Part of the charm of The Boys is that its protagonists can often be as despicable as its villains; they both act questionably with devastating consequences. Powers are messy and cause lots of collateral damage, and combating supes can be equally destructive. However, although this guiding principle continues through season 2 — fans expect the bad behavior after all — one welcome change is that there’s more reason to actually like some of these flawed characters as we get to know them a little bit better.
For one thing, Hughie has grown a spine in The Boys season 2. Granted, he still overestimates his ability to lead and is naive about many aspects of living as a criminal; that’s true to his character. But as the story begins with Hughie, Frenchie, MM, and Kimiko hiding from justice inside a Haitian gang’s hideout, he still manages to keep the mission going to expose Vaught and show the world that superheroes are made not born even without Butcher’s help.
And even when Billy returns to the fold, Hughie does not blindly follow him the way he did in the first season of The Boys, and as Butcher’s insensitivity becomes more pronounced, Hughie’s determination makes him infinitely more likable, especially once the other team members begin giving him their support. For several episodes of the new season, Frenchie and MM remain in the background with the same motivations as last year, but their change in attitude towards Hughie goes a long way towards making them more endearing to the audience.
“The Female,” on the other hand, makes huge strides in The Boys season 2 towards becoming one of the most sympathetic characters in the series, and let’s face it, Kimiko deserves to shed her generic moniker from the comic altogether. The history of her time with the Shining Light Liberation Army takes her on an enlightening journey as the terrorists use questionable means to hold their own against the nationalist dominance of the United States with Homelander as its protector, and even when Kimiko is pushed to violence, the audience will be completely behind her.
Viewers might even bond a bit more with some of the supes, and not just Starlight, who is starting to learn how to play the Vaught PR game in The Boys season 2 even as she stays true to her values. The Deep goes through his own rehabilitative process, learning how to love himself so that he won’t humiliate others as a defense mechanism, and although his Aquaman powers continue to provide unintentionally hilarious encounters, it’s hard not to cheer on his personal growth. Maeve’s continuing battle to establish her own identity also gets a refreshing subplot this season.
But it’s Aya Cash as Stormfront who will really captivate fans of The Boys when she is introduced as The Seven’s replacement for Translucent. Season 2 does an excellent job of bringing Stormfront in as a much less complacent female member of the team, balancing the reluctant acquiescence of Maeve and Starlight, and her brash attitude will charm viewers in a way that may blind them to the character’s true nature, even though fans are now used to the lines between good and evil being blurred in this show.
Stormfront gets away with being rebellious in part because of Homelander’s initial absence from goings-on at Vaught when The Boys season 2 begins. Having learned that he had a son in last season’s finale, he is laser-focused (pun intended) on being a presence in the boy’s life, creating quite a bit of discomfort for his mother Becca, Butcher’s presumed-dead wife. The family dynamic produces plenty of surprising results for Homelander, for Butcher, and for the boy and his mother.
In essence, The Boys season 2 explores the horrible power of abusive relationships, not only with Homelander as a father, but also between Billy and Hughie, in the backstory of Kimiko, and in some ways even within Vaught’s own history of exploitation, which takes on new depth this year. Fortunately, it’s not simply a case of the new season pleasing established fans of the show, which it certainly will; it may also win over those who were on the fence after finding few characters to like in season one.