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Review: The Boys Avoids The Usual Pitfalls Of A Second Season With A Character-Driven Flourish

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BY October 12, 2020
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How do you follow up a successful superhero show whose hook was casual vulgarity, brutal gore, and messed up situations? Obviously, you should go bigger, bolder, and even more outrageous to one-up yourselves by mimicking the same formula. I mean, at least, that’s the tried and tested approach for almost everything in Hollywood. But where season 2 of The Boys differs itself is by doing something totally different in its sophomore season. So here’s The Boys season 2 finale review that points out exactly how, and why it made this season better.

Note: This The Boys season 2 finale review will periodically delve into spoilers for the entire second season, especially the season finale. So feel free to catch up with the show and return to find out how it all fits into context.

The Boys Season 1 Recap Of The Larger World And Its Plot

The boys season 2 finale review Maveve Image via Prime Video.

Season 1 of The Boys introduced us to this world of superheroes with, more or less, unlimited power. Along with that power, came the usual corruption, greed, and general sense of entitlement that usually follows. The shocker was that it was all happening with superpowered people. Imagine the usual crime thriller, a la Grisham, but with characters that have super strength, run fast, and can fly. Its de-construction of what superheroes in the real world would mean is an eye-opening concept that blew our minds. However, that meant that they had to establish the world, so we couldn’t focus too much on our lead characters. Except for Butcher (Karl Urban), Hughie (Jack Quaid), and Starlight (Erin Moriarty) to a lesser extent. Season 2 improves on all of that. 

Season 2 Of The Boys Is All Character Story And About Dem Feels

The boys season 2 finale review Stormfront. Image via Prime Video.

It wasn’t too clear where The Boys season 2 was going when the initial 3 episodes that debuted on Prime Video. But by the last of those debut episodes, we knew it was to be a different season. The season opened with a cute comparison of the daily lives of Hughie and Starlight. And the season that followed was appropriately just as much about the characters on this journey to stamp out corporate greed, than about the larger story at play. While season 1 was all about Vought, the evil corporation injecting a chemical into babies, season 2 was actually about those characters. I mean, things still blew up, like a giant whale and many heads, but the story’s scope was much smaller and surgical. Which was totally in service to the show’s overall quality, in so many ways. 

Two Different But Similar Origins In The Boys Season 2 Review

The boys season 2 finale review action. Image via Prime Video.

Season 2 saw a lot of backstory on Butcher. And oh boy, so much back story. Butcher began the season as an unsympathetic c—, well, let’s say jerk. His one-man focus to get his wife back was unrelentingly hard on everyone around him. He alienated Hughie, and even his friend M. M. (Las Alonso). But after his wife Becca (Shantal VanSanten) refuses to escape with him, given Butcher’s feelings towards her superpowered son, he has to reevaluate his goals in life.

The season introduces us to Butcher’s family, his drug-dealing aunt, his abusive father, and caring mother. Through them, we learn about what pushed Butcher over the edge. His father’s bullying resulted in the suicide of his younger brother. No wonder he takes Homelander’s abuse of power so personally. While at the same time, his own hard edge comes from his father’s direct abuse, something that Butcher learned is also responsible for how Homelander himself turned out. 

The Importance Of An Origin Story When Shaping A Hero Or Villain

Homelander Image via Prime Video.

It’s a great turning point in realizing his own origins, not to mention that of his most hated nemesis. It also leads directly into the third act of The Boys season 2 finale review, where the dynamic shifts, drastically. As a man with his own issues, Butcher is now responsible for raising his deceased wife’s son. Maybe not directly, but at least ensuring that he’s not raised with the same hate as Homelander. Thus preventing him from becoming a ruthless superhero hell-bent on his own selfish need for love. It’s an incredibly interesting dynamic, very similar to DC Comics Elseworld stories featuring Superman. 

This whole Butcher-Homelander arc analyzes how much a character’s backstory is important to the man he becomes. Especially if that character turns out to be a hero, or a villain. For years, comics stories analyzed how the reason behind Superman’s hyper morality and upstanding nature was the direct result of the influence of his very human parents. Homelander, for all intents and purposes, is the direct opposite of that; a superhero raised in a lab, without love or accountability, grown up to be a psychotic man with God-like powers. It’s one of the best things about The Boys season 2. 

The Boys Season 2 Finale Review Gives Every Character A Chance To Shine

Kimiko Image via Prime Video.

Every episode of season 2 carefully crafts a soulfully haunting story that is emotionally riveting, thrilling, and gets you right in the feels. While also ensuring there’s a wham, bam, thank you ma’am action sequence to keep everyone engaged and take break to wipe the tears in between the moving storylines. Each character gets a moment to sort out their tragic backstory and emotional trauma accumulated through the series, or events prior to it. Frenchie finds redemption from his mistake from years ago that initially broke up the Boys. Coming face to face with the murderer of Mallory’s (Laila Robbins) grandkids, Frenchie faced his demons and was able to overcome his guilt. Not to mention that the Boys found out why he failed to protect them, and forgave Frenchie for it.

And his relationship with Kimiko got better. After going on the rampage herself to deal with her brother’s murder by Stormfront (Aya Cash), Kimiko finds solace in Frenchie. The storyline with Deep (Chase Crawford) and the whole church/cult nonsense didn’t serve any real purpose but a C storyline that worked as a plot device that paid off in the third act. Even Queen Maeve’s (Dominique McElligott) story worked out in a similar way, where her coming-out didn’t mean much to the overall story. But in the end, she was useful to the larger plot. Hughie and Starlight’s love story is further cemented as they go back and forth and find their ways back to each other.

How The Show Really Builds Anticipation For Season 3

The boys season 2 finale review twist. Image via Prime Video.

The Boys season 3 has already been greenlit. So this slowing down of the larger plot in choice for more character-driven moments only hypes anticipation for next season. Now that they’ve established the characters, creator Eric Kripke and the writers can really make them go nuts in the next stories. And there is more than enough story beats left hanging or unresolved for them to capitalize on. The Boys season 2 finale review has the anti-Supe politician Victoria (Claudia Doumit) who we thought was an ally, come out as a Supe herself. She’s actually the one blowing up heads throughout the season to support her own agenda, which is yet unknown. And now that Hughie is contributing to society on his own by working for her campaign, things are definitely going to get interesting.

Homelander is still a threat, despite Maeve muzzling him with the threat or her outing him as a psycho to the world. Not wishing to be hated, as part of his insecure need for love, Homelander relents. He agrees to let his son go with Butcher, and leaving Starlight and Maeve alone. But the problem is that the Homelander threat in season 2 took a backeat to his Supe son and Stormfront acting as a distraction. He is still very much a threat to the wellbeing of the world, given his entirely psychotic nature. So there is lot to unpack in season 3 after the emotional detour that was season 2. Oh and with Jensen Ackles on board, the exciting wait for season 3 is just going to be that much harder. 

Both seasons of The Boys is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video. 

So what did you think of The Boys season 2? Let me know in the comments below. 

Featured image via Prime Video.

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Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.

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