The Boys - Season 1 - Review
The market is littered with every type of superhero story and comic book adaptation available. You can find one on almost any channel, streaming service or studio that makes pretend for a living. Superhero projects are the modern day western - they come built in with a guaranteed audience. It used to just be Marvel and DC in the game, but now all types are making their way to a screen. The Boys on Amazon Prime is the latest example of that, and it is unlike anything you've seen in the genre before.
Superhero shows are coded for you to root for the hero against the villain. There can be times where the villain is sympathetic and complex, but you still root for the hero. In fact, a good villain is similar to the hero, just with a few different life choices that took them down different paths. But in the end, you still want the hero to succeed in his or her quest.
The Boys takes this premise and flushes it completely down the toilet. The premise sets up corporate heroes, both national and local. So through press and propaganda they are beloved, but behind closed doors they are some of the most despicable people you've ever met. The show is about a group of "villains" trying to stop them, and that in and of itself is incredible. To add detailed world building, mythology and excellent character work makes the show all the better.
The show is funny, but is also dark, violent, brooding, and a bit cynical. But that makes for a very entertaining show. It is like when a sci-fi project makes you root for robots or aliens over humans. We are inherently programmed to want to root for the humans out of self interest. It is the same with superhero projects. We are supposed to root for the heroes to take down the villains. The Boys does away with that very quickly. 10 minutes into the first episode, and you will root for the villains.
It's not like the villains are innocent, and the heroes aren't. They are both still murderers and law breakers. The difference is, the villains are good people deep down, who have done a few questionable things. The heroes are power-hungry greedy douche bags who think regular humans are beneath them.
Karl Urban leads the cast in one of the most enjoyable performances I've seen this year. Urban goes full ham, and uses enough colorful language to make George Carlin blush. Jack Quaid, (son of Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan) does a wonderful job as the innocent protagonist who gets thrown into this battle against the Supes. He is certainly not the same person when the season ends as when it began, but his journey feels earned.
The rest of the cast does great. Antony Starr as Homelander is one of the most thankless acting jobs I've seen. There isn't a whole lot of redeeming qualities about him, and Starr does a great job making sure that some of it doesn't shine through. The heroes are supposed to be unlikable and each one of "The Seven" does a great job of that, except for Starlight.
Erin Moriarty as Starlight brings an innocence and a hope to the superhero title again. Her character goes through a lot, and she still doesn't lose her conscience or her heart.
Hughie (Quaid) and Starlight are the emotional backbone of the series, but there is another role that caught my attention. Tomer Capon as Frenchie did more with his small role than some of the cast did with their bigger roles. He is the low key MVP of the show, and is one of the best characters in this burgeoning universe. He thinks with his heart not his brain, and sometimes that gets him in trouble, but it makes him more human than any other character in the show.
Another strong performance was that of Back To The Future II's Elizabeth Shue. She works for the corporation that manages the heroes, and is a strong, no nonsense person with the biggest moral grey area you can conceive. She is purposefully written as unlikeable, but she has a few redeeming qualities that makes the audience want to see her succeed in some ways.
The season ended on a bit of an optimistic note, which was surprising. For all of the mess that both sides had to deal with, it was a welcome note to end on. The seeds are planted for a second season, and if it is able to keep the same humor and still defy expectations both from the first season and the superhero genre as a whole, then it will be in good shape. I look forward to finding out.
The first season of The Boys is now streaming, exclusively on Amazon Prime.