Created By: Eric Kripke
Produced By: Eric Kripke, Seth Rogen, Philip Sgriccia, and Evan Goldberg
Streaming on Amazon Prime Video
Runtime: 8 Episodes
Studio: Amazon Studios/Original Film/Point Grey Pictures/Sony Pictures Television
Starring: Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, and Antony Starr
The Boys Season 2 shines a light on new character development in the villainous superheroes while adding more heart to our titular group of protagonists. The focus of the second season is more about what the impact of sacrifice can mean to those on the righteous and wicked side. There are plenty of bloody fights sewn into the fabrics of Season 2 that are memorable, just as they are in the first season, but its character-driven arc is the initial force that steers the conflict and drama of the season.
When the second season starts, The Boys are wanted criminals for events that transpired back at the end of the first season and are in a hideout. They soon learn of a new threat, a superterrorist who has telekinetic powers and have to figure out a way to bring Vought down with the help of Butcher (Urban). Meanwhile, Homelander (Starr), the leader of The Seven, has to deal with a newcomer, known as Stormfront (Cash). She steps on his groundwork and puts his patience to the test as he struggles to keep power within the group. With all the events intersecting throughout the season, it allows Homelander to connect with his son, who may or may not be a superhero as well, while Butcher strives to find his long lost love, Becca (VanSanten). By focusing on those two plot points, the show showcases a weird sense of being human with Homelander while exploiting a rawness that Butcher hides under his tough-guy persona. I am only using “weird” in this case because Homelander is not likable, even after implementing this new trait of his. It’s unusual, to say the least, but that doesn’t make it a bad thing.
Homelander and Butcher act as the pillars of two different factions, but their roles feel switched from the first season. Butcher and crew have to find meaning in what it means to be true heroes in a time of dire need. Homelander, and the rest of The Seven, have to take more responsibility for their actions while trying to wear a symbolic facade of hope. The consequences they have to face strip away any sense of impenetrable personas they once bore, offering a new insight of vulnerability to their image as a superhero. The Boys have to deal with this presence of being the “bad guys” as they fight their way to bring the malice of what is deemed righteous to the surface. They have more at stake than they did in the first season. Although The Seven, and all the other heroes of the group, go through a transformation of being defaced, their only real threat lurks underground. The contrast the showrunners put in place makes the second season more memorable in that regard.
Vice versa, the risk of taking the series more into a character-driven zone is they have to cover all the characters that we have grown to know just by their actions — by that, I mean, we know these superheroes are assholes. Why do we need more depth to them when what they’ve done is despicable? They’re past the redeeming stage. I didn’t care to watch them try and justify their actions because, in the end, they’re still selfish assholes — it felt like a waste of time trying to watch A-Train (Usher) or the Deep (Crawford) come to terms with how awful they are. They didn’t learn a single thing. The other issue is there are a plethora of superheroes on one side of the aisle, and there are a plethora of good guys on the other that this series tries to cover. It adds more fluff to a season that could have been cut in half from its already 8 episode run to get to its consequential themes. The truth of the matter is this: they’re all not that interesting enough to drag an overall arc across in slow-burn fashion.
I liked the amount of depth they gave to Homelander and Butcher, but in a way, Butcher takes away the torch from Hughie (Quaid), who was declared to be the main protagonist of the whole group from the first season. The introduction to the chaotic world is through Hughie’s eyes. His character loses any sense of growth if it doesn’t include Starbright (Moriarty), which I felt like, is another character that deserved more attention than, say, the selfish superheroes. A lot of the second season felt more like a middle finger to the superhero genre more than the first one did. However, it also tries to take itself more seriously as well, and when you mix that with some childish, crass humor to show just how far you can go, it undoes quite a bit of what it was trying to accomplish. It takes away the said depth.
I will say I thought the finale was a satisfying way to tie the season together. As mentioned previously, the dynamic of Butcher and Homelander is the greatest thing about this second season. I cannot stress enough how much I enjoyed that element. However, a part of me feels conflicted with how stretched their central conflict was and how often other characters’ developments felt almost forced and convoluted. What works well in the first season is how natural the performances and writing felt. What doesn’t work well in the second season is the formulaic approach they tried to apply. Karl Urban and Antony Starr deserve a lot of recognition for their dualistic personalities, and Urban showcased an emotional side of him that shows off just how talented he is as an actor. I may have shed a tear in the last episode, sure, but that doesn’t mean I forgot about the rough build up the season had to get to that point.
Overall, I think the second season has strong performances with an atypical approach. They tried to bring it to life in an asinine manner that only made the season feel like fluff and convoluted. I guess my main question is this: what did the superheroes, aside from Homelander, learn from their journeys? What did The Boys, aside from Butcher, learn with theirs? For as much character development as the second of The Boys has, it lacks it in areas where it could have benefited balance to the story.
I give Season 2 of The Boys 3/5 stars.