[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Season 2, Episode 7 of The Boys. Read at your own risk!]
Shawn Ashmore's thrilling guest arc as Lamplighter came to a sudden and smoky end in the penultimate episode of The Boys Season 2. Lamplighter — who at first seemed like just another washed up supe reacclimating to life outside the cape — turned out to be not just the key to unraveling the fractious history of the boys, but also the man whose testimony in front of congress could've taken Vought down. But before he could rise to the occasion, Lamplighter's dark past caught up with him in way that left fans shocked.
As Lamplighter revealed in in Episode 6, "The Bloody Doors Off", when he burned Mallory's (Laila Robins) grandkids to death all those years ago, he didn't know who his marks were and that Mallory herself was the intended target. It was only after her grandkids started to scream that he realized what he had done. An act that broke his spirit, Lamplighter left the Seven, but never really left Vought. When the boys finally catch up with him again in Sage Grove, Vought's adult testing facilities for Compound V, Lamplighter was still burning people — failed test subjects — on Vought's command.
After a confrontation with Frenchie (Tomer Kapon) in which Frenchie revealed why he abandoned his post that night and left Mallory's grandkids to their fate (his best friend had overdosed) Lamplighter seemed to have a change of heart. He not only diverted Stormfront (Aya Cash) from finding the boys in Sage Grove, but also gave the boys key information on what Vought was trying to do: create a stable enough version of Compound V to turn any adult into a supe, which essentially meant the power to create an army. In exchange, the boys brought Lamplighter to Mallory and Senator Neuman (Claudia Doumit) to get the ball rolling on congressional testimony and witness protection.
But when Hughie (Jack Quaid) was left to babysit Lamplighter in Episode 7, "Butcher, Backer, Candlestick Maker", they saw a news report — in between all the porn on DVD Lamplighter insisted on watching — about Starlight. She was declared a traitor and mole by Homelander, and Hughie convinced Lamplighter to help him break into Vought Tower to rescue her. Unfortunately, Lamplighter had his own agenda. As he said back at the safe house, the second he got up on the stand to testify he'd be a dead man anyway. So when the pair finally made it into Vought Tower, Lamplighter led them to the statue of the Seven in the central conference room where he realized his own statue had been replaced.
"I wanted to do it in front of my statue," Lamplighter said to Hughie. "I just wanted to make my dad proud."
Then Lamplighter flicked open his lighter and turned his flames on himself. When Hughie screamed, we all screamed. The abrupt ending of a man who seemed poised to finally be able to do some good again for the people he had sworn to protect left fans reeling. Showrunner Eric Kripke gets it, he was left reeling himself.
"We, the writers, were sure that Lamplighter needed to die for what he did. You know, he burned a bunch of children alive. It's not awesome behavior," said Kripke in an interview with TV Guide. "But once we cast Shawn and once I was watching his dailies I have to admit I regret [killing Lamplighter]."
"It was too late. At that point we were already deep in the scripts," the producer added. "But Shawn made that character so world weary and sympathetic for someone who had done such terrible things, and made that character so interesting that I, along with the other writers, were like goddamn he's an awesome character."
Lamplighter's emotional arc has been well truly snuffed in Season 2, but there's always a slim chance that those baby blue eyes might pop up in a flashback or two. Until then we'll always have the blood, sweat and tears left at the battlefield of Sage Grove. (On rewatch, we might fast forward through the porn though.)
The Boys airs Fridays on Amazon Prime.