The second season of Amazon’s dark and disturbed deconstruction of the superhero genre has ended, and it’s proved that the fantastic first season wasn’t just lightning in a bottle. Instead, the second season brings the satire of the first and turns it up to eleven, creating something more poignant and timelier than ever.
The Boys follows two separate groups; the Seven—a team of superheroes who are definitely not as heroic as the public believe, and our titular group, the Boys—a team of vigilantes trying to take down Vought, the corporation that manages the Seven.
What is so brilliant about The Boys is that it takes the most popular genre in the world and does something completely reinvigorating and fresh. It’s raucous, cynical, unflinchingly gory and offers a refreshing corrective to the superhero worship that is in so much of the genre. Over the course of the two seasons, we see that many members of this superhero team are not just average superheroes, but truly awful and nasty human beings, whose wrongdoings are covered up by a corporation with an immense amount of power.
If you thought the Avengers weren’t always a cohesive unit, you haven’t seen anything like the Seven—especially their (not so) heroic leader Homelander—a cross between Superman and Captain America who is also a violent, nasty and vindictive sociopath. Antony Starr is suburb as this character, perfectly portraying Homelander’s violent and toxic layers as they’re continually revealed over the course of the two seasons. In this show’s universe, the Seven are the biggest stars on the planet. They get chat show appearances, energy drink endorsements, church endorsements and even a whole film made about them called Dawn of the Seven (which gets a sexist rewrite from Joss Whedon—another bit of potent satire). Most notably, Vought has eyes on the lucrative government defence contracts that dictate what a large majority of these superheroes do. It’s a fantastic bit of ‘what if?’ storytelling. If superheroes were living today, they’d probably be run by a big corporation who would do anything to control their PR and spin them as being perfect entities.
It’s hard to get into details about Season 2, but the major development is the introduction of a new superhero into the Seven –Stormfront. She’s internet savvy, full of unlikable snark and happens to be a raging white supremist Nazi. Season 2 builds on the gory nihilism of Season 1, turning to the blatant manipulation of digital media and how it poisons vulnerable minds to join cult groups that threaten the planet.
There’s so much to say about these supposed super heroes that we forget about the group the show is named after. This vigilante team is run by Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), who recruits Hughie (Jack Quaid), a man whose girlfriend is inconspicuously killed by a member of the Seven. Each member of the Boys—Billy, Hughie, Mother’s Milk, Frenchie, and The Female—have their own vendettas against these people of power. It’s staggering how well the show fleshes out all of the members of the Boys and the Seven within the span of the first season, and then continues this on during the second. The heart of the show is what creates the biggest conflict in Season 1. Hughie forms a close bond with Starlight (Erin Moriarty), who is the newest inductee into the Seven. The bond between these two characters has continually given the show its heart amongst all the nihilism and cynicism. Urban is an absolute powerhouse as Billy, bringing a large dose of grit and humour, and as the show unfolds we see his seemingly indestructible veneer of toughness be stripped away. Urban’s performance as the British tough guy feels almost like a more emotionally-drained mix of Jason Statham and Jack Sparrow in the best way possible.
If you came out of Season 1 feeling like The Boys is a bit too much of an empty, gruesome spectacle, give Season 2 a go. It’s more depth-filled and heartfelt than the first season was. Showrunner Eric Kripke and his team have somehow created a show that is simultaneously a pointed antithesis to the superhero genre and one of the best things to come out of it in the last five years. If you thought the satire of Deadpool was strong, you haven’t got any idea what The Boys will delve into. If you thought Logan was violent, this takes it to a whole new level. According to new data, it’s the biggest streaming series that isn’t on Netflix. It’s no surprise to see why. It’s gnarly, it’s gleeful, it’s twisted, and it might be your new favourite piece of superhero media if you give it shot.
The Boys is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.