‘The Boys’ season 2 is gory master class in satire

The Boys
Amazon Studios/Courtesy

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Grade: 4.5/5.0 

“The Boys” season two digs even deeper into its star characters while continuing to explore the horrors of corporate, neoliberal America. Based on the graphic novel series by Garth Ennis and directed by Eric Kripke, the show profits from both quality writing and thrilling performances from its ensemble cast. 

Amazon Prime Video’s “The Boys” initially caused waves for its fresh approach to the superhero genre. The show centers on a ragtag team of underdogs, brought together by the fact that its members have all been individually slighted by a set of corporate-aided superheroes, called The Seven. The show has all the vital elements of classic superhero fare: an evil corporation, conventionally attractive, glorified superheroes and intricately choreographed stunt work. The only difference? This time, the superheroes are the bad guys. 

The show’s second season picks up with the Boys in hiding. They are now highly sought-after fugitives with a mission: to expose the all-powerful corporation Vought International and make it out alive. Meanwhile, Vought introduces a deadly new superhero, Stormfront, an outspoken force who quickly rises to the forefront of public and political discourse. 

What the season accomplishes most successfully is its precise, careful provocation of critical questions. At every level, the show is a satire. The superheroes are easily likened to politicians — a living nightmare of god complexes gone wrong. Drunk on their power, ability and fame, they don’t think twice about the destruction of buildings or the severe collateral damage that their crime-fighting activities cause. Instead, they’re in constant pursuit of higher approval ratings, looking to shoot their next films, build their next franchises and promote consumer products with their beaming faces on them. They’re imperfect and blatantly so, throwing on a blinding smile to the camera only moments after inciting carnage across the city. 

The show does a fantastic job at grounding pop culture’s superhero mania in reality. Following almost a decade of Marvel and DC flicks operating on the spectacle of raw power and superhero ability, “The Boys” asks very real questions about who should possess that kind of power in the first place: Should superheroes be militarized? Can they rightfully circumvent the criminal justice system in the heated pursuit of a suspect? 

The show’s jibes at the corporate treatment and opportunistic marketing of LGBTQ+ and Black characters couldn’t ring more true of real minority representation in media. The Seven are cleverly littered with token minorities: useful enough for a photo-op and unfortunately rendered powerless in all other matters. As a superhero is forced to come out of the closet, her world soon becomes a hauntingly colorful Disney movie, in which she is reluctantly launched as the poster child of the LGTBQ+ community. 

Stylistically, each episode is meticulously crafted. Most notedly, it is explicitly graphic, laden with delightful smatterings of blood, gore and the oh-so-casual exploding head. The constant accompaniment of a cheery Billy Joel soundtrack combined with dry, timely humor ensures that the show doesn’t remain stranded in strictly somber territory. It strikes a messy balance between going straight for the laugh and staying seriously rooted during critical moments in the narrative.

For a show that’s known for going against the grain, however, there is a complaint to be made about the formulaic, almost happy ending of season two. Just as loose ends are tied, a new villain crops up — right in time to set up the plot of the next season. In its efforts to sustain this multiseason, episodic format, the show runs the risk of predictability. Its rifts and obstacles appear to be momentary, thus weakening the stakes of characters’ actions. Can the Boys continue their endless fight against the system while simultaneously never sustaining any real injuries or casualties? 

Ultimately, this season succeeds at everything it attempts, providing a novel, comical satire that is filled with just enough gore and blood to stay jolting. If unperturbed by the graphic violence, viewers can expect all the marvels of a compelling storyline coupled with fast-paced action. 

Contact Megha Ganapathy at [email protected].