In my review of the first season of Amazon Prime’s The Boys, I praised the series for the multiple things it got right. The adaptation of Garth Ennis’ controversial, highly explicit graphic novel boasted its source material’s unapologetic nihilism, relentless drive, sharp satire, subversive nature, and sense of purpose. Every character was fleshed out, making even the most repugnant antagonists compelling, with the stalwart that is Elisabeth Shue presiding over the proceedings as the evil superhero conglomerate Vought’s powerful, bureaucratic honcho Madelyn Stillwell. I, along with hordes of fans, could not wait to binge through the second season.
The first disappointment arrived with the announcement that Amazon Prime would not be releasing the follow-up season in its entirety. Instead, they initially released the first three chapters, subjecting their fans to waiting a week for each consecutive episode. This led to confusion (“Wait, wtf, are there only three episodes?”) and fury (“Wait, I have to wait a whole week to see what happens next? Do you know how much s**t I watch in a day? What is this, 2002?”)
Although the strategy seems to have ultimately proved successful from a financial standpoint – the show almost doubled its worldwide audience within the first two weeks – from a creative perspective, it ended up having a detrimental effect on the series. While waiting for the next episode of The Boys, I watched three entire seasons of other shows, so it’s no wonder that certain details eluded me, and the fluidity was gone.
“The team catches a super terrorist…embarks on a road trip, and even allows Starlight to join them on a quest…”
“But you can re-watch previous episodes to catch up on all the details you’ve either forgotten or missed!” you might say. Sure, but unlike the first season, there isn’t much incentive for a second viewing. The chief reason happens to be my biggest disappointment with this season, which I dreaded: the departure of Elisabeth Shue, the anchor that held it all together with her authoritative mixture of grace, sexuality, and steely determinism. As soon as Madelyn’s face turned into lava at the end of the previous season, my heart sank. She does make an appearance (of sorts), but her brief presence merely accentuates how deeply her absence is felt. Without her, the burden of holding the show together falls on Homelander (Antony Starr) and Butcher (Karl Urban).
The lack of momentum, a clear goal, becomes evident from the get-go. While the first season mirrored the graphic novel’s breathless pace towards a concrete culmination, the second one meanders, as if not entirely sure what to do with its (anti)heroes. Each of the bloated, 60+ minutes episodes that I’ve seen so far could’ve been shortened into a succinct 40 minutes.
And what is this season about, really? In the book, Butcher is driven by his need to exact revenge on Homelander for a horrific thing the monstrous super-human did to him. One of the book’s main driving threads has been glossed over and turned into an inconsequential subplot in the show, involving both Homelander and Butcher paying a visit to their offspring at separate times. Another example: in the graphic novel, the Boys were after Vought, pumping themselves full of the superhero compound V, while pursuing its complete eradication. Again, all of this (and I’m on episode six) is barely touched upon.
"…in other words, they sorta butchered Butcher..."