Amazon Prime’s “The Boys” (2019–) might be the most complicated yet simple show on television. The show is intricately plotted, yet straightforward and digestible. The show is fantastical and grounded, played straight and comically, all in a healthy balance. Balance is the operative term for the first three episodes of the series’ second season, which premiered on Sept. 4 on the streaming service. The show maintains an engaging ride throughout with only a few details that upset a solidly balanced opener to this next chapter.
Set soon after the first season, “The Boys” drops viewers back into a world where superheroes are real, corporate-sponsored and, in the words of Karl Urban’s character, Billy Butcher, “diabolical.” After the events of season 1, the eponymous “Boys,” are on the run from The Seven, the premiere super-team and full-time stooges for Vought International. The Seven is led by the sociopathic Superman analog, Homelander, realized in a chilling performance by Anthony Starr. While it’s recommended that viewers watch the first season beforehand, the opening of the first episode is an excellent introduction to the principal players and more importantly, the tone.
“The Boys” is a strange mix of harsh violence, black comedy and genuine humanity that hits far more often than it misses, which is due in large part to the fantastic performances from every member of the cast. Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid), the rookie of the group, continues to adapt to his role as a member of the black ops team while balancing a relationship with his estranged girlfriend. Meanwhile, he keeps the aforementioned Billy Butcher, the team’s leader, away from compromise as Butcher moves farther and farther away from any semblance of morals. Special attention must be given to Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) for her incredible performance. In the previous season, her character was largely shrouded in mystery and given little to do, but her beefed-up role gives Fukuhara a chance to shine in a largely silent role, requiring a top-notch physical performance which she delivers with ease.
The show knows when to let the audience breathe, often allowing quiet moments for character development. This breaks up the exciting action set pieces or moments of conflict and, unlike other comic book projects, doesn’t feel the need to add jokes to these more contemplative moments. Pacing is a strong suit of these first three episodes, as each of the numerous arcs and plots moves like a well-oiled machine, that is, except for the storyline revolving around a disgraced superhero, The Deep (Chace Crawford). Crawford does an incredible job portraying an objectively repugnant character, but his performance can’t save a plotline that, by the third episode, goes off the rails. The plot features a bizarre cameo performance from Patton Oswalt all in service of a halfhearted attempt to jumpstart a sort of “third faction” apart from Vought and the Boys, but its message is muddled and each new chapter felt groan-worthy. While The Deep’s plotline is not an overwhelming portion of these first three episodes, it’s important to understand its failure. It encapsulates what can go wrong if the show loses the balance of human moments to dark comedy, the consequence of which is a thread that drags down an otherwise tight three episodes.
Despite the occasional plot hiccup, the premiere of “The Boys” second season is further evidence to the tact of the team behind the show, and illustrates that the series is one of the most interesting shows on TV, drumming up excitement for the rest of the season.