At the end of my review of Season 1, I said that the show was not as thoughtful as it wants to be. The second season remains flawed and tonally uneven but less so. It works better this time by finding its own satirical line that can encompass more of its themes of power and abuse and using contemporary interest in superheroes to exam modern politics.
A key spoiler follows, so skip the bit after the fold if you want to be unspoiled.
The major addition to the cast and the plot is the arrival of a new superhero to the “Seven” superhero team. Aya Cash plays the unsubtly named Stormfront — I say unsubtle but Cash plays the character so neatly that initially I thought it was just a poor choice of names. As the series progress she shifts very easily from apparent unconventional millennial, to revealing that she is actually more of an alt-right meme-obsessed demagogue to maybe an overt neo-nazi to oh-actually-she’s-quasi-immortal-and-an-actual-Nazi-from-the-1930s.
Apparently in the original Garth Ennis comic book, the character was male but the gender shift here is used cleverly. The women in the Seven are repurposed by the Vought Corporations media-wing into a kind of faux-feminism ’empowerment’ campaign, the shallowness of which is underpinned by the presence of a literal Nazi in their midst.
Less good is the secondary plot about Bill Butcher’s wife Becca and her son. The twist from season 1 was that she was alive and living in isolation bringing up her son, whose father is the psychotic superman-analog, Homelander. That plot line has many moments of psychological abuse horror but by the final episode Becca dies. So the whole subversion of the dead-wife as motivation of Butcher is undone by having dead once again.
Indeed, while the final episode is quite tense and largely well done, the resolution of all these plot lines is a return to more-or-less the status quo. Butcher’s gang, including Hughie, are no longer on the run but the Seven are still operating and the Vought Corporation is still manipulating things. Starlight is back in the Seven (as is A-Train after a side plot about a scientology like cult) and MM is reunited with his family. It’s so neat that it undermines a lot of the journey of the previous episode and also fits with the depressing cynicism of the show: you can try to change things but you won’t get anywhere.
I’ll leave out the other big twist because I want to see where that goes in Season 3 (assuming there is one). The wrapping up feels like the writers were unclear if there would be another season and hence wanted an ending that was sort of happy for the characters but left the show’s basic premise intact for an as yet unwritten season 3.
So, better than season 1 and a better use of the premise but an odd final conclusion.