Amazon’s ‘The Boys’ Spills Even More Blood and Social Satire in Season 2
Like it or not, these are very political times. Protests, the elections, governmental authority or lack thereof, these have been topics hovering over everyone’s head even more in this uncertain year. Even the superheroes are political. Season 2 of Amazon’s bizarre “The Boys” is a blood-splattered geek fest, meant to fill the void of viewers who desire constant stories about adults in tights. But it also sneaks in political satire, sometimes viciously so. It may not be a complete success, certainly not in comparison to other shows, but something about its aesthetic fits eerily with the news we see every day.
After the titanic clashes of last season, Butcher (Karl Urban), Hughie (Jack Quaid) and their comrades are on the run, trying to evade the Superheroes and their corporate overlord, Vought International, headed by Stan Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito). You may recall last season also ended with Butcher making the stunning discovery that his wife, Becca (Shantel VanSanten), is still alive and had a kid with blonde superhero Homelander (Antony Starr). Homelander, the poster boy of superheroes as nationalist defenders of the nation, is also involved in a nefarious scheme involving Vought International. The corporation is keeping secret a serum, Compound-V, which can create new superheroes but is instead being used to make supervillains. It’s a ruse to help Edge cut a deal with the military to have “supes” put into its ranks, which would inevitably give Vought a foothold within the government. Homelander also welcomes a new addition to the Seven team, Stormfront (Aya Cash), a literal fascist who uses social media to attack migrants and minorities. Hughie and “the Boys,” the vigilantes out to fight the supes, now races against time to expose Compound-V and Homelander’s schemes to the world.
Just as convoluted as the first season, what’s most entertaining about “The Boys” in this new round is its morbid sense of violence combined with some loaded political imagery. Showrunner Eric Kripke continues to adapt the comic book series by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson into a less mature version of “Watchmen,” where satire mixes with absurdly violent fantasy. Like “The Umbrella Academy” or even HBO Max’s new “Raised by Wolves,” the show is wall to wall with exploding heads and corpses. By the final episodes of the season a distant device used to explode someone’s head becomes the go-to to resolve conflicts, plot twists and just plain unlikeable characters. A subhead for this season could have easily read as “The Boys: Exploding Anatomy.” Even a congressional hearing involving Homelander concludes with a few erupting heads.
There’s plenty of action this season, but more intriguing are the character arcs. One of the funniest and darkest is The Deep (Chace Crawford), who is still haunted by the events of last season and has a meltdown at a public water park, cussing at the kids. He gets bailed out from prison by Eagle the Archer (Langston Kerman) who guides him towards Carol (Jessica Hecht) in a storyline that turns into a riff on self-help, therapy and even Scientology (she hands him a book titled “Church of the Collective: Destinations – The New Science of Self Renewal”). Other areas of the plot have satire vaguely peppered on, like Hughie’s ex Starlight (Erin Moriarty) tracking down a source to get the Boys’ some Compound-V. The source is Gecko (David Thompson), who not only lets businessmen pay him to chop his arm off for kicks (it grows back), but knew Starlight years ago at Bible camp. Their reunion turns into a discussion on losing faith in God.
The two most blunt, satirical commentaries are without a doubt Homelander and Stormfront. There’s little doubt about how one can connect a blonde egomaniac seeking power to a certain White House occupant. There’s even a moment where he chastises his kid for not knowing how to throw a baseball, with language that could be found in Bob Woodward’s “Fear.” The terrified kid is forced to fly away with Homelander, who could care less about the mother’s wishes. Stormfront uses social media to attack minorities, immigrants and perceived terrorist threats. You almost expect an episode where she’ll bust Steve Bannon out of jail. By the season finale the real heroes will clearly slam her as a Nazi before some good old fashioned force fields and beams are fired all around. Aya Cash makes a great debut in the role, playing Stormfront with a cold, cynical edge.
“The Boys” closes this season without abandoning the political spirit that’s even stronger in these new episodes. The final shot takes place inside a campaign office, where one of the main characters makes a choice to support a candidate running for office, presumably against the forces represented by Vought. It is the satire that gives this season more redeeming qualities. In a way it makes complete sense. If pop art can’t comment on an election year, what is it good for aside from just splashing fake blood around?
“The Boys” season two begins streaming Sept. 4 on Amazon Prime Video.