The team behind The Boys aren’t fans of restraint. Oh no, they certainly are not.
Before the end credits roll on the first episode of the second season, starting today on Amazon Prime Video, three heads will go smoosh. Well, one will go smoosh, another will be pulled apart and a third exploded.
That’s the kind of ultra-violent dramatic flair we have come to expect from The Boys – and, honestly, we wouldn’t want it any other way. Does that make us sadists? Probably.
Surprising many with its smart and unflinching commentary on corporate power, The Boys is that rare superhero series that’s nothing like any of the dozens of superhero shows out there – Watchmen is another.
For the uninitiated (you poor thing), it’s set in a world where super-powered people are owned, controlled and deployed by a company called Vought.
Rather than, say Batman or Captain America, going out on heroics to save bunnies and the universe, The Boys’ superheroes are carefully stage-managed, publicised and commoditised through plastic merchandise, movie franchises and social media mentions.
Known as the Seven, they’re also pimped out to major cities such as New York and Los Angeles in crime-fighting contracts.
During negotiations with the US military, Vought’s boss Stan Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito) is asked what the civilian collateral damage is around any of the superheroes’ missions – “officially, none, but cone of silence, 34 per cent”.
That’s a lot of dead kids who did nothing except be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The superheroes themselves are a bunch of dicks, ranging from homicidal sociopaths to the morally compromised. So it’s no surprise that there is growing opposition against them, including our titular vigilante antiheroes, Butcher (Karl Urban), Hughie (Jack Quaid), Milk (Laz Alonso), Frenchie (Tomer Capon) and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara).
Spoilers from season one ahead
There were several world-shattering reveals at the end of the first season, including the discovery that Vought’s superheroes are not born but made through a proprietary chemical called compound-V.
There’s also the fact that Butcher’s wife, the one he thought was dead after a traumatic incident with Homelander (Antony Starr), is actually alive, and the mother of his child, the product of rape.
There are so-called super terrorists running around, who are both semi-false flags but also radicalised by the destructive actions of the Vought superheroes. Meanwhile, Starlight (Erin Moriarty) tries to sabotage the Seven from the inside through her secret alliance with Hughie.
And the Seven has a new super member, Stormfront (Aya Cash), whose raw honesty and bullsh*t meter makes her seem like fresh air but whose position in the Seven was arranged by the untrustworthy Stan, so you know there’s something else going on.
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Yes, there is a lot going on, but The Boys manages to weave all the threads together so that it forms an addictive, clever and highly effective tapestry.
Going into its second season, The Boys is a more confident show, both thematically and in its ballsy execution. There isn’t a single episode that doesn’t have at least one moment that leaves you exclaiming, “Holy f*******k”.
Sure, the violence set-pieces and the visual spectacles are where the series hits you viscerally but where The Boys really sings is its cynicism for all things corporate.
For example, there’s a sequence in the second episode in which the three female supes – Starlight, Stormfront and Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott) – are made to take part in a publicity junket spruiking its now three-strong “girl power” line-up.
There is a relentless schedule of station promos, repetitive interviews and smiles while parroting the talking point, “Girls get it done.”
The scenes have little bearing on the story’s momentum, but it is scathing of the corporate appropriation of feminism for the purposes of marketing and selling you crap you didn’t want.
Of course, there is a perverse irony in that this anti-corporate series is made and distributed by one of the largest companies in the world, Amazon, whose founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos is the richest person in the known universe with an unfathomable personal wealth of $US200 billion ($A275 billion) at last count.
But even that awkward fact can’t dent The Boys’ contempt for a corrupt system in which hundreds of millions of people live in poverty, and then there’s Jeff Bezos.
Just don’t buy any of the series’ merch.
The Boys season two starts streaming on Amazon Prime Video today – the first three episodes will be available and then subsequent episodes will be released on Fridays
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