The Boys ups the Ante While Losing None of its Heart in a Sophomore Season that surprisingly manages to outdo the groundbreaking first
Last year, a superhero show based on a relatively unknown comic book series was released by Amazon Prime. That was The Boys and it made waves with its completely unadulterated content. The Boys pushed the limits of the TV-MA rating and felt fresh even when compared to comic book films like Watchmen and Sin City. Set in a world where superheroes are not saviours but instead insanely marketable celebrities, the show and the comic focused on a boy, Hughie, whose girlfriend was a casualty of a speedster. The Boys flipped the standard convention on its head with its outrageous content and story in which superheroes were painted as the villains. In this world, the heroes are the Boys: A group of ordinary people willing to get their hands dirty to take down these so-called saviours.
The Boys was not just incredibly profane, ultraviolent, and over the top but it was also a satire mocking celebrity culture and corporations. For both of these reasons, The Boys was an overwhelming success. Amazon had taken a risk in green lighting such an outrageous show and it paid off in a big way. Season 2 has now come and go with similar if not more impressive results. The big question going in was whether from a storytelling perspective the writers would be able to replicate the success of Season 1. I myself had concerns about the bigger budget and whether by doubling down on the action, The Boys would lose its heart in the process. That was not the case. If anything, The Boys has gone bigger but deeper in a season that gives the last one a run for its money.
Everything is Diabolical
The Boys Season 2 is nothing short of diabolical. Just when you thought The Boys could not get any crazier, the writers keep surprising you. This means a boat crashing into a whale, heads exploding, and much more not suitable for family viewing. And if the comics are anything to go by, there is plenty more we have not even seen yet. The Boys has lost none of its satirical charm as well parodying corporations right away in episode 1 with “Voughtify” and there is a recurring storyline about reshoots which namedrops Joss Whedon. There is even a hilarious dramatic retelling of Stillwell’s death on TV. Eric Kripke and the writers are so clearly in tune with pop culture and that is a large part of what makes The Boys resonate with audiences so much.
Stormfront, a new addition to The Seven, is the catalyst for most of the craziness this season. Homelander, after his actions in Season 1, seemed to be in complete control as the de facto leader of The Seven. However, with the emergence of Stormfront, things changed. Stormfront is even stronger than Homelander, certainly more manipulative, and she’s also a Nazi. While they started off as enemies, the writers made the genius move to get them together in the most violent way possible. Stormfront is excellently played by Aya Cash and it is a lot of fun watching her paired up with Anthony Starr, who really should have won an Emmy last season for his turn as Homelander.
Season 2 Takes Aim at White Supremacy
Even half way through Season 2, a big question was whether the sophomore season of The Boys would be able to differentiate itself from Season 1. Being diabolical is all fine and good but The Boys needed to reinvent itself to a certain extent to stand out. One of the ways in which it did this was by taking aim at white supremacy yet again due to the introduction of Stormfront. Stormfront’s ultimate aim in the season is to drum up support among the public for creating more superheroes with Compound V. She does this by weaponising social media and capitalising on the fear of the American public in the face of terrorism. A real world parallel is how America and the American public reacted after 9/11 from a place of fear and anger. Now, we live in an increasingly polarised world where the American president will not even condemn white supremacists. The Boys may just be a superhero show but it is able to tap into deep and meaningful subject matter that has real world implications. This angle was probably introduced a bit too late in the season but The Boys in the end managed to handle it in a really mature way that took viewers from the instigators like Stormfront to the ordinary people who become brainwashed by their deceptive narratives.
Characters Undergo Major Changes
One other big way in which this season stood out is how it how it delved deeper into these characters and developed them. Even Butcher gets an arc. At the start of Season 2, he was selfish and would do anything to get back his wife. However, when his wife tragically dies, he has to step up for her son. Initially, Butcher struggled with the fact that Becca was the mother of Homelander’s son and even in the final episode, he makes a deal with Stan Edgar to send Ryan away so he can be with Becca. Butcher ultimately chooses to help Ryan after Becca’s death as he makes sure he is somewhere safe. The writers take a seemingly constant character in Season 2 and they take Butcher on a journey of heartbreak and sorrow where he emerges a better person.
Maeve gets time in the spotlight this season and she has quite the arc. Unlike Homelander, who is a complete psychopath, Maeve is not entirely irredeemable even after leaving everyone to die on the plane last season. That is something that haunts her to this day. In fact, this season, we get to see a more sympathetic side to her as she struggles with being in the Seven and having a girlfriend. At heart, she is a good person who has been warped by Vought and Homelander. Maeve has to escape an abusive relationship with Homelander and forge her own path if she truly wants to be free with her girlfriend. The right decision may be a hard one but the writers use Maeve to show how even your past actions do not define you and there is always the choice to become a better person. In the end, Maeve chooses to help Starlight and the rest of the Boys against Stormfront. These characters, even the superheroes, are not one dimensional but there is depth behind them.
The Boys Looks To The Future
The finale of Season 2 does not disappoint. This was everything the season has been building up to and there are dramatic ramifications. The major casualty was Stormfront who gets exposed as a Nazi and is killed by Ryan. The pay off is immense and everything wraps up in a neat fashion. While Vought and superheroes still exist, The Boys, Starlight, and Maeve emerge triumphant as Homelander is forced to play by their rules even letting Starlight back into the Seven with her old costume. Things have truly gone back to normal like with Season 1. In part, this is concerning as the status quo has been reset to some extent; however, the power dynamic has been completely upended and The Boys still has surprises in store for Season 3. One major storyline set to be explored in Season 3 is Hughie’s job working for the congresswoman, who was in fact the one blowing everyone’s heads up. Hughie had intended to forge his own path away from Butcher by getting a job but this certainly complicates things, and it leaves plenty of things up in the air that fans of the show can spend the next year debating about. The Boys Season 3 will no doubt address these questions and more. Amazon clearly plans to take The Boys even beyond Season 3 and the writers evidently have an endgame in mind. Plans are no doubt in motion to take this world and these characters to new places. The Boys is so popular at the moment and Amazon have not only created a great show but a must watch that everyone is talking about.
Overall, the sophomore season of The Boys fires on all cylinders as it doubles down on the action but also themes and character depth. Add in a few hilarious cameos from Patton Oswalt and Shawn Ashmore, and Amazon have a crowd pleaser on their hands. The writers know what viewers want and they constantly deliver with their encyclopaedic knowledge of pop culture.
Season 2 rivals Season 1 not by blindly copying the formula. It does so by reinventing the wheel once again as it takes aim at white supremacy and lends depth to characters like Queen Maeve who did not get as much time to shine in Season 1. Whilst the white supremacy theme was introduced slightly too late, The Boys makes effective use of it as it handles the topic in a really mature way showing how fear can warp the minds of ordinary American citizens. The Boys Season 2 takes viewers on a journey from the lows to the highs of characters even Butcher who is on the road to becoming a better man after the season’s events. Judging by the success of the show and Amazon’s renewal, there are many more adventures planned ahead for The Boys and at the moment, it is one of the best shows out there. May that long continue.