“The Boys” season 2 isn’t as strong as season 1 but continues to illustrate why it is one of the best superhero shows out there and one of my favorite shows. The writing continues to explore themes that matter through compelling characters and amazing action in a world that illustrates the problems with our own world. Erik Kripke really created an amazing show and I look forward to revisiting the comics by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson to see where the inspiration came from.
The story starts with The Boys in hiding as Annie January / Starlight (Erin Moriarty) and Hughie (Jack Quaid) enact a plan to bring down Vought and reveal Compound V to the world as they deal with the fallout from last season.
The World – The world of “The Boys” continues to be compelling. We see how powerful Vought is once more and how adaptable they are to any new threat or situation. We see more of how corporations, religions and politicians use superheroes in this world and the world is given greater historical context both in relationship to Vought and to our characters. In this way it takes what season 1 built and explores ideas and concepts further.
The Action – This is a show that knows how to use it’s limited CGI so it uses it well. The action in this is always visceral and you feel the punches, just like in season 1. We also get to see some unexpected matchups and Black Noir, who feels like a mixture of Deadpool and Batman in action in the opening and throughout the series. You feel how powerful the superheroes are and because of it just how much is needed to take them down.
The Characters – The characters and their relationships are the strongest part of this show and I’ll explore some of those stories I found the most compelling below.
Black Noir – Black Noir is nearly unstoppable in this. We see him only beaten once because Butcher knows about Becca and Homelander’s son and Edgar calls him off and he is only defeated by a candy bar with nuts in it because Queen Maeve knows about his nut allergy. He fights like Deadpool meets Batman and is methodical in his takedowns. It was really cool to see him in action. I’m curious to see how he will be used in the future as he was comatose as the end of this season after the attack.
Reggie Franklin / A-Train – A-Train this season involves doing all he can to keep his place on the Seven as we learn about his coming from poverty and how that motivates to hold onto his position all the harder. We see him work with Starlight and the Boys after he learns about Stormfront’s Nazi origins and in turn outmaneuvers Deep being brought into the Seven when the Church of the Collective rewards him for taking action to takedown Stormfront. Jessie T. Usher is great in the role.
Kimiko and Kenji – One of the core relationships early on in the season is that between Kimiko and her brother Kenji. We learn about their trauma being indoctrinated by the Shining Light Liberation Army and how they always had each other’s back. Kenji isn’t able to get past his indoctrination though and this adds tragedy all the more to their relationship as Kimiko is powerless against that belief. Sadly Stormfront kills him in the end and this becomes Kimiko’s motivation for the rest of the season as she seeks revenge and faces her sorrow and trauma.
Kimiko and Frenchie – Kimiko and Frenchie have a relationship that involves a lot of growth. We see the guilt that drives them both as they both see themselves as failing to save people and it leads to Kimiko escaping into it with violence and Frenchie with drugs. It isn’t until after they both face their trauma that they are finally able to open up and fully be together as Kimiko teaches Frenchie the sign language her and her brother had made to communicate with one another. Karen Fukuhara and Tomer Capon do a great job in their roles.
Hughie and Starlight – Hughie and Starlight are really the hope of the show as both of them inspire members of their team to courage and action. Starlight is right in the end and A-Train sees it and Maeve also comes to back her and save her when Stormfront’s Nazi origins are revealed. They have a cut relationship too as each of them is trying to hold onto hope while being afraid and over their head. For a lot of the season there is a question if they’ll break up but they do come together in the end and save each other multiple times over the course of the season. Erin Moriarty and Jack Quaid are fantastic.
Marvin T. Milk / Mother’s Milk – All the members of The Boys are great but I’d say the heart of the team isn’t Hughie, it is Mother’s Milk. In this season we learn his dad was a lawyer who had fought Vought and in the end was murdered for it. This has driven his own crusade against them and we see how that has defined him. He is the one who helps a woman come forward about the racist murder Liberty from the 1970s who killed her brother and that Stormfront is the same person. He is there to give perspective to Hughie and Starlight too as he has been an operative for a long time while having a family so he gives context to the life they are currently in. Laz Alonso is wonderful in the role I loved how he played off the members of the team and how he was Butcher’s Second-in-Command.
Klara Risinger / Liberty / Stormfront – Aya Cash is amazing as the villain Stormfront. In this we see how great of a villain she is as she manipulates the media against immigrants (using the super terrorists as the “dog whistle” which also only exist because Homelander got Compound V out into the world) and how she isolates and manipulates Homelander until they are on similar if not the same page ideologically. Seeing her taken down after all the damage we hear about her doing and see her do first hand is rewarding. I especially liked Queen Maeve, Kimiko and Starlight taking her out given all she’d done to them. In the end she is probably alive but half-mad after she was toasted by Becca’s son with his heat vision. I do think we’ll see her again though as probably a Vought Cyborg of some kind.
Maggie Shaw / Queen Maeve – Queen Maeve has a solid arc in this. Whether it is her owning up to letting Homelander murder an entire airplane (using to blackmail him that if he hurts anyone she’ll release it) to her opening up to her girlfriend Elena about how controlling and toxic Homelander is. At one point Homelander outs her too so he can use that to control her as well, this is really what leads to her facing him after Elena leaves her. I’m curious to see where her story goes now as this season was her becoming a hero against Homelander and Stormfront.
Stan Edgar – Giancarlo Esposito continues to own every villain he plays and he once again does here. We learn near the end he obviously knows about Stormfront’s racist ideology given her being a Nazi but he puts up with it for the bottom line of money as he sees that as the only real power that matters. He is clever and uses Hughie and Starlight’s reveal of Compound V to keep Vought from facing any consequences and he continues to outmaneuver everyone up until the end, though even that has a catch. He almost got a government contract to sell Compound V to the government to give to police and first responders but after Stormfront is defeated the deal falls through…though he still has the Seven and a now mad Stormfront that will probably be used as a future weapon.
Victoria Neuman – Claudia Doumit was great in “Timeless” and she continues that here as she plays a congresswoman who is seeking to hold Vought and Supes accountable. In the end we learn she is the one who is a Supe as well as we see her explode the head of the Church of the Collective and in turn learn that she was the one who killed the Supes at the Vought hearing. What her bottom line is remains to be seen but I expect we’ll see her continue to rise in power given how she is one of the biggest winners this season.
John / Homelander – Antony Starr is one of the best actors on the show and he is carrying a lot. This is an actor who can capture the insecurities and moments of empathy of the terrifying monster that is Homelander. In this we see Homelander lose all power he once had almost function as more of a figure head. I got a feeling this is going to lead to him snapping and maybe taking over the government given his mantra seems to be that he can “Do what he wants.” What happened to Stormfront was the final straw for him mentally I think and the fact that it was his son who chose Butcher over him further feeds that narcissistic insecurity and need to be loved that is his drive. There is also an element of tragedy to this villain too as we learn he was a normal kid until age 6 and the doctor who raised him decided to abuse him. I would not be surprised if he ends up being the primary villain next season as he makes as last desperate play for power.
Billy Butcher – Karl Urban is amazing in everything he is in and he owns this role. Billy Butcher is also given a great arc in this as we learn about his brother Lenny who is a lot like Hughie and helped keep Billy’s violent outbursts in check, that came about from abuse by their dad. In the end Billy chooses not to be defined by it as we see him grow beyond his hate of Supes in both his respect for Starlight and acceptance of Becca and Homelander’s son and promising to look after their son. Butcher has one of the strongest arcs this season and I’m really curious where they are going to take him next.
The Toxic Cycles of Revenge and Self-Destruction and Abuse – One of the arcs in the show is how toxic revenge can be and that if you don’t get out of it it will destroy you. We see this in Butcher’s father, in Kimiko before she walks away from it all, in Lamplighter and him killing himself in the end as well as a few other characters too. So many characters in the show are defined by the abuse they suffered from those who should have protected them and that is where the cycles of self-destruction first started them.
Cults and Radicalization – We got a few cults that are explored in this. We have the one that kidnapped Kimiko and Kenji as part of child soldiers for the Shining Light Liberation Army. They kill their parents but over time and abuse within them Kenji became a brainwashed soldier in their cause as he saw them as the only family he could depend on. The Church of the Collective takes advantage of this too by taking Supes with trauma or blackmail and using it to make them their tool for power, money and influence.
Dog Whistles and Radicalization – Stormfront is a great example of how actual Nazis use “dog whistle” language to radicalize people against others. Whether it is labeling immigrants as “super terrorists” or framing immigration as an invasion it is language we see in Nationalist and fascist movements around the globe. We also see Stormfront using memes and the dark web to recruit as well beyond just the constant stream of speeches and rallies from the television. This a constant thread through United States history and in our last Administration that was in power.
Homelander and Fascism – Homelander was always a person who believed superheroes were superior and that he was better than anyone so it was easy for Stormfront to isolate him and take all of this to the next step. He ends up using her language targeting immigrants and we have known since last season how little he cares for people or anyone other than himself and she feeds those toxic aspects as we see him begin to believe the hype she is selling him that he should lead a superhero army full of the “right” people, basically a white supremacist Nazi army. Homelander never questions this and it really illustrates how fascist and racist ideology feeds off the insecure as it feeds their egos.
Pacing – The pacing really slows down in the middle, which is a shame as the first 3 and last 2 episodes that really flow. Episode 4 is great but after that it spends a lot of time setting the scene but not really driving the plot forward as great as before.
Kimiko’s Bounty Hunter Arc – After Stormfront kills Kenji, Kimiko begins working for Frenchie’s friend Cherie as a bounty hunter. Frenchie says this is bad and the murder isn’t solving anything but there isn’t a next stop. One day she just stops doing it and it is never addressed.
The Church of the Collective – The Church of the Collective is clearly meant to show Scientology and the mix of corporate and religious power in how connected they can be. This itself isn’t bad but the leader isn’t explored beyond being one of the manipulators and the Church never grows beyond being a spoof. It didn’t feel fully realized as an organization in the end.
This season wasn’t as strong as last season as far as pacing and some issues but it is still a season I’d highly recommend. This is a show that could have ended here as all the characters separate, Vought is not going to mass produce Compound V, Homelander can’t hurt anyone, Stormfront is defeated and Hughie finds his confidence for the first time in the series and goes to work for Victoria Neuman. The arcs feel complete and we see how our heroes defeated their rage and hate and the bullies were neutralized. They do clearly have more stories to tell, Victoria Neuman’s endgame is still a question and I can’t wait to see where the story takes our characters next.
Final Score: 9.3 / 10