The Boys is a super hero television series from Amazon. It’s not like like any super hero show you’ve seen before, though. Let’s have a look.
The Logan to my Avengers
Last summer I reviewed Logan. I wrote that Logan is a brutal and cynical take on Wolverine. The Boys, in a similar vein, is a brutal and cynical take on the Avengers. Only more brutal and more cynical than Logan. And if you’ve seen Logan, then you know that that’s quite a feat.
The Boys plays in a version of Earth where super heroes are a thing. And those super heroes have gone commercial. Vought International is the company funding and monetizing the most famous group of super heroes in the world: the Seven.
One day, Hughie meets his girlfriend Robin at the store that he works. They walk home and she asks him to move in together. He holds her hands and prepares to answer when disaster hits… A-Train, one of the Seven, speeds past faster than sound. He runs through Robin. That’s right, he runs through her. Robin disintegrates and Hughie is left holding two hands ending in bloody stumps.
Hughie grieves, and as lawyers from Vought try to make him sign documents calling it an ‘accident’, a man calling himself Billy Butcher approaches him. Billy offers him a chance to get back at the ‘supes’. Hughie reluctantly takes it. And then things really go to shit.
Voice of the age
Maybe I’m just too negative at the moment, but I feel ‘the Boys’ really hits the tone of our time.
In real life, we see multi-billion dollar companies abuse their power daily, and have to watch corrupt politicians try to destroy our basic rights for greed. If the Avengers really did exist, of course they would be sucked into this machine of corruption in no time.
Their ‘the Boys’ equivalents — The Seven — are really just flawed human beings with too much power. They can get away with anything, and they do. The Boys holds up a mirror that shows us how dangerous it is when people start to feel untouchable.
The show is unrelenting in this. Episode one shows one of the heroes literally disintegrating an innocent woman in the street and get away with it. And things get far more brutal than that. It’s bloody brilliant, not because it’s violent, but because it’s something different.
If you look closely, super hero shows and movies set a terrible precedent. Each individual hero gets to decide what is right or wrong; no judges, no police. And what do you know? Those incels going out on rampages see themselves as superheroes. Even ISIS followers share some of the ideas our storytelling is based on. The Boys shows us the much darker truth of thinking yourself above the law and being right just because you have power.
The Boys’ characters
Hughie — played by Jack Quaid– is an awkward, everyday guy who works in a hardware store and never stands up for himself. Starting the story from the viewpoint of a guy we can identify with is smart. He slowly changes and becomes more sure of himself as the story progresses.
Annie January — Erin Moriarty — wants nothing more than to be a hero. She is like a naive cheerleader whose mother pushes her relentlessly to be what her mother could not be herself. And it works. Annie ends up in the Seven, replacing a retired member. Unfortunately for Annie, she’s the only real uncorrupted person in the group. From the get-go she has to deal with the sexual abuse, double-dealing, and cynical hypocrisy of her team mates.
Karl Urban is one of my favorite actors. He was in the Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Riddick, and Dredd. Oh, and Star Trek. I loved Almost Human, and I secretly liked Priest too. I’m still waiting for a Superman vs. Batman movie with him as batman and Michael Fassbender as Superman. In the Boys, he plays Billy Butcher. He’s managed to fake a definitely un-New-Zealandish accent, and brings a flair to the disturbing character of Billy. He’s got it in for ‘Supes’ and we slowly unravel why.
I could go on. Homelander is a very disturbed narcissist. Queen Maeve, A-Train, Translucent, and the Deep are all disturbed members of the Seven, each in their own way. Billy’s crew contains some very damaged individuals as well, in the form of Mother’s Milk who lies to his family about what he does and Frenchie who does too much drugs to forget his troubled youth. And ‘the Female’… well, you just have to watch the show.
I love the Boys. It’s one of my favorite shows of the year. If you watch anything this year, go watch this show. Oh, and also see the Joker.