A much-needed respite for those who're jaded about superhero movies.
Adapted from Garth Ennis and Darrick Robertson's comic book series of the same name, The Boys is a world where superheroes are commonplace. The more popular superheroes are the Seven, who are monetised by Vought International. Aside from fighting crime, they are also shrewdly marketed and appear in movies and merchandising. But with great celebrity comes great temptation as the Seven give in to their corruption and see themselves above the law. In response to the Seven's unchecked powers, a group of vigilantes band together to keep the 'supes' in line.
Here be spoilers…
What we like
With the success of Marvel's Avengers on the big screen, the superhero genre is now a dime-and-a-dozen. If you're like me, who read comic books in his formative years, you might be a tad fatigue by this genre.
The prescription for this ailment? The Boys showing on Amazon Prime.
To note, with regards to the TV and movie landscape, shitting on superheroes isn't new (Watchmen touched on the superhero worship among other things) but The Boys manages to make it relatable. Take the series' celebrity culture, which is a reflection of the real world—here, we follow an Instagram star, we're enamoured with their faces and lifestyles through advertisements. In The Boys, superheroes are managed and groomed by the corporation Vought International. The process is reminiscent of how k-pop bands are manufactured. Everything is controlled—what you wear, what you say, what you do—everything is a narrative that the company wants to put out.
The Seven is one such group, each member is an archetype of the Justice League. You have Homelander (played by Antony Starr); Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott); The Deep (Chace Crawford); Black Noir (Nathan Mitchell); A-Train (Jesse T Usher); Translucent (Alex Hassell) and the newest recruit, Starlight (Erin Moriarty). They are managed by Madelyn Stillwell (Elisabeth Shue), the VP of Vought International. On camera, they are all smiles and good vibes. Off-camera, they are messed up. Translucent is a pervert, often turning invisible and hanging out in the toilets; Homelander possesses übermensch ideas; The Deep uses his position to sexually assault his teammate, Starlight; Queen Maeve struggles with her sexuality… these are people with problems but they get away with this shit because, not only are they beloved by the public, they are also people with superpowers. They are untouchable, above the law.
You see them escape repercussions of their actions with A-Train accidentally killing Hughie Campbell's (Jack Quaid) girlfriend, Robin (Jess Salgueiro). A well-orchestrated press con, some settlement money, an NDA signing, an apology, and before you know it, A-Train is back to superheroing again.
But Hughie isn't satisfied. He wants the supes to pay. He meets Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), who wants to take on the Seven. This is where the biggest difference between the comic book and the TV series, for the former, our protagonists (with the exception of the Female [Karen Fukuhara]) aren't superpowered. It's fun trying to see them trying to suss out a superhero's weakness (an entire episode is devoted to trying to kill Translucent, who has super-hard skin).
There's a moment in the series where someone described A-Train's action as an act of God. An apt description, in more ways than one. Why do bad things happen to good people? That's the question often asked when tragedy occurs. We make the best of a terrible thing, we accept it as part of life, we move on. But what if we choose to ignore that its not a random occurrence that this is something that a Higher Power allowed to happen on its watch. That car crash; your child dying; an accidental drowning; a heart attack in the night?
What if you could find redress on that act of God?
That's what The Boys is. As a form of escapism, through the proxy of Hughie, Billy and the rest of the Boys, you're able to wrest some form of control, albeit, through the medium of TV.
Another thing that we like is that the series veered from the comic book version of The Boys. Garth Ennis, who also c0-created Preacher, can be… a little much. The four-panel pages have wanton violence, weird explicit sexual proclivities and excessive swearing, those were reduced for the sake of relatability over shock value.
What we didn't like
There's little that we didn't like. Perhaps that episode after episode of superheroes breaking bad, that when the finale finally happened, the finish might pale in comparison to the build-up.
What to look out for
Hughie from the comic books was modelled after Simon Pegg. For the TV series, Pegg plays Hughie's father.
The Boys is out on Amazon Prime.