Can there be too much of a good thing? The Boys season 2 has picked up where the first season left off, delivering its own warped take on a world filled with corporate-managed superheroes. But one of them, Homelander, still stands head and shoulders above the rest. So much so that, in this fourth episode, it might be time to ponder whether a large helping of the all-knowing Homelander can actually be a detriment to the show.
Homelander, inevitably, dominates the episode from the first minute until the last. It makes for uncomfortable, captivating viewing as The Boys even tops last week’s gills duet with a scene that’s sure to make your skin crawl and mouth “What the fuck?” in ways that other shows can’t quite grasp. The Boys, it’s become abundantly clear in the second season, revels in retch-inducing moments – but only in service to the story rather than shock value.
One scene after the other, Homelander stamps his mark. Even Aya Cash’s Stormfront, who gets under the skin of Antony Starr’s Supe throughout the episode in a series of public demonstrations (especially timely given real-world events) and then a verbal sparring session later on, can’t quite match up to the charismatic force of nature. She may have won the first round, but Homelander will almost certainly win the war. And that could pose a problem. The Boys has been anything but predictable so far, but the leading man can’t stay on top forever, can he?
But when an actor is this good, so clearly at the peak of his powers giving performances that should put Emmy voters on notice, it’s hard to see it as a weakness of the show. It’s just that rare case in a series where the creative team clearly loves one character and lets others fall by the wayside because of it.
The B-plot, a cross-country road trip involving Mother’s Milk, Hughie, and Starlight on the hunt for a missing Supe by the name of Liberty, was the most egregious example of this approach. At best, it was an entertaining detour that provides a shocking twist and, at worst, feels like an excuse to shoehorn characters into an episode that didn’t necessarily require them.
While the teasing out of Mother Milk’s childhood and relationship with his father is certainly welcome – The Boys’ supporting cast have turned into caricatures in recent weeks – it’s a venture that often feels like it’s being done just to provide metaphorical and literal space between the Homelander and nothing more than that.
Perhaps it’s the hangover from Game of Thrones – a show that mostly juggled multiple places, factions, and characters week-to-week – but sometimes a streamlined approach is best. Following Homelander around for the entire episode would have meant a more focused hour than the one we ended up getting.
The Liberty search also shines a light (no pun intended) on Starlight. Her collapse into Hughie’s arms early on felt decidedly odd. If I’ve come away from watching a broken Starlight find solace in Hughie feeling unsure as to the character’s intentions, it’s an issue. Was it an emotionally manipulative plot? Or a genuine heartfelt cry for help? The scene wasn’t played for ambiguity. Hopefully it’s something that can be chalked up to so-so editing or iffy direction rather than indicative of Erin Moriarty’s performances as a whole.
Another character who suffers away from the gravitational pull of Homelander is Butcher. Surprisingly, we get an answer to one of the prevailing questions from The Boys season 1 ending. In essence, his story has suddenly hit fast-forward, leaving him potentially spinning his wheels until the end of the season. His major moments, especially given the weight of a certain reunion this week, also didn’t quite hit the mark for what should have been an emotional high point for the series. Karl Urban remains brilliant, yet his charms (and storyline) are in danger of wearing thin.
However, those who may have had concerns at The Boys going at a comparatively slower pace so far compared to last year needn’t have worried. So much goes on this week that the effects are twofold: first, it was a whirlwind hour that flew by far quicker than most, and second: other standout moments didn’t get the platform they richly deserved.
In one such scene, Frenchie kisses Kimiko and spirals into a bender of sex and drugs. In another, a talk show appearance turns sour after a major revelation. These are moments that should be allowed to breathe, not reduced to plot footnotes. Perhaps the knowledge of there being only four episodes left (sob) of the season made the creators squeeze in a little more than planned into the hefty 67-minute runtime.
It can be easy to read this as a slightly negative take on The Boys this week. It isn’t one. The Boys remains fantastic, anchored by consistently strong performances, gross-out moments, and a knack for subtle political commentary. Sooner or later, though, it’s going to have to answer The Homelander Problem. Until then, let’s just enjoy one of the most effortlessly entertaining shows around.