Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 5, Episode 23 – “I, Borg” – Discovering Individuality and Value

Image result for I, Borg

     “I, Borg” is such an amazing episode. We see a return of the Borg with Hugh and an exploration of the consequences of the Borg on members of the crew. This is also an episode that provides a moral conundrum too. What should be the ethics of war? This and the theme of PTSD are explored in the episode beautifully. This is easily one of my favorite episodes of “Star Trek” and I’m glad Hugh will be back in “Picard.” Suffice to say, I highly recommend this episode.

“I, Borg” was written by René Echevarria and directed by Robert Lederman.

When a Borg Drone is rescued, Picard must wrestle with what will become of it as he and other members of the crew face what the Borg Collective has done to them.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Dr. Crusher – This is a surprisingly good Beverly Crusher episode. She is the first to advocate for saving the Borg drone. She demonstrates her oath of the sacredness of all life beautifully and her empathy is what made La Forge and Hugh’s friendship possible and Guinan and Picard’s eventually coming around to seeing Hugh’s humanity. I wish she got more episodes like this. She is the moral center of the episode and the episode is stronger for it.

Geordi La Forge – As Geordi is the one studying Hugh in order to weaponize him against the Borg he becomes friends with him. It is Geordi who gives Hugh his name and teaches him about consent and individuality. This friendship goes so far that Geordi advocates directly to Guinan and Picard that he thinks the plan is a mistake. In the end his advocacy for Hugh’s humanity wins out and Geordi is the one who says good-bye to his friend before the Borg take him back.

Guinan – Guinan’s people were destroyed by the Borg and she confronts Hugh about this. She is the one who is at first against Picard’s growing empathy, given the destruction of her people…but Geordi changes her mind. After talking to Hugh and hearing him speak of his loneliness and empathy for her she realizes Hugh is not her enemy. Hugh is just a scared lonely kid. After this she advocates for Picard to not use Hugh as biological weapon against the Borg.

Hugh – Hugh is the I in “I, Borg” as this episode is about him developing a sense of self. As far as we know he has always been a drone within the Collective and because of this never had the chance to learn empathy or self and this episode is where he learns all of this. In the end he sacrafices himself so the Borg won’t target the Enterprise and to protect his friend Geordi. Jonathan Del Arco does such an amazing job in this role. He is the drone becoming an individual and it is his performance and relationships Hugh builds in the episode that make it so great.

Captain Picard’s PTSD – Picard’s PTSD is a major theme of the episode. The Borg mutilated his body and mind and because of this he understandably does not see any humanity within them. We see how deep this is as he pretends to be Locutus to test Hugh and it is in this test when Hugh denies to assimilate the crew and the Geordi is his friend that he sees the plan to weaponize Hugh is immoral and wrong.

An Exploration of War and Morality – The main moral issue being wrestled with in the episode is whether to use Hugh as a biological weapon against the Borg. He would be used a virus to shut them down. When the show starts out Dr. Crusher is the only one against this but slowly as Geordi becomes friends with Hugh and Picard talks to Hugh they see the humanity of the drones and that in committing genocide they would be acting like the Borg. It is handled really well and they take time to explore this over the course of the entire episode.

The Cons:

Borg Indifference – Geordi is able to go down to the planet where Hugh was found to say good-bye to him as the Borg pick him up. The thing that bothered me with this is the Borg not recognizing his role in their destruction prior. The Borg are a threat to the episode but they have no tactical sensibilities it felt like. The reason that is given is that they don’t notice individuals (as seen by them being able to free Picard in “Best of Both Worlds”) but shouldn’t they have adapted to that by now? It was one of the reasons for their defeat.

This is one of my favorite episodes in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and shows just how strong the show could be when it focused on character and themes. This isn’t the last time we see Hugh and what is done in this episode has consequences for the Borg we see later. This episode is a great a example of structure working really well too. Dr. Crusher’s empathy leads to Geordi and Hugh becoming friends, which leads to Guinan getting to know Hugh and finally Picard giving Hugh a chance after Guinan admits her hate and rage against Hugh was wrong. This is powerfully done and creates an unforgettable story.

Final Score:

9.8 / 10 The strengths of this episode outweigh the flaws.

Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 3 – “The End is the Beginning” – Damage and Stories

Image result for The End is the Beginning Picard

    “The End is the Beginning” is a good episode that give us more development of the Romulans and more information about the Borg Cube “Artifact.” This is the first episode where I really liked Soji as a character and liked how we also got to know of the support characters, as well as the return of a character from old! This story covers a lot and I’d say succeeds in it. The two plots (Soji’s and Picard’s) are very well balanced and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

The episode was written by Michael Chabon and James Duff and directed by Hanelle Culpepper.

The story begins with the Executive Director of the “Artifact” taking an interest in Soji’s work as Picard continues his recruitment of his new crew.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Romulan Former Drones – An aspect of the episode I really liked is our time with the former drones. In this case we see how the former Romulan drones are barely being held together. It takes Soji delving deep to get an anthropologist to talk and that in turn leads to all the former Romulan drones panicking and calling her “The Destroyer.” The fact that this “Artifact” is to help former drones heal is compelling and I loved that we got to see and talk to at least one of them.

Laris and Zhaban – Laris and Zhaban show their Tal Shiar training when Zhat Vash agents attack their home. One of the attackers survives and we learn that we are fighting the Zhat Vash before the attacker kills himself. In this we see that Laris and Zhaban do everything to not kill and I loved that. They have left the Tal Shiar life behind and you can see they’d love to just spend the rest of their life here with Picard. With Picard leaving though, they accept it and support him on his adventure while they watch over the Chateau.

Raffi and Captain Rios – Raffi’s relationship to Picard is explored in this episode and we get introduced to Rios. In both we see how Starfleet has burned them. Raffi wanted to find anyway to help the Romulan Refugees while Picard thought his resignation would be enough and is resigned to present. She lost everything after that and is escaping into drugs on an isolated area on Earth. She does connect Picard with Rios though and in him we see a man whose entire record in Starfleet has been erased due to the mission but still keeps up the habits he learned from the organization. Picard, Rios and Raffi have all been hurt by Starfleet actions so seeing them in this “Firefly” like crew is an interesting dynamic to explore. There is much history still to explore.

Hugh – Hugh is the man in charge of the artifact. He is Soji’s mentor and notices when she speaks to a drone in a dead language. After this he takes her to the Romulan drones who have all gone mad and witnesses as they call her “The Destroyer.” He never stops defending the former drones or Soji and the emphatic man we met back in “I, Borg” is clearly still present. He is Soji’s mentor and it awesome to see how much he’s grown since “The Next Generation.” He’s firm but empathetic and you can see why he is the Executive Director of “The Artifact.” Jonathan Del Arco is wonderful in his return to his role.

Damage and Stories – The main theme of this episode is one of damage and the stories we tell to deal with that damage. We see this in the broken former drones and in Captain Rios and Raffi as well as Picard himself. All of these characters are broken and their stories are the one thing that motivates them and keeps them going. It was staying focused on this theme that really elevated the episode for me.

Okay:

“Rizzo” and Narek – These are the two Zhat Vash spies and their relationship is weird at this point. They refer to each other as siblings but there is a weird sexual undertone to their interactions. It is strange and their relationship really needs more development. I didn’t put it as a negative because they are both good actors, but it isn’t a plus either. Right now it is simply a strange element of the show.

The Cons:

The Soji Questions – The questions of how much Soji knows about who she is and her role in all of this is the biggest question and right now feels like a bit of a con. When I heard her called “The Destroyer” my first fear is that they’ll make her part Borg Queen. That strikes me as a trash idea in more ways than one given the Borg Queen ruined the threat of the Borg for me. A single ego is not as threatening as a collective mind that can adapt. This con might turn into a pro if the questions are handled well, but right now it is one of the biggest things that could hurt the series.

“The End is the Beginning” is another enjoyable outing in “Picard,” and gives us some amazing character development. I loved how Hugh has grown and more Laris and Zhaban made the episode for me. The other new characters have potential so it is hard to say if I like or dislike them yet. I’m hoping that their arcs are handled well and that the big ideas explored in “Star Trek” of old make more of an appearance as they did in the first episode.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

 

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 6, Episode 14 – “Face of the Enemy” – Romulan Politics and Troi’s Potential

Face of the Enemy

       Counselor Troi was really shafted throughout the entire run of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” When she was wrote it was largely romance plots or her stating the obvious on the bridge. She has extra-sensory empathy, but that is never really used in any interesting ways most of the time. This episode is an exception in regards to that. It is a good episode and a great Troi episode as we see her under pressure from being undercover and also how committed she is to her role as a Starfleet officer. This is an episode that gives us great exploration of the tension between the Tal Shiar and military and is well worth checking out for any fan of the Romulans on “Star Trek.”

The episode’s story was by René Echevarria with teleplay by Naren Shankar and directed by Gabrielle Beaumont.

The story follows Counselor Troi who has been surgically altered into Tal Shiar Agent Major Rakal. She must figure out the reasons why while facing a crew that distrusts her very presence on the ship.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Mystery and Trust – The main mystery of why Troi was turned into a Romulan by Commander N’Vek and The Enterprise-D as they work with a former Federation Ensign DeSeve who defected to the Romulan Star Empire, returning to help them find a ship going at the fastest speed. Both Picard and the crew don’t know whether they can trust the defector and Troi is in the same situation, even as she sees that the cargo they are transporting are government officials trying to get safely over to the Federation. It is powerfully done as both N’Vek and Ensign DeSeve slowly reveal more of the truth and have to give more and go against the distrusting nature instilled in them by the Empire. It is powerfully done and through it you get to see Troi come into her element as a leader.

Relationship Between Tal Shiar and Romulan Military – In this episode we get the military perspective (and from it the view of the Romulan populace) of the Tal Shiar. Everyone fears them. Commander Toreth mentions how every person on her crew has lost someone to the Tal Shiar, but in the end they still follow orders. The fear is so great that the most that can be done is verbal protest.

Commander Toreth – Commander Toreth’s father was a man who spoke up for freedom for Romulans and was killed by the Tal Shiar for it. This in many ways makes her sympathetic to N’Vek’s plot but her duty overrides all else and because of how Troi is being used, Troi can’t sympathize or help. She was a moral commander and anytime N’Vek or Troi did something she disagreed with, she’d document it and she was not afraid to confront the Tal Shiar with her disagreement over their actions, even as she continued serving the Empire. Carolyn Seymour was amazing in the role.

Counselor Troi – This is an episode where Troi gets to shine. She has to play the role of the enemy to both the Romulans on the ship and later towards her own crew in order to save innocents. The entire episode is a tightrope walk for her and Marina Sirtis does a fantastic job acting that walk. Troi’s arc in the episode involves her speaking up for herself and taking charge. First against Commander Toreth and later against N’Vek when his plans fail.

The Cons:

The Ending Actions of the Romulans – Commander Toreth’s original plan was to destroy The Enterprise-D after they learn how to track their cloak, but after getting command back from Troi she completly forgets her original aim and instead thinks that she’ll just bring Troi in for questioning. It isn’t handled well and feels rushed and sudden. The Romulans just leave and the Federation gets the escapees and no knows another way to track cloaks. Given how effective we see Commander Toreth is, this made no sense and felt like they just wanted to end the episode.

This is a good episode and one I’d recommend to any Romulan fan. You get to see how complicated relationships are between the Tal Shiar and military, Toreth is a wonderfully compelling character and the mystery plot is strong enough to keep one engaged. Marina Sirtis has to carry this episode and she succeeds in doing so. Her Troi is vulnerable but firm and adapts to the predicament she is in. I wish she had gotten more episodes like this.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10

Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 2 – “Maps and Legends” – Exploring Romulan Secrets

Image result for Maps and Legends Picard

   “Maps and Legends” is an episode that feels like a part of a whole more than a single story far more than the pilot “Remembrance.” We are introduced to more characters and the plot moves forward but it doesn’t feel as complete as the pilot. I still enjoyed the episode, especially the lore we get on the Romulans but I would have preferred a more whole story, though I know with the format of the show this is going to be less common. Taking that into account, this is an enjoyable continuation that shows more of the show’s potential.

The episode was written by Akiva Goldsman and Michael Chabon and directed by Hanelle Culpepper.

Picard seeks out knowledge behind who Dahj was and those who destroyed her, as well as seeking support from Starfleet on his investigation.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Attack on Mars – The episode begins showing us a flashback to the attack on Mars. It is hear it is established that the Synthetics are looked on with fear by most of the humans they work with and that they were hacked to cause the attack. It is very well shot and shows that the Synthetics had no intention of living beyond the attack.

A Retreating Starfleet – Picard talks to the Commander-in-Chief of Starfleet, Fleet Admiral Clancy. It is hear we get Starfleet’s perspective and learn that member states within the Federation were threatening to leave if the Romulans were helped (showing how deep the fear of them still was, even with being allies during the Dominion War). You can see her predicament and Picard denouncing the Federation response had probably lead to her putting out even more fires. It is great getting the perspective and her voicing sorrow at the great man Picard once was shows that she doesn’t hate him, she just represents a very scared Starfleet trying to hold all the member states together.

Layers of Romulan Plots – One of the first things we learn in the episode is that the Romulan Tal Shiar had horror stories about an organization called the Zhat Vash. During this we learn Laris and Zhaban are former Tal Shiar operatives and that it is believed that Zhat Vash want to destroy all synthetic life and that is why Romulans don’t use A.I.

After Admiral Clancy talks to Picard she calls Commander Oh who we discover is most likely an undercover Romulan operative as she calls out “Lt. Rizzo” for her actions of killing Dahj, saying that they need to find out where the rest of the Synths are and that it was brutal and sloppy. Seeing how deeply the Romulans are in Starfleet and no Section 31 to be seen makes me wonder who these different factions are. Is this Tal Shiar vs Zhat Vash? What is their relationship? Rizzo and Oh clearly don’t get along so maybe they aren’t part of the same faction? This was intriguing and I can’t wait to learn more.

The Cons:

The Writing on the Borg “Artifact” – The writing on the Borg cube is very tell and not as much show. From the Romulan agent Narek saying he can go anywhere to himself (but more to us) and Soji telling us how much she cares about the “nameless” drones. There are interesting things happening and it is compelling but I wish the writing had much more show. We don’t need to be told everything that is happening.

This was an enjoyable but outing that didn’t reach the levels of good or great. Most of it was fleshing out the lore so we don’t get that compelling of the story. I would have liked Picard to have at least one ally in Starfleet he could have turned to (ideally one we’ve met prior) before asking to be a member of Starfleet again. I liked being in San Francisco again but we don’t meet anyone there who isn’t antagonistic to Picard in some way, so that was a major missed opportunity. Laris and Zhaban continue to be one of the strongest parts of the show as well as anything having to do with the Romulans.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 2, Episode 9 – “The Measure of a Man” – A Brilliant Defense of Personhood

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       Going back and watching this episode was so enjoyable. It is rare to find a show that takes its time in a story and goes slow. This is very much “The Measure of a Man” and all the stronger for it as it gives time for us to be with the characters and to explore the theme. This is easily one of the best episodes in “Star Trek” and this is in early “Star Trek: The Next Generation” when the writers were still finding their footing. If you haven’t watched this episode and are a Trekkie, I highly recommend you do. It explores the themes of humanity and sentience and gives a beautiful character drama.

The episode was written by Melinda Snodgrass and directed by Robert Scheerer.

The story follows Data as he is ordered to be reassigned and disassembled for study by Starfleet. The only way for this order not to occur is for Captain Picard to prove Data’s sentience worthy of the same rights and freedoms of all members of the Federation.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Commander Bruce Maddox – Commander Bruce Maddox is the primary antagonist of the episode as he is the one who wants to disassemble Data in order to create more androids. He has a fascinating arc as he starts out viewing Data as merely a machine and tool and denies his sentience, referring to Data as “it” rather than “him.” His idea is that he wants to create more of Data to help the Federation and humanity and even in his experiments he has enough awareness that he would like Data’s mind to remain intact, even in the beginning. It is this shred of awareness that eventually evolves into empathy by the end of the trial.

Data and his Relationships – Data and his relationships are front and center and part of what makes the episode so strong. The episode starts with a card game where Riker explains bluffing to Data. Later on he gives his things to Geordi, who is his closest friend and the main crew throw him a party. It is devastating seeing how everyone wants him to stay even as he feels bound by his duty as a Starfleet officer. We also see Picard show how much he admires him too as he is the one presenting solutions and who fights for Data’s rights before the judge. He even comforts Riker at one point as Riker is the one who has to argue that he has no sentience, and thanks him for doing his duty, knowing how much it hurt Riker to do it. There is depth in the relationships which reminded me of part of what was so great about “The Next Generation.”

The Trial – The Trial is compelling as we have Riker fighting on the side of Maddox out of duty (if he doesn’t Data will be disassembled and Maddox wins by default) and Picard arguing for Data’s sentience and dignity. It is powerful as Riker demonstrates that Data is a machine, at one point shutting him off and also having Data remove his hand. Picard gives the famous Picard speech pointing out how organic beings are also machines and confronts Maddox with the fact that Data meets 2/3 of areas of sentience by Maddox’s own terms sentience. He is intelligent, he is self-aware and consciousness is the only one in question. In the end the judge Captain Louvois rules that she cannot rule on androids as whole. Data is a machine but he is not the property of the Federation and has the right to choose his fate.

The Value of an Individual – When Picard is lost on what to do he goes to talk Guinan. She is the one who helps Picard realize what the connotations are of what it means if more Data’s are made. This trial is about the fact that Data is an expendable individual and that the Federation plans to make an army of them, slaves of the Federation. It is a powerful speech and it is Picard arguing on Data’s individuality and humanity that arises from this and leads to them winning the case. The scene with Guinan is easily one of the best in all of “Star Trek.”

The Cons:

Tacked on Romance – The judge Captain Phillipa Louvois who is ruling in the case against Data is an interesting character, but her tacked on romance with Picard makes no sense. She prosecuted Picard but the writers felt it necessary to throw in romantic tension and flirting. The episode ends with Picard asking her out on a date as well. I think this was to further humanize her and Picard but it just felt tacked on. Their complicated relationship didn’t also need romance as the plot was strong enough and this was just a distraction that added nothing.

This is truly shows the best that “Star Trek: The Next Generation” has to offer. Deep character relationships and complex topics of philosophy and morality are what I love about “Star Trek.” “The Measure of a Man” has this in spades. This is one of my favorite episodes in all of “Star Trek” and it was a pleasure returning to it. The questions this episode poses are ones that people should always return to.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10 Could have done without the tacked on romantic B plot, but the rest is amazing.

Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 1 – “Remembrance” – A Promising Return

Patrick Stewart and Isa Briones in Star Trek: Picard (2020)

   “Remembrance” is a promising start to “Star Trek: Picard.” This is an episode that gives us the major themes, introduces the characters and factions and is a wonderful character analysis of Jean-Luc Picard and who he is. Suffice to say, this is a show I’d highly recommend thus far. As part of what I’ll be doing with the episodic reviews is reviewing past “Star Trek” episodes that the “Picard” episode reminds me of. It has been wonderful going back and watching the shows I grew up with. I can’t wait to see how the things set up in this episode payoff overall. This is definitely a show that is going for the long arc where every episode is a part versus the “Star Trek” of the past that had many stand alone episodes or two-parters. We really didn’t see season long arcs until “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and until more recently, in “Discovery.” So I’ll be taking that into account in my scores for the episodes of this show.

The story follows Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) who went into retirement after Synthetics attacked Mars and the Federation pulled away from helping the Romulans evacuate from the Supernova that would be destroying their home system. Picard has been reclusive during this time, only appearing publicly for an interview. His retirement changes though when the mysterious Dahj (Isa Briones) comes to him for help.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

A Sense of Time – This episode is great at capturing how much time has passed. Part of this is due to it beginning with an epilogue and dream sequence where Picard and Data are on the Enterprise-D playing cards, that ends with the destruction of Mars. Picard is old and he is dealing with that.

Standing Against Fear for Life – The first big event for Picard in the present is his interview. It was originally supposed to be a chance for him to talk about the fallout of the Romulan Supernova. The interiewer doesn’t stand for it though and talks about how the Romulans are the Federations oldest enemy and that the Federation had to look inward after the Synthetics attacked Mars. She uses that incident to question his loyalty to Data. Picard stands up for his friend and for the Romulans, creating waves and showing the person he has always been. It was very much “The Measure of a Man” where he defends Data’s right to life and I loved it. Romulans are just as worthy of life as any human. It was beautifully expressed and was true to one of the core ethical values in “Star Trek.”

The Romulans – In this episode we learn how many of the Romulans became refugees after the Supernova destroyed their homeworld and the system it inhabited. 2 of them (Laris and Zhaban) live with Picard and we see their respect and admiration for him. I hear their backstory is explored in the comic so I might pick it out. They are two of my favorite characters on the show and I can’t wait to see more of them. We also have an enemy faction who destroys Dahj and arrives on a dead Borg Cube called the artifact, hunting her sister Soji. Romulans are my favorite species in “Star Trek” and I can’t wait to see more of them.

Jean-Luc Picard – Picard is a man full of regrets living in retirement who is once again given a reason to live. It is a powerful premise and the first episode handles this really well. We see his regrets in Starfleet refusing to help the Romulan Refugees and that he is still the moral man of old. It is in Dahj we see him care for others too, as her reminding him of Data and being connected to Data gives him purpose and reason to fight on. This is handled beautifully and Patrick Stewart truly owns this role. It is nice he isn’t action hero Picard either (from the films) as that was never realistic and how he feels once more like the ethical intellect and diplomat that made “The Next Generation” so good. I can’t wait to see where the story takes him next and to learn more about what happened to leave him the broken man we meet at the beginning of the show.

The Cons:

At Times Action Over Details – At one point Romulans in black attack Dahj. This happens twice. The first time they kill her boyfriend and she discovers she has abilities. The second time they take her out even though she is right in Starfleet Academy. All that is covered up as is her existence is covered up as well as the attack. It is simply called an explosion on a building. This is a great example of action over detail as we never learn the details of what the story was. What caused the explosion? What was the story on the news given Picard’s recent interview? All of that is left up to the imagination to push the story forward and that is the greatest weakness of the story so far.

This was a strong start to the series and I can’t wait to see where it goes. It is slower than “Discovery” even though the action sequences in this are longer than I would have liked. Give me more time with Picard, Laris and Zhaban. I love his relationship with those Romulans who work for him and are his only friends we really see. It is in the moments of history and Picard facing himself where the episode soars and if the showrunners can keep up this theme and storytelling than this series can be great.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

“The Boys” Season 1 – An Amazing Deconstruction of Super Heroes and the United States

Image result for The Boys season 1 poster"

     “The Boys” is one of the best deconstructions of Super Heroes and the toxic aspects of the culture and politics in the United States that I have seen. I have not read the comics but I am intrigued to see how closely the show takes inspiration from the them. I really liked this show. The characters and ideas are explored so well and the writing is fantastic. Before I get into spoilers, this is a show I recommend to anyone tired of how predictable Super Hero narratives in television and films can become and one looking at a great critique of the power structures and politics in the United States.

The series was created by Eric Kripke for Amazon based on the comics by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson.

The story follows Hughie (Jack Quaid) following the death of his girlfriend from the super-hero A-Train (A member of The Seven) seeks revenge under Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) and his “Boys.” During this time his friendship grows with the newest member of the Seven Starlight (Erin Moriarity), who discovers how corrupt the Seven and the corporation Vought who runs them truly are.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Seven – The Seven are controlled by the Vought Corporation who created them through use of the drug Compound V. They are the face of the corporation and are used in films, in coordination with the Religious Right and as law enforcement, eventually being used to fight terrorists abroad. They are lead by Homelander (Think an evil Superman) and have members including The Deep, Black Noir, Queen Maeve, A-Train, Translucent and Starlight.

Black Noir – Black Noir is the one character this season who is just doing his job. Unlike all the other members who see be outright corrupt or greedy in different ways, Noir doesn’t talk and just shows up to work. I’m curious to see what we learn about him next season as he is the biggest mystery at this point as a member of the Seven.

Homelander – Antony Starr was brilliant as Homelander. He is charismatic and threatening and his arc involves him finding out the truth about what happened to his son and the cover-up by Vought Corporation. He ends up turning on his lover and boss Madelyn and the implication when he finds his son and how he sees anyone who isn’t a super as worthless means he is probably going to aim to form a fascist regime under him. He is a fascinating villain and I’m curious to see what he does next.

Starlight – Annie January / Starlight is the only member of the Seven who cares about the public and is driven by good. This is true even after she is molested by the Deep and bullied by the members of the Seven. Her arc involves her growing close to Maeve who is burned out but reminded why she wanted to be a hero in the first place by Starlight’s strength. Starlight stands up for he beliefs and doubt of God of at a Christian Right Conference and also stands up against what The Deep did to her. Starlight also saves The Boys and Hughie from A-Train when she learns the truth about Compound V and how her mother used her and how Vought has been using her for their own gain. Her relationship with Hughie is beautiful and she is one of my favorite characters on the show. I can’t wait to see where her arc goes.

The Boys – The Boys are an organization lead by Billy Butcher who are trying to kill the Supers and destroy Vought Corporation. Butcher’s main drive is to hurt Homelander as he believes Homelander raped and murdered his wife. The other members of the group are Mother’s Milk and Frenchie who have worked with Butcher in the past and don’t trust him, the Super Kimiko they save from Vought and Hughie.

Billy Butcher – Karl Urban is fantastic as Billy. Billy is a man driven by hatred and rage and his toxic to everyone around him as he seeks to takeout Vought and the Supers. He is driven by the belief that Homelander killed and raped his wife and this has lead him to care nothing for others beyond how he can use them against Vought and the Supers. Hughie is where we see his humanity as Hughie reminds him of the person he used to be. In the end he is alone when he tries to takeout Homelander until Homelander gives him a revelation that ends the season.

Hughie – Hughie, like Starlight is one of the only good people in this universe. His arc is him finding his courage to take on Vought and the Supers. He is the one who kills Translucent after Frenchie puts a bomb in the member of the Seven but in the end he doesn’t become Billy, as after A-Train tries to kill him and has a heart attack, he tries to save A-Train. This shows his base goodness that exists, even after A-Train had ran through and killed his girlfriend with his super speed. Jack Quaid is fantastic in the role and I’m curious how his character will change now that he and the Boys are wanted.

Deconstructing Super Heroes – What would humans be like if given super powers? What would be the cost of vigilantism? How would an organized group of vigilantes like the super heroes in comics come about? These are questions that are beautifully answered in such comics as “Watchmen,” “Miracle Man,” and is done here in “The Boys.” In “The Boys” supers are made by a powerful corporation using Compound V and marketing the Supers to make money. From here we see the effect this has on the Supers as most of them are corrupt and use their power and fame to their own ends. We see this in the stories of the Seven and how eventually what may arise out of it is fascist control under a Superman via the aims and planning of Homelander in this universe.

Critiquing the Religious Right – The religious right is tied closely to Vought and the governors as many senators have them as their base. From this we see how it is used to justify power. Homelander is preached as being chosen by God to lead and Vought makes money off of all the religious conferences they throw around the United States. It is very much pointing out the nature of power here. You have people like Trump who are irreligious and only after power who the religious right believe in because the leaders of their faith tell them too. What the leaders do doesn’t matter as long as they claim to believe a certain thing, in this case God or Jesus. Their actions do not matter. It becomes power for the sake of power and that is how fascists like Homelander rise, where power is the only thing they believe in. Morality was never part of the story, it was only ever about power and control.

The Cons:

Cliffhanger Ending – The season ends with a Cliffhanger as Starlight is trying to save A-Train from a heart attack after his failed attack against her and Hughie as Hughie and The Boys escapes. At the same time Butcher is with Homelander after Homelander saves him as we meet Homelander’s son and Billy sees his wife for the first time she went missing. It is a gut punch of an ending and I’m curious to see what happens next.

This was an amazing show and I’m glad it got renewed. There are so many big ideas that are explored and the characters are written so well. As someone who enjoys reading Super Hero comics and watching their films and shows, this was a wonderful deconstruction of the ideas that are often postulated in those mediums. How would humans act with super powers? What would this do to the culture? Where would power be? This series presents a depressing picture of it but in doing so critiques the toxic aspects of the culture around power and privilege here in the United States. Suffice to say I highly recommend you check this series out.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10