The Boys is a series about a group of superstar superheroes and the self-serving egos and personal interests that lurk beneath their crime-fighting surface. Since its premiere, though, the program (which was adapted from the hit comic books created by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson) has also explored the morally murky area where politics and celebrity collide. Drawing comparisons to America’s current cultural conundrum, and the state in which the government has pivoted its power and perspective in recent years, to a more insular, self-important point of view, the results have been surprisingly prescient.
This concept is most evident in the presentation of The Seven’s all-powerful, American flag-cape-wearing leader, Homelander (Antony Starr). His slick smile and commanding blonde veneer offers an outward appearance that pretty much sums up the crumbling concept of American exceptionalism in 2020. And given the sociopathic and murderous urges he revealed to us in Season 1, it’s clear there is a handful of disturbing tendencies marching around in that subconscious that are yearning to break free.
One could draw a straight line from Homelander to, say, President Donald Trump. They both share a braggadocious, “America First” message that meshes pretty well with their on-camera bravado. Then, of course, there’s the obsession with public approval, stirring the chaotic pot and relishing in the ratings.
Did the comic book series the program is based on — which was first published in 2006 — predict the current situation our country finds itself in? Not necessarily, but as series creator Eric Kripke explained to SYFY WIRE during Amazon’s virtual press junket for Season 2, writer Ennis was definitely onto something.
“He said, ‘I was really interested in what would happen if you combined the worst of politics with the worst of selection,'” Kripke explained, recalling a dinner he had with the renowned comic book writer in early 2016. “This was when Hillary [Clinton] was for sure gonna win. Even at the time, I remember thinking, ‘What a crazy idea already in politics,’ you know? And yet, here we are. The show, by luck, happens to be about the exact moment we’re living in, which is this blurred line between authoritarianism, fascism, and celebrity.”
The timeliness and relevant nature of the subject matter — which we feel compelled to remind you, is about self-centered sociopathic superheroes and the fans who love them — is not lost on Starr, either. His portrayal of Homelander feels like what would happen if Patrick Bateman took a break from Wall Street to don a cape and shoot lasers out of his eyeballs. But when questioned about the comparisons to our current president, the Banshee actor was quick to point out that, in Season 2, Homelander will actually experience some political growth of his own.
“As much as he’s very Trumpy, I think he’s a little bit like Biden [in the new season] in that Biden had to adjust,” Starr explained. “He had to learn to adjust from being a lovely old man that was a bit handsy to realizing that, you know, people don’t always like that.”
When you consider Homelander’s off-kilter perspective on the Norman Rockwellian concept of the American family, his own hard-to-contain bloodlust, and the cringeworthy mommy-son sexual relationship he had with Madelyn Stillwell, the former VP of Vought Industries, it’s easy to see the huge room for improvement laid out before him. But hearing that he’ll be making an emotional pivot and maybe even grow as a person is a bit mind-boggling.
“I think Homelander is trying to change in certain ways,” Starr continued. “You know, a Trump-ish character would not even have really realized that there was anything to change. This is a much more hopeful attitude and it’s a compliment to Joe Biden.”
What exactly would spark such a character shift, especially in a mad man like Homelander? The final moments of the Season 1 finale may hold the answer.
Up until this point, Homelander’s arch-enemy, Billy Butcher, had been leading the Boys with one clear goal: to kill all supes, especially their leader. As the season progressed, we learned his mission for vengeance was provoked by the disappearance of his wife, whom he believed was murdered by the blonde monster himself. With nothing left to lose, Butcher was preparing to take Homelander and himself out in a destructive blaze of glory. How poetic.
But in the season’s closing moments, Butcher learns that Becca is still very much alive, living in a secret location with her young son Ryan. And Homelander, as Maury Povitch would say, is the father.
Obviously, this cliffhanger will deeply impact Butcher’s motivations going into Season 2. Now, for the leader of the Boys, it’s no longer just about making them pay for his loss — although there is still that pesky issue with Compound V, the secret serum Vought Industries concocted to create superheroes — it’s about rescuing his wife from captivity. Adding the kid into the mix places an oddball co-parenting component to the story altogether. Will Butcher spare the boy? In the comics, he murdered the baby right in the delivery room. But here, he’s taking a different approach.
And what about Homelander? Up until this point, we had learned he was raised in a lab without a mother or father who loved him. He placed a lot of that pent up need for approval at Stillwell’s bosom, and she exploited this weakness in every way possible until he learned that she, along with Vought, had been keeping Becca and Ryan a secret from him this entire time.
So, of course, he stared lasers into her skull.
Homelander, who once was yearning to be someone’s son, has suddenly become a father. That transition will surely offer some challenges for the main supe, as he’s a man who never really experienced what it was like to be a son, and never really had a father figure to guide him to adulthood and supply him with an appropriate example of what it means to be a parent. The complexities just keep piling on.
“His mommy figure was standing in the way a bit,” Starr added. “Homelander wanted to spread his wings and do more. I think Season 2 is all about the mixed emotions that come with the mixed feelings about having taken that action to get rid of her but then having to deal with the repercussions of that.”
Realizing that his responsibility as a leader needs to be compartmentalized with that of being a mentor to this young boy will surely jostle Homelander’s priorities. And with this life change, it’s quite possible he’ll do some much-needed work on bettering himself and those around him.
Or he could just sink back into some of those old destructive habits of his.
“The child becomes the parent,” Kripke added. “He really loves the kid, actually, but spoiler alert: he is the terrible, terrible father. And he is one of those guys who does not have the self-awareness to be a good parent and only takes all of his dysfunction and pours it all into the child.”
Unfortunately (but also, excitingly) it sounds like Homelander’s still gonna Homelander.
The first three episodes of The Boys Season 2 premiere on Amazon Prime on Sept. 4, with new episodes dropping weekly thereafter.