Having literally just seen the final episode, the time has come to review the second season of Amazon Prime’s smash-hit 2019 series The Boys. The show has climbed do a different level of popularity since the relatively surprise-nature of the success of its first season. For those unacquainted, however, The Boys is something of an anti-Marvel; it takes place in a world where “supes” are celebrities, and are thusly at the beck-and-call of their corporate overlords, doing good only to sell a brand, having no regard for collateral damage at best, and legitimately sinister intentions at worst. The show follows a group of vigilantes, nicknamed “The Boys”, as they attempt to expose the Supes and the company that controls them. This is a spoiler review for the 2nd season of The Boys. If you haven’t seen the second season, or the first for that matter, please turn back. We’ve got plenty of reviews.
My level of excitement for this season can’t possibly be over-stated. I loved the first season, absolutely adored it. I wrote a review for it at the time, which you can read if you’re interested in why, but the bottom line is that I was a massive fan of this show when its first season dropped, and I’d been keeping my ear to the ground for over a year about the second season. By the time early September came around, I’d just finished my season 1 re-watch and was ready to go.
I feel like my anticipation for this season is a pretty good segue in to the main controversy that met Eric Kripke and the rest of the creative team behind the show, namely the fact that season 2 was released in a staggered way. The first 3 episodes were dropped at once, and the remaining 5 were released on a weekly basis, which took a lot of the fanbase by surprise and resulted in a wave of backlash. Honestly. I find the reaction some people had to this release pattern really pretty childish. To prefer binging is perfectly fine, and it’s just as fine to say it, but to show hate for a show that you like because it’s not being released in the way you’d prefer is kind of ludicrous. Personally, I’m in the camp that says weekly releases is the best way to watch TV. It doesn’t work for every show, the episode that you get each week needs to be interesting enough to hold your attention and maintain your interest week after week, but if you’ve got a show that can do that, among which The Boys definitely is one, then it adds a level of sustained suspense and anticipation that adds to the show, not to mention the fact that it’s probably a good exercise in some amount of patience for us. You don’t need to agree with that, but some people went pretty far in showing their displeasure, and I respect Kripke’s doubling down on the decision and chastising his fans for giving it negative reviews for that reason. Also, it really shouldn’t have been a surprise, they mentioned the staggered release in every piece of marketing I saw beforehand.
It’s a challenge to asses this season as a whole having just seen the finale, so I think I’ll sort of take it thread by thread as they lead up to the finale. I want to start, as all things should, with The Deep, whose existence is basically the most schadenfreude shambles in the history of the world. His whole storyline with the Church of the Collective was hilarious, I loved the Scientology parallels, even though it didn’t actually add up to much. My guess is we’ll be seeing more of his supposed teaming up with Maeve to take down Homelander in the next season, hopefully, although anything would’ve been worth it for Patton Oswald as the gills and the last moment where they take A-Train back instead. Frickin priceless. I also want to take a moment to acknowledge Frenchie. I’ve always held great love for Frenchie, he was always second favorite of The Boys, to Butcher, but I loved him still. Someone I spoke to about it pointed out a lack of development for him, a lack of an arc, and while that’s a fair observation, Frenchie is a rare character in that he has, in spite of having no arc, an incredible depth. It’s like he’s already been through a great arc, before the show, and we get the final product right off the bat, full of emotional depth, and his episode, you know the one, is arguably one of the high points of the whole show. His only real growth is alongside Kimiko, who started the season off really well and then sort of fell by the wayside and wasn’t given an awful lot to do. They actually had some stand out moments (the scene in the church, the first time Frenchie actually gets pissed at her, comes to mind), but they were all C or even D stories until the ‘Girls get it done’ scene in the last episode, which was extremely cathartic (if possibly not the greatest fight choreography in the world, they were basically just kicking her).
Stormfront was a cool character to throw into the mix, I’m glad she’s out of the picture now though, I doubt she’d have kept for more than a season. Ultimately her role, aside from being an evil Nazi, had a lot more to do with Homelander’s growth than anything else Aya Cash did a really good job though, and she was an essential piece to this season’s puzzle. Homelander had a fantastic season. There’s a brilliant irony in the most powerful man in the world’s biggest weakness being a need to be loved, and Antony Starr plays the struggle so. Frickin. Well. Seriously, this is a character who could do anything he wanted (including what he did to show it in the last episode. He could, so he did), but he won’t just wipe out anyone in his way (or at least not quite that bluntly) because in the end he needs people to love him. One of the best paying threads of this season was Homelander’s weird…genuinely caring paternal side for Ryan. One of the things that last episode did so incredibly well is making you feel for the guy. I was not expecting the scene at that Vought restaurant to go the way it did, nor the scenes after it, because it finally came across that Homelander’s intentions with Ryan were kind of for real. You’ve got to wonder, had Homelander had the opportunity to raise Ryan on his own, if Ryan would’ve actually turned out to become a sort of anti-Homelander of his own accord. If Homelander is the way that he is because of the way he was raised, I see great tragedy in the idea that Homelander might actually have solved his own problem by raising Ryan the way he wishes he was raised. Antony Starr continues to be fantastic in debatably the best performance of the show.
Of course, it is debatable, a debate caused solely by the existence of Karl Urban. Butcher’s last episode of this season was unbelievable. In terms of the season as a whole, he had great development parallel to Hughie (although I’m not certain about some of the directions they took Hughie later, more on that later). The big revelation, of course, was the thing with Becca. There was a lot of Becca-hating done after that episode released. I think the bottom line is that she was probably right in that moment, no matter how frustrating it might be. She had the measure of Butcher’s character, much better than we gave her credit for. Would you honestly have put it past Butcher to straight up kill the kid at that point? One could argue that Becca ought to have gone with Butcher, and then bet on the kid’s likeability to get through to Butcher eventually. Cameron Crovetti, the kid who plays Ryan, might’ve been one of the unsung heroes of this show. He did as good a job of selling his likeability as he possibly could’ve done, and, given that he’s just a good kid, Becca might’ve taken the risk that Butcher would come to recognize that about him. All in all though, I definitely see why she did what she did, and Butcher’s actions in the first half of the last episode are evidence of that. Butcher’s actions in the second half of that episode, however, tell a different story. I really wish we could’ve seen Becca with The Boys for longer. We never really saw her talk to Hughie, for example, and I just wish we had. Killing her was the absolute right decision, and they couldn’t have done it in a more heartbreaking way. That whole scene, in the woods, was almost perfect. It might’ve helped that there wasn’t much by way of dialogue, this show’s Achille’s Heel (more on that later), but such as it was, it was brilliant. There were so many dynamics at play in that scene, so much happening internally for every character on screen, and it was made what is was by Karl Urban’s extraordinary performance.
I’m a little confused as to what to say about Hughie and Starlight. I was a big fan of what they chose to do with Hughie’s character up until the second last episode. I generally wasn’t a massive fan of that episode, for a lot of reasons that I’ll get to next, but suffice it to say that I think that whatever emotional development that ought to have been happening with Hughie felt kind of mishandled. The porn metaphor was really stupid, an example of nonsense juvenility that occasionally plagues the writing of the show, and it just led to a poor representation of a very genuine internal struggle (we’ll call it the Hawk-Eye effect). His thing at the conclusion of the season was really vague. I don’t really understand what “stand on my own two feet” means in that context. Okay that’s maybe not fair to them, I do understand more or less what they’re saying, but its implications could be kind of out of character for Hughie, outside of what I’d call a reasonable arc. My confusion stems from the fact that I don’t really understand if this sudden need to strike out from the group is as drastic a character change as it could be, or if it’s actually something more understated. Starlight had a decent season all around, save for a couple examples of poor dialogue, either in the writing or the delivery. I don’t think I understand her decision to go back to The Seven after all of it, I don’t think it makes a ton of sense. The “let the assholes steer” bit is the sort of thing that sound nice enough on the surface, but makes very little sense when you think about the fact that she could be jumping ship and fighting Vought outright from the outside. Do they really still need an inside man? I guess we’ll find out.
There’s just a little bit more to say. I want to, first, point out the gaping problem with this show in general. They really need to find better writers for the dialogue. A little too much of the dialogue (and I’m singling out dialogue because the broad-strokes, storyline writing of the show is fantastic) is really quite average to below-average. It’s clunky, it crosses the line to juvenile at times (that porn metaphor really bothered me), and all of that would be fine if it wasn’t as regular as it is. Again, the bigger picture writing is fantastic, but the syntax really needs some punching up. I don’t know how many people have seen the Honest Trailer for the first season, but the insinuation that the show was basically written by those teenagers Maeve saved from a bus in the first episode is a little too accurate in moments.
Obviously, there’s a lot I haven’t been able to mention. These TV reviews are a lot tougher than film reviews because there’s so much more I’d like to say. I want to talk about Maeve and Elena, about MM being underutilized (of which him not being mentioned in this review is a decent metaphor), and how this show almost made me stop drinking milk, but there isn’t space for everything. Hopefully I’ll be able to give more time to stuff that when season 3 comes out, and it’s all more developed. The season finale did a lot to tie up loose ends, but there’s plenty to wonder about going forward. For example, just who, what, where, when, and why is Victoria Neuman? I figured it was the bald girl at Sage Grove who was blowing people’s heads off, not Neuman, so unless there’s some identity theft going on, those are threads we’ll hopefully see more of. Obviously, I can see Neuman becoming the next lead villain, maybe with Hughie as an unwitting antagonist to The Boys? That could be good. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, I think it’s safe to say that this was a phenomenal season, and I can’t wait for more, as soon as they can get it to us.
– Aman Datta
Aman’s Season 2 Score – 86/100