So far, I’ve seen The Boys almost get dismantled, then reassembled. I’ve witnessed them get into domestic disputes – Hughie (Jack Quaid), in particular, seems to stir up a lot of drama with his “good heart” (read: he’s a pansy), while Frenchie (Tomer Capon) and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) go through aggravating relationship troubles. The team catches a super terrorist (who’s not really a terrorist), embarks on a road trip, and even allows Starlight (Erin Moriarty) to join them on a quest to Vought’s mysterious Sage Grove Center. In the meantime, Homelander is attempting to take over Vought, with the help of newcomer Stormfront (Aya Cash), Madelyn’s potential substitute, who’s as powerful as she’s snarky.
Butcher doesn’t make an appearance until the very end of the first episode, and then stays on the sidelines, moping around and yearning to quit – at least until Black Noir (Nathan Mitchell) tracks him down in episode five. Whether the choice was deliberate, or Urban’s schedule conflicted with another shoot, thus minimizing his screen time, the result is the show being deprived of its most charismatic lead character. In other words, they sorta butchered Butcher.
With Butcher’s team all over the place, and Butcher himself out of the picture for the majority of the time, it’s up to Homelander to anchor the show. Starr is magnetic, per usual, exuding menace spurred by a severe case of arrested development. However, his character is rather one-note; with each scowl, he becomes less of an embodiment of Machiavellian evil and more of a super-powered bully with mommy issues. This could have been intentional. In the comic book, it’s purposefully sad and oddly endearing and grotesque. In the show, it grows grotesquely tiresome.
“…almost get dismantled, then reassembled.”
Aya Cash provides a jolt of energy as Stormfront, though again, she plucks the same note as a sarcastic, uber-powerful female superhero, the mean girl at school. By pairing her with Homelander, The Boys builds upon its previously-subtle(r) allusions to white supremacy and hammers you over the head with actual swastikas. The rest of the cast does uniformly good work, though the abundance of storylines proves wearying.
It may sound like I am bashing a much-beloved show, but I am merely lamenting the death of a truly original, disruptive one; one that, like its source material, wasn’t afraid to be politically incorrect, go for broke, subvert familiar elements, make them incendiary and fresh. Some elements of that ingenuity certainly remain: our heroes crashing into the belly of a whale; Homelander crushing someone’s head while being pleasured; The Deep’s (Chace Crawford) sub-plot revolving around a Scientology-like cult; a fantasy sequence depicting the annihilation of an entire protest rally…but for every scene that works, there’s one that either drags on too long or falls flat on its face, or worse, tries too hard.
Nothing in the show matches the sheer impact of that airplane sequence from season one, or the shock of seeing Hughie’s girlfriend vaporized, or those laser-eyed babies. The drop in quality brings to mind Seth Rogen’s other adaptation of a Garth Ennis property, Preacher, which started off with a bang and ended with a whimper. Perhaps it’s the oversaturation of writers and directors, each pulling the story in their own direction. Maybe it’s the deviating from the source material – c’mon guys, the shot list is right there, just film what’s on the page. Season three will need a strong boost of compound V to get back on track.
"…in other words, they sorta butchered Butcher..."