Now this is more like it. The Boys E02 provides what I felt the first episode lacked, enough satire to fully subvert genre expectations. By focusing on aspects other than over the top violence, this episode manages to highlight the social problems caused by Supes. Granted, the first episode did this to a degree. After all, Robin’s death is the driving force behind Hughie’s quest for vengeance against A-Train.
Additionally, this episode builds on the social impact Supes. First, we see A-Train visiting a child with terminal cancer. A-Train arrives, all smiles and arrogance. Then, the kids says he wanted Translucent because Translucent is his hero. A-Train tells the kid he’ll teach him how to run when he gets better. The child does not take these words well. The whole scene is awkward and hilarious in a terrible way.
The Boys E02 focuses mostly on Homelander as well as the fallout from episode one. Again, I am going to be as spoiler-free as possible in this review. Still, there might be some spoilery things in here. If you care, there’s your warning.
The choice to develop Homelander is a wise one. As the Superman analogue, he sets up a myriad of expectations for the audience. Such expectations should already be shifting after his actions in E01, but we still don’t know much about him. Here, we learn that he wants to be more than just a pretty face, and also that there is some darkness in him, and is the darkness that makes him scary. From when we learn of Homelander’s darkness until the end of the episode, his presence looms large. He shifts from the typical Superman archetype, to something reminiscent of JMS’s version of Hyperion in Supreme Power.
The Boys E02 There Are No Heroes Only Supes
Meanwhile, Hughie and Butcher are still trying to resolve their situation. The trouble is, they don’t have any good options. This story line pushes Hughie closer to the edge as the time to make a choice draws near. We learn that the Butcher is a mercenary who specializes in subduing Supes. Admittedly, I found the beats in this plot line a little too predictable. I understand the need for these scenes, and they do a lot of good work portraying Hugie’s struggle. Yet, the outcome never really seemed in doubt.
We also learn more about how fighting crime for the Vought corporation works. And, I would say, it works about the way you’d expect. Vought uses the most advanced technology to predict where crimes will occur, and then they send their heroes there. It’s all very efficient, but doesn’t lend itself to feeling heroic.
I appreciate this look at how the sponsorship works. On one hand, it s not surprising. If superheroes did exist and they had corporate sponsors, thing would most likely operate in this fashion.
The subversion of the Superman type in the form of Homelander, along with the corporate control aspect play into the theme of The Boys E02: the loss of innocence. In fact, that seems to be the overall series theme. We see this in the general portrayal of Supes in this episode, as well as the characters of Hughie and Starlight.
Each character’s story contains darkness and difficult choices. They both death with pain and loss of innocence, though in very different ways. Hughie has access to a support group. It’s dysfunctional and horrible and is going to get him in trouble, if not killed. He is grieving for Robin, and trying reconcile his need for vengeance with his need to maintain his innocence.
In contrast, Starlight processes her loss of innocence by asserting herself, and unleashing her anger against a couple of deserving assholes. She is alone and has no support structure. She can’t tell her mom for fear of disappointing her, and she has no friends. Starlight regaining some confidence is important for the character and the story. Plus, it gives us a chance to see a Supe actually doing something super heroic. Of course, she faces punishment for performing an unsanctioned Super activity, further driving home the point that there is no place for heroics in the superhero business. Plus Erin Moriarty kills it as the determined and near-desperate Starlight, infusing her performance with a contrast of nuanced emotion and bright-eyed optimism.
All in all, this episode was stronger than the first one, and I have hope that I will enjoy the show if they continue in this vein.
Have you seen The Boys E02? What did you think. Drop a line in the comments if you feel inclined.