One of the most pleasant surprises of last while in the world of television, The Boys is a new Amazon Prime series based on a comic book series of the same name. The concept turns the glittering golden super hero formula right on its head; the story takes place in a world where super heroes are not only relatively commonplace, but celebrities. Supes are ruled by social media and public opinion in the same way politicians are, and are contracted by a private company called Vought. What comes with that turns out to be a lack of accountability and abuse of power. The show is about the diabolical intentions of Vought and its Supes, as well as the effort of a small group of vigilantes – The Boys – to bring the truth about Supes to light. The show, which stars Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Antony Starr, and Erin Moriarty among others, and is written by a team including Eric Kripke and Seth Rogen, runs for 8 hour-long episodes, and was renewed for a season 2 before season 1 even had the chance to air on Amazon Prime.
The Boys was, for me, the most pleasant surprise to hit streaming services since Sex Education. I was a little bit sceptical going in; the idea was good but it ran the risk of being a little edgy for the sake of being edgy. The first fifteen minutes of the first episode don’t exactly help, I didn’t love the way they handled the actual event of Robin’s death, it didn’t hit all that hard and it came across super gimmicky. It felt like they were aiming for the shock value. By the end of the first episode, however, the quality of the concept and characters turned me right round.
It’s all about the characters. Hughie starts off as the obvious protagonist, but that dissolves pretty quick into an all-around ensemble delivery. Hughie actually didn’t start off all that likeable for me, but that changes as well with a pretty strong performance from Jack Quaid. Karl Urban’s Billy Butcher is, on his own, a very good reason to watch the show. I wouldn’t call his backstory much other than typical, but he plays it really well, and, with some really strong projected writing over the course of the season, it’s really something to see. He blends the right amount of comic relief and dramatic intensity to make it, in a lot of ways, a dream role (if they recast Wolverine, not that they should, as anyone, after this, I’m sold on Karl Urban). The rest of The Boys are equally strong if not holding as much of the spotlight. Despite that, Frenchie goes through some serious development and turns into as fleshed a character as Butcher. His relationship with The Female is well done, but it ends up being the most her character is relevant to in the first season. Presumably we’ll see more for her in season 2, as well as M.M, who, despite being a very likeable and relatable character, doesn’t actually arc particularly much. The Seven are just as interesting. Antony Starr as Homelander is incredible. His relationship with Elisabeth Shue’s character was weird, but creepily effective, and his ability to inhabit someone so deeply and enigmatically evil with the exterior of Jesus’ second coming was more than a little bit scary. Queen Maeve is maybe the most underrated character in the show, she’s an interesting dilemma, especially in relation to Starlight. I found Starlight likeable from the get go, and Erin Moriarty does a fantastic job of delivering her hopeful, almost naïve persona. The Deep is just funny in a depressed way. There’s something deeply, deeply sorrowful about him which makes for some of the best comedy in the show. Black Noir is, apparently, the most powerful character in the comics, even more powerful than Homelander. He’s another one that we might want to see more of in season 2, after a virtually (and literally) silent season 1.
I’ve already kind of touched on the conceptual strength of the show. It’s the kind of thing which, done well, could be something special, and I believe it is. The storyline flows really well; there isn’t a lot of buffer or filler time in eight episodes worth of content, resulting in the show being perpetually engaging. Side plotlines like Maeve’s visits to Elena, Mesmer, The Female, etc. are all interesting enough to sustain stories of their own. Butcher’s whole character is fascinating to me, and I even finally came back around on Hughie and Annie’s relationship after it feeling a little forced at the bowling alley. The relationships in the show are all generally strong, even though Homelander and Stillwell is completely inexplicable. They do an interesting thing in alluding to a lot more backstory, through characters like Mallory and leaving the specifics of Homelander’s upbringing. The Boys is littered with interesting plotlines and character dynamics that are enough to sustain on their own, and amount to an extremely exciting 8 episode series.
The cliff-hanger at the end of season 1 is devastating, but it does, at the very least , promise more. Where they go from here is anyone’s guess. There are about a thousand things they could do, with a select few of them wise. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll keep details away with a ten foot rod, but some mentally transformative truths might be coming Butcher’s way, and I absolutely cannot wait to see it. All in all, The Boys is one of the most pleasant surprises in my recent memory. I’d recommend it to anyone, given that they’re alright with some pretty intense gore, and, for that matter, some other screwed up stuff as well. The Boys is one to watch.
– Aman Datta
Aman’s Score – 85/100