Last year, Amazon Studios released an adaptation of a lesser-known comic book series known as “The Boys” on their Amazon Prime streaming service. The premise is simple: What if the Justice League was run by corporate entities and all of your favorite superheroes were the worst people imaginable? Amidst the neverending superhero craze in modern media, it could have been easy for a Prime Original show about vulgar superheroes and vigilantes trying to take them down to get lost in the shuffle.
The show exploded in popularity. Fans fell in love with the show’s morally corrupt gang leader, Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), and scene-stealing villain, Homelander (Antony Starr). Season one was a tight mesh of comedy, drama and bloody murder, almost to a degree that it seemed like the showrunners had hit their stride on the first go around. So many characters and story arcs were set up, especially in the knockout cliffhanger season-ending, that it seemed impossible for the writers to drop the ball.
So, five episodes into season two of “The Boys,” how does it compare to season one, and does it tell it’s own story well? It’s a bit of a mixed bag.
It is a real challenge to review a show in progress, but thus far, season two of “The Boys” has been a big let down, and a real departure from what made the series so great in the first place.
It still has very good moments and episodes that excellently balance the show’s humor, action and more serious character moments. The standout so far has been episode three, “Over the Hill with the Swords of a Thousand Men,” which does everything right and feels how an episode of this show should feel. It continues to establish Homelander as a presence to be feared by not only his enemies, but his allies as well.
There are a lot of great moments between Hughie (Jack Quiad), M.M. (Laz Alonso) and Butcher, that reveal more about the dynamic of the group taking down the superheroes. It also establishes how the new member of The Seven (the superhero team in this show), Stormfront (Aya Cash), is an evil, racist and horrible hero, who presents new problems for the group. Definitely the highlight of the season thus far.
Where the remaining episodes of “The Boys” struggle is in its lack of direction for characters and storylines.
When looking back on season one, there is a clear beat for the overall narrative that is hit in every episode. Each chapter has its own important piece of information or set-piece which pushes the story forward and compels you to continue watching. Season two lacks any real motivation or stakes for the characters.
Season one revolved around Butcher trying to kill Homelander over the death of his wife, but, now that the truth is out, neither character has much to offer. Starlight (Erin Moriarty), who was one of the main characters of season one, has ultimately been sidelined to a role that has very little screen time.
There are only a couple of episodes (three and four) where Starlight really gets her moment to shine. Similarly to the final two seasons of “Game of Thrones,” a lot of the places they bring the characters feel like they fit with the overall narrative of the show, but rarely feel earned. This brings down the story significantly and I often found myself uninterested during the majority of the season.
With all this being said, there isn’t much of a foundation off of which the final three episodes of “The Boys” season two can build. There are a few new storylines that are interesting if they choose to explore them, but there is still a lot on the table that I definitely think should have been addressed before moving into the newer, blander territory.
Season two feels more like what the first season for a show would be like. There’s a lot of exposition and a feeling that the show hasn’t found its footing in what it wants from its characters. This wouldn’t be a huge problem because it is still watchable, but season one was so terrific in setting up a world where corporate superheroes exist, that season two feels like a huge let down so far.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the rest of the season.
Grade (in progress): C+/B-