The Boys (Season 2) Review: Bigger, better, and bloodier than ever
Last year, Amazon Prime Video delivered a superhero show that really struck a different chord with its adaptation of the comic series created by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson – The Boys. With a more adult depiction of superheroes that really showcased the gory destruction of their powers, world-building that reflected relevant social debates and issues, and characters that were a total blast to watch do just about anything because the performances and writing was so strong, The Boys really had a little bit of everything. Since I proclaimed it my favorite tv series last year, the announcement of the second season having a quick turnaround easily made it one of my most anticipated releases of the year and boy did it not disappoint.
After taking some shots at the Supes and uncovering the truth behind Vought creating superheroes with Compound V, The Boys are back but not exactly in the best shape. Not only are they on the run from the law, but Butcher (Karl Urban) is now wrestling with the knowledge that Becca (Shantel VanSanteen) is alive but held captive by Vought as she cares her son Ryan (Cameron Crovetti) that she had when Homelander (Anthony Starr) after he raped her. Still trying to bring down Vought, Hughie (Jack Quaid) attempts to become a leader while Butcher is MIA and asks Annie/Starlight (Erin Moriarty) for help in exposing Compound V to the public as he attempts to gain her trust back. However, as The Seven begin to fall apart and Vought comes under the control of the mysterious Stan Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito), a new hero named Stormfront (Aya Cash) joins the team but has ulterior motives that could bring destruction to the world if The Boys are unable to stop her.
What’s crazy is that all of that is only a small part to what this covers and explores. This season continues to dig deeper into the lore and expands on the world-building in intriguing and hilarious new ways. Still lost from basically getting dropped from The Seven, The Deep (Chace Crawford) becomes acquainted and assimilated into a secretive religious group known as The Collective. Honestly, his whole journey this season is likely to be forgotten because of everything else that happens, but it’s such a perfectly funny sub-plot that both adds in a new religious element and possible future evil faction into the world, but also puts The Deep in some wild situations. The entire sequence of him talking to his gills (voiced by Patton Oswalt) is incredibly creepy and weird but a very funny way to bring out themes of body shaming, him picking his wife in episode four was done incredibly well as it’s secretly built up throughout the episode, and The Deep joining the Collective will never make you think of Fresca the same ever again. It’s even better when A-Train (Jesse T. Usher) joins after his heart condition leaves him weakened and questions everything – including how brainwashed Deep has become. Once again Crawford delivers a great performance that makes it hard not to love The Deep and the entire concept of The Collective showcases how the series continues to touch on relevant figures and issues.
Last season, when the series would touch on some kind of political or social issue, it felt like it was a part of the world-building and came across a little more organic. The same mostly happens here, but some of the connections certain characters have to real-life figures is a little too on-the-nose. When describing certain characters or having them talk about their intentions, it feels all too easy to figure out who the series is referring to. For instance, there’s a new character named Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit), a young congresswoman looking to uncover what Vought is hiding, who’s videos of her “doing the Egyptian dance” and innate desire for change make her an obvious AOC depiction. None of this bad or anything like that, quite the opposite honestly, but these feel like unnecessary winks to reality that take you out of the moment from time to time.
Regardless of how it may lose some of its thematic subtlety, season two is even more eye-opening and politically relevant as ever with how it depicts Stormfront and her rise within the public eye. Although it’s not clear from the start, it becomes almost too easy to realize that she’s meant to pretty much represent Trump with her incredibly racist views that stem from her surprising upbringing and backstory, the way that she uses social media to cull her herd of followers and spread hateful messaging, and how she pretty comes in and disrupts the innerworkings of Vought and The Seven for her own personal gains. There’s this incredibly powerful and disturbing opening in episode seven of how hate speech can lead to horrific acts of violence and create ignorance and hate. She’s a villain that, at first, is easy to like with how she goes against the grain but becomes easier to hate with how her true personality begins to come out as she gains more power and status. She becomes even more disturbing and daunting when she eventually pairs with Homelander and the two become a truly diabolical pair.
Although he shows some shreds of humanity when caring for Ryan in isolated moments and talking about his troubled upbringing as a lab experiment and not wanting the same for Ryan, Homelander is one cruel bastard this season. With his only sense of stability in Madelyn (Elisabeth Shue) gone, Homelander really begins to unravel as he struggles to maintain the control he once had and goes to horrific lengths to regain it. From tormenting and outing Maeve (Dominique McElligott) her relationship with Elena (Nicola Correia-Damude) to trying to dominate Becca and take Ryan away from her, he really becomes unhinged and Starr continues to be one of the craziest and best aspects of this show – especially when he’s paired with Stormfront. Finally finding an equal, Homelander and Stormfront become quite a powerful pair as they attempt to conjure up a following that’ll make them all powerful – even if Vought goes under. Their plans for domination are legitimately scary with how invulnerable they seem and every time they’re around Ryan together, there’s this bad feeling that instantly materializes and makes you uneasy. They’re two people that bring out the worst in each other, but it makes for perfect villains that are legitimately threatening and the performances from Starr and Cash are truly award worthy.
Frankly, the series really builds how powerful Vought, Homelander, and Stormfront are and their influence so well, that the odds really do seem in their favor. Fighting against these foes is no easy task and even when things seems like they’re about to go The Boys’ way, it always takes an unexpected turn. Even as Annie is able to make Compound V known to the public and hearings are held against Vought and Supes, there’s always something that gets in their way or some kind of avenue that opens up to get Vought out of a tight spot. It’s not only a perfect showing of how hard the fight is to take down the corrupt and powerful, but how undeniably engrained Vought is and their ability to change the message to stay afloat. It makes the fight against them that much more vital and it’s great how the series really creates this season-long fight for what’s right that’s incredibly enthralling to watch and full of surprises. Not to mention, it only makes you care more about the series’ rag-tag band of protagonists more than ever as the series fleshes them out even further.
The whole crew is back and better than ever as they take on both incredibly powerful foes and personal demons to finally take down Vought. The first season showcased the hilarious antics Butcher and his team went through in order to take down Vought that usually had some gory returns – which the second does again, but with ten times the intensity. The chemistry is even funnier than it was before, the fight sequences are as brutal as ever, and there’re plenty of gory moments, like head-explosions and a disgusting collision between a boat and whale, that combine these aspects to make some moments that are genuinely bonkers. It even nails the music choices again with there being a bit more of a personal touch to the characters since we get to know them on a deeper level this time around.
There’s really no secondary characters or weak links in this cast as the excellent performances and writing across the board really come together to create some excellent growth throughout the season. M.M. (Laz Alonso) fights harder than ever to see his family again and rallies behind Hughie and Butcher in a way that shows his more caring side. Alonso continues to deliver one-liners flawlessly and the reasoning for his fight against Vought is deeply personal and makes you connect with him on a really deep level. Even Frenchie (Tomer Capon) and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) are given much more emotional storylines this season as their personal demons are delved into with Kimiko reuniting with a lost family member and Frenchie reflecting on a mission gone wrong as he meets Lamplighter (Shawn Ashmore) again. These two always seem like they were always meant to just add to the comedic or action elements of the series, but here they get a much more compelling arc that not only makes their growth more meaningful, but also their connection more real as they tackle their own grief together.
Hughie and Annie’s relationship is also just as sweet and heartwarming as ever as they attempt to work out the kinks that developed from the last season and also go through their own personal growth. While they say their just friends, it’s hard not to feel the real romantic connection that Quaid and Moriarty bring to their performances and genuine friendship and care they have for one another. Although they’re both fighting an opposition that seems too powerful to overcome, both Annie and Hughie determination for change is the pure driving force for the season and what makes them so damn lovable. Everyone views them as weak, but they have a strength and resilience to be a pivotal force for change. Sure, Hughie is certainly far from being the muscle of the team and Annie struggles to find a position of power on the team, but that doesn’t stop them from looking out for others or fighting the good fight. This is something that’s felt throughout the whole season and their growth ends in amazing ways with Annie not only being able to return to her less sexualized costume, but take down Stormfront and Hughie finding his own way to make change that, unfortunately, looks like it’s going to put him right in the center of next season’s conflict.
Season two’s heart really lies in the story of Butcher and Becca as their love story is both heartwarming beautiful and unexpectedly tragic. Everything that Butcher and others have said about his relationship with Becca really comes to fruition here as their reunion genuinely feels special. Their embrace is full of love that’s immensely satisfying to see and Butcher’s fight to see her again is felt from start to finish. This is easily some of the best work that Urban has ever done as he makes the personal demons that Butcher has to overcome, including some tough family matters, and his love for Becca incredibly emotional. He really brings out more human shades of Butcher with how he wrestles with his own flaws and internal battles and it’s what makes Butcher such a complex protagonist. It’s even great how we get to know Becca more as she fends off Homelander’s influence on Ryan and is determined to have Ryan not end up like Homelander by genuinely loving him till the bitter end. Her arc is easily one of the strongest of this season and unfortunately the most tragic with how she dies. It’s one of the biggest blows this season offers, among many, that will likely change Butcher going forward and the final act he does for her with Ryan is one of the most honorable and thought-changing things this season has to offer. It really makes things end on an impactful and hopeful note that warms your heart and is legitimately moving.
To say that The Boys returns with another flawlessly amazing season wouldn’t even live up to the greatness that it brings. It continues to flesh out the complex world and characters it introduced viewers to last season with more personal triumphs, award-worthy performances and writing, and a strong emotional connection that makes its political ties and heart genuinely thought-provoking and moving. Season two continues to prove that it’s the best comic book adaptation (tv series or otherwise) out there and deserves your time.