Amazon Studio’s new show The Boys is about Superheroes, anti-heroes, corporate villainy and a touch of dystopia-shaken, not stirred.
I should say that I don’t like Superhero movies, TV shows, novels, comic books, podcasts, telenovelas, musicals, etc. That said, there’s been enough of them that I like one or two. Well, two, I enjoyed both Deadpool movies and the first Iron Man was pretty good . . . but, to be fair, I’ve only seen the one. I’ve seen other Superhero movies, some were okay, some not so much. But the fact is, that stuff just isn’t my jam.
Suffice it to say, my guard was up pretty high when I decided to watch Amazon Prime’s new series The Boys.
Originally developed as a feature film, The Boys has been kicking around Hollywood since 2008 until Amazon stepped up in 2017 and agreed to an eight episode order. Those episodes dropped this past weekend.
Much to its advantage, this isn’t your typical Superhero tripe. The Boys is, of course, good versus bad. . . .well, sort of. It’s more like not so bad anti-heroes (The Boys) versus mostly sinister narcissists (the corporate sponsored Superheroes, aka “The Seven”). The show is a tad dystopian, cartoonishly violent, loaded with dark humor and more than a little cheeky . . . with a dash of sex to keep it spicy.
The story takes place in the present where Superheroes, or “supes”, are common, like movie stars. But, they’re nothing more than a widget to be marketed across all platforms with every marketable product imaginable. The Seven are owned and operated by the all powerful conglomerate Vought International. Like celebrities do, the “supes” give in to darker impulses. When they do, their behavior gets swept under the rug by their corporate overlord (here, it’s a fantastic Elisabeth Shue). It’s then up to a rag-tag group of anti-heroes led by former FBI agent William Butcher (New Zealand actor Karl Urban) to hold them accountable.
It’s vengeance that motivates Butcher and his recent recruit Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid). The motivation of the other “boys” MM (Mothers Milk) and Frenchie remains unclear. Throughout the eight episodes, no amount of violence or curse word is spared or left unsaid. As odd as it sounds, the cursing is one of the highlights. The writing in The Boys is razor sharp, super tight and weirdly natural.
The show tackles more than one weighty issues around gender relations. And they’re handled deftly and with great intelligence.
The Boys is loaded with an international cast. Toplined by Urban and fellow New Zealander Anthony Starr as the uber American Homelander, leader of the Superheroes. This makes for a subtle subtextual dynamic with two New Zealanders leading the teams. Urban maintains his accent (delightfully explained how he became a U.S. federal agent in the first episode), Starr adapts an American one. Also donning an American accent is Irish actress Dominique McGilligott (from Irish TV series RAW) as Superhero Queen Maeve, Israeli actor Tomer Kapon plays Frenchie and Simon Pegg pops up as Hughies father.
The rest of the cast is predominantly American with Jessie Usher (Superhero A-Train), Chace Crawford (Superhero The Deep, Laz Alonso (one of The Boys — MM) with Jennifer Esposito, Giancarlo Esposito and John Doman dropping by for good measure.
However, with all snark and cynicism, it’s up to Hughie and new Superhero recruit Starlight (Erin Moriarity) to carry the burden of optimism, but only because of their youthful naivete. And while that gets shattered quickly for Hughie, it takes a bit longer for Starlight. While their story line is typical, it’s not offensive. It’s Hughie and Starlight who keep the show from derailing into dark David Fincher territory.
The reason I don’t typically like Superhero stuff is simple. I like things that are based on or in some kind of feasibly real environment. The Boys takes place in such an environment.
While the ending of season one was odd given what we were told throughout the series. I’m not entirely buying it, but it’s been a fun ride so far, so I’ll stick around to see where The Boys ends up next.
If you like dark humor, loads of swearing, cartoonish violence, a touch of dystopia and anti-corporatism then you’ll enjoy The Boys. If you like the normal tropes of Superhero movies and shows, you may not.