[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers through the Season 2 finale of The Boys, “What I Know.”]
In this show about good guys and bad guys and the grey areas in between, it’s a pretty striking moment when Hughie (“the anxious boy with the moist handshake”) says, right as his fellow Boys are preparing for war, “so we’re just supervillains now.”
Of course they’re not. After all, they’re arming up to take down Stormfront and Homelander, because the alternative is sitting back and letting Vought create an army of superpowered Nazis (who are, in Stormfront’s eyes, “the right people”). But the Season 2 finale of The Boys does attempt to question how successful you can be, fighting for the right thing outside of the system — even while delivering a crap-ton of twists and brutal moments.
Things begin with our heroes’ previous plan in tatters, after their attempt to make Vought accountable for its actions in Congress hit the tiniest of snags, thanks to the mysterious head-popper turning the hearing into a literal bloodbath. However, interrupting the team’s plan for full-on assault is the arrival of Becca Butcher, who has fled the Vought compound to ask for Billy’s help in getting her son back. It’s a request that ends up providing focus to Billy’s mission — since after all, his point is to take out Homelander.
While the Boys arm up, Annie hasn’t quite given up on the idea of a clean fight, bringing Hughie with her to try to convince Maeve to testify — Maeve, looking defeated even while wearing her Amazonian armor, refuses. But on their way back to the Boys headquarters, they get a shocking visit from A-Train, who has used his superspeed to track them down.
See, A-Train is pissed after overhearing a conversation between Alistair, Chairman of the Church of the Collective, and Stan Edgar about who might be brought back into the Seven — given the choice between A-Train and the Deep, Edgar goes Deep because of that whole thing where Stormfront is a racist Nazi and too popular to say no to right now. “Right now” being the operative phrase, because what A-Train has just done is uncover the secret file the Church has on Stormfront and place it right into Hughie and Annie’s hands.
Billy, meanwhile, meets with Edgar to strike a deal, one which will take Ryan away from Homelander… and also Becca, who Billy wants to stay with him. That might sound pretty good to Ryan right now, because he’s been having difficulty coping with life outside the bubble that his mother created for him. After getting overwhelmed by the crowds at a Planet Hollywood-esque Vought superhero restaurant, he’s almost catatonic when Homelander tries to coax him out of his shell — a legitimately nice moment between father and son.
That said, now it’s fight time! Annie and Hughie send off the Nazi files while even Becca arms up to hit the woods — just in the nick of time, because Stormfront’s starting to talk to Ryan about things like white genocide and “our kind.” The news of Stormfront’s true background draws Stormfront away from the cabin, and while she’s processing the news at Vought Headquarters Billy and Becca go to get Ryan.
Once they have Ryan, Billy changes his plan — instead of handing Ryan off to the folks at Vought, he tries to get Mother’s Milk to take Becca and Ryan to Grace at the CIA. He confesses his original double-cross to Becca and she forgives him, but she also agrees to leave. Unfortunately, that’s when Stormfront comes crashing back, wrecking their escape and gearing up for a superpowered showdown with Starlight and Kimiko, a girl fight of epic proportions that Stormfront is close to winning… until, that is, Maeve pulls a Millennium Falcon, crashing in while the epic Peaches track “Boys Wanna Be Her” starts to rock.
At the end of the fight, as the three women beat Stormfront down, Frenchie quips that “I guess girls do get it done.” Except, um, not really, as Stormfront is intact enough to zoom away in retreat, catching up with Becca, Billy, and Ryan as they run through the woods. Even a knife to the eye and Billy beating on Stormfront with a pipe can’t stop the Nazi from choking Becca out — something which triggers a horrified Ryan to use his powers…
Ryan’s laser blast turns Stormfront into an armless and legless puddle of pain (though she’s still alive). Becca, meanwhile, took a deadly blow to the neck, and with her last breath she begs Billy to tell Ryan that it’s not his fault.
Homelander, covered in Vought goon blood, arrives on the scene, but as Homelander prepares to blast both Billy and Ryan for what they’ve done to Stormfront, Maeve once again saves the day by showing up and finally playing her one big card — the footage of the plane crash, which will ensure that no one ever loves him ever again. That, as it turns out, is the one thing that Homelander can’t handle, and he lets them go.
Not only that, but Starlight is back in the Seven, as is A-Train, leaving the Deep out in the cold once again (and probably not in a good place with the Church, after Alistair calls him a toxic personality). Things are a lot happier for all the Boys, though — Mother’s Milk finally returns home to his wife and daughter, Frenchie and Kimiko leave the bunker together in search of dancing and adventure, and Hughie and Annie kiss, committed to be together. Billy even has a nice final moment with Ryan, as Grace takes him away to a better life. (Given that the wisdom he chooses to pass onto the boy is “don’t be a cunt,” perhaps it’s for the best that Billy won’t be a full-time parent.)
So while Homelander is still seen as heroic by the world, the Boys have won, as much as anyone can in this world. But it wouldn’t be The Boys without one last geyser of blood for the road — as Alistair pops his last can of Fresca, so goes his skull. And that’s when we learn the identity of the actual person responsible for all those exploding heads this season: It’s Congressman Victoria Neuman, under our noses this whole time. Which is not great news for Hughie, who comes to her at the very end looking for a job, because as much as he cares about the Boys and their mission, he’d like to find a way to work for the right causes that didn’t involve getting covered in blood and guts.
Good luck with that, Hughie. Seriously, good luck.
- The opening educational video, about what to do if a supervillain is loose in a school, pretty much lines up with actual government advice given for handling active shooters. (Everything is fine, you guys.)
- Killing Becca, let’s be clear, is a pretty clear instance of fridging (which is awkward for The Boys, given how the series literally began with a similar example. While her love for her son was always her most defining character trait, we did get to know just enough about her to over the past eight episodes for her death to sting more than most on this show. Hopefully, this is a trope that can be avoided in future seasons.
- “I can’t lash out like some raging maniac. That’s a white man’s game.” So happy that Stan Edgar made it through Season 2 alive, because Giancarlo Esposito is such a treat in this role, especially in moments like that.
- A great touch from the press conference at the end — Starlight is back in her original, less revealing costume. Hopefully she’s gotten a chance to add pockets. Stormfront was wrong about pretty much everything else, but she was definitely right about pockets.
- And that’s a wrap on eight episodes of The Boys, a show about which I could have written a whole lot more given the time. Hopefully Season 3, whenever it might happen, will be just as fun to break down.
The Boys Season 2 is streaming now on Amazon. A third season has been greenlit. For more, check out our interview with creator Eric Kripke about the season finale.