How The Boys Subverts, Then Falls Prey to [SPOILERS] Trope: Opinion
The Boys has positioned itself to be one of the best shows of the last several years. While the first season last year was very well received and did well for Amazon, it was the second season that really cemented the show as something special. While there are plenty of other shows that tackle topical issues, The Boys embraced their superhero world and took on those issues with all the subtly of a 2×4 to face. It was the right decision, and the show is stronger for it. It also tackles the tropes that we have come to know and love in our media-based focus on comic books.
However, there is one particular trope that The Boys managed to tackle, subvert, and then somehow still fall prey to in the end but to talk about that; we need to get into "MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD!" territory. We are talking about some of the final scenes of the last episode of this season, so if you don't want to know this ending, please don't read on.
After the "Girls Get It Done" beatdown on Stormfront, she flies off to confront Butcher, Becca, and Ryan. When Stormfront is threatening to kill Becca, Ryan leashes his full powers and severely damages but doesn't kill Stormfront. However, that explosion of energy has also mortally wounded Becca, and she succumbs to her injuries. This is what we in comic book fandom all a "woman in a refrigerator" or "fridging" a female character. She is killed, usually brutally, not for the sake of her own story but to propel the story of the men around her. In the case of Becca, she is killed to move not only Butcher's story forward but Ryan's as well, who will have to live with the guilt of killing his own mother for the rest of his life.
In season one, Becca was the ghost that haunted Butcher for every moment of every day. She was his reason for continuing on and seeking revenge against Homeland and all supes. She was a fridged woman for all of season one, which was a trope we all kind of expected to see in a show like The Boys. However, the final scene in season one flipped the script, and suddenly Becca wasn't dead. She was no longer the ghost that was haunting Butcher but now a very alive person living her own life. It was unclear at the time of the season one finale if Becca was willingly living her life or being kept against her will. We find out in season two that it is the latter, even if the former had more interesting implications.
The purpose of season two, for Butcher, is to rescue Becca, and he actually leaves to go do so pretty early on. They are reunited, and Butcher promises to get Becca out of her prison with Ryan. However, Becca can tell that Butcher is itching for a moment to leave Ryan behind. He doesn't see a child that is half Becca; all he sees is another potential Homelander. So Becca leaves him, willingly, in an act of maternal preservation. Again, this was not trope flipped on its head. Becca took control of her own life in a way and told Butcher that she couldn't be the one to save him from himself. Essentially, she doesn't deserve to do all of the emotional labor in this relationship.
The Boys took the concept of the fridged woman and created the character of Becca with agency [as much as she could have as a prisoner] who made her own choices and faced those consequences like a real human being. They had not only subverted the fridging but also did something to her that fridged woman so rarely get; an actual character. The show did all of this work to fix their fridged woman into a fully fleshed out human being only for her to die horribly for Ryan and Butcher's pain and nothing more.
The other woman pointlessly killed for the sake of shock value is Raynor, who really seemed like she could be an interesting character. However, her head is blown up in the first scene we see her in season two which is a shame. The Boys needed to have no allies, and the stakes needed to be raised, but it was a shame that the woman were the ones to bear the weight of moving the story forward with their own deaths.
This is not to say that the season is somehow sexist or anything like that. Quite contrary, for a show called The Boys, it is the women in the show that truly make it shine. Stormfront is a fantastic villain showing how performative feminism can just be a shield for fascism and how easily you can go from being racist to spouting lines about white genocide using only the internet. Annie gets a fantastic storyline this season as she grapples with the choice of working against Vought while remaining a member of The Seven.
Her moment when she explains her fear and anxiety of being in the tower as "walking around with a loaded gun in my face" is poignant and lovely. The way Annie has to come to terms with sometimes doing terrible things for the sake of the greater good, like walking away for a car accident or blackmailing a former supe friend, shows what a strong character she is.
Queen Maeve is our point-of-view character for how cooperations try to make money off of being queer, and the "I just feel like 'lesbian' is a bit of an easier sell. A bit more cut-and-dry" could not hit the nail harder on the head. The way she went from one of the most cynical members of The Seven to someone willing to blackmail Homelander was a natural progression that felt organic. Finally, this season gave Kimiko a voice and a name. We learn about what she went through when she was changed into a supe; we see how far she is willing to go to protect people when she finds out what her brother is planning to do. We see her lose herself to revenge but come out on the other side. The beatdown featuring these four characters is one of the highlights of the episode and probably the entire season.
Amazon Prime's The Boys found a way to turn one of the most common tropes in comic books on its head, but, in the end, they ended up doing the very thing they were subverting. It's not a dealbreaker, not by a long shot, but one fantastic female character and another with great potential ended up being the ones to die while the literal Nazi gets to walk away.
Well, not walk away, she doesn't have any limbs, but she's not dead.