Amazon Prime Review: The Boys

The superheroes we know in comics and movies, like Superman and Spider-Man and Shazam!, are mostly good, decent people who respect their abilities and their calling to help. But what if it didn’t work that way? What if superheroes were instead driven by fame and greed, using their powers for blackmail and indecency and attracting Twitter followers? One of the newest Prime hit shows, The Boys, puts this unique spin on superheroes. Based on a popular comic series written by Garth Ennis (known for his work with Preacher, Punisher, and Judge Dredd), the best thing about this show is that it has layers (like parfaits). On the surface, it’s a superhero show. A little further down, it’s about superheroes vs. the rest of us. Even further down, and it’s a character study of two humans whose lives have been completely wrecked by the unchecked decisions of these super-powered individuals. And at it’s core it’s a question of morality and the choices we make and overcoming personal trauma. But mix it all together and it’s one delicious parfait of a streaming series.
Hughie (Jack Quaid; Rampage, Logan Lucky) is a boy in love with a girl. Billy Butcher (Karl Urban; Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Dredd) is a boy who hates superheroes (a.k.a. supes). After Hughie’s girlfriend is obliterated right in front of him in an “accident” with the fastest man alive, he kinda hates supes too. Together, they team up with two other boys Butcher has worked with in the past, Frenchie (Tomer Capon) and Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso; Fast and Furious, Avatar) to take down the unchecked superhero corruption. Known as The Seven, the team of the most influential American superheroes is owned by the corporation Vought and managed by Ms. Stillwell (Elisabeth Shue; The Karate Kid, Back to the Future Part II & III). Their newest team super-member, small town hero Starlight/Annie (Erin Moriarty; Jessica Jones), quickly discovers that what she thought was going to be a job about saving people is anything but. As she struggles to fit in, her and Hughie have a meet cute and hit it off. But when her secret identity is revealed and Butcher pressures Hughie to use her for their own personal gain, Hughie must decide where his loyalties lie and how far he is willing to go for revenge. And as the truth behind Vought comes to light, the rippling effects bring chaos into the lives and relationships of everyone involved.
One of the best things about this show is that it does a great job developing all of the characters, both mortals and supes, which can be challenging but makes for a much better story arc. Screen time and story lines are divided up pretty evenly and even the lesser important superheroes are focused on at times, not only in their interactions with the main characters but in their own personal dilemmas. The team leader, Homelander, is played by Anthony Starr who does a phenomenal job being the “good” bad guy. His character is so pivotal to several plot lines, and although his superhero doesn’t wear a mask, it becomes clear that the real mask he wears is anytime he’s in front of cameras or fans. Eric Kripke, the creator of the longest running television sci-fi show in broadcasting history Supernatural, develops the superheroes in a way that humanizes them but at the same time feels like a comical mimic of actual human emotions. The show has plenty of comical moments when it begins, but as the pace quickens it turns more to traumatic and even some horror elements. The first season ends on a crazy cliffhanger and I’m already dying for it to continue as filming for the second season started in July and a teaser trailer dropped just two weeks ago.
There is just fantastic acting all around. I would believe that they created Butcher’s character with Karl Urban in mind, he is basically the perfect fit. The seeming similarities between Butcher and Hughie are so well developed into a stark contrast by the final episode, and the acting plays a monumental role in pulling it off. The emotional and suspenseful relationship between Hughie and Annie is a thing of beauty as they meet in a time of identity crisis and struggle to meet both each other’s needs and their own. The supporting cast brings a lot of moments and ideas that would be easy to lose or let slide to the forefront, and many of them will be returning for the next season too. As a heads up, there is a lot of gruesome violence, sexuality, and language in the show, but it’s almost never used without purpose in driving a character or situation forward, similar to the pervasive side plots of sexual assault and murder. Each character is given trauma to deal with, and many traumas aren’t revealed until the final episodes.
As you can probably tell, I really like this show. And I am also very reluctant to spill too many beans about it. There is a lot that starts to hit you harder as the episodes go on, and it can be tough to watch some of the scenes as characters battle bigger demons. One thing that stuck with me was watching Starlight pulled from her home and confronted with the reality of The Seven, thinking that we have all probably had a “grass is always greener on the other side” moment in our lives, but sometimes people find the opportunity to end up in that greener pasture. But it isn’t always for the better, realizing the ground is rotten or there’s a disgusting stench in the air. How then do you handle it? That’s just one theme that this show delves into, and it’s worth checking out to find others too. So anyway, if you are looking for a new show to watch (and have Amazon Prime), I obviously recommend The Boys. If you’ve already seen it or follow my advice here, leave a comment with your thoughts and let me know if you enjoyed it too! Cheers!

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