The Boys, created by the great and powerful Eric Kripke, is a live-action TV adaptation of the comic-book series of the same name. The show is set in a world where superheroes exist. However, most of these superheroes are corrupted by their celebrity status and often engage in reckless behavior, compromising the safety of the world. This is where the “Boys” come in. The Boys are led by William Butcher (played by Karl Urban), who is assisted by Mother’s Milk (played by Laz Alonso), Hughie Campbell (played by Jack Quaid), Frenchie (played by Tomer Capon) & Kimiko (played by Karen Fukuhara). The Boys, working under the wing of the CIA (sort of) are a rogue group of misfits whose purpose is to hold superheroes accountable for their actions. The first two seasons of the show, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, focus on the Boys’ efforts to dismantle the corrupt and all powerful superhero group; “The Seven”.
The Boys was everything that the Suicide Squad was trying to be. The show built up a perfect ensemble of characters that were portrayed to be anti-heros. William Butcher, for example, was a brilliantly written character. He had a killer look and accent to go along with his swaggy name. Yet he was also someone with a deep and emotional backstory that perfectly encapsulated his hatred towards superheroes and his motivations for wanting to take them down.
The Boys also introduced a standard of goreyness and violence to the screen that I haven’t seen before in any other series or movie. All of the sixteen episodes had a gritty tone and were uncompromising in their display of some truly grotesque scenes that pushed the envelope of violence; from Butcher using a baby with laser eyes to decapitate hospital guards, to Frenchie using a motorboat to pierce through the intestines of a whale, to Homelander ripping the guts out of a bank robber with his bare hands, to heads being mysteriously popped out of their bodies on multiple occasions in the second season of the show – the list goes on and on. These sequences, though disturbing to watch, significantly increased the entertainment value of the series.
I also liked how the show amalgamated the fictional attributes of people possessing supernatural abilities with the characteristics of the society we live in today. For instance, social media following is the most important metric for the success of superheros. Every word uttered or action performed by a superhero is meticulously planned and calculated so that they can garner praise from the largest possible audience. These calculated decisions eventually lead to many people believing the phoniness of these superheroes. Other social issues that were cleverly woven into the screenplay include: the reliability of the news, diversity/inclusion initiatives by corporations, LGBTQ issues, immigration, systemic racism & environmentalism.
Homelander (played by Anthony Starr) is by far the most talked about character in this show so let me briefly give my thoughts on him. He is the alpha-male of the show, possessing Superman-like powers but without the weakness of Kryptonite. In the spotlight, he is presented to be a pure and god-like figure, predestined to be the savior of humanity. But behind the scenes, this man is as rotten as Mussolini. I really really despised Homelander, which goes to show just how well acted this character was played by Anthony Starr.
As great as this show was, it did have a few shortcomings. The biggest mistake of this show was that it was made to look like it was set in New York, but for someone who’s lived in Toronto for five years and is pretty familiar with the layout of its streets and famous landmarks, I can confirm that the series was shot in downtown Toronto. An inexcusable example of this would be the headquarters of Vought; an evil organization that is almost always at the centre of controversy in every episode. The headquarters of this building (see below) was made to look like a landmark in the middle of Manhattan, but in actuality it was just a modification of a performance hall in downtown Toronto.
The action was also lackluster at times; featuring too many cuts and filmed from awkward angles, which made it near impossible to make out the faces of those participating. Also, for a show about superheroes, there was actually significantly less action than I had anticipated. There were also some story arcs that I didn’t find interesting. One of them had to do with the character of “The Deep”. A part of the superhero group the “seven”, the Deep underwent an uninteresting ark involving him seeking professional therapy and joining a dubious religious cult, to change his personality and values. We spent a solid hour of runtime on the journey of this character, which I felt was a massive waste of time.
Overall though, The Boys is certainly the headliner for Amazon Prime Video, and for very good reasons. Its plot, though adapted from comic books, was popping with great characters and dialogue. The violence shown on screen was paradoxically entertaining yet disturbing to watch. Lastly, there were many excellent attempts made to incorporate the issues facing our society today into the series’ plot, which featured many supernatural and fictional elements.