Under Fire: Amazon’s The Boys: Season One

Let’s be real here, we live in a world that is over-saturated by the superhero genre. Wherever you look there’s new Marvel movies destroying box offices, DC reboots, new video game adaptions, and merch galore. Being a millennial that grew up with all of this stuff I have been filled with joy! But again, as a millennial, I am now apathetic towards the genre (and almost anything). At least that was the case until Amazon dropped their obscure comic adaption of ‘The Boys’ (full disclosure, never read the comics).

The Boys manages to add a fresh element to the whole superhero craze by asking a simple question; What if superheroes were as flawed as us regular chumps? The show puts a great emphasis on blurring the lines of good, evil, and morality, and this adds to the shows strengths. We consume the hero medium (particularly when we were kids) and just assumed the world was as simple as good and evil when it’s anything but. The world is not as black and white, its grey, and The Boys perfectly portrays that effortlessly.

The show focuses on Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid), your typical Joe Average kind of character. Other than being more charming than me, he is nothing special. He works at an electrical store, lives at home with his dear papa (Simon Pegg) and has a girlfriend named Robin (played by Jess Salguerio) who is way out of his league. The American Dream, am I right? This is all flipped on its head within minutes of the first episode, when Robin is absolutely obliterated by a Flash-esque character, A-Train (Jessie T. Usher). Hughie’s whole world has been torn asunder. The heroes he looked up to murdered the woman he loves, and he is left feeling angry, miserable, and alone. That is until the limelight thief, Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) rocks up to recruit him into his little club for superhero haters known simply known as ‘The Boys’.

Hughie, Billy, and Frenchie
Image courtesy of Amazon

The Boys are a hero killing club that is diversity’s wet dream. Billy (equipped with English accent and penchant for the c-bomb) leads the rag-tag team of non meta-humans in their quest to give the world back to the people, and not the ‘supes’. Accompanying him is Frenchie (Tomer Capon), a gunrunning, explosive loving madman with a heart of gold. Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso), a loving family man that is drawn back into this crazy ensemble. He acts as the mature parent figure while being the foil to Billy’s blind quest for vengeance. Rounding out The Boys is The Female (Karen Fukuhara), a mute young lass whose origin is a bit of a mystery. Oh, and she is really, really good at murdering people and heroes alike with her bare hands. The Boys serve as the protagonists of the series, but that’s just a matter of perspective. For a show about heroes and villains there are no clearly defined good guys or bad guys. What we get instead are people – each with their own stories and motivations for wanting to put their adversaries in check, but it does not make them inherently good. It’s just one faction against another.

The Seven
Image courtesy of Amazon

On the other side of the table we have ‘The Seven’. This is like you’re Avengers or Justice League, but with more character depth. The Seven are absolutely fascinating as each character has multiple layers. At the head of the supergroup you’ve got Homelander (Anthony Starr) who society believe to be the most moral being since Jesus H. Christ himself. As the show goes on we learn more about his upbringing. He is ultimately the worst person to exist, but the more we learn the more we can understand why he is the way he is. Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), is kinda like the 2IC of the group. She has been with the group a while and it shows as Maeve is bitter, jaded, and cynical at what her life’s become. Despite having it all, she has nothing. The Deep (Chance Crawford) who is the aquatic joke of the bunch, plays the misogynistic prick that preys on women. This trope is usually one-dimensional, but The Deep has genuine love and compassion for creatures of the sea, and the show captures that. Then we have newcomer to the team full of hopes and dreams of saving the world and making it in the big city, Starlight (Erin Moriarty). Starlight’s character is one of the more intriguing characters as she represents the audience to a certain degree. We all love our comic book heroes, and think they can do no wrong. Starlight thinks that life moving forward will be her saving the day with like minded individuals. Instead she is met with a deeply flawed group, sexual assault, and disappointment. And of course we already touched on A-Train, who servers as the catalyst for the events that unfold, and has an obsession with being the best with a sash of substance abuse.

Technically there are other members of The Seven, but the show doesn’t give us much time with them. Perhaps this is saved for season two, or maybe the writers felt we had too many characters to keep track of as is. Either way, it’s not a deal breaker for me. It would have been nice to see some of the other supes to see how they fit in to this world. But it’s not a deal breaker.

Showrunner Eric Kripke (Supernatural) does an absolutely stellar job of giving the audience a glimpse of what heroes might be like behind the curtains; human. The Amazon hit is batshit crazy. It’s over-the-top, gorey, and filled with nuanced characters with depth – something we don’t get a lot of in the action/drama world pertaining to superheroes. My only real criticism is that the back end of the seasons arc feels very compressed, and could have benefited from maybe an extra episode or two to help with pacing and to fleshing out some characters.

The Boys is a locomotive that even Superman couldn’t stop, and has left me in withdrawals wanting me. Amazon have produced another bloody brillaint series, sticking with their business strategy of quality over quantity, unlike the streaming giant Netflix, who just continue to produce anything to see what sticks. The Boys is perfect for those that want a new spin on a very established concept. It is filled with character driven arcs with believable motives and beautifully choreographed action scenes – though for an action show it could have probably used a little more… action. However, if my only issue is that I wanted more than eight episodes for the first season and another explosion or two, it should give you an indication on the quality of the show.

Written by Tom Higgins