When Amazon Prime Video dropped The Boys, it was billed as a subversive look at both the fictionalized world of superheroes and real-world celebrity culture. Based on the graphic novel series by Garth Ennis, the inaugural season proved to be a hit for a streaming service still struggling to find its footing against more established competitors like Netflix and Hulu.
As such, Amazon made some changes to the show’s drop schedule, opting to release the first three episodes of season two at once, followed by new episodes every Friday. Those episodes were then paired with a new after-show hosted by actress/comedian Aisha Tyler. The new format seems to have worked, extending the popularity of one of the streamer’s most popular shows.
But the real success in the work done by showrunner extraordinaire Eric Kripke (Supernatural, Timeless) and his team of writers, actors, and crew. Together, they’ve taken The Boys to new territory in ways that are even grittier and more heartwrenching than last year.
You Can’t Stop the A-Train
When we left A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) in the season one finale, we didn’t know if he was alive or dead after his showdown with Starlight and Hughie. In the season two premiere a recovered A-Train threatens to rat out Starlight for betraying The Seven. Thankfully she’s able to call his bluff by threatening to reveal that A-Train was the one to kill his girlfriend Popclaw (Brittany Allen) in season one.
But A-Train’s Compound-V addiction catches up with him when Homelander (Anthony Starr) fires him due to his ailing heart. A-Train’s then replaced by the same speedster he barely beat in a race in season one. A-Train’s dismissal is a particularly cold moment that highlights how precarious spots in The Seven truly are. Even superheroes lack job stability.
When A-Train is recruited by The Deep to join the Church of the Collective – a riff off the Church of Scientology – his fortunes take a turn for the better. He’s motivated to steal Vought files on Stormfront that reveal her racist Nazi past (more on that later) and hand deliver them to none other than Starlight and Hughie. After Stormfront is outed as a bigot, A-Train earns his place back in The Seven.
There’s a scene early on in the season where A-Trains questions Starlight on why she’s willing to destroy The Seven when doing so would mean the financial ruin of all involved. Starlight haughtily replies that some things are “more important than money”. As a Black man who grew up in the inner city, A-Train informs her that that’s a sentiment that only people with money would say. And to a certain extent, he’s right.
A-Train is far from a good man. In fact, he’s kind of trash. But his drive to remain in The Seven isn’t purely from greed. It’s from a fear of lack, something that middle-class Annie/Starlight has never experienced. It’s easy for her to sit on her high horse when her family is financially secure and she has a home to go back to. A-Train’s lack of those things doesn’t absolve him of his growing list of bad deeds, but it does contextualize them a bit.
Reunited and it Feels So…Good?
After years plotting his revenge against Homelander for the rape and
supposed murder of his wife Becca (Shantel VanSanten), Billy Butcher (Karl
Urban) learns the location of her hideout. The pair share a heartfelt reunion outside the view of Vought’s prying cameras and discuss plans for an escape.
But when Becca mentions bringing Ryan (Cameron Crovetti), her son conceived through her rape by Homelander, it’s clear that Billy wants nothing to do with the boy. And with Homelander having discovered Becca’s hideout and demanding a more active role in Ryan’s upbringing, Becca is even less inclined to abandon the child she loves. Knowing Billy will never come to care for Ryan and that Homelander’s influence will taint her son, Becca opts to stay in her suburban prison and raise the child herself.
It’s a devastating moment for both, but it’s Becca’s pain that gets short shrift this season.
In season one we learned Becca was Homelander’s social media strategist. She was a happy Vought employee composing tweets for the most famous man on the planet, moving up the corporate ladder, and enjoying married life with Billy. Life was GOOD for the Butchers. Then she’s violently raped (a fact not mentioned nearly enough this season) and impregnated by her boss and forced into hiding so she can raise the baby away from the influence of the murderous Homelander.
Then after years of carefully coordinated peace, Becca’s rapist shows up out
of the blue proclaiming that he is to have a more active role in parenting
their child. With every touch of her shoulder or whisper in her ear, Homelander re-traumatizes Becca. She’s forced to contain her fear and rage for the sake of her son, as well as her own survival. In a world where heroes are bulletproof, Becca’s is a strength that is even more powerful, and sadly all too common in the real world.
All in the Family
Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) is finally reunited with her younger brother Kenji (Abraham Lim) after he is revealed to be a Supe terrorist with some seriously kickass telekinetic powers. Billy’s worked out a deal with the feds to capture Kenji in exchange for information on his wife Becca’s location, but Kenji later escapes.
Kimiko recaptures him, but things quickly go down hill when The Seven catch up to the The Boys. After a fierce chase were a whole lotta Black folks become collateral damage (more on that below), Kenji is killed by the newest Seven member, Stormfront (Aya Cash). Kimiko swears revenge for Kenji’s death. And when she gets her chance, she goes for it with mixed results.
A Stormfront is Brewing
The Seven’s newest member is making all the waves. Her refreshing sense of authenticity, unabashed feminism, and social media mastery is making her a hit with the public. But her rising popularity threatens Homelander, putting a two laser-sized targets on her back.
She’s the perfect hero for these troubling times until we watch her kill multiple Black residents in an apartment building while in pursuit of the telekinetic Kenji. She shockingly calls Kenji a racist slur before gleefully killing him as his sister watches helplessly. Kimiko later goes to one of Stormfront rallies to exact her revenge, but is stopped by Frenchie (Tomer Capon).
Starlight and Hughie later discover that Stormfront is actually a racist superhero named Liberty from decades past. When she’s confronted separately by her new boo Homelander, Stormfront admits the whole truth: She was married to Vought International founder Frederick Vought and was his first test subject for Compound V. As a result, her aging process has slowed or stopped completely. Oh, and they were both Nazis hellbent on making an army of white supermen, with Homelander being the embodiment of all their hard work. But when A-Train shares Stormfront’s secret files with Starlight and Hughie, her time in The Seven starts ticking.
Kripke’s re-frames the character of Stormfront significantly from the comics. There, the character is a man who isn’t too adept at current trends. By making the character a social media savvy woman who champions gender equality (at least for White women), Kripke is highlighting now White Supremacy – including White Feminism – by rebranding itself for new generations. It’s a critical examination of how race, politics, and celebrity/hero worship have always converged at the same intersection, even if the skyline and storefronts around it change.
The Deep Gets Deep
Still in exile from The Seven, The Deep is in the midst of a downward spiral. He links up with local hero Archer (Langston Kerman) who introduces Deep to the Church of the Collective, an organization some might liken to Scientology.
While in a drug-induced state, Deep “talks” to his gills and realizes that he sexually abuses women because of his own body dysmorphia. While not an excuse for his behavior, it does give Deep a path to understanding himself and possibly becoming a halfway decent human being. But his new church friends are clearly a cult that dangles reinstatement in The Seven to make him their new posterboy. It works for a while, until it doesn’t…
Later, Queen Maeve enlists The Deep’s help in finding evidence from the downed plane Homelander forced her to abandon. The Deep and his ocean friends come through, finding a cell phone with video of Homelander and Maeve abandoning passengers are their plane was about to crash. In exchange, Maeve offers her help in getting The Deep back in The Seven. What’s interesting here
Vought Gets Exposed
Annie/Starlight (Erin Moriarty) and Hughie (Jack Quaid) are successful in leaking Vought’s illegal Compund-V experimentation to the media. Heroes like Queen Maeve and the public are outraged to learn of the true origin of Supes. Even Black Noir is seen sobbing in a hallway with his mask on while watching a news report.
But perhaps the biggest emotional reaction comes from The Deep (Chace Crawford) when the estranged Seven member describes the trauma the onset of his powers wrought, from telepathy with fish begging for their lives at Red Lobster, developing large gills, and growing up thinking he was crazy.
With the company’s stock price in freefall amid the public relations crisis, CEO Stan Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito) decides to place the blame squarely on the deceased Madelyn Stillwell (Elisabeth Shue). His gambit seems to pay off, with the scandal beginning to subside somewhat, even as congressional hearings on the company begin.
There’s a line in the season finale between Mr. Edgar and Billy Butcher that harkens somewhat to A-Train’s money conversation with Starlight. When Butcher asks how a Black man like Mr. Edgar can stomach a racist like Stormfront, he says, “I can’t lash out like some raging, entitled maniac. That’s a white man’s luxury.”
For all his manipulations and unethical business practices, Mr. Edgar is forced to work within the constraints placed upon him by a dominant White society. That by no means is an excuse for his misdeeds as the current CEO of Vought. However, it’s a stark reminder that even in 2020, the “Black Tax” still applies no matter how high a Black person ascends.
Heads will Roll
Somebody is exploding the heads of people who get too close to the truth about Vought. But the entire season is a guessing game as to who. Things come to a head (no pun intended) during the congressional hearings on Compound V where the heads of a star witness and multiple attendees randomly self combust. It’s one hell of a plot twist, but we won’t spoil that revelation for you.
A Not So Happy Father’s Day
Homelander’s decided to become an active father to his son Ryan, despite Becca’s obvious objections. But his twisted sense of love leads him to pushing his son off of the roof to prove that he has powers like his dad. When the boy regains consciousness, his powers flare up in a fit of rage as he fully rebukes Homelander in defense of his mother.
Homelander later redeems himself to Ryan before revealing the truth about how everything in the boy’s life is a carefully curated farce orchestrated by Vought and his mother, Becca. Of course Homelander leaves out the part about Ryan being conceived through of Homelander’s rape of Becca and the part about how Becca is trying to ensure Ryan doesn’t end up as wicked as his dad. Stormfront asserts herself as Ryan’s unofficial stepmom as she and Homelander take Ryan away. Distraught, Becca runs to Billy and The Boys for help in getting Ryan back.
Maeve Fights Backs
When Maeve’s (Dominique McElligott) ex-girlfriend Elana (Nicola Correia-Damude) lands in the hospital with appendicitis, Maeve tells her of the time Homelander secretly ripped a man’s head off for chatting with her at an awards show.
It’s her fear of Homelander hurting Elana that has kept Maeve from fully pursuing their relationship. But when challenged on live TV on the lack of diversity in The Seven, Homelander outs Maeve to deflect and unconvincingly tells her that he supports her relationship. Things seem fairly stable between Elana and Maeve until Elana finds the recording of the downed airplane The Deep found. Maeve tells Elana that she plans to use the footage to force Homelander to leave them alone. However, Elana is horrified by the footage and leaves Maeave.
Heartbroken, Maeve turns to alcohol and sex to numb her pain, which is fairly aligned to the character’s comic book origins. However it’s Starlight who is able to inspire her out of her drunken stupor to aid in their cause. Armed with the footage from the plane, she stands up to Homelander in a tense showdown. It’s a hair raising moment, the ramifications of which are yet to be seen.
Milk Does a Body Good?
If you thought Homelander’s twisted love affair with Stillwell ended when he killed her last season, you’d be wrong. She’s still around, meeting up with the hero at a secluded cabin far from prying eyes. There she seductively teases Homelander in sexy lingerie, strokes his oversized ego, and feeds him milk from her fingertips. But it’s not the really Stillwell, but a shapeshifting male Supe named Doppleganger (Dan Darin-Zanco) cosplaying her at Homelander’s request for their secret rendezvous.
Things get even more twisted when Doppleganger transforms into Homelander for a different kind of self-love. Homelander seems down to have sex with himself before he decides to snap Doppleganger’s neck. However, that decision may come back to bite Homelander after Doppleganger fails to revert back to his true form after he dies.
In an episode of Prime Rewind: Inside the Boys, host Aisha Tyler broke down Homelander’s need for family. Sure, he’s a homicidal psychopath who only cares about his poll numbers, but he’s lived his entire life as a Vought lab rat. He had no real mother or father. No family. And besides Maeve, no actual friends (and even Maeve is a stretch).
He’s unable to form genuine relationships with people because he’s never had any. Hence his weird psuedo-sexual relationship with Madelyn and his intense desire to be a father to Ryan. It’s sad to think about the person Homelander might have been had he been raised by loving parents, a la Kal-El and the Kents. Unfortunately for Homelander and the world, a proper home life just wasn’t in the cards.
Black Noir is BLACK, Y’all!
In a huge departure from the source material, Black Noir in the Amazon series is Black! Kudos to those who either already knew or figured it out, but it definitely came as a surprise to some. He’s played by Nathan Mitchell, who discusses his character on Prime Rewind: Inside the Boys. We also get a glimpse of him when Queen Maeve saves Starlight by beating him up and forcing him to eat an Almond Joy (he has a tree nut allergy).
Other than the shock of learning Almond Joys still exist (for real, they still make those? Mounds too?), audiences might be surprised by the disfiguration on Black Noir’s face. Are these burns from his encounter with a Supe terrorist in the season premiere or are they something else entirely?
And while we’re at it, what exactly is Black Noir’s relationship to Vought CEO Stan Edgar? He seems to be Mr. Edgar’s go-to guy for undercover work, but the realization that both men are of African descent at least raises the possibility of them being of some relation.
Questions for season three
What can we expect next season for The Boys? It’s hard to tell, but here’s some things we’re keeping our eyes on:
- With no allies left, how long until Homelander goes ballistic?
- No seriously, how long? Because that man is a timebomb for real…
- What will Billy do now that his initial arc has seemingly concluded?
- Are Maeve and Elana really safe from Homelander?
- Is [NO SPOILERS] really dead?
- Will [NO SPOILERS] be outed as the one blowing up people’s heads?
- Can Vought survive now that Compound V isn’t a secret?
- Are Black Noir and Stan Edgar related at all?
- Will Hughie always be a twink (as Billy calls him)?
- WHY DO THEY CALL THAT MAN (Laz Alonso) “MOTHER’S MILK”???