by the violence around her and another where she’s calmer and more collected.
“We did a couple of different reactions for her,” Doumit said. “We did the one that made it, where she’s shocked and she’s seeing this all play out as if, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s happening? Oh no, who could it be?’ And then we did a couple where it was more toned down and she was more in control and just looking at it happen rather than reacting in the way that she does on screen. But I think that’s the direction we went because you don’t want to suspect her, you don’t want to think it’s her doing anything, she’s in this mess just like everyone else.”
Is Victoria Neuman In The Boys Comic?
Like most of the characters on the show, Victoria Neuman is based on an existing character from The Boys comic book. But as with Shawn Ashmore’s Lamplighter, she’s a case where quite a few liberties have been taken in the transition from page to screen.
In the comic, the character is Victor K. Neuman, former CEO of Vought and current Vice President of the United States. That version of Neuman, nicknamed “Vic the Veep,” is basically a parody of George W. Bush and is depicted as a bumbling idiot whom Vought is able to easily manipulate to their advantage. Also unlike the TV version, he has no superhuman powers. That said, Vic the Veep’s political trajectory may give us some idea of how Victoria Neuman fits into the larger road map of the TV series.
“One thing I love about The Boys is all the real-life, grimy worlds it gets involved in,” Kripke told IGN. “And through Victor Neuman they delved into politics rising as high as the White House. I wanted to hint to the audience that as the show proceeds, we’re going to get into the political sphere as well, and as a congresswoman she’s going to be our way in.”
Kripke continued, “She’s not just going to be Vic, who was kind of an idiot in Vought’s pocket — I think [The Boys comic creator/writer] Garth [Ennis] was trying to make a satire on George W. Bush at the time. But she is going to be someone who is rising in government but has ulterior motives that are dangerous. In that way, we try to take the spirit of the character from the comics and update them in a modern way.”
Is Stormfront Still Alive?
Victoria Neuman’s rise in the Season 2 finale coincides with the fall of Stormfront. After enduring a savage beatdown courtesy of Starlight, Queen Maeve and Kimiko, Stormfront ultimately meets her defeat when she pushes Homelander’s son Ryan over the edge and is dismembered by his heat vision. When last we see her, Stormfront is burnt to a crisp, missing several limbs and muttering in German.
At this point it’s unclear whether Stormfront’s injuries were fatal or if she’s still clinging to life in a Vought laboratory somewhere. Her… rather physical approach to foreplay with Homelander certainly suggests Stormfront has healing abilities, but that may or may not extend to regenerating missing limbs and eyeballs.
And in any case, whether Stormfront is alive or dead may be beside the point. With her past as a Nazi test subject exposed, Stormfront has outlived her usefulness as a public-facing member of the Seven. If she serves any purpose going forward, it’s more likely as genetic fodder for Vought’s other superhuman experiments. In other words, don’t expect Aya Cash to reprise the role in Season 3 unless Stormfront returns via flashback. Which could actually be a possibility, as we’ll touch on in a moment.
Have the Boys Disbanded?
Season 2 ends on a far happier note for most of our heroes. While Billy Butcher was forced to watch his wife die and send her son into protective custody with the CIA, he and his team scored a big victory against Homelander and Vought. Their criminal records have been cleared, and they’re now free to go back to being ordinary civilians if they so choose. For some characters, like Hughie and Mother’s Milk, Season 2 ends on a downright happy note. But it doesn’t take a superhuman psychic to know things won’t stay that way when Season 3 rolls around.
“There’s no question that they begin in a place of feeling safe,” said Kripke. “The Boys are not totally disbanded. The Boys we will find at the top of Season 3 will actually be very recognizable to the ones in the comic book: officially backed by the CIA now, offices in the Flatiron building. You know, it’s going to be kind of classic Boys but with a couple twists and turns, like Hughie won’t be with them for instance. He’s working with the Federal Bureau of Superhuman Affairs. But drama being drama, the world of safety they think they’re living in explodes pretty quickly and they find themselves with a big new problem.”
Certainly, the rise of Victoria Neuman complicates the ongoing war between Vought and The Boys. Kripke describes her as “the wild card” in Season 3, one whose motives may or may not align with either faction. And the fact that Hughie is now working directly for Neuman will cause problems of its own.“I think she sees opportunity there,” teased Doumit. “And I think [Victoria] latches onto that, I think she’s all about maneuvering and opportunity. I think she’s very calculated in her approach. So I think she’s just been handed a lovely little gift with Hughie walking in. So she’s probably seeing how that can play out in her favor moving forward.”
We also know Supernatural star Jensen Ackles has been cast as patriotic hero Soldier Boy for Season 3. Kripke told us Soldier Boy will shake up the status quo in a big way, perhaps as much as Stormfront’s debut did for Season 2. In the process, Soldier Boy will help shine a brighter light on Vought’s sinister past and the origins of their superhero creations.
“The big season-wide mythology will be about Soldier Boy,” said Kripke. “What’s interesting about Soldier Boy is that he’s been around for decades. He was Homelander before Homelander. So it really gives us an opportunity to not just get into new corners of the story in the present day, but to really explore the past of Vought in the last ’60 to ’70 years and how they became who they became.”
For more on The Boys, check out IGN’s review of the Season 2 finale and find out more about the show’s upcoming superhero college-themed spinoff and why we never see Black Noir’s face.
Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.