The Boys’ second season focuses on its titular team of anti-superhero vigilantes waging war against a squad of twisted capes whose ability to skirt public scrutiny is seemingly limitless. But the series does begin to further complicate its political dynamics with the introduction of Victoria Neuman, an upstart congresswoman who makes a point of taking Vought International to task.
Everything about the way The Boys characterises Neuman (Claudia Doumit) immediately telegraphs that she’s the show’s answer to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Known for being a political wunderkind on Capitol Hill, Neuman’s one of the most vocal members of Congress to push for more oversight and an investigation of Vought International, the company that secretly produces the substance known as Compound V.
The Boys’ second season picks up not long after the public learns the truth about the world’s superheroes — namely that none of them were actually born with superpowers of natural origins, but rather that they were all regular people who gained their abilities by being given doses of Compound V as children. The revelation shocks the public because it very clearly illustrates that Vought has a vested interest in the way society relies on, and generates massive amounts of money from, its name-brand superheroes. As all of this is coming to light, the media is also preoccupied with a growing narrative about the rise of so-called “super-terrorists.”
By drumming up fear about the possibility that a super-terrorist might be lurking somewhere in the country, Stormfront (Aya Cash) and the rest of Vought’s supes are able to shake off a fair amount of the criticism being leveled at them, even when Homelander (Antony Strr) is exposed as having killed a civilian while barging into a country uninvited. But as Vought tries to spin a narrative that makes it look like an admirable company, Neuman is steadfast in her very public fight to pressure Vought into admitting to the full extent of its meddling and influence.
Though Neuman does genuinely seem as if she wants to hold Vought accountable for the way that it has manipulated the public, The Boys makes it clear from the jump that she understands taking an outspoken stance against the company and its corruption will boost her profile and potentially lead to her having more sway on the Hill. Over the course of the season, Neuman and the Boys realise their causes are sympathetic to one another as they discover the Sage Grove Centre, a secret hospital of horrors where adults dosed with Compound V are periodically tested as part of a larger experiment to develop a stable, reliable version of the drug.
Under Stormfront’s supervision, and with Vought’s approval, the people trapped at Sage Grove are forced to demonstrate their powers under threat of being burned alive by pyrokinetic Lamplighter (Shawn Ashmore), a former member of the Seven who also killed former CIA Deputy Director Grace Mallory’s grandchildren. After Sage Grove is compromised with most of the prisoners being set free and given the chance to use their powers to kill their captors, the Boys are able to get ahold of Lamplighter who, partially out of guilt for his actions, agrees to go on the record with his stories about the Seven’s hidden corruption and crimes. At the same time that the Boys are taking care to keep an eye on Lamplighter ahead of his testifying, Mallory (Laila Robbins) has the wherewithal to seek out more support for the battle they’re about to wage.
Mallory takes it upon herself to get in contact with Jonah Vogelbaum (John Doman), the former Vought scientist who was directly responsible for Homelander’s creation and upbringing. She isn’t able to convince him to do the right thing but, after he risks being caught by any number of authorities and travels to Vogelbaum in person, Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) does. He tells the man point-blank that if he doesn’t cooperate, Butcher will simply track down every member of his family and murder them.
The Boys’ second season finale initially makes you assume that, with Lamplighter in their grasp, the Boys and Mallory only need to bide their time until the Congressional hearing where they can finally expose Vought. But when Hughie (Jack Quaid) realises that Starlight’s (Erin Moriarty) in danger at Vought’s headquarters, he’s able to convince Lamplighter to leave their safe house to tag along for a rescue mission that culminates in Lamplighter setting himself on fire when he realises that Vought’s taken steps to erase his legacy as a former member of the Seven.
So, Mallory and Butcher’s instinct to find a backup testimony proves to be smart, but their cleverness ends up being hamstrung in the most gruesome of ways.
When Vogelbaum — who’s paralysed from the waist down following some sort of accident (heavily implied to be the work of Homelander) — enters the room for the hearing, every Congressperson and member of the Seven in attendance know that his testimony is almost sure to be devastating. But before he has the chance to utter a single word under oath, Vogelbaum’s head straight up explodes, with bits of his brain matter and blood splattering everyone around him. As the Boys watch, chaos ensues. Terrifying as Vogelbaum’s sudden demise is, everyone in the room is understandably even more freaked out when other people’s heads begin to pop and they realise someone in the room must be causing it to happen.
In the aftermath of the hearing, Mallory and Neuman both reason that the murders during the hearing were a Vought ploy to further scare the public into supporting the production of Compound V and the proliferation of superpeople even though the drug is nowhere near being safe enough to go to market. The Boys’ biggest concern is that Vogelbaum’s death bears an eerie resemblance to the death of then-deputy CIA director Susan Raynor, whose head also exploded in the season’s first episode while providing the Boys with new intel.
The Boys’ second season has poked fun at Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon’s blockbuster comic book movies and has been gaming out what it might be like if the most popular superhero team in the world invited a whole arse Nazi with a suspect undercut to join its ranks. That’s...Read more
It seems all but certain that members of law enforcement will be able to purchase doses of Compound V for its officers, ushering in a new era of financial success for Vought right up until Butcher leaks to the public that Stormfront is actually a centenarian Nazi whose youthful appearance is a side effect of her own exposure to Compound V. The backlash to the truth of Stormfront’s origins is significant enough to put the plans to sell Compound V on hold, which frustrates Homelander, but only to a point because of the new significance she comes to have in his personal life. Beyond their sexual connection, Stormfront and Homelander see a sort of home in one another that draws them together and brings out the worst in them both as they gradually get into the habit of slaughtering innocent civilians just for kicks.
The Boys repeatedly hints that, as was the case in the comics, Homelander’s mind is beginning to become so unravelled that he’s unable to maintain the facade of a beloved superhero, and here it seems as if Stormfront’s influence only makes things worse. The one thing that keeps Homelander in check is the small part of him that desperately needs and craves the adoration of the public, which Queen Maeve makes clear she will take away from him by releasing footage in which Homelander (and Maeve) abandoned a plane full of people who all ended up dying in a crash after he purposefully destroys the aircraft’s controls. Maeve’s blackmail proves to be just enough to convince Homelander to get ahold of himself and start behaving, but it’s safe to assume that it’ll only be a matter of time before the deranged cape ends up saying “fuck it.”
By the end of the season, things more or less return to “normal” with both Homelander and Starlight still being members of the Seven in addition to A-Train, who’s able to make his way back onto the team with the help of the Church of the Collective, a Scientology-like organisation that a number of capes have committed themselves to. Interestingly, the Deep isn’t offered his spot back on the team despite also being a high-ranking member of the church, whose leader insisted that he’d be able to help the aquatic rehabilitate his image.
In one of this season’s final scenes, it’s revealed that the head of the church is actually in league with Congresswoman Neuman as he offers to release damaging information about some of his super-followers in exchange for the church being granted tax-exempt status. Though the church’s leader is confident that he’s in a position of power, The Boys goes completely sideways when his head explodes and you see that it’s actually Neuman who’s been using secret powers to blow people up left and right.
In Dynamite’s comics, Victor Neuman (the character’s gender was changed for the series) is actually the former head of Vought who ends up briefly becoming the president of the country after serving as the vice president under another man who dies. Neuman’s stint in the White House doesn’t last particularly long in the comics, but the way that the live-action series introduces her feels as if it’s setting her up to make a similar go for political greatness down the road. And if she’s anything like her comics counterpart, it means that Vought is actually playing a much, much longer con game than anyone realises.