Season 2 of Amazon Prime’s series The Boys has landed on the streaming service. The first season was a smash hit (is that a reference to A-Train killing Hughie’s girlfriend?) and left a lot of questions to be answered. How well did the first episode of the sophomore season address those questions? Read on the find my verdict…
The Opening Statement
Thought Season 2’s opening scenes are nowhere near as jarring as what we got in Season 1, they do a nice job of bridging the gap. As new series regular Giancarlo Esposito’s Stan Edgar, who we met briefly in Season 1, asserts control over the military operations of the Seven, Black Noir takes care of one of last season’s loose ends: the super terrorist Naqib. We’re also reminded of the propaganda machine that is Vaught as Homelander and Starlight put on what amounts to a soap opera performance at the funeral of the Seven’s fallen member, Translucent. The nationally televised funeral is watched by Hughie, serving to remind us not only that he’s the one who took out Translucent, but symbolically that he is the “outsider” and our eyes and ears in this f-ed up world.
The episode does a nice job of reintroducing the returning characters, reminding us of not only of where they left off in Season 1 but also setting up where they’re headed in Season 2’s first arc. Hughie and Starlight’s awkward reunion reminds us that for all his good intentions, Hughie can’t seem to stop making a mess of things. Homelander’s efforts to establish control at Vaught are met with several reminders of psychopathic personality (he warms up some breast milk, assaults and insults a blind superhero and drops in unexpectedly to see his child). However, his pursuit of power is pissed on when a new hero, Stormfront, is added to the Seven without his knowledge; furthermore, when he approaches Edgar in hopes of intimidating him into falling in line, the very human Edgar doesn’t flinch, reminding Homelander just how “ordinary” he is.
We also catch up with the rest of The Boys who have found themselves wanted as associates of Billy Butcher. The series makes full use of dramatic irony around the death of Elisabeth Shue’s Madelyn Stillwell to set up an interesting complication: though we know Homelander killed her, Butcher’s attempt to kill himself and Homelander by detonating the explosives have framed him as Stillwell’s murderer, making him and The Boys a target of not just the Seven but the general public as well. With Butcher MIA, Hughie tries to establish himself as the group’s new leader to no avail. Despite their fugitive status, they stumble onto something major (a super terrorist has been smuggled into the United States) and seek out the aid of the CIA’s Deputy Director, Susan Raynor. Just as it seems they’re headed for some respite, we’re reminded that in this world, nobody is safe when Raynor’s head explodes sending The Boys scrambling. Just when it looks like it’s time to give up, Butcher comes storming back on the scene.
The deconstruction of who Erin Moriarty’s Starlight thought she was continues as well. Moriarty delivers some great lines about the absence of God as she blackmails a an old (and unsurprisingly disturbing) friend into stealing some Compound V so that she and Hughie can expose Vaught. Her continued journey into hell weighs heavily on Hughie though Starlight herself believes she’s serving the greater good. That said, we’re reminded by a brief glimpse at A-Train, that Starlight can become a target at any time.
As was often the case in Season 1, this episode juggled several story lines and put us in touch with well over a dozen different characters, all of whom are going to play a major part in this season. The parallel arcs set up between Anthony Starr’s Homelander and Jack Quaid’s Hughie were well done. Despite the pair being on opposite ends of the powered spectrum, both of them make failed efforts to assert themselves as the alpha. Of course despite that similarity, they otherwise couldn’t be any different: where Hughie continues to try to do what he perceives to be the right thing, no matter the collateral damage, Homelander continues to be a prick of the highest order without a shred of goodness to spare. The relationship between these two characters, who never share a scene, continues to be fascinating. Moriarty continues to steal the show and though he was left out of the conversation above, we are treated to a few scenes with Chace Crawford’s the Deep as a reminder of just how far from grace these characters can fall. Given the places the once clear conscience of Starlight has gone, the Deep serves as a pretty stark warning of what might be in store.
As an opening act for what’s expected to be another wild ride, Episode 1 did just find. Murphy’s Law rules in favor of Episode 1, giving it a solid 8 out of 10 machete hacks to the arm.