“It doesn’t matter what we do. Nothing changes. Nothing ever changes or gets better. And I’m tired.” —Queen Maeve
Despite Queen Maeve’s eventual return to heroic form after she says these lines to Hughie and Starlight, they’re indicative of a feeling that permeated the entire second season of The Boys: Whatever we do, Nazis will still come back into power, corporations will still destroy the world, and racism will never fully go away. Sound familiar? The writers of The Boys tried to craft a season that would both push their characters forward narratively and comment on the state of the real world in 2020, with themes of fearmongering and the radicalization of fringe, usually racist, groups. It worked well at times but felt half-baked at others. And the long finale (67 minutes) ties up more threads than fans might have expected, but it doesn’t quite erase some of the mistakes of this eight-episode season or the sense that, notwithstanding all the blood and guts, a lot of it was mere setup for what’s to come.
In the end, this year’s Big Bad has been vanquished. But the legacy of poisonous politics continues in the show’s epilogue, and the main stars are still adrift. Billy Butcher has even less focus now that his wife, Becca, is dead, and Ryan Butcher is in the hands of the government. Grace Mallory offers Billy a job watching the supes, which will probably play a role next year, but what will motivate Billy without Becca, who fueled his vengeance in season one and drove his savior complex in season two? Meanwhile, Hughie wants to stand on his own two feet but finds himself in the lion’s den again, working for the campaign of a congresswoman who is secretly a supe, even as his relationship with Starlight feels kind of boring. Finally, Homelander ends another season alone, but at least he has the love of the people and the ability to emotionally masturbate in the moonlight in a place no one else can reach.
Most of “What I Know” is about the attempt by Billy and the boys to rescue Ryan from the clutches of Homelander and Stormfront. Billy wants to just run in and kill everyone after the events of the last episode, but Annie has one final play. She goes with Hughie to meet with Queen Maeve, who chain-smokes and pushes them away. But it turns out to be a pivotal moment for this show’s version of Wonder Woman, who will rise from her emotional rubble and finally be a hero later in the episode.
While Billy is learning from Becca that Ryan has essentially been kidnapped, Stan Edgar, the head of Vought, is meeting with Alastair Adana, the leader of the Church of the Collective, revealing the connection between the most powerful corporation in this world and the show’s version of Scientology. What feels like an underdeveloped glance at the ties between business and religion is actually an important scene, as A-Train overhears that he won’t get back into the Seven because, well, Stormfront is a Nazi. He decides to sell out Stormfront as hard as he possibly can, giving Hughie and Annie a folder about her vicious past with Vought and the Third Reich, which they instantly leak to the press, destroying her. Sadly, this fall from grace isn’t given much room to breathe because this is a season finale and the writers need to rush Stormfront to a conclusion. What feels like a major plot point — the world’s most popular hero is literally a Nazi — is really just a way to make the season’s villain angrier, and arguably a little sloppier, in her final fight, while also giving A-Train a way back into the Seven.
Before Stormfront is exposed, a key scene happens between Billy and Edgar. The head of Vought defends Stormfront because, well, hate is good for business. Fearmongering will make everyone want to buy Compound V, and no one can sell it but Vought. Edgar promises to help get Becca and Ryan somewhere safe, however. That’s when Billy drops the fact that he doesn’t want Ryan to be with him and Becca. In truth, he wants Vought to take the kid somewhere safe so he can start life over again with his wife. Billy negotiating to save Becca’s son and then basically give him to another captor is dark, even for this show.
Time for the climax! While Stormfront is off dealing with her worst PR nightmare, the gang begins a rescue attempt of Ryan. They use tech from Vought Sonic to blast a loud noise at the cabin that houses Homelander and Ryan, but it’s really just a distraction. As Homelander races off to find the source of the noise, Billy and Becca burst in and rescue Ryan. It’s hard to say what drives Billy’s decision here, but it could just be the tenderness he sees Becca give to a scared Ryan on top of the fact that Billy swore on his dead brother’s soul that he would do what’s right. Away from the cabin, he tells Becca about the deal he made with Edgar and that he’s going to break it. He tells Mother’s Milk to take Becca and Ryan to safety, knowing he may never see them again.
And boom! Stormfront lands on the scene and basically uses force-lightning power to send the car spinning. As she targets the rest of the group, Billy rushes Becca and Ryan to safety. Dolly in on Kimiko, who smiles and starts laughing. She’s had enough of Stormfront’s monologuing, and she beats on the Nazi with everything she’s got. The fight gets brutal as Stormfront uses her powers to get the upper hand, even seeming to snap Kimiko’s neck in one shot (she’s fine in the next). Stormfront then turns to the rest and Palpatines their asses, leaving a showdown between her and Annie, or so she thinks. Time for Queen Maeve! She jumps into the scene and starts whaling on Stormfront. Kimiko and Annie join in the fun to the tune of “Boys Want to Be Her,” by Peaches, and they pummel Stormfront so much that she flees.
With Homelander back at the cabin killing Vought agents, Stormfront finds an easier trio to push around in the Butchers. She pushes Billy away before Becca stabs her hard in the eye. Ouch. Unresponsive to Billy’s bullets, Stormfront starts choking Becca. Then Ryan does what we all should have seen coming. Who’s the only one who can really kill a superhero? Another superhero. His eyes glow red, and Stormfront is a limbless, charred mess in the next shot. But Becca got hit too, and blood is pouring from her neck. She makes Billy promise to keep Ryan safe and make sure he knows that none of this was his fault before she dies.
Homelander drops onto the scene to find his girlfriend near death and mumbling in German. Ryan chooses to go to Billy instead of his real dad, leaving Homelander alone again. And then Maeve pops up to really close out the season, showing Homelander the plane footage that ruined her relationship with Elena. “You’re going to let them go,” she says. Stop hunting Starlight. Leave everyone alone. She exploits his only Achilles’ heel — how much he needs to be loved. He’d give up his son for that.
The season wraps up with the release of Compound V on hold, Queen Maeve and Starlight back in the heroic spotlight, and A-Train getting back into the Seven. It turns out Vought needs some diversity to help people get over the fact that they had a Nazi in the group, which means the Deep is screwed again. Starlight goes back into Vought to change the system from within, while Hughie decides he needs a focus that Billy will never give him. Homelander masturbates high above the city while saying, “I can do whatever I want.” He’s a charmer.
In the season’s epilogue, Alastair is talking to Congresswoman Neuman. Remember her? She was there at the Homelander rally and led the congressional hearing into Vought that ended in head-popping bloodshed. Surprise! Alastair’s head goes boom, and Neuman’s eyes blur like a supe’s. She’s the one doing the Scanners homages around town. Surprise number two: Hughie is going to work for her.
• Does this show have a woman-killing problem? I’m just throwing it out there, but the first season climaxed with the death of Madelyn Stillwell and this one peaks with the deaths of Stormfront and Becca. I’m not saying I think it’s an issue yet, but maybe next year kill a major male character or two in your finale, boys.
• Stormfront’s suggestion that Compound V will go only to the people she chooses is chilling in an era of headlines about who can get tested for COVID-19 and the vaccine will be distributed. Some shows in 2020 have been timely in ways their the writers could never have predicted.
• Who’s your season-two MVP? The consensus was Antony Starr in season one (with some loyal Karl Urban fans, too), and I think he probably wins again, even if his performance wasn’t as fun this year. Aya Cash made a solid guest star, but it felt like she was stealing focus from the main cast as the season went on. Most of the key players, like Jack Quaid and Erin Moriarty, seemed to have significantly less to do this season. Let’s hope they fix that for next year.
• Finally, thanks for reading all season. It’s been fun! See you for season three, whenever that may be.