THE BOYS Season 2 Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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THE BOYS Season 2 Review

Alexander Wallace catches up with The Boys.

The Boys is an absolutely enraging show. One of the biggest sins any piece of fictional media can make is that it is enraging due to being wrong. Not so here. The Boys is enraging because it is so right.

When I watched the first season of the show back in February (I admit to being late to the party), before my neck of the woods was convulsed with plague, I immediately caught onto its central conceit: that if human beings were superheroes, the infrastructure that builds up around them would be every bit as morally bankrupt as Hollywood or professional sports are in our world. I’m reminded of one of the common internet comments about Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy: that the characters are so infuriatingly human, and the very same comment applies to this show. You can believe that this is what our mediocre species would do with abilities beyond our own fragile forms.

The Boys is a show that succeeds primarily in its character development; I rarely see a character as utterly loathsome and yet sometimes sympathetic as Homelander (I’m tempted to compare him to John Smith from The Man in the High Castle). In this season, he is glorying in the Vought Corporation’s new role as a provider of superhumans to the United States military, while trying to take a bigger role in the upbringing of his son. His family issues dovetail thematically with Billy Butcher, who is trying to reconnect with his wife, who Homelander stole from him.

As a whole, season two talks a lot about belonging. There are the familial issues I mention. There is the Deep trying to find belonging as he has been reassigned to Sandusky, and stumbles about it as he ends up among the membership of a Scientology-like religious group. There is Billy, who is seeing if he still belongs in his line of work, and Hughie, who wonders much the same. Starlight reckons if she still fits in with the Seven as a whole, and that belonging is sorely tested over the course of the season. There is Kimiko, who has to reckon whether she belongs in the United States and with the Boys specifically. More broadly, there’s still the question, Watchmen style, that asks where, exactly, superhumans belong in broader society.

There is a newcomer this season, and in my opinion she was perhaps the best part of it - Aya Cash’s Stormfront. She is an aggressively modern superhuman who knows how pathetically easy it is to manipulate the great crowds of the internet. She's an immensely cynical character, and that is why she thrives in the Seven; she sees this disappointing world as it is and knows how to push just the right buttons to profit off it immensely. She's the show’s representation of a cutthroat mentality that sees people as tools or as objects, and causes and emotions as mere advertising slogans. As the series delves into her past, she becomes a representation of big business and its unscrupulousness, and how those with skeletons in their closets can keep those closets unopened if they can cozy up to the right people.

And this is why The Boys is so infuriating in all the right ways right now: it shows the powerful as those who are amoral and sociopathic and concerned with mostly their own immediate benefit. Such a message comes very well when we see botched pandemic responses, uncharitable bureaucracies endangering the people for whom they are responsible, and cynical statements of social solidarity from corporations that probably had a role in making things as bad as they are in the first place. The world we live in feels like a cynical science fiction tale already (that’s the realism of our times, as Kim Stanley Robinson said in an interview), and the authors aren’t very good. This show, in my time in lockdown, felt like one of the few pieces of media I’ve consumed that was willing to talk about how the dumpster fire of our current moment actually feels like, without any tacked on message saying that everything will be okay. The Boys is a diatribe against business and government that simply don’t care about human beings, and in doing so it feels like the child at the parade who is the only one with the honesty to say that the Emperor has no clothes. In these times, it’s honestly refreshing.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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