In 2019, when all the world was abuzz with Captain’s being worthy and iron men no longer being with us, a small band of supe-hating heroes snuck in through the back door and caused absolute chaos, knocking the idea of cape-wearing crusaders on its arse and doing so in an overly graphic fashion.
Amazon’s adaptation of The Boys – the Garth Ennis’ comic book series that turned heroes into villains – was welcomed immediately, drawing in audiences that both loved and loathed the genre. Here was a skewed universe where Superman was a psychopathic tyrant behind closed doors, and the closest thing to a real hero was one that manipulated his allies for the greater good. Ending on a cliffhanger that left even fans of the original comic run in shock, season 2 has struck back, turning the superpower level up to 11 in its first three episodes and ensuring that The Boys might quickly becoming one of the best shows on TV.
Hitting us with a triple-episode premier this week, season 2 kicks things off with The Boys in hiding and Billy missing after getting framed for the death of Vought suit, Madelyn Stillwell (Elisabeth Shue, last seen looking like a jack o’lantern in the season 1 finale). With their leader separated from the group, it leaves the rest of The Boys in disarray, trying to figure out how they can clear their names and bring down The Seven at the same time. Meanwhile, Vought and The Seven are working damage control themselves, after losing their top exec and finding a replacement for Translucent in the form of Stormfront, who may cause more issues not just for The Boys themselves, but The Homelander who still has laser focus in wiping them out, and making his own twisted plans a reality.
After testing our tastebuds with the first season last year, Season 2 doesn’t spare a minute of getting us back to grips with this world, and a solo mission from Dark Noir encapsulates just what it was we loved about it. As that unsettling silent hero tears terrorists open like Amazon parcels and mentally scars small children, we’re welcomed with what remains the biggest draw of the show – heroes being utter shitbags and loving every second of it. Of course, at the top of this steaming pile sits the king of capes, and what might be one of the best TV villains in recent years – The Homelander – played by Antony Starr.
The initial three episodes spend more time peeling back the layers of this rotten and deeply unhinged onion wrapped in the American flag, and it’s clear Starr is having an absolute ball. Having already spent a stint as the head of The Seven, that air of unease is cemented onscreen whenever he shares it, be it with a super, civilian, or bottle of left over milk, which which makes it all the more intriguing with the arrival of Aya Cash’s Stormfront, who has every chance of being the shows new big hitter.
A costumed fly in the ointment to The Homelander’s plans, this young (and rather bad) blood who doesn’t have a filter, or a care for damage control is undoubtedly going to cause a stir in the show and be an even larger problem than the geezer in the black coat and his gang. If Homelander is this twisted world’s Steve Rogers, she’s the brash and bloodthirsty Tony Stark colliding with him and it’d be wise to prepare ourselves for when Civil War breaks out. The only issue is where that leaves the real heroes trying to stop them, because so far they’re still suffering from the same issues themselves.
Understandably after The Boys having a break-up of sorts last season, time is spent getting the band back together and healing old wounds, the problem is that some still take time in closing up. While we may be on the road to toughening Hughie up, his reluctance to still get his hands dirty is a bit bothersome (someone should remind him what show he’s in). Seeing him losing his collective shit when things go sideways or smeared in whale blubber (episode 3 outdoes last season’s dolphin death by a wide margin) is wearing thin and simply makes you wish that he finally took a leaf from Butcher’s book and got his act together. At least the now switched on Starlight is on the case of bringing down the enemy from within and makes for a compelling plot-thread courtesy of the awesome Emily Moriarty.
Thankfully though, the rinse and repeat bit of friction resting between The Boys’ newest recruit and their Cockney (by way of New Zealand) leader is slightly overshadowed by its other members. The likes of Mother’s Milk playing peace maker and Kimiko getting her own arc that could have a major impact on what’s to come is a welcome route to go down, particularly for the latter, who didn’t have anywhere this much attention in the source material. Giving more space for these characters to breath makes their many twists and turn all the more satisfying, which is thankfully due to a thus far, tightly written script from Eric Kripke who is throwing in a whole bunch of surprises amongst the savagery.
Along with Dan Trachtenberg, there’s great work at play at not only keeping the social commentary going full steam ahead but taking unpredictable turns that will probably have you shouting as many expletives as The Boys themselves. The blood-soaked lens showing what happens when absolute power corrupts absolutely is still crystal clear, and lingers on moments that you won’t see coming until you’re covered in them. Here’s hoping Hughie finally grows a pair between next week and the five remaining episodes of what’s looking to be a super sophomore effort.