Remember when the cast of The Avengers sang Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire on Jimmy Fallon? They recapped the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe with lyrics like, "Bucky, Peggy, I love you," and "Thanos and Infinity War, I can't take it anymore," ending with a heart-wrenching tribute to late Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee.
Season 2 of The Boys is the equivalent of a giant dump on all of that.
If Amazon's adaptation of Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson's comic book hadn't already out-Deadpooled Deadpool, in its second season The Boys turns up the pops of gore, the absurd, cringey powers and the unpleasant dimensions of its celebrity superheroes to even greater extremes.
Is the viscera-spraying violence gratuitous? Yep. But The Boys' compellingly gray characters, timely themes and stark, satirical universe continue to be a humdinger of an antidote for anyone with Marvel fatigue.
The first three episodes of season 2 will premiere on Amazon Prime Video on Sept. 4, followed by the next new episode each Friday. We pick up a little while after sailor-mouthed antihero Butcher (Karl Urban, still doing a confusing accent) discovers his wife is alive and had a son with Homelander, aka the psychopath version of Superman/Captain America (Antony Starr, who deservedly gets more screen time and should be the next Joker).
With no Elisabeth Shue to be his perverse mother figure/lover, Homelander opens a new chapter in his search for connection by recklessly attempting to mentor his as-yet untarnished kid.
But his latest preoccupation leaves new Supe Stormfront (a scene-stealing Aya Cash) to tap memes, Instagram livestreams and social media in general to build her popularity in the cheapest way possible.
Where season 1 tackled #MeToo and capitalism, showrunner Eric Kripke (who also created Supernatural) now holds a mirror up to cancel culture, Scientology, white supremacy and Trump's America.
But of course, while The Boys continue their vigilante ways with an investigation into the smuggling of suped-up terrorists, the target is squarely aimed at greed-fueled franchises with their merchandise, focus groups and current preoccupation with girl power and diversity.
"We're going to pull through the roof with millennials -- inclusion's a big priority for them right now," publicist Ashley (Colby Minifie) says as she interviews new candidates to join Justice League equivalent The Seven after The Deep's ousting for sexual harassment. "Fingers crossed [we find] an ethnic female to replace The Deep and then we're golden."
Yet for a show that revels in ripping its peers apart, you can't help but hold The Boys up to its own levels of scrutiny. Are its characters thin? Is the action good? Is it predictable?
While The Boys avoids tired CGI fests through merciless, pulse-racing, ground-level action and a conspiracy thriller plot, it has its own way of overloading your senses, mainly through its relentless cynicism.
It's pretty much down to Starlight (a superb Erin Moriarty) to provide, yep, a light in the tunnel. Her clear arc from naive, young newcomer, to hardened, take-no-shit hero, plus her affection for the equally moral and Billy Joel-loving Hughie (Jack Quaid), shows The Boys has an interest in developing its characters and that you do need love.
This season also takes the plain ridiculous comedy to new levels. A C-story sees Deep (Chace Crawford) connect with Goran Višnjić's leader of The Church of The Collective, a religious group suspiciously enthusiastic about Coca-Cola drink Fresca. One scene involving Deep, mushrooms and his gills wins any jaw-dropping silliness prizes.
Elsewhere, young, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez-channelling congresswoman Victoria Neumann (Claudia Doumit) leads a campaign to challenge Supe corporate overlords Vought International in a hearing. We also see more welcome tense action scenes with Black Noir (Nathan Mitchell).
We don't see Simon Pegg as Hughie's dad. Having fulfilled his special cameo in season 1 -- Pegg was the inspiration for the comic book character Hughie -- he leaves the party with barely a mention.
If it was holding anything back in season 1, the second season of The Boys goes to town. "This new Joss rewrite really sings," Homelander says of The Seven's ensemble movie. It can be a bit much at times, but The Boys treads where others won't. Whenever you think it won't go somewhere, it goes there -- in ludicrous, often-thrilling, reality-dissecting fashion. Shoot it up into your eyeballs if you think HBO Max's Justice League is just another cynical money grab.
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