Given how much of a shock to the system the first season of 'The Boys' was, a second season was always going to have an issue with either trying to build on what came before and surpass it.
For one thing, the cliffhanger on which the first season was left meant that the second season was all but a certainty, but more than that, could it continue to operate at the same level and be as entertaining? The formula for the second season of 'The Boys' is that the formula worked the first time out, so it stands to reason it'll work the second time. It purposefully keeps pushing the same riffs and the same edgy humour, bringing in new characters and supercharging the violence and the humour along the way. It works for the most part, though it comes with a couple of caveats.
Like so many prominent streaming shows these days, 'The Boys' Season 2 suffers from a fair amount of bloating. It's not so much that it runs out of plot, story or characters, or even fails to juggle them properly, but rather that it takes a far longer time to get to where you know it's going to go. That being said, when it does eventually land there, it's pretty satisfying and while it may be a little easy to spot coming, it's done with a lot of confidence.
That's a big hallmark of 'The Boys' in general; confidence, especially when HBO's 'Watchmen' pretty much said everything there was to say about superhero satire earlier this year, and did it with a huge amount of style too. 'The Boys' is far less skilful, instead opting for crude humour, brutal violence, and doesn't so much skewer superhero culture as it stabs it repeatedly and throws it out a window and onto an exploding car.
That lack of subtlety doesn't necessarily extend to the performances, however. Antony Starr is fantastic as Homelander, yet again matching the off-brand 'Captain America' / Steve Rogers exterior with the 'American Psycho' / Patrick Bateman interior. Aya Cash's Stormfront has all of the edgy humour and some of the best jokes of the season, while Dominique McElligott's Queen Maeve has more of a hand in some of the dramatic moments this time around.
Giancarlo Espoito's character is mentioned frequently but seen rarely, which is supposed to have the effect of making him all-powerful and mysterious, but effectively renders him inert in the story. Karl Urban and Jack Quaid's older-brother-younger-brother dynamic is solidified in this season, while Starlight - played by Erin Moriarty - impresses even further in the role.
Stormfront, played by 'You're The Worst' alum Aya Cash, is drafted into the Seven as production begins on 'Dawn Of The Seven', a splashy, barely-concealed pisstake of just about every comic-book movie out there. Joss Whedon is even name-checked as giving it a fresh rewrite. At first, Stormfront's immediate charm and ability to manipulate social media as well as people around her puts her at odds with Homelander, played with the same ferocity as last time by Antony Starr. However, the oncoming threat of supervillains / super-terrorists (there's plenty of commentary on that, too) means they're forced to join forces, if only for a moment.
Totaling eight episodes, there's enough in the second season of 'The Boys' to keep you watching and keep you guessing. Sure, there's a lot of heavy-handed swipes and not all of it lands as cleanly as they could, but given how monotonous and ubiquitous superhero iconography is in the world today, the sneering cynicism that makes up so much of 'The Boys' makes it appealing and relevant, too.
'The Boys' Season 2 begins streaming on September 4th.