By: Josh Chait Editor-in-Chief With the raging success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the burgeoning prominence of the DC Comics films, superheroes have become an enormous yet predictable aspect […]
By: Josh Chait
With the raging success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the burgeoning prominence of the DC Comics films, superheroes have become an enormous yet predictable aspect of society. Thus emerged in 2019 the first season of The Boys. Based on the comic series of the same name by Garth Ennis, The Boys challenges the norm by placing superheroes under the control of the corrupt Vought Corporation, which uses the heroes almost as property for its own economic and political gain; as a result, the superheroes are portrayed as the antagonists of the series, committing evil acts in service of themselves and Vought. Instead of the superheroes, the protagonists of the series are the Boys, a group of normal people seeking to take down Vought for one purpose or another. A year after the first season, the show returns to Amazon Prime with mixed reception.
Arguably the biggest strength and the biggest weakness of the second season were its characters. Billy Butcher, played by Karl Urban, and Homelander, played by Anthony Starr–the respective leaders of the Boys and the superheroes–are fantastically written and brilliantly portrayed. While most characters in the show remain relatively static, Butcher and Homelander undergo significant and riveting arcs that enable the audience to sympathize with them in a way that they really couldn’t during the first season. Another interesting development is newcomer Stormfront, played by Aya Cash. The newest addition to the core superhero team of the Seven, Stormfront enters this season like a wrecking ball, shifting the entire dynamic of the Seven and the show at large; specifically, with the growing relationship between Stormfront and Homelander, as well as the resulting unraveling of their characters, which was fascinating to watch.
So much attention was paid to those three characters that the others are, by the end of the season, largely left on the sidelines. Throughout the first season, in addition to Butcher, the series had two other main protagonists: Boys member Hughie, played by Jack Quaid, and superhero Starlight, played by Erin Moriarty. While these two characters were given significant screen time during the first half of the second season, the final few episodes (especially the finale) leave them somewhat irrelevant to the point that they could be cut out of the final episode and practically nothing would change. Considering the first season had largely revolved around them, it was a disappointment to see the duo so underused.
Unlike Hughie and Starlight, some characters are given too much time, such as the superhero The Deep, played by Chace Crawford. A disgraced member of the Seven, The Deep is treated as a joke. Just like in the first season, he seems to have an important role in the story, but he winds up being completely insignificant, contributing next to nothing to the plot. The first season gave him an adequately small amount of screen time, enabling his humorous scenes to happen without taking away time from the more important storylines. However, he took up a significant portion of the second season, time that could have been spent on more important characters such as Hughie or Starlight. This forced what could have been a minor issue of unnecessary repetition into a consistent frustration, as the minutes of the Deep doing nothing and going nowhere ticked by.
Beyond the writing, the show was exceptional. Each episode was visually stunning, with stellar directing and entertaining choreography. The action scenes are always exciting, yet at the same time, are spread out enough so that the show is able to breathe and incorporate slower, more character-driven moments as well. The costumes, especially of the superheroes, are beautifully designed, and the special effects are superb. The acting was also fantastic across the board, and every character felt real as a result.
Overall, while The Boys season two was an undeniable step down from its predecessor, it was still an enjoyable experience. In terms of the writing, the great aspects outweigh the flaws, and characters like Butcher, Homelander, and Stormfront made the season. If the show had better managed its other characters, such as giving time to people like Hughie and Starlight instead of wasting it on figures like the Deep, it would have been a brilliant season.