(The Boys – Amazon Studios)
As apprehensive as I was to give Jeff Bezos another dollar, Amazon’s marketing campaign for their latest origin series, The Boys, worked like a charm. After watching the trailer (where a Flash-esque superhero accidentally runs into a citizen at Mach-speed, turning her instantly into jelly), I was immediately intrigued. The theme of superheroes pushed to the brink and forced to contend with real-world consequences may not be new, but The Boys treads familiar ground in a way that both pays homage to classic comic book stories while also exploring lots of new ideas due to a significant change in perspective and a much darker tone. That same tone and focus on adult situations may also be a deal-breaker for a few, but anyone who can wince through the gory special effects is in for a thrilling and thought-provoking ride.
The Boys quickly introduces us to its main character, Hughie, who is as goofy and awkward as his name suggests. A traditional fish out of water story quickly ratchets up the stakes as our protagonist’s girlfriend is accidentally killed right before his eyes (remember that girl I mentioned earlier?), which sends him on a quest for revenge against the most popular superheroes of the city, The Seven. Hughie ends up joining a group of criminal vigilantes called the Boys who collectively seek justice against the superhumans. This comic book adaptation could have easily been another “what if Superman was bad?” story beat-for-beat, but instead, it took plenty of opportunities to explore just how brutal and bizarre the world would actually be with superheroes flying about.
Like any good ensemble superhero story, the characters are the core of the plot in The Boys. There is no giant laser beam in the sky or evil alien empire menacing Earth. It turns out that superheroes would be total dicks if they were real, and The Boys pulls no punches in explaining just how corrupt they would become in modern-day corporate-run America. The fact that this series was released in 2019 is no accident, and the political and philosophical overtones are both pertinent to today’s issues and expressed eloquently enough to not be patronizing.
Homelander, this story’s amalgamation of Captain American and Superman, is a perfect poster boy for a series intent on exploring complex topics such as nationalism, morality, war, religion, sexism, and corporate greed. He’s the asshole that you love to hate, but that doesn’t mean that our protagonists are much better off. Hughie’s mentor, played by Kyle Urban, is the quintessential foul-mouthed anti-hero. We’re clearly meant to cheer for the namesake group of vigilantes, but The Boys rack up quite a body count as well. Frenchie and Mother’s Milk round out the rest of the crew, making for a large range of interesting characters who each get their own room to breath in the complex world that the show presents. Out of all of them, however, Hughie ended up being my favorite given his propensity for transforming his own incompetence into a form of superpower when things start to go south.
As is expected of a modern show with significant financial backing, The Boys doesn’t wrap up all of the questions it poses by the finale, expecting the story to continue through for another season. What we do get, however, is a satisfying ending that made me want to rewatch past episodes to find any clues I might have missed. If the goal of the show was to make me want to immediately read the comics, it’s done its job in spades. The fact that I was already knee-deep in Wikipedia articles before I finished the last episode should tell you something about how far I’ve fallen into the rabbit hole.
If you’re looking for a raunchy, gory, thoroughly adult-themed superhero show to binge and you already have an Amazon Prime subscription, I recommend you take the time to watch the series from beginning to end. The Boys won’t be for everyone, but those who can stomach what it has to offer will enjoy its complex and dynamic characters, thrilling plot, and twists and turns that will keep you smashing “Next Episode” after every shocking cliffhanger.