Spoilers for the second season of The Boys follow.
The seventh episode of The Boys’ second season begins with a white man submerged in propaganda. Every screen he comes near has something to shout in his direction. He hears about a plot by sinister illegal immigrants to invade America and reveal themselves as homicidal superterrorists. He surfs the web and spots memes that read: “IMMIGRATE LEGALLY OR DIE.” He listens to talking heads bicker about how the left rushes to judgement. He catches wind of a congresswoman’s demand for an investigation of a powerful superhero company, Vought International.
The cacophony is on an unshakable loop and eventually, the man is pointing a pistol at a brown shop owner’s head. Stormfront, a mysterious new “hero” who quickly reveals herself to be a literal Nazi, is the chief architect of this propaganda. Later at a rally, she tells a crowd full of supporters she does not condone the shop owner’s murder. These are clearly empty words.
Eric Kripke’s Amazon original series, based on Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s comic, traffics in disturbing and macabre imagery mined directly from the present. The premise — a brutal, corrupt, racist, self-serving, evil Superhero Industrial Complex — deploys hyperbole and exaggeration to critically appraise our Donald Trump-stained culture and political landscape. Sure, The Boys is also a television program with an abundance of gunplay, exploding heads and superpowered beings who fight each other. But the aforementioned montage is so sober and reflective, you get a strong sense that it informs all of the excess that surrounds it.
For instance: after the FBI foiled a plot against Michigan’s governor, the president’s stance was to blame Governor Whitmer and proclaim that he does not condone violence, even though just days before the kidnapping attempt, he told white supremacists to “stand back and stand by” live on a national debate stage.
While the debut season of The Boys, which aired in 2019, was packed with great satirical commentary on the jingoism, corporate corruption and warmongering tenor of George Bush and Dick Chaney’s eight years in power, the second season feels more immediate, contemporary, and urgent. Consider Stormfront’s (a pitch perfect Aya Cash) origin story: Her husband, Frederick Vought, a decorated Nazi and the founder of Vought International, injected her with a secret drug called Compound V in the 1940’s, making her the world’s first “supe.”
When Stormfront breaks this news to Homelander — the American flag cape-wearing leader of “The Seven,” a melange of “super abled” people who act on behalf of Vought International’s malevolent capitalist interests — whom she’s become romantically involved with, she says: “We are in a war for the culture. The other races are grinding us down and taking what is rightfully ours, but we can fight back with an army of supermen millions strong.”
Stormfront is a man in the comics; making her a woman turns the character into a critique of white feminists who claim to stand for social justice, but turn out to be looking after their own interests first. At first glance, Stormfront seems to be a badass liberal woman who just tells it like it is, calling out sexism like the provocative costumes women superheroes wear. But her name is an obvious reference to the notorious neo-Nazi message board, which experienced a resurgence after Trump was elected–and if that doesn’t tip viewers off that she might not be one of the good guys, episode three’s climax, in which she casually reduces dozens of innocent bystanders (including a black family) to collateral damage , then blames the destruction on an immigrant “terrorist,” will.