The Boys Season 1 Review: The cure to anyone’s “superhero fatigue” and a damn great show
While comic book movies and content was once seen as an oddity and was decently rare, there’re so many comic book adaptations now that the genre is pretty much oversaturated. How many more times is the hero/heroine saving the day going to be saving the day going to be as marvelous as the last? When are the plot lines of a superhero attempting to understand their power or finding their purpose in the world or debating whether the world needs them finally going to run thin? At times, it’s almost as if the uniqueness of seeing a comic book come to life on the big and small screen has lost its touch and is no longer special. All of this is why The Boys, based on the comic of the same name from WildStorm/Dynamite Entertainment, is the most refreshing adaptations that you can watch right now.
Rather than focus on a world where heroes must work their way into the public eye, The Boys sets itself in a world where superheroes have social and political power that reveres them as celebrities and even gods to some. With great power, though, these heroes don’t have any responsibility and abuse their power without the public even knowing. With the lines blurred between justice and corruption, nothing is off the table for The Boys to explore and through it’s deep dive into the heroes that corrupt the world they’re supposedly saving and the secret group of vigilantes hellbent on stopping them, The Boys becomes one of the most unique, fascinating, and entertaining shows I’ve seen this year and possibly ever.
The series basically follow two different groups as they attempt to take control of how the public sees superheroes. On one end, we follow Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid), a reserved push-over who’s life falls to pieces when his girlfriend, Robin (Jess Salgueiro), is torn to pieces after the world’s fastest hero, A-Train (Jessie T. Usher), barrels through her. Struck by the fact that no one is giving him or Robin the support and care they deserve, and that A-Train doesn’t even feel sorry for what happened, Hughie eventually gets mixed up with Billy Butcher (Karl Urban). Butcher, an ex-CIA agent, has a vendetta against the supes and sees Hughie’s situation as a perfect way to hatch a plan that takes down “The Seven,” basically the Justice League or Avengers of this world, and the mysterious corporation that backs them, Vought, for good. So, with the help of Frenchie (Tomer Capon), Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso), and a violent female hero (Karen Fukuhara), Hughie and Billy do everything in their power to take down the supes once and for all.
Right away, it’s easy to find yourself behind Hughie and Billy as the performances from Quaid and Urban are incredibly charming and truly award worthy. Their chemistry is incredibly fun to watch with Hughie constantly being pushed by the brash and foul-mouthed Billy, and their growth is actually very touching. Watching Hughie struggle with Robin’s death and balance his time with Billy and his budding relationship with Starlight (Erin Moriarty) made me really connect with him and even learning about Billy dislike towards the supes, especially Homelander (Anthony Starr), really hits hard and it’s a testament to how strong the writing is as well as the performances. Even Mother’s Milk and Frenchie have very touching moments with M.M. constantly being worried about his family and Frenchie developing a strong care for “The Female” that makes you connect to them.
When they come together, though, that’s when the real magic happens. The chemistry between everyone is undeniably perfect with them being able to come together in key moments and mess around with each other like any group of friends would. No one necessarily feels relegated to a certain role, outside of Billy being the leader and Hughie being the weak new guy, and each character really comes into their own and never fades into the background. It’s also interesting how although they are trying to stop corrupted heroes and are definitely the group viewers get behind, they’re not perfect and don’t ever try to be the “heroes.” While I love Hughie and Starlight’s relationship, which I’ll go more into later, I definitely found myself frustrated in him being unable to tell her what he’s really been up to and it oddly made me even more invested into their connection. Even Billy’s unflinching need to kill Homelander and show little emotion towards his team made me mad at his decisions at times, especially towards the end, but it’s never a turn off and only makes him more of a complex and intriguing character for viewers to connect to. The group also isn’t afraid of getting down and dirty and there actually some great moments where Hughie and some of the other supes question their actions.
However, there’s no one else’s actions that viewers will find themselves questioning more than “The Seven” and Vought. On the supes side of things, viewers will follow Starlight, a small-town superhero that’s called up to the big leagues when she is offered a position in The Seven and travels to New York City to start her superhero career. However, when Starlight arrives, she’s bombarded with a marketing team from Vought that wants to control her image, she isn’t doing much saving, and she feels more like a celebrity than a superhero. Even the group that’s she idolized since she was a kid is incredibly phony with The Deep (Chace Crawford), an aquatic superhero, making sexual advances on her, Translucent (Alex Hassell), an invisible superhero, is a peeping Tom, and A-Train (Jessie T. Usher), the world’s fastest hero, uses a performance enhancing drug known as Compound V. Now, defeated yet determined about her situation, Starlight looks to change the tide and rebel against Vought’s influence with some encouragement from a civilian she meets – Hughie.
The level of corruption that’s within these “heroes” and Vought is fascinating to watch and there’s an incredible amount depth shown with how much power they have. From the media to politicians to religion, the amount of influence these supes have is down-right disturbing, and yet, I was only more and more interested the more that was shown. There’s just something so though-provoking about how people view heroes here and how the images and reputations of heroes are spun by Vought that’s so relevant and horrifying about how much comparison there can be to actual news media. While all of the supes and pretty much everyone at Vought has some skeletons in their closets, Homelander and Vought’s media head, Madelyn Stillwater (Elisabeth Shue), have full on bodies. Shue gives a perfectly sinister, conniving, and cunning performance as Stillwater and is the backbone behind Vought’s corruption. She showcases Stillwater’s ability to somehow always be one-step ahead expertly and, at times, even makes her a more formidable foe than some of the supes.
The best performance of the entire show easily comes from Starr as Homelander as he might be one of the greatest psychological and physical foes in comics. The way Starr expertly switches back and forth from the bright and courageous hero that the public sees him as to the dominating and broken person he is on the inside is legitimately haunting. It’s a performance that needs to be recognized and a character that needs to be in the conversation more when talking about great villains. There’re so many shocking actions he takes and so many surprises within his story, especially with his connections to Billy’s wife.
Starlight’s story within this group of supes really resonated with me and the ups and downs of her rise to limelight are great. Moriarty gives a very humble, down to earth, and endearing performance and makes Starlight/Annie one of the enlightening parts of the show. With her standing strong for herself against Vought’s influences, wanting to just save people without it being set-up or filmed, and just trying to do the right thing when she can, she’s one of the most engaging characters the show has to offer and, honestly, a character that women can look up to. Her performance is another award-worthy performance that makes me excited to see how her character and her relationship with Hughie changes in Season 2.
Speaking of that relationship, the chemistry and story of Hughie and Annie is both one of the most enjoyable parts of The Boys and one of the many great ways that these two worlds come together. The second they ended up sitting next to each other on a park bench, I knew I was going to love where this show was going. While it seems cliché at first, Quaid and Moriarty make it one of the most humbling moments of the show and every time they’re together, it allows for these two worlds to collide. Within their conversations and interactions, viewers actually get a better sense of the world and the amount of detail that’s put into building the world is incredible. From smaller stories building behind the scenes through newscasts or quick cutaways to introducing characters and plots slowly through background images and quick mentions, there’s an immense depth to this world that’s explored at the perfect place and leaves plenty of things open for more. Not to mention, the way the show unapologetically explores and discusses religion, police brutality, issues with politics, and plenty of other social issues is very thought-provoking and adds some realism and parallels that viewers can connect to.
The Boys also has some very strong elements of dark humor, action, horror, and has plenty of twists and turns that will continually hook viewers. Personally, the way Billy and M.M. call each other out for lying is hilarious and The Deep’s failed attempts to rescue his friends of the deep had me dying with laughter. The shows more brutal action sequences and use of blood and gore adds a distinct uniqueness that isn’t seen much in most mainstream comic book adaptations that really leaves it mark. The use of music here is near perfection as the songs do a great job setting the tone for the scenes they’re associated with. What strikes viewers the most, though, is the revelations that come with the understandings of Homelander’s past, how the supes actually came to be, and Vought’s plans that could be even too much for the supes to handle. Not to mention, the cliffhanger the season ends on is jaw-dropping and surprising in so many ways.
The Boys is truly a must-see, must watch, and anything other word to associate with “you need to see this as soon as possible.” It’s a show that’s legitimately unlike anything else out there, filled with a little bit of everything, and topped off with some award-worthy performances. It’s easily one of the best shows of 2019 and will indefinitely cure anyone of “superhero fatigue.” Season 2 really can’t come soon enough.