TV REVIEW: The Boys – Season 2: Episodes 4 & 5
If you’re anything like me, it wasn’t until Episode 3 that you were fully on board with The Boys’ sophomore season. Certainly, the show had its own massive boots to fill after the first season was nothing short of a global phenomenon, but where Season 1 hit the ground running quite literally, Season 2 started with a steadier pace, catching us up on our main players before embarking on a blood-soaked journey. That third episode was the best episode of the season so far, but if the following two episodes are anything to go by, Season 2 is going to be something of a rollercoaster, but by Episode 5’s end, you’ll be well and truly strapped in for the ride.
Clocking it in at a gargantuan 69 minutes (nice), the season’s fourth episode, Nothing Like it in the World, meanders along. It’s an episode almost entirely character-driven rather than action-orientated, but despite a few choice horrifying reveals, the plot momentum grinds to a halt. Butcher’s return and his side plot surrounding his wife, Becca, is too disconnected from the season’s main thread for it to matter enough. Of course, there’s the connection to Homelander and his son that will come to a head sooner or later, but that inevitable conflict is much further down the road. As a result, tender heart-to-hearts between Butcher and Becca don’t have the urgency required. Becca being kept under lock and key and sneaking out to meet up with her husband should feel more tense than it is, but any sort of threat is kept under wraps entirely, despite a few passing mentions of Black Noir.
Meanwhile, the episode’s A-plot centres around a mysterious Liberty, a superhero from the 1970s, sees Hughie, Starlight, and MM heading on a road trip to unveil Libery’s identity. The Boys has a brilliant ensemble at its disposal, and this is a trio we haven’t seen together in isolation up to now. Their dynamic is perfectly charming – the car sing-a-long to Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire is an episode highlight courtesy of Hughie and Starlight’s delightful dynamic – but I couldn’t help but wonder if more could’ve been done with the investigation. The revelation that Liberty is a former alias of Stormfront was too obvious and didn’t elicit anything resembling surprise from me. Stormfront’s involvement in a racially-charged murder 50 years prior raises curious lore questions around the superheroes themselves (does Compound V extend their lifetime indefinitely?), but it adds nothing to Stormfront’s character that we didn’t already know. Stormfront being an evil racist was revealed in the stellar Episode 3 climax, the fact that she has been an evil racist for many years changes nothing. I maintain that Stormfront has been a positive addition to the team as someone to truly challenge Homelander’s reign of terror, but I would like to see more development for her beyond simply being awful.
Speaking of Homelander, the world’s worst Superman is the most consistently brilliant element of the show and his astonishing turn in Episode 4 was the only thing that kept my interest alive. The discovery of Homelander’s secret house in which he pays a doppelganger to impersonate the long-deceased Madelyn Stillwell (it’s great to see Elisabeth Shue again) in sexy lingerie is in its own realm of fucked up. Homelander’s mommy issues are a grim aspect of Season 1 that spoke to his character’s lack of parental love having been born in a lab, but Season 2 has ramped all of this up exponentially. The episode’s climactic moments, in which the doppelganger attempts to win back Homelander’s favour by transforming into – wait for it – Homelander himself and asking to be fucked by him was an experience for which I could never be prepared. Homelander’s narcissism (his disgraceful national TV declaration of Queen Maeve’s sexuality only adds to the psychotically narcissistic games he continues to play) and mommy issues combined truly stunned and saved the episode from being something of a dud.
Episode 5, entitled We Gotta Go Now, finally felt like The Boys of old. The hilarious on-set scenes, showing The Seven filming their next instalment of the VCU, is a delightfully on-the-nose satire of the superhero franchises it lampoons, complete with the sepia toned cinematography. Though I have wondered why the superheroes themselves act in their own movies, this is more of what I want to see from The Boys. In all the superhero content we have, The Boys exists to counter all of the sincerity of Marvel or DC by showing how awful people blessed (or cursed) with superpowers would be. Homelander, Stormfront, Black Noir are all the antithesis to the Captain Americas and Supermans that have graced our screens for so long, and their takedown (no doubt done with love!) is a delight to behold.
I was overjoyed to see the Butcher storyline reach something of a high point with the Black Noir confrontation. The titular Boys haven’t had nearly enough run ins with the Seven for my tastes, so any of these such moments are ones to be treasured. Black Noir, likely intentionally, has been lurking in the shadows for most of the show’s run so far, so witnessing his abilities first-hand was something I’d longed to see for some time. Butcher, Hughie, and MM were no match for Black Noir who very nearly killed MM with a mere flick of the wrist, all the while absorbing several bullets fired at him by Hughie. As noble as their intentions might be, our Boys need to tread lightly if they intend to truly take the Seven down. The cat and mouse game Butcher is playing with Vought and its new CEO, Stan Edgar (a hitherto vastly underused Giancarlo Esposito), surrounding Homelander’s rape of Butcher’s wife, Becca, is sure to be the driving force of the rest of the season, something that hasn’t been entirely clear in the episodes thus far.
The Deep’s a bit of an odd one, isn’t he? Unfortunately cast aside and hellbent on winning back his place in the Seven, The Deep has joined a cult. It’s a plotline that is slow-going, but this would be more of a problem if not for Chace Crawford’s genuinely hilarious performance. His deadpan delivery during an ad for his cult, The Church of the Collective, begs the question of whether The Deep was removed due to his terrible acting ability and as such would stink up the place on the set of Dawn of the Seven. As good as Crawford may be, I’m waiting for this thread to mean something. If I were a betting man and having never read the original graphic novels, I’d wager The Church of the Collective is attempting to get into the superhero game itself and create a rival to the Seven in an effort to convert many to its bizarre, somewhat Mormonist ways. Televangelism? More like Supervangelism! It’s a work in progress.
Stormfront and Homelander, meanwhile, continue to butt heads as the aspiring and current head of the Seven, respectively. Homelander appears to be losing the plot entirely after a video surfaced of him killing an innocent caught in his laser beam crossfire and his eventual public apology resulted in Homelander imagining a scenario in which he mows down 60% of the crowd in a blaze of blood and guts. Part of me wishes this was committed to; Homelander feels as if he’s about to explode one way or another, and a vicious public attack that kills hundreds on live TV feels within the realms of possibility should someone push one too many of the wrong buttons. This is no doubt Stormfront’s endgame as she’s driving Homelander to one extremity after another, no doubt exemplified in their supercharged, violent sex scene that closed the episode. It was one part bizarre, one part weirdly arousing, and one part hilarious as the two quite literally launch each other across the room before straddling one another. Their relationship is going to end in fireworks one way or another, and I hope we get to see a real superhero battle between the two of them that involves a few more clothes and more laser beam vs lightning bolt action.
While Episode 4 left me frustrated, Episode 5 felt like a real return to form. The path to the end of the second season feels much clearer having been shrouded in darkness for too long thus far, and episode five delivered what I, and I’m sure many others, have wanted from The Boys – sex, blood, and even a bit of rock and roll.
Rhys also interviewed Wade Barnett – Sound Editor of The Boys about his work on the show.