The Boys season 2 review: Pulsating, riveting action that sets the standard on TV

The Boys Season 2 -- Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video/Panagiotis Pantazidis
The Boys Season 2 -- Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video/Panagiotis Pantazidis /

The Boys season 2 provides unforgettable twists and insane moments. Antony Starr reigns supreme among one of the best casts on TV.

Antony Starr’s Homelander still has that sadistic smile, which has only grown more disturbing. If it weren’t so unnerving, it would be downright comical. But even in Amazon’s hyper-violent, bloody series, The Boys, Starr’s ability to hit maximum overdrive with his emotions, remains the powerhouse performance of this brutal show. That’s no surprise, but what is revelatory this season is his soft spot for his son, in his own sentimentally warped way. He even utters the words “I love you” to him — and makes you believe him.

But this is Homelander we’re talking about, who has no problem letting a planeload of innocent passengers plummet to their death after accidentally killing the pilots. Homelander’s love for his power-wielding son is kind of like Cersei’s smothering love for her own children on Game of Thrones. Would he even care if he didn’t exhibit similar powers? More importantly, we know there’s no way it will end well.

The Boys season two picks up where we left off with breakneck speed. After discovering that not only is Billy Butcher’s (Karl Urban) wife Becca (Shantel VanSanten) still alive, we find out she was hidden away with a son (fathered by Homelander, who had raped her). Starlight (Erin Moriarity) is still trying to hold onto her moral core while grappling with the psychos around her, namely The Seven, the “heroes” in name only.

Starlight is the mole in this nest of vipers, and in season two, she has to deal with the aftermath of saving Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid), Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso), Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara), and Frenchie (Tomer Capon) from drug-abusing A-Train (Jessie T. Usher). Starlight continues to walk a slippery slope of suspicion at the same time that she is trying to figure out her relationship with Hughie, who turns to Billy Joel’s music for some fun, obsessive inspiration.

And will Billy Butcher meet back up with the gang in their decrepit new digs under a porn store to continue the battle against the corrupt supes managed by Vought, the company which we now know created them from birth via Compound V experimentation? Now that Compound V has been released into other parts of the world, The Boys season two finds the supes dealing with terrorists enhanced by the blue stuff, which Vought takes full advantage of by pushing defense contracts that favor them.

Behind this genius move is Stan Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito), taking over for the deceased Madelyn Stillwell (Elizabeth Shue), who was lasered to death by homicidal Homelander in season one. Edgar takes a more cunning approach with Homelander, and Esposito deftly flips the script on the mercurial anti-hero in a way that is fun to watch. Between the two, if I had to call in a lifeline, I would pick Stan Edgar.

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Edgar has also brought a new, polarizing figure into The Seven: Stormfront (Aya Cash), who quickly usurps the spotlight from Homelander. The tighter Homelander tries to control his narcissistic image as the de facto leader of The Seven, the more Stormfront’s effortless social media and chaotic ruthlessness unhinge him. And an unhinged Homelander is just a lot of fun to watch. His evolving relationship with the lightening-wielding Stormfront is a highlight of this season of The Boys.

The Boys is gloriously unsubtle, and season two is no exception. Like season one, the fast pace matches the visceral action, skillfully mapped out by showrunner Eric Kripke. The pulsating excess is also complemented by some tender moments, including Kimiko’s heartfelt backstory, Butcher’s connection with Becca, and Jack Quaid’s emotional growth this season. Butcher is still no-holds-barred, but Karl Urban brings layers to the role that weren’t there last season.

The jaw-dropping twists still proliferate in a violent show that never feels gratuitously violent — that’s how gifted the brisk storytelling is on The Boys. Antony Starr masters the art of menace, but doesn’t shy away from several sex scenes that I can’t unsee now. Starr and Cash also have terrific chemistry.

If you hoped The Deep (Chace Crawford) would get a break, things just don’t let up for the dolphin-loving superhero. He finds his religion, a Church of Scientology sendup run by Alastair Adana (Goran Visnjic), in a misguided attempt to get back into The Seven. Although The Boys season two surpasses the terrific first chapter, The Deep’s storyline kind of runs off the rails toward the end. It does, however, provide one unforgettable highlight where Crawford shines like he never has before. Without giving it away, it involves some fearless singing on Crawford’s part, a surprising guest voice, and acceptance of self — and it had me laughing so hard I almost fell out of my chair. This is the kind of stuff I live for.

Character-rich and pulsating with energetic insanity, everyone on this show contributes to the ridiculous brilliance. There’s no other way to say this: The Boys season two is f**king diabolical.

All eight episodes were screened for this review. The first three episodes of The Boys season two will be available on Amazon on September 4. Viewers will have to wait for the following five episodes, which will be released weekly on Fridays after that, starting with episode four on September 11.

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