The Boys premieres July 26 on Amazon.
By Chris Flanagan
What would happen if superheroes were real? More importantly, what would happen if they were… incorporated?
The Boys, a comic book series sharing the same name by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson and developed for TV by Eric Kripke, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, seeks to answer this very question. It’s centered around an extremely flawed group of humans hell-bent on exposing a group of corrupt Superheroes that take their powers and influence too far. As they begin to dig deeper into a suspected conspiracy, they slowly realize that the corruption lies far beyond what they ever imagined.
The Boys presents an eerily satirical and very profane portrayal of the business that is being a superhero in this modern age.Gone is the perception that having powers are solely meant to save people in need. The true power lies in how well a “Supe” can grow its brand in order to maximize financial gain – essentially turning having abilities into a new age celebrity. Behind this unstoppable machine, is Vought, a corporation who’s taken the business model of franchising and applied to people. This absolute is unknowingly wielded upon the masses continually until directly affecting the wrong person, Hughie Campbell, who sets in motion a chain of events that thrusts him into the middle of a declaration of war against how the world chooses to see their heroes compared to how they really are. Seeking vengeance, Hughie is aided by Billy Butcher, Mother’s Milk, Frenchie and The Female – The Boys, who for individual reasons have the same goal of toppling the status quo that superheroes have over humans.
But its story, while interesting, isn’t what makes The Boys special.
Its characters and how they get to play in the world that’s been created are the driving force of what makes this show amazing. They are highly nuanced and complexly layered which enables a slower burn on their development throughout this season but still leaves you wanting to go deeper with them as people well after the season concludes. None is a more perfect example of this than Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), who has an overly familiar haunted past with traditional anti-heroes, however, it is Urban’s gravitas and humor that brings this character to life as a maniacal killer with a whiff of a bad Jack Sparrow impersonation if he were an artist whose brush of choice was the “C-word.” While Hughie, a mild-mannered adult whose forced into doing bad things for good reasons, is one of the show’s protagonists, it’s Butcher that was the main draw in bringing me back to see what would happen next. From the aforementioned affinity for the use of the darker side of the English language, using a baby with laser eyes as a weapon to finding new and kinky uses for C4 as an interrogation tool, Butcher is beyond redemption and as the show progresses you come to admire him for it which allows the other characters – Hughie, Mother’s Milk and Frenchie, the opportunity to make better choices. The others are just as complex, albeit in a more palatable way as there seems to still be some humanity left within them.
The other major pillar that supports this strong show is its humor which never at any moment shies away from going further and darker than you would expect. This approach is refreshing because I found it always kept me guessing what was awaiting next and forced me to redefine where I believed my line was. I thought I knew, but after watching The Boys, I was wrong. The Boys’ dark humor is an asset that the show leans further into as the season progresses and becomes more serious in its subject matter almost as the perfect safety valve that allows the increasingly complex plot to breathe when it starts to become too much. But the incredible aspect of this show was that each episode contained at least one, or three, laugh out loud moments that could just have easily made you squirm with discomfort.
The Boys features an incredible cast with an even more impressive script that contains so much good and disturbing humor that I could not get enough. I can take solace in the fact that before it’s even premiered Amazon Studios has already renewed it for a second season which I am extremely grateful for after being given answers to certain season-long questions but in true comic book fashion also being left with so many more. I understand how wading into the world of superheroes can be an acquired taste that is not for all, but if you were ever interested in what it would like if the Justice League and Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia made a show together, look no further than The Boys.
I give The Boys an A+.