The Boys premiere recap: The boys are back in disarray
The superheroes of The Boys are fame-seeking fascists, murderers, junkies, and deviants with more psychosexual hang-ups than you can count on both hands, and they’re back for further world-takeover mayhem in the second season of the hit Amazon series (based on Garth Ennis’ Dark Horse Comics series), which continues the battle between the Seven, a group of corporate celebrity supes, and the Boys, a ragtag crew of anti-supe revolutionaries led by Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) and reluctant techie-turned-rebel Hughie (Jack Quaid). Having discovered, at the end of season 1, that supes’ abilities come not via divine providence but, instead, courtesy of a synthetic steroid called Compound-V, the Boys are ready for more profanely vengeful action designed to take down their enhanced adversaries. Although at least at outset, they’re just trying to stay alive, since as our initial season 2 recap elucidates, in the aftermath of Billy’s showdown with homicidal Superman-ish psycho Homelander (Antony Starr), Hughie and company are now Public Enemy No. 1.
“The Big Ride” kicks off with CEO Stan Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito) negotiating the terms of Vought’s new contract to have supes in the military — a deal that will keep Compound-V “top secret” and includes, unofficially, a 34 percent collateral damage allowance. At the same time, silent-but-deadly ninja Black Noir (Nathan Mitchell) kills super-terrorist Naqib (Krishan Dutt) in Syria (as the baddie tries out new merchandising-friendly catchphrases), creeping out a young child with a weird stuffed-animal routine on his way out.
In a memorial service at Ezekiel’s (Shaun Benson) Samaritan’s Embrace church, Homelander eulogizes the dearly departed Translucent (Alex Hassell), whose demise is pinned on a cartel super-terrorist known as El Diablo. After Starlight (Erin Moriarty) sings, the duo depart, feigning a flirty rapport for the crowds and cameras waiting outside. This footage enrages the Deep (Chace Crawford), who’s drowning his sorrows over his Sandusky, Ohio, reassignment with lava flows at a local watering hole. It also doesn’t sit well with Hughie, who now resides in the basement of a gold-selling East Flatbush, Brooklyn porn shop alongside Frenchie (Tomer Capon), who’s earning cash by working with drug- and gun-runners, Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso), who’s tending to injured comrades and building a dollhouse for his daughter, and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara), who’s slowly learning the English alphabet.
To the sounds of “Pressure” by Hughie’s beloved Billy Joel, The Boys juxtaposes Hughie getting ready for the day in this dank makeshift HQ and Starlight removing her glitzy costume and makeup to don a hoodie and sunglasses — conjoined sights that speak to the fact that they’re living in opposite worlds and heading in opposite directions. Except that they’re not. Starlight glances briefly at A-Train (Jessie T. Usher), who’s on life-support thanks to his heart attack, and then meets Hughie on the subway. She informs Hughie that he looks like a wreck, and Hughie expresses some jealousy about the marquee men (i.e. Alden Ehrenreich) she’s meeting at high-profile events. Hughie gives Starlight intel on a Vought employee she has to deal with as part of their covert work together, and they part.
In Sandusky, The Deep is arrested for drunkenly railing at children at the local water park, and is bailed out by Eagle the Archer (Langston Kerman), an understanding fellow supe who offers him a Fresca. Later, when The Deep wakes up on a couch (having slept off his bender), he’s introduced to Carol (Jessica Hecht), a cheery woman whom Eagle credits with helping him recover from hitting rock bottom (which, for him, was a hostage situation that taught him that arrows are finite weapons, and thus not great to use when combatting gunmen). She too offers The Deep a Fresca, as well as a cult-y book titled “Church of the Collective: Destinations – The New Science of Self Renewal.”
The Boys watch a TV episode of A Closer Look with Chris Hansen that dramatically recreates Billy’s supposed murder of Madelyn Stillwell (Elisabeth Shue), and ends with a plea to help find Billy and his accomplices (i.e. the Boys). Billy’s whereabouts are a mystery to his comrades, and they bicker over whether they should locate him, cut-and-run, or stay and fight, which Hughie wants to do by getting some Compound-V and exposing it to the world via the media. Mother’s Milk, in particular, is skeptical of this plan.
Madelyn’s old office is being renovated by her replacement, Ashley (Colby Minifie), whom Homelander has selected to be his new handler. Ashley walks in on Homelander drinking, quite grossly, the last of Madelyn’s bottled breastmilk, and informs him that she’s chosen Translucent’s replacement in the Seven. The newbie turns out to be a blind javelin-throwing acrobat known as Blindspot (Chris Mark), whom Ashley thinks will appeal to millennials because “inclusion’s a big priority for them.” Homelander pretends to be impressed, and then boxes Blindspot in the ears, rendering him blind and deaf — and thus useless. Decrying the idea that a “cripple” would join the Seven, Homelander lets Ashely know that she answers to him and that he’ll be in charge of everything from now on. Moreover, he wants her to be his spy on the 99th floor of Vought tower, where the team operates.
Starlight tracks Hughie’s target to a motel, where she records him taking money from a businessman in return for letting the guy chop off his arm — which promptly grows back. This individual, Gecko (David Thompson), is actually an old acquaintance of Starlight’s from their bible-camp days. After faking a surprise run-in at a diner — and expressing her lack of faith in a benevolent God watching over them — she blackmails Gecko into stealing a vial of Compound-V since he works in Vought’s labs.
The Boys are visited by a horribly injured smuggler, which leads them to the docks, where on security cam footage they learn that Frenchie’s buddies aren’t just sneaking drugs and guns into the country — they're also smuggling human cargo, including a super-terrorist. During a focus-group session, Homelander proves to Ashley that the best term to use for their enemies is “supervillain.” He also makes sure their upcoming military campaign is titled “Saving America,” because after all, it’s Americans who are going to keep the Seven in the military.
During an argument about how best to deal with Manhattan’s new super-terrorist, Mother’s Milk becomes furious upon learning that Hughie has been talking to Starlight, which he fears puts them at risk from Vought. Hughie contends that maybe he can be the person in this story who no one thinks is awesome but turns out to actually be awesome. He suggests they see Susan Raynor (Jennifer Esposito), deputy director of the CIA, for help with their situation, and with reuniting Mother’s Milk and his family.
While shooting a commercial for their new military partnership, Homelander and Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott) are visited by Stormfront (Aya Cash), a brash, black-haired, leather-suited supe from Portland, Ore., who livestreams their awkward first encounter on Instagram, announcing that she’s the Seven’s newest member. Homelander is naturally furious about this and goes to see Edgar. Homelander proclaims to his boss, “I am Vought.” Edgar, however, explains that Vought is really a pharmaceutical company built on the shoulders of Compound-V, which was created by their founder, a once-prominent Nazi scientist who (à la “Operation Paperclip,” as dramatized in Amazon’s Hunters) found great success once he emigrated to America. Edgar is unhappy that Homelander released Compound-V into the wild — as a way to create supervillains and force the military to strike a deal — and lets Homelander know it.
The Boys’ meeting with Raynor goes well; she thinks the arrival of the new supervillain indicates there may be a coup taking place from inside Vought. Before she can elaborate, though, her head explodes, sending the Boys scurrying away. Clearly, Raynor was being watched by a deadly foe.
In response to being shamed by Edgar, Homelander flies to Becca’s (Shantel VanSanten) suburban house to see his son, much to her chagrin. Back at the Boys’ base, Hughie gets a call from Starlight, who reveals that Gecko will have a Compound-V sample to them in a day or two. That good news is sullied by Starlight’s realization that Hughie isn’t telling her something (i.e. about Raynor’s exploding noggin), and hangs up on him, dismayed that he’s still lying to her.
As the debut episode comes to a close, a body rolls down the Boys’ basement stairs, followed by Billy, whom Frenchie apparently called because — regardless of Hughie’s desire to be their leader — “We need a real captain.” With his trademark grin on his face, Billy announces, “Don’t you worry. Daddy’s home.” As the camera lingers on Hughie’s concerned face, Billy Joel’s “Pressure” kicks back in.
- As in its first season, The Boys is filled with peripheral details that flesh out its world, including a movie poster for 2021’s blockbuster movie Dawn of the Seven and a New York Post front page featuring Billy’s smirking mug.
- Executive-producer Seth Rogen once again cameos, here in a junket-style video snippet promoting the latest chapter in the (now seemingly dead) Translucent film franchise.
- References to John Connor and Katniss Everdeen further amplify The Boys’ pop culture-infused spirit and indicate that its universe is similar to our own.
- Who knew Fresca could be so menacing?
The Boys (TV Series)