The Boys is far and away the best long-form superhero series currently showing on the various streaming platforms or terrestrial television. Ironically, a show inspired by Alan Moore’s Watchmen premiered on HBO, but despite being based on its own comic book series, The Boys is actually far closer in tone to the Watchmen comic book than Watchmen. The problem with Watchmen is that it uses characters and ideas to create a story about the African-American experience, but to a large extent it sidesteps the core of Watchmen, which is about the inherent authoritarianism of superhero narratives. I personally didn’t like the Watchmen show, but would give it credit for highlighting the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, which is arguably the most important historical event in American history that had been unknown by most until fairly recently.
The second season of The Boys carries on very much from where the first season left off. The Boys is a dark, bloody satire set in a world that is very much our own, but with a group of superheroes known as “The Seven” who are run by the corporation Vought International. Homelander (Anthony Starr) is the leader of the Seven, and is essentially an evil version of Captain America/Superman who becomes increasingly Trumpian as the show progresses. The superheroes of the Seven for the most part abuse their powers, and with a corporation that is vying for world domination behind them, they get away with it. “The Boys” is a group of vigilantes lead by Billy Butcher (Karl Urban). The group also includes Hugh Campbell Jr. (Jack Quaid), who joins the Boys after his girlfriend is killed by A-Train, who is a bit like The Flash.
The bulk of this season is about Homelander and a new character known as Stormfront (Aya Cash). She is very much the female Homelander, and is even more explicitly a white supremacist. The name is an obvious reference to the notorious neo-nazi website, and they actually swapped the genders in the show from the comic book, so Stormfront can lure Homelander increasingly into white nationalism and have aerial sexcapade fun. The Deep (Chace Crawford) and A-Train (Jessie T. Usher)’s storyline get side-lined, mainly around this very obvious Scientology parody, the “Church of the Collective.” It’s amusing, but they don’t have much to do.
Karl Urban, who has had some major success as Éomer in Lord of the Rings as well as a supporting role in the Abrams Star Trek films, has really found a role here that stretches his acting abilities, while also tapping into his physicality and sense of humour. I never could get into the beloved Dredd film he did, but this role is perfect for him, and a lot of the emotional moments come from him, which you would not expect after the first season. His big brother/little brother dramatic arc with Hughie continues to be the beating heart of the show. Erin Moriarty continues to impress as Starlight, who is the good one of the Seven.
The second season of The Boys is a wild mixture of black humour and over-the-top ultra-violence, but with well-written characters and a realistic depiction of what would happen if superheroes were a reality. It’s full of shocking surprises and moments, including Homelander’s “I can do whatever the fuck I want” scene. It may not quite get to the jaw-dropping heights of Season 1’s Episode 4, but it’s a intelligent show that has a lot of directions to it (I could, however, do without the gratuitous Billy Joel.)
The special features are fairly slim, but the short film The Butcher is included, which explains where Butcher was during the season premiere of the second season. There are also some deleted and extended scenes, and a blooper reel. Making-ofs or a ComicCon panel or something would have been a nice addition, because the first season release was equally bare-bones. The eight episodes are spread over three discs.