Review: The Boys season 2 finale, “What I Know”


The Boys season finale brings things more or less back to normal, but man, does it deliver tons of drama and tension and violence getting there.

The season 2 finale opens with a spoof on a school shooter video, showing once again that The Boys is not afraid to go there. And in “What I Know,” it definitely goes there.

In the wake of the horrifying attack at the hearing, the Boys try one more time to take down Vought the “right” way — unsuccessfully trying to get a reluctant Queen Maeve to testify against her employer — before resorting to full-on murder. Becca escapes her imprisonment and meets up with the Boys and tells them that Homelander and Stormfront took Ryan. Butcher tries to cut a deal with Stan Edgar, who it sounds like was allowing Ryan to grow up in peace in the hopes that he would one day be a failsafe against Homelander should the hero go rogue.

The deal is morally murky at best: Butcher offers to return Ryan to Vought, but only if Edgar leaves him Becca, meaning she would never see her son again. He eventually decides to do the right and keep Becca and Ryan together, but still: cold, Butcher, cold.

The more Giancarlo Esposito we have in this show, the better. His performance elevates any scene he’s in. His discussion with Butcher is brief but full of subtext and subtle body language that adds in some levity to a pretty grim conversation. The two are discussing the future of a child who could grow up to become the most powerful person on the planet, but based on their tone, they could be talking about the weather.

Meanwhile, A-Train learns that he won’t be getting back into the Seven so long as Stormfront is a part of it, since as a racist Nazi monster she doesn’t want to work with a Black man. So he steals some old photos of Stormfront from her Nazi days and gives them to the Boys, who leak them to the press.

This eventually leads to a great fight scene where a furious Stormfront takes on Starlight and Kimiko, after everyone has gathered at the cabin where Homelander and Stormfront were hiding out with an upset Ryan, who’s missing his mom. The two are an even match for Stormfront until Queen Maeve shows up, and the three kick the crap out of her. The scene is powerfully emotionally charged, as all the bubbling anger comes to the surface and training goes out the window. The three women just end up kicking Stormfront repeatedly as she curls up on the ground, making it look more like a gang initiation than a superhero fight. We’re used to having flashy, physics-bending fight scenes superhero movies. Those are great, but it be hard to maintain a human connection to the character. But when Maeve basically curb-stomps a Nazi, you feel it.

During the fight, Butcher tries to escape with Becca and Ryan but only makes it so far until a battered Stormfront catches up to them after escaping the other Supers. Stormfront tries to choke Becca to death, waiting to see the light go out in her eyes, until Ryan unleashes his own power, lasering her to a crisp.

Everyone is knocked down by the blast, and Butcher awakes to find Stormfront very close to death with Becca following close behind. There’s a surprisingly tender and brutal moment of Butcher trying to stop the bleeding and calling desperately for help, something he’d never usually do, as Becca bleeds out and dies in front of him and her son.

And then Homelander shows up. He glides in majestically and peacefully though he is covered in blood, just having slaughtered a bunch of Vought soldiers there to pick up his son. Ryan chooses Butcher over Homelander, and it’s only thanks to Maeve’s perfect timing that the two are saved from whatever Homelander was about to do. She threatens to release the video of them abandoning the people on the crashing plane from last season, which is enough to make Homelander stand down. Though he is still basically unstoppable, he still values his image, and the video would reveal him to be a monster. What Homelander wants more than anything is something he doesn’t deserve — the love and adoration of the public — and now must keep up a façade, much more elaborate than before, to retain the little love he still has.

No matter how powerful Homelander is, he’s still riddled with emotional problems, and no amount of pleasuring himself overlooking the city while creepily repeating “I can do whatever I want” is going to change that. He can’t do whatever he wants, not if he wants people to like him. He’s in a prison of his own making; it’s that contrast between enormous strength and crippling weakness that makes him such a fascinating character.

In the end, the charges against the Boys are dropped and they get to return to their own lives. Ryan goes with Grace to find a new home, and Starlight rejoins the Seven, where she and Maeve will do what they can to keep Homelander under control.

Finally, the Church of the Collective gets a call from Victoria Neuman thanking them for the dirt on Stormfront. The leader offers dirt on other superheroes…and then his head explodes. It ends up that Victoria was the one making heads explode all along. The final scene is of Victoria back in her campaign headquarters, hiring Hughie as a new employee.

In a lot of ways, “What I Know” reestablishes the status quo, but not in a way that feels boring or redundant. The Boys took us on a wild ride this season, and has set itself up for more success down the line.

Episode Grade: A

Season Grade: A-

Next. Review: The Boys Season 2 Episode 1, “The Big Ride”. dark

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