The Dark Herald Does Not Recommend: The Boys Season 2The Dark Herald
Superman makes for a better villain than he does a hero.
Seriously, from a writer’s perspective, he does. He’s strong enough to juggle planets, he is completely invulnerable, and an unapparelled genius. Sympathetic backstory, sure. But coming up with an antagonist that is any kind of a challenge to him is almost impossible. There is no problem that he can’t defeat with laughable ease.
Now, if you flip that on its head and make him the antagonist, you’ve got something interesting. How does your protagonist take-on, let alone defeat something that all-powerful?
The second season of Amazon Studios; The Boys recently dropped.
The Boys is a satire on the superhero movies of the past twenty years. In a world much like our own, the all-powerful Vought Corporation controls all of the superheroes. Vought Enterprises pays them, grooms their images, puts them in TV shows and movies, covers up for their failures and indiscretions. And creates and protects their reputations. Vought also assigns them territories and a hierarchy. The most important superheroes belong to The Seven.
The Seven are a riff on the Justice League’s heroes. Maeve is Wonder Woman, A-Train is the Flash, The Deep is Aquaman and Homelander is Superman himself. Black Noir is some ninja character that never speaks and the newest is a bright-eyed innocent girl from the Mid-west named Starlight, who is all idealism and idealizing about the Seven. Until the Deep demands that she give him a blowjob or he’d get her kicked off of the team.
Yeah, sweet stuff. Honestly, this show didn’t really appeal to me personally but I plowed through it for my beloved readers.
Anyway, we are introduced to Hughie Campbell, a typical nerd with nerd interests. I would put him at Delta male because he can actually talk to girls he is attracted to. We get a snapshot of Hughie’s life and then his girlfriend is killed when A-Train runs through her reducing her to a red puddle of goo. Vought Enterprises Springs into action and starts covering up the accident or rather spinning it claiming that she was walking in the middle of the street when in fact she hadn’t been. They offer Hughie a check to keep his mouth shut. He refuses.
Shortly after that, he runs into Billy Butcher played by Karl Urban. This is probably Karl Urban’s best performance. Although I can’t tell if he’s supposed to be playing an Australian or a Brit the accent is that indistinct. Billy is running an organization of two other guys called The Boys. Their purpose is to expose the 7 for the sleazebags that they are and bring down Vought Enterprises.
The worst of the 7 and the most terrifying is Homelander. Easily the most powerful and the most emotionally unstable. He is also a sociopath, which given his upbringing isn’t really a surprise. He was literally raised in a laboratory he was referred to as a “subject” most of his childhood.
In the first series, Billy Butcher was after the Homelander because Butcher was convinced that he had raped and murdered his wife. I know that in the original comic that is what happened however in this version Homelander claims it was consensual. And creepy as it is, I suspect his version is the more probable because I really don’t see how a woman would survive a sexual assault by Superman. Regardless, at the end of the first series, we discovered that Billy Butcher’s wife is alive but that she became the mother of Homlander’s son.
The show left me queasy after the blowjob scene and I was pretty much done with it after they sidetracked themselves on to a subplot about the hypocrisy of television evangelists. This was mostly Starlight’s subplot and naturally, she evolves into an atheist.
I’ll give credit where credit it is due, while the superheroes were villains, they were actually fairly layered human beings. A-Train, is a speedster in a world where being a speedster isn’t that uncommon and he’s starting to get a little bit slow. He can’t really deal with it, When somebody’s faster than he turns up, he will be off of The Seven and he knows it. So, he starts using a performance enhancer called Compound V. It turns out that drug is what turns ordinary humans into superheroes and Vought created and controls it.
Homelander is both frightening and sympathetic. There is no one like him in the world so no one is as isolated as he is. No one suffers like Homelander does because no one can. While he genuinely wants to be a hero, he is also driven by his narcissism, his Machiavellianism, and his complete lack of empathy for other people. Anthony Starr truly shines in this role; a charismatic near demigod one moment and a terrifying all-powerful demon the next.
Like I said, I was able to slog my way through the first season, which was really good training for the second.
The first season had a few things going for it. The characters had arcs and they progressed along those arcs. Part of that I believe is that they were roughly following the plotline of the original comic books. However, they are now out of that material and are having to make two with their own ideas.
Everything just sort of ground to a halt this season in terms of character development. Last year Huey was acting as the main protagonist Hughie. He was the guy whose story this was. But he hasn’t really grown or developed in this world the things that he did before don’t seem to have changed him at all mostly he’s still confused angry and bitchy. Last year he was the underdog without any abilities or training, yet he was driving the plot forward and coming out ahead against insurmountable odds. This year he’s a passenger. In the first season, Hughie had a fish out of water vibe going for him. A fish out of water story is a good way to immerse the audience member, after all, they are along for the ride for the first time into this world too. But past a certain point, the fish out of water has to learn to walk and Hughie didn’t.
Then there is Starlight. In the first season, she gets recruited into the Boys as a mole. But now we are in this bizarre position where just about everyone seems to know she’s a mole and she still allowed to be a member of the Seven. They’re hanging on to last year’s subplot way too long into this year.
This season’s new archvillain he is Stormfront and guess what she’s a Nazi. Albeit, a literal Nazi born in the 1920s and a devoted servant of Adolf Hitler. She’s media savvy and has a hideous haircut. In her words, “I can do more with five guys with laptops than you can with a $10,000,000 ad campaign.” In one ultra-cringe scene, the girl heroines all beat her up reminiscent of an ANTIFA beatdown. Subtle guys!*
I honestly didn’t like the last season too much and there was less delighted this time around. At least in the first season, there was character and plot development. I may not have liked the story, but I could at least appreciate the skill of the writer’s craft. It just wasn’t present this time.
The Deep’s entire arc this season was his joining the Church of
Scientology the Collective to try and get back into The Seven…and then doesn’t, so there was no point in that subplot. Likewise, A-Train got tossed out of the Seven because he had had a heart attack but then it didn’t matter and he was back in.
In conclusion: I didn’t like the first season and there was even less reason to like this one.
The Dark Herald Does Not Recommend.
*In fairness the producers of The Boys claim it was in retaliation for the Grrl Power scene during Avengers Endgame.