The second half of the second season of Amazon’s hit The Boys starts with the worst episode in the show’s history. The series’ greatest asset has always been momentum; when it starts to spin its wheels, as it does loudly in this hour, it just becomes noise. It’s a show that needs to zip by instead of dragging its heels through talky scenes covering ground that has already been covered. This episode runs just over 60 minutes, and what happens? Homelander and Stormfront become a power couple, and Billy basically reunites with his boys. Both things were inevitable. A show built on shock and surprise can’t be this damn predictable, and what’s really going to hurt The Boys here is that fans can’t just pop into another episode to wash the taste out of their mouths. The weekly release format may help build buzz, but it almost feels as if it’s amplifying what doesn’t work about this show, especially in a transitional episode like this one.
“We Gotta Go Now” is another episode about intense image management. Homelander’s crisis in that department continues to spiral when footage surfaces of his killing a bystander, and he doesn’t handle the PR well. The Deep continues his return to the public eye via the Scientology spoof that is the Church of the Collective. Queen Maeve battles how to handle her public outing by Homelander from last week, which is now being worked into the film-within-a-show, The Dawn of the Seven. A-Train tries to fight his imminent expulsion from the group, which is also being captured in the movie. And finally, Annie reunites with her mother, in a sense, but is really being manipulated more by Stormfront, who connects at last with her perfect match in Homelander — first, to change the fallen star’s public perception and then for some kinky super-sex.
It’s a lot for one show, yet none of it really feels like it’s going anywhere. Take the Homelander arc: He has been losing face with the public for some time now, and the footage of his killing a bystander should be a major moment. The best scene in this episode is when he drops in on a rally outside Vought and dramatically fails to win over the crowd. In the episode’s most shocking beat, his eyes turn red, and he lasers everyone in the plaza. Imagine if that weren’t just a fantasy. Imagine if Homelander did become a supervillain. Maybe The Boys is headed there this season, but “Homelander isn’t happy without adoration” has been cooking for too long. Let’s take it off the burner and do something with it.
At least the end of the episode seems to push his arc forward a bit. Stormfront has brought Homelander over to her side completely — convincing him that he doesn’t need fans, he just needs soldiers — and the two get together for some crazy, high-flying, hard-crashing, chest-lasering sex. Homelander is the most powerful superhero in the world, and his only remaining ally seems to be the show’s stand-in for neo-Nazism. That can’t end well.
And what about Billy and the boys? Like the rally scene, most of his arc this episode feels like a fake out. Billy isn’t going to Argentina! So it becomes a matter of trying to figure out how the writers will keep him in Mother’s Milk and Hughie’s lives. The guys find Billy at his aunt’s house, where he went to get his awesome stuffed pig-humping dog. In a convenient plot move, Black Noir finds Billy too, leading to a showdown that happens close to the end of the hour. Again, imagine if something shocking had happened here. What if Billy had killed Black Noir? What if Black Noir had killed Mother’s Milk? This show needs to get more dangerous.
Instead, Billy “speaks” to Mr. Edgar through Black Noir’s body cam, revealing that he has proof that Homelander is a rapist and that Becca gave birth to his child. Edgar tells Black Noir to let them all live if the proof is destroyed. It probably won’t be. But it seems to get Billy and the gang back together to a certain degree. Surviving an attack by a sociopathic superhero will do that to you. Again, how did Black Noir get in a populist group like the Seven?
In addition to the Annie/Mom stuff that just doesn’t register narratively or emotionally, Kimiko has become a hired super-assassin, but Frenchie is still trying to save her, and Elena, Maeve’s girlfriend, doesn’t want to be part of her public image as America’s new super-lesbian. Maybe there’s just too much going on this season? Sometimes when a show has to juggle this many characters and subplots, the writers can’t figure out how to push them all forward at the same time and thus take the safe route of just barely nudging each piece on the board. There are three episodes left this season, and this show has built its following not by pushing pieces around but by flipping them in the air and changing the rules. Let’s hope the writers remember that for the end run.
• I kind of love that J.J. Abrams’s BFF Greg Grunberg is in The Dawn of the Seven. Of course he would be.
• The snide comment about “Joss’s rewrite” after we see the horrible dialogue in The Dawn of the Seven feels like a bit of pandering to the Snyder Cut crowd, but it definitely made me laugh.
• Does this episode have more incidences of the C-word than any other show? I think maybe, given how much Billy tosses it around in his showdown with Black Noir.
• Ashley’s plan of attack to fix Homelander’s problem after the footage leaks is kind of matter-of-factly chilling and likely happens in PR offices worldwide whenever someone tweets something dumb: “Acknowledgement, Apology, Action.”
• Homelander confusing “Girls get it done” with “Girls get it on” is a funny beat, as is the bit that feels like it’s commenting on the girl-power moment from Avengers: Endgame. This episode in general seems to tackle actual superhero pop culture more directly than any other.
• There has been a lot of controversy in the past few weeks about this show’s release pattern, and The Boys has been getting bombed on IMDb because of it. What do you think of the choice? At first, I liked it because I miss the era of weekly episodic television, but it feels like maybe this is exactly the wrong show for this kind of pattern. Again, the fifth episode of an eight-episode season is often transitional, but streaming services have made those transitions smoother by enabling a quick jump to the result. Not so this year. We’ll see if they go back to the old way in season three. My guess is they will.