Network: Amazon Prime
Created by Seth Rogen, Eric Kripke & Evan Goldberg
Starring Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Anthony Starr & Erin Moriarty
Amazon Prime brings Garth Ennis’ dark yet satirical comic book to life, and it couldn’t be more disturbingly entertaining or perfectly timed. The Boys rips off your favourite DC superheroes while using them to make an important point about the power of influence and spectacle in 2019. It does so by flipping versions of your childhood heroes into lies, and making you question if some of your real-life heroes might even be fallible too.
So many of us idolise superheroes from companies like DC and Marvel because they reflect attributes we all want for ourselves; courage, purpose, the power to make a positive change, and most of all, a six-pack. But what if heroes actually existed in our time? Would they really be all we expect them to be? The Boys doesn’t think so, and you can’t help but understand why. In this age of social media, fake news, corporate greed and corruption, why would we expect heroes to be wholly good if they actually existed?
Maybe it’s because we’re told to?
Set in the superhero capital of the world, New York, The Seven are the best of all meta-humans and stand as the Earth’s mightiest ‘heroes’. Humanity widely believes that God sent the meta-humans here to watch over them. The Seven seem to closely resemble those from The Justice League, until you notice something a little…off. Like their leader, Homelander (Anthony Starr), a Superman-like figure with clear signs of psychopathic tendencies. Then there’s a Wonder Woman-esque, Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott) who shows telltale signs of alcoholism.
Little known by the mere “blood sacks” that are everyday citizens, these meta-humans have been handpicked by Vought International, a powerful multi-billion dollar corporation that handles their marketing, monetisation and ‘missions.’
The Seven are free to be as corrupt, greedy and reckless as they please until one of their members, the A-Train (Jessie T. Usher), a discount version of the Flash, pushes his indulgences too far. He ruins the life of an everyday dork, Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) in the most spectacularly horrendous way possible.
When Vought’s marketing team deliver a half-hearted apology through A-Train, Hughie is thrust onto a path of outlaw vengeance after being recruited by the equally as vengeful, foul-mouthed Englishman, Billy Butcher (Karl Urban). Billy introduces Hughie to a group of vigilantes he calls, “The Boys,” and together they attempt to undermine The Seven with their various, nefarious skills.
Hughie’s bloodsoaked path brings him straight to Annie January, a small-town girl. Little does he know that she is also the newest member of The Seven, named Starlight. Annie had always had the dream of joining The Seven and saving the world. That is until she quickly discovers she should be careful what she wishes for after the Aquaman-ish member, The Deep (Chace Crawford), indecently coerces her. This quickly makes a point about the clear link between power and fame leading to abuse.
Tensions rise between Homelander and the second in charge of Vought, Madelyn Stillwell (Elisabeth Shue), throughout the season. The foundations of Vought are not only challenged by The Boys, but by Homelander and Stillwell’s ever conflicting ideals and Oedipus-like relationship. At times their dynamic can be quite confronting to watch as Stillwell’s influence over Homelander proves that even ‘gods’ can be manipulated by power-hungry elites.
As previously mentioned, The Boys does raise some interesting questions about the cultural significance of the fictional and real people we look up to. Many powerful people we once thought were saints have been ousted as quite the opposite due to movements such as #metoo, making us all question how the media can shape our opinions of notable people, portraying them as better than they really are.
A simple fact is that many big corporations profit vastly by peddling the idea of good vs evil, dark vs light and left vs right through their fictional characters. These dichotomies that we all bought into as kids just don’t exist in real life. Worse yet, they might be harming our society in many ways. They make sense when people are young and naive, like Starlight and Hughie, because they are simple. But life is deeper and more nuanced than what it seems. It requires critical thinking before affording passionate praise or dumping unmoving criticism on others. We all have to grow up and realise this at some point so we can make better choices. That’s why a show like The Boys is not only a welcome change of pace from the usual superhero depictions of the recent decade, but also a means of providing a lesson while entertaining viewers – the best type of lesson.
For a TV show, The Boys has some seriously wicked graphics that at times can be quite disturbing. From exploding people to babies shooting lasers from their eyes, you can expect many gruesome yet impressive scenes that are unlike any you have ever seen from a superhero franchise. What’s more exciting is how quickly Amazon greenlit a second season, meaning more money and better graphics for Season 2 can reasonably be expected. This might fix the lack of hand to hand combat in the show as these sequences can be expensive to produce well.
Amazon has outdone itself with this one, so hats off to them. Hopefully Season 2 comes quicker than Homelander does (you’ll understand once you watch).