GORE IN THE STORE
THE BOYS SEASON 2 EP’S 1-3 ****
Starring Karl Urban, Antony Starr, Jack Quaid, Erin Moriarty, Karl Urban,
Jessie T. Usher, Nathan Mitchell, Aya Cash
Science-Fiction, Superhero. 18.
Streaming now on Amazon Prime
On the evidence of the start of this eagerly awaited second season of superheroes behaving badly, show runner Eric Kripke seems to have crafted an even more impressive and ambitious show. Aside from the vicious thrill of seeing super powered men and women under attack from a small bunch of crusading vigilantes the story expands promisingly with the introduction of new characters who seem to push the already established Hughie and Butcher through the wringer as well as the all too powerful Homelander who also has to get to grips with fatherhood after the surprising ending to season one.
Where season one’s entertaining and nasty adaptation of Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s comic book managed to capture its tone with sights such as super powered babies shooting lasers from their eyes, drug addicted superheroes and a number of aquarian mishaps. This second season seems intent on upping its outrageous set pieces and looking further into the theme of unchecked power, both super and corporate, both of which go hand in hand all too easily here.
With the titular now in hiding after their leader, the interestingly accented mercenary Billy the Butcher, has gone missing in action and finding themselves framed as a murderous terrorists, Hughie is continuing his dangerous affair with the super powered Starlight/Annie. Hoping to take down the all-powerful Vought International, the corporation who have clandestinely manufactured The Seven, a twisted and screwed up take on The Avengers and the Justice League, Hughie soon finds himself involved in a hunt for another super powered person of interest who has been smuggled into the country before the all-powerful Homelander and his teammates capture him for their own needs.
From here the series sets out its sub-plots with confidence and style. Although made for the small screen the look is as impressive and expensive looking as any Marvel or DC feature film. Its widescreen look of superheroes zipping through the sky among gleaming towers whilst people walk the streets below all too used to such a sight marks it out from the current glut of superhero shows that can be found across seemingly every other channel and streaming service. While the superhero as mass-marketed celebrity angle has been explored in other comics such as Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neills influential MARSHAL LAW and Rick Veitch’s BRAT PACK to see it on screen explored in this satirical way is still fresh and different enough to mark it out in its own overcrowded field.
Outrageous gore and twisted characters can only take you so far. Thankfully the cast here manage to flesh out their characters in a number of very intriguing ways. As Homelander, Antony Starr is even more chilling this time round with his selfish, petulant and murderous take on his Superman archetype. As powerful as he is, he seems to have met his match in Stan Edgar, the head of Vought played by Giancarlo Esposito who along with his other roles of Gus Fring, Moff Gideon and the voice of Lex Luthor on HARLEY QUINN seems to have the current monopoly of playing super villains. His quiet manner and intimidating stare managing to put Homelander in his place provides for dramatic tension that intriguingly seems to set the stage for rebellion in some form or more troublingly Homelander cutting loose from his corporate bonds. The addition of the female Stormfront, played by Aya Cash, who could be just as powerful as Homelander, with the added edge of her huge social media following, is another exciting prospect for internal conflict especially with the disturbing reveal of her true nature at the end of the third episode.
The decision made by Amazon Prime to release episodes weekly after these first three is frankly torturous. In this age of instant entertainment being delivered constantly it is a surprising reminder of having to wait expectantly and patiently for the next instalment, in the manner of the best superhero comic books themselves. With this opening salvo presenting its various conflicts and confrontations, and yet another unfortunate, gory instance of a large sea mammal in the wrong place at the wrong time, it more than whets the appetite for the rest of the season. In an age where superheroes rule over popular media its subversive and cheeky story stands out in an increasingly bland landscape that as of yet shows no signs of going away.