Nobody’s Famous Alone
Let’s make one thing clear from the beginning: The Boys first season solidified it as my favorite superhero show period. Among all of the different Marvel, DC, and other comic book properties entertainment, The Boys stands amongst all the pack by taking the genre to the next level. We always talk about the genre taking risks and moving in bold new directions, and this show undoubtedly knocked it out of the park. It provides an in-depth look at superheroes and the implications they would have on society while also imbuing it with relevant yet subtle social commentary on the media’s influence on the world. It is surprisingly realistic yet bonkers at the same time, giving a special formula that makes me itching for more episodes to watch.
The Boys is set in a universe where superpowered individuals are recognized as heroes by the general public and work for the powerful corporation Vought International, which markets and monetizes them. At the top of this chain is The Seven, a team of superheroes that is idolized by the public for their heroic antics and take charge when needed. However, underneath the superhero masks are a bunch of corrupt and arrogant human beings who seek their own selfish interests in a world that needs good people.
The main story follows Hugh Campbell as his life is turned upside down due to the collateral damage left behind from another superhero’s duties. Hugh is then met by Billy Butcher, who informs Hugh that what happened to him is no accident and that Vought is up to no good with the antics they run above. Fueled by his desire to seek justice and take down the corrupt, Hugh joins Billy, and along the way Frenchie and Mother’s Milk, in an effort to take down Vought and expose the truth about the corrupt superheroes.
Hughie, Butcher, Frenchie, and MM all form the titular team known as “The Boys”. Their story serves an engaging and unique gateway into the world of superheroes and how just normal human beings interact with this world. Each one of them has a vendetta against “Supes” for their own reason, and digging into the psyche of each of these characters is where the show ultimately shines. While each character is given development in their own right, it is Karl Urban’s Billy Butcher who stands out amongst the pack and steals the spotlight. He delivers a unique gravitas and swagger to lead this team and is constantly entertaining to watch.
The series leads in its strong characters and development since the show wisely approaches each of them as complicated humans first rather than people who have special abilities or super powers. This is especially true when it comes to the “heroes” of the show known as “The Seven”. Think of the Justice League with your typical Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman etc. except they are all terrible people on the surface. They are a complex group of superheroes, but the show is able to wisely dig into the psyche of these characters (really only about 4 out the 7) and present them as more gray rather than black and white.
The standout from this bunch is easily Anthony Starr’s Homelander who is presented as a cross between Superman and Captain America without being raised under good morals and values. He is the leader of The Seven and he makes you realize why people such as Lex Luthor fear superheroes so much and gives weight to the amount of power and irresponsibility these people have if left unchecked. He blurs the line between righteous savior and downright senile douchebag and that unpredictably in his character makes him the most interesting to watch. You just never know what is going to make this guy snap and I can’t wait to see what they do with him in season 2.
From the onset, the show has a very intriguing setup that poses interesting questions about what it would be like if superheroes actually lived among us. We get to see how superheroes operate in this world and how big name corporations monetize them, manipulate them, and control the media’s response to them all in effort for business. It’s a brilliant set up that offers intriguing insights into the entertainment industry on how the media manipulates messages to fit a certain message to appease public interest. I was continuously fascinated to see the machinations of how superheroes operate in this world and the difference between what we see versus what the media says.
It is such a smart and unique change of pace to see the world of superheroes from the eye’s of human beings and see how they try to dismantle the corruption that exists within the superhero industry of their world. While we are so used to seeing superheroes saving the day, resucing people, and stopping bad guys it is intesteing to see the collateral damage they leave behind and the emotional toll that humans have to deal with as a result. We don’t normally see that aspect of the conflict, and since the show makes it the forefront of the story it makes this show stand among the conglomeration of entertainment we receive today.
I have to hand it to the excellent writing of this show as each episode delivers a compact narrative while also keeping me invested no matter the situation. Whether it’s an interrogation, a superhero rescue, or even a church service, each moment is packed with tension and unpredictabilty that kept me wanting to finish the entire show in one sitting. They cleverly hide certain details as well that ultimately pay off in the end, and set up excellent story beats for the coming seasons. It’s also cleverly humorous in many different aspects, especially in the interactions between the “The Boys” and how they approach situations differently. It is entertainment at it’s peak and excellently compact at just 8 episodes making it approachable yet engaging.
In terms of the action, there isn’t much superhero action to behold but there are a lot of gratuitous sequences to keep your adrenaline pumping. This show is quite graphic at times with lots of blood and gore especially within the first 5 minutes, so if theat isn’t your cup of tea it may be best to watch with a friend or two. Nonetheless it keeps the reality of the situaiton high and oftentimes hilarious to see the types of stunts they get into.
The one negative thing about the show is a romance that happens between two characters that drags on too much than it needs to. At first it was an intriguing foil, but then you can start to see where it is going and know exactly how cliche it will end up being. That does hurt the show especially in its second half when the momentum is running high in every other arc, but is halted here. However, it is the only aspect that holds this show back from being a perfect 10/10.
The Boys is an irreverent, over-the-top, intriguing, and insightful look at superheroes and their world in a larger society. It has excellent characters and writing that keep you on the edge of your seat and fascinated where they take the story. Beyond that, it’s also a story of the entertainment industry and how many messages and news we hear is constantly manipulated and shifted around to appease the public perception. It is all fascinating perspectives making this a must watch show for everyone. If you love superheroes, this is a show for you. If you love character dramas, this is a show for you. If you love insightful stories about the nature of our world, this is definitely a show for you. I know that I loved this premiere season and I can’t wait to see where they take some of these excellent characters and story arcs next.