The highly-anticipated second season of The Boys, an adaptation of the comic book series of the same name by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, cements the proudly anti-superhero series as one of the most outrageous spectacles hitting television.
I’ll only touch on some basic plot points that kick off season 2, which begins with a gnarly taste of the bloody mayhem to come, as silent “supe” Black Noir dispatches of super-powered terrorists in the Middle East. At the funeral of fallen supe Translucent, we reunite with Homelander (Antony Starr) and Starlight/Annie January (Erin Moriarty), the latter now clearly trying to play the part – albeit reluctantly – while still in connection with Hughie (Jack Quaid). The Deep (Chace Crawford) is ultra-depressed and angst-ridden after being fired from The Seven, although it appears that an organisation of sorts could provide some help. As for The Boys (Hughie, Frenchie, Kimiko, Mother’s Milk, and, of course, Billy Butcher), well, they’re now America’s most wanted, framed for their roles in the murder of Madelyn Stillwell (Elisabeth Shue) during the season 1 finale.
While keeping away from spoilers, it’s imperative to point out at least two of the pivotal characters introduced this season: Vought International CEO Stan Edgar, played by Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad, The Mandolorian), and the new addition to The Seven, Stormfront, played by Aya Cash (Fosse/Verdon).
Esposito is, as usual, a magnetic presence on screen and he chews up his scenes nicely as the business-before-all CEO. Stormfront, though, is key among the new players as to what unfolds in the season, the ultimate reveal of her true agenda driving a good amount of the latter stages. It’s clear very early on that this is a woman that won’t be messed with, coming in with high attitude and fiery sarcasm as she mocks the establishment that is Vought and its heroes. Aya Cash is fantastic in the role, holding her own against the towering persona that is Homelander and nailing a character who’s both engaging and repellent; you’ll run the gamut of emotions with her.
Impressively, this season provides a good amount of character growth for the various players, adding emotional dimensions that make them feel more grounded as the events around them spiral to jaw-dropping levels of over-the-top craziness. The Boys boasts a great cast that give it their all and a number of these actors are able to flex a little more than they were in the first season, particularly Tomer Capon as Frenchie and Karen Fukuhara as Kumiko.
But it’s New Zealand actors Antony Starr and Karl Urban as Homelander and Billy Butcher, that, once again, carry the series. Homelander is one hell of a creation. The first season introduced us to this unstable, malevolent superhuman who played out like an evil Superman, with a fragile ego and deep-rooted insecurity dictating the majority of his ruthless moves. Here, the instability is ramped up, making him a live wire that’s not only more dangerous, but perhaps more tragic than his a-hole coating makes him out to be. Starr plays him for all he’s worth in an award-worthy performance that places Homelander among TV’s most memorable characters – ever. As Billy Butcher, Karl Urban also has a good amount to work with, gleefully dropping C-Bombs and continuing to provide some of the show’s funniest moments, although this time his internal/external anger and hatred for supes is dealt with front and centre.
As with the first season, The Boys continues to be an elaborate social satire, hitting a wide variety of topics, such as the influence of social media and the manners in which gender, orientation and race are represented in pop culture. A lot of it is broad enough for all to enjoy and laugh along with, although there are some ultra-timely angles the series takes that could prove divisive. The show’s political angle becomes quite transparent as it goes along – and there’s no mistaking the spotlight that’s placed on Trump’s anti-immigration stance and its ramifications on the social and political divide. This could, of course, prove to be a hindrance for some viewers. It can be a little heavy-handed sometimes with how it delivers its points; most of the time, thankfully, it all blends in with the overall audacious tone.
Where the season does falter a little is in what roles a number of characters actually play in the overall progress of the story. The Boys themselves, while being a fun bunch and having plenty to do throughout, are for much of the season little more than nuisances to those bad supes. One character in the latter stages of the season expresses their frustration at having little effect on taking down the baddies; it’s nice the script knows it, but it doesn’t make it less frustrating to have little overall narrative momentum when it comes to the good vs. evil fight. That being said, the show likes to point out that there is much grey on the good to evil spectrum; perhaps exploring the shades is more the point for this season – something that can be better noted in retrospect, once the series is over or we’re more seasons in. The Deep, also, provides many fun moments (and a hilariously bizarre singing duet scene that you won’t forget), but his strand feels like a side-note that fails to develop, although providing some elements that will likely play a bigger part in future.
The Boys is big TV. A key part of what makes it so damn appealing is that it plays out in big-budget fashion, with massive set pieces and special effects that rival big studio theatrical efforts. And it’s violent – really, really, really, really violent. Guffaws will be dropped throughout the series, as heads explode, limbs are destroyed, and insides are spilled. Save for the likes of the Deadpool movies, this superhero/comedy/big action/heavy gore/offensive jokes combo is not something studios are usually willing to risk bank on, so applause is warranted for the mere fact that some execs agreed to have this stuff hit screens. That being said, there’s an abundance of blood-letting and highly provocative humour – so much so, that not all of it quite lands where it should. One gross-out moment will have you laughing; another may just feel unnecessarily cruel. But, yeah, that admittedly comes down to personal taste.
The Boys is one of the gutsiest (in more was than one) and gleefully irreverent shows out there, with a production value that also places it in blockbuster territory. Despite some structural issues and the occasional overplayed card, season 2 not only keeps the action high and the jokes flowing, it injects an impressive dose of characterisation and emotional stakes to provide much-needed weight.
The first three episodes of ‘The Boys’ season 2 hit Amazon Prime Video on September 4th. New episodes to drop weekly following.