The Boys Season 2 is almost here. The first three episodes--which we review below--release September 4., with the rest of the season streaming weekly after that. We'll be covering it as it goes, but in the meantime, check out our comprehensive gallery comparing the show characters to their comics counterparts.
The Boys feels like a different show in the absence of Karl Urban's Billy Butcher, who, for most of Season 2's first episode, is missing from the titular ensemble. The Boys themselves--Jack Quaid's Hughie, Laz Alonso's Mother's Milk, Timer Capon's Frenchie, and Karen Fukuhara's Kimiko--spend Season 2's opening chapter dug in, having become fugitives at Season 1's conclusion. They're grasping at lifelines that might help them claw their way back to their families and a normal life, but those chances keep blowing up in their faces (often literally). Amid all this, Hughie meets clandestinely with Annie (Erin Moriarty), who hasn't forgiven him but recognizes the need to work together if they're going to expose Vought for lying about Compound V all these years.
Much like the sketchy bunker in which the Boys are living, the Season 2 premiere feels somewhat grounded. And then, right before the credits roll, in walks Billy Butcher, a glorious cartoon of a character. The Boys are back together.
Calling Butcher a cartoon is not to say he's two-dimensional; quite the opposite, actually, as he's a pretty complex dude (even if his motivation--saving his wife--is tropey as hell). But Butcher is larger-than-life in a way no other character on this show, even Homelander, comes close to. He's tough, but not stupid, and Urban chews up and spits out every line he's given. It's easy to understand why the Boys have allowed Butcher to suck them into this dangerous life.
Season 1 ended on a cliffhanger, but it didn't exactly tie up any storylines, from Hughie's quest for revenge against A-Train (who he helped save from an overdose-induced heart attack in the Season 1 finale) to Starlight's struggle to stick to her ideals while surrounded by amoral sociopaths. Season 2's first three episodes continue these plots, expand on some of Season 1's less-well-trod subplots, and introduce new threads that set the tone for Season 2.
The Seven were dealt several blows in Season 1, and they're still recovering. Homelander deals in his own unique way with his murder of Stillwell in Season 1. The Deep (Chace Crawford) remains in exile in Ohio, and has become tangled up in what seems to be a cult for supes. Meanwhile, several of the female characters have much more to do this season. Starlight works with Hughie to get word of Compound V to the press, employing some unsavory methods that she wouldn't have dreamed of before last season's hardships. Queen Maeve's (Dominique McElligott) romantic subplot is one of the highlights of the first three episodes, fraught as it is with the danger that Homelander might lash out at any moment, and it's great to see her in the spotlight.
And that extends beyond The Seven, as Kimiko goes on quite a journey in the initial trio of episodes. Some new revelations provide the room to flesh out her backstory and lend her character some dimension, which has been sorely lacking (as it was in the original books, too). Karen Fukuhara conveys a lot without any words, and has proved one of the strongest actors on the show. The more she gets to do, the better.
Stillwell's demise has forced Vought CEO Stan Edgar to take a more active role in The Seven's management. Edgar is played by the wonderful Giancarlo Esposito, who appeared in a single episode last season, a brief introduction that's been greatly expanded this time around. Esposito plays Edgar similarly to Gus in Breaking Bad universe: polite and sophisticated on the surface, with a vicious mean streak burbling underneath. We haven't yet seen what Edgar is capable of, but it will be fun to track his arc throughout the season.
There are a couple of new characters introduced in Season 2's first three episodes, chief among them Stormfront, played by Aya Cash (who you may recognize from FX's wonderful comedy You're the Worst). Cash brings a similar energy here, only her no-f***s-left-to-give attitude is paired with abilities that seem to rival any other supe on the show, including Homelander. The Boys Season 2 is doing a tricky thing with Stormfront: Throughout the first three episodes, there's a good chance most viewers will seriously identify with her. She has no love for Vought, and unlike Starlight, she's not afraid to say so. She speaks her mind during interviews and speaks truth to power, knowing intuitively how to press Homelander's buttons in a way that seems to flummox him, which is terribly fun to watch.
But if you've read the Garth Ennis comics on which the Boys is based, you'll know that Stormfront is not someone to root for. It's unclear so far whether the show will take her in the exact same direction as her comics counterpart, but the groundwork is certainly being laid.
Ultimately, Stormfront will likely prove to be crucial to making The Boys Season 2 perfect for this moment in history. To us as viewers, Homelander is the obvious villain--a childish, psychopathic narcissist with a god complex who endears himself to the public by draping himself with the trappings of good-old-fashioned American patriotism (read: fascist-leaning nationalism). Should Stormfront prove to be what the show hints in its first three episodes, we'll be confronted with Homelander's dark counterpart. It will be fascinating to see how the conflict between them plays out--or whether they'll wind up working together in the end, which will have its own thematic reverberations.
Still, the whole show ultimately revolves around Butcher. The need to reunite with Becca (Shantel VanSanten), who has an expanded role this season thanks to several chilling scenes featuring Homelander and their son, has provided Butcher (and by extension, the whole show) with a new sense of urgency. Urban's performance may border on cartoonish, but he's also the show's soul. Ultimately, The Boys is a series about the people in power doing anything they can to keep that power--and Butcher and the Boys remain the only crew who can stick it to them. If the rest of Season 2 stays on the same path as the first three episodes, it's going to prove the perfect commentary for the tense times in which we live.