Date Posted: 19/07/20
Based on the comics of the same name The Boys is a 2019 television show that first aired on Amazon Prime with a second season due for release in September 2020. The show stars Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Anthony Starr, Erin Moriarty with Laz Alonso and Tomer Capon. I have not read the comics so I don’t know how closely the series follows the events in the comic book series.
With the lockdown now easing I have been forced to resume more human activities in my skin sack to avoid suspicion that I am an alien in disguise hence my lack of a review last week. During the last few months I was able to catch up on many games that I had been meaning to get around to, and started watching a few shows that I wanted time to get into. The Boys was one such show and whilst I felt it was something that Abbie might not like, she settled down to watch it with me.
In the world of The Boys there are numerous superheroes and the most elite of them are The Seven made up of Homelander (Starr) who has Superman-like powers without the weakness to kryptonite, Queen Maize (Dominique McElliot) who has Wonder Woman like powers. A-Train (Jesse T. Usher) who has speed on par with The Flash or Quicksilver. The Deep (Chase Crawford) who has Aquaman powers with Nathan Mitchell as Black Noir who has superhuman strength and speed. The final member is Translucent (Alex Hassell) who can make himself invisible by bending light around himself. One member of The Seven decides to retire so superheroes from around the country apply to become the new member of the elite team. Anna January aka Starlight (Moriarty) who has super strength and the ability to fire light beams from her hands, applies and is accepted as the new member of The Seven.
Meanwhile Hughie Campbell (Quaid) works as a shop assistant in an electronics store, he is basically just an average Joe who is rather timid and avoids confrontation with others. He is in a loving relationship with his girlfriend Robin (Jess Salgueiro) and during his lunch break they discuss moving in together. Their conversation is interrupted when Robin literally explodes before Hughie’s eyes as A-Train runs through her. The superhero stops but does not stick around and leave Hughie standing with the severed arms of his girlfriend in his arms as he screams in shock.
As a member of The Seven A-Train is not prosecuted and Hughie is offered a settlement cheque from Vought. He is pressured into accepting the cheque but he wants justice for his girlfriend. He is approached by Billy Butcher (Urban) who tells him that both Vought and the “Supes” are far from the squeaky clean heroes they are presented to be. The truth is they use their powers to publically help people but behind closed doors they don’t give a shit about anyone but themselves. Most of them don’t care about the humans around them with A-Train even laughing about swallowing one of Robin’s teeth by accident when he ran through her during a conversation with another Supe.
Starlight, having joined The Seven quickly realises that they are far from behind the heroes that she thought they were. Butcher recruits his former associates Mother’s Milk (Alonso) and Frenchie (Capon) and they learn that there is a drug known as Compound-V that acts like a steroid for Supes enhancing their powers. A-Train has become addicted and was high on this substance when he killed Robin, which was why he didn’t or couldn’t avoid running through her.
Hughie and Anna have a chance encounter on a bench and as she struggles to find her place in Vought, Hughie is recruited by Butcher to bring A-Train to justice. But Butcher has his sights set on the worst of the Supes, Homelander, a man with no known weaknesses, and someone with whom Butcher has a personal grudge...
In truth this was one of those series that I knew I was going to like within the first few minutes as we see Homelander and Maize take down a bunch of hijackers who have taken a armoured car. They destroy the vehicle and easily take down the bad guys. Stopping to pose for selfies with the witnesses afterwards. There is a certain amount of gore in the show with the audience being shown in graphic detail Robin being blown to pieces by A-Train, but the gore is over-the-top so it never crosses the line becoming sickening. We get to see the graphic effects of what happens when Super-humans clash with the squishy bodies of mere mortals
I also like the idea that Superheroes are not always good, just, righteous and so on. The Seven are controlled like any other celebrities with scouts finding them the perfect crimes to fight, and film crews always being on hand to capture pictures of their escapades. They have writers and event coordinators. They are people that have utterly swallowed their own bullshit believing that they can do what they want and are untouchable. Which, in a lot of ways they are. Starlight’s horror when she realises what she has gotten involved in is heartbreaking because unlike the others she genuinely wants to use her powers to help people.
Let me drop this...
Starlight and Hughie’s relationship becomes the core of the show, the chance encounter happens after her picture of The Seven is immediately shattered, and he comforts her without knowing who she is. She doesn’t want to give up the opportunity to be a member of The Seven to help save lives. They meet again a while later and start spending time together which grows more complicated as Hughie works to get into Vought to find evidence of the company and the Supes corruption. Starlight is the epitome of the innocent and naive young woman who truly believes that Superheroes are supposed to be heroes, and struggles to go along with the scripted path that Vought’s Vice President Madelyn Stillwall (Elizabeth Shue) has laid out for her.
As the series goes on Hughie and Starlight grow closer I was in the situation of shouting the same four words at the screen...
TELL HER THE TRUTH!!!!!!!!!
In one episode Hughie asks her to get him a VIP pass to see a charismatic Super who leads a religious group, as they need information from him. Feeling used she confronts him and I was yelling at Hughie to just tell her the truth. You know a show has gotten into your head when you find yourself verbalising to yourself how you would explain what is happening to one of the characters. It was gut wrenching to watch the hurt in Annie’s eyes as she begs him to tell her what is happening when she inevitably begins to uncover what he has been doing with Butcher.
Naturally all of the Supers are based on already existing Marvel and DC characters, there is a guy who can stretch like Mr Fantastic from Fantastic Four, Translucent can go invisible like Susan Storm also from Fantastic Four. Queen Maize is Wonder Woman with Homelander being Superman. We see ones that can fly, ones that can shrink, although did not notice one that could stick to walls. Presumably no one dares rip off most people’s favourite superhero, the wall-crawling Spider-Man. None of them are unique with the possible exception of Starlight who can generate light strong enough to blind people. Due to the fact that the Supes are rip-off of established characters might account for the fact that we don’t really learn anything about their powers. The Deep is an Aquaman rip-off who can breathe underwater and talk to fish, but he can also talk to sea-born mammals like dolphins. I don’t know if it was ever explained why Aquaman could talk to non-fish aquatic animals, if it was, then perhaps the explanation is the same for why The Deep can do it too.
Anthony Starr is able to portray the dual characters of Homelander, the hero that saves the day on a regular basis and the cold, sadistic, cruel man that he truly is behind the public façade perfectly. He is effortlessly sinister and can come across as the caring father-like leader of The Seven after lazily punching out a guy’s heart without even blinking. Like Superman it is not shown just how powerful he is but it is stated that no weapon on Earth has ever been able to harm him.
However, he does have some limitations. There is a sequence when a plane is falling from the sky and Maize tells him to carry it. He points out that he cannot lift a plane whilst he is flying because he cannot push against the air to lift the plane. It was an interesting concept and one that I never thought of before. We see Superman lifting and carrying heavy objects in flight all the time but how exactly does he do it? In my skin-sack I am relatively strong and could pick up a twenty kilogram weight above my head with little difficulty. But if I was in water I would have nothing to brace against so I would struggle to hold that same weight without sinking. How exactly can Superman fly with objects that weight hundreds or thousands of tonnes without pushing against something to do it?
The show does do a good job of first convincing you that all the Supes are corrupt, selfish assholes, but is then able to show them as desperate or insecure people. A-Train is not as fast as he used to be with another Supe named Shock Wave challenging him to be the fastest man alive. His addiction to the Compound-V is rooted is his fear of being kicked from his position in The Seven, as he points out, no one cares about the second fastest man alive. The Deep is an arrogant dickhead and sex pest in the beginning, but we learn that he is almost a token member of The Seven with little to no respect from the others. Plus when his misdeeds begin to catch up to him, his world crashes down around him with him realising that the only one to blame is himself.
The show gives you black and white then starts diluting both with shades of grey.
I liked both Mother’s Milk and Frenchie as the additional members of The Boys that worked with Butcher at some point in the past. The two have their issues with one another but also do believe that the Supes need to be held more accountable for their actions. Whilst I like both characters I do sometimes struggle to understand Frenchie, not just because of his accent but also because he has a habit of talking softly making it difficult to hear what he is saying.
I also did not understand why The Seven answers to Vought. They reference their salaries and money they make a few times but wouldn’t they be able to generate their own money if they wanted to? Stillwall is able to exercise a level of control over Homelander but it is not really revealed why. Yes, it is shown that they do have a complicated relationship, however, there was no reason why the most powerful man on Earth would answer to anyone other than himself. It reminded me of a scene in Man of Steel when Henry Cavil’s Superman tells the American Military that they will never control him but that does not mean they aren’t on the same side. Now yes, this is a series so perhaps this question will be answered but considering what happens in the series finale I can’t understand how Vought keeps any of the Supes under their control.
The series did finish with unanswered questions, however considering the series was commissioned for a second season before it even premiered on Amazon it is probably inevitable that stuff would be left open. According to IMBD there is also going to be a third season which could mean that full answers might not be too forthcoming. But this can lead to the Lost problem in which questions lead to more questions which ultimately causes the audience to lose interest or the reveal is such a cop out that people wonder why they stuck with the series in the first place.
The series is only eight episodes long so it did not suffer from the problem that affects a lot of American TV shows in which half the episodes move the plot and the other half are just filler which was all good. Ultimately I enjoyed the series and am looking forward to seeing where it goes in Season Two so I am giving the show a Thumbs Up.
8/10 – All in all this is a great beginning to a series that has so much potential with a great dark sense of humour that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I am eagerly awaiting the next series to see where The Boys is planning on going in the wake of the finale of Season One.