Creators: Eric Kripke, Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen
Cast: Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Antony Starr, Erin Moriarty
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video
When season 1 of The Boys came out, I approached it with a bit of trepidation – assuming that the producers might not be able to do a Garth Ennis' comic book complete justice on a visual medium. Thankfully, I was proven wrong. Season one of The Boys on Amazon Prime established the rules of its universe quickly, staying both close to and away from the comic book. In the process, it delivered a fantastic and groundbreaking season one – the way Netflix's Daredevil had done in 2015.
As a result, expectations were already high for season 2, and the showrunners had said that they were looking to ramp things up, which meant the show's sophomore season ran the risk joyless overkill. Having seen the entire season, which will be released weekly on Amazon Prime from September 4, I can tell you with certainty that the overkill is not only joyous and necessary – it also comes with a significant amount of story, character development and surprisingly, empathy.
The Boys as a concept explores how superheroes would work in the real world and how humanity might respond to their existence. 'The Seven' are the 'Justice League' of this cinematic universe and its primary members Homelander, Queen Mave, Starlight, A-Train, The Deep, Black Noir and Translucent are both celebrities and defense contracts for Vought – the big bad overarching corporation that 'owns' them. The 'superheroes' move from missions to movie sets – both leading and obeying Vought's PR machinery. But of course, the CIA never trusted Vought and therefore they help create The Boys – Billy the Butcher, Hughie, The Frenchman, Mother's Milk and The Female.
Since this is a spoiler-free review – I will not delve much into second season's plot. As the trailers and promos show, Billy is back after his run-in with Homelander, and recovering from the shocking revelation at the end of season one. The Boys are still on the run and ready to take down 'Supes', but this time there's more than just taking on Vought and Homelander at stake. There is a 'War against Super terror' raging as Vought gets The Seven on active duty overseas. Hughie and Starlight are still dealing with the fallout of their actions in the previous season and in search for ways to takedown Vought from the inside. Add to all of this a new superhero and member of The Seven, Stormfront, who is a social media influencer and a thorn in Homelander's side.
Through its eight episodes, The Boys covers significant ground in terms of story and for the most part manages exceedingly well – as it balances more character led plots with the constant raising of stakes. Some subplots, however, are never worth the depth they are allotted – and might be the skip points you are looking for.
It is to the ensemble cast's (and writers') credit that they manage to not only keep their characters faithful and exciting, but also give the audience a sense of empathy, even for the ones we want to punch in the face
But it's not just the story that makes The Boys' season 2 so very good – it's the individual performances and the time the show takes to let each of its primary and secondary characters develop. Antony Starr as Homelander, shines once again as the malevolent Übermenschn with a God complex and oedipal perversions. Shawn Ashmore as Lamp Lighter delivers a standout performance that's both understated and nuts at the same time. As a comic book movie fan, it is fun to see Ashmore take on a role that is almost exactly opposite (in terms of super powers) to his turn as the Iceman in the original X-Men movie series.
It is to the ensemble cast's (and writers') credit that they manage to not only keep their characters faithful and exciting, but also give the audience a sense of empathy, even for the ones we want to punch in the face. The second season with its character led tonality and some unique and poignant moments amidst the madness and violence, seemed reminiscent of Garth Ennis' other seminal comic book, Hitman (DC Comics) – in the best possible way.
The Boys exists in a world where we are all heroes in our stories, and villains in another's – that is why the show can afford to be unapologetically shocking, topical, political and reflective. The second season avoids the mistake many second seasons of comic book shows make – to do the same thing louder and bigger. Season 2 keeps what worked the first time and adds layers of human storytelling, confusing morality, and some 'Holy shit!' action set pieces.
In short, I will be rewatching season 2 of The Boys with everyone else, next week.